Mini-Reviews: Unlikely heroes, goosebumps, and low men of all varieties..

Morning, all! It’s been a good reading week, thanks to Dewey’s 24-hour readathon! Let’s unpack the monster list of books I burned through, shall we?

Book118The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, by Teresa Toten (2015, Delacorte Books, 291 pages, library hardcover). I’m a sucker for YA fiction about mental health, and wow did this one really ring a lot of my bells. The story is about Adam, a teenage OCD boy, who has his hands full with his weekly support group, falling in love for the first time, a mom who may need help herself, a remarried (and somewhat absent) dad, a little half-brother who adores him but may be more like Adam than he would wish, and finding friendship in the oddest of places. I liked the cultural and socio-economic diversity; characters flirted with stereotypes, but didn’t always fit them. The same with plot twists: what you thought was being broadcast didn’t always happen. The whodunit aspect wasn’t too overplayed, but kept the second half of the novel moving. And not everyone gets better. 4 of 5 stars.

Book117All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders (2016, Tor Books, 316 pages, library hardcover). Mix the apocalypse with a secret school of magic and rabbit holes filled with kids who can talk to animals… it sounded so promising, but I couldn’t get wrapped up in any of it. The writing was almost formal and a bit stilted – think British kids’ lit, a la Secret Garden – and I had a hard time connecting without any warmth to leech onto. 1 of 5 stars.

Book116Snowblind, by Christopher Golden (2014, St. Martin’s Press, 320 pages, paperback). I tried a few times to get into the story before it caught for me…and then I fell so deeply into it that I froze my behind off, even though it was 80+° outside! Seriously – I almost screamed several times and when Jeff asked how it was going, I “joked” (no really ha ha) about putting it in the freezer. Stephen King blurbed the book and it’s likened to King’s early works – for good reason. A classic horror story of a snowstorm that mysteriously killed more than a dozen people…only those killed somehow return during an eerily similar blizzard fifteen years later. The author did a good job balancing a townful of characters without sacrificing their individuality. The New Englandisms felt genuine. And I don’t care how big an area it covers – a blizzard creates a locked-room mystery, no matter what. Once I got 30 or so pages in, I couldn’t put it down and I couldn’t read it fast enough. You guys HAVE to read it! 5 of 5 stars.

Book115The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly, by Matt McCarthy (2015, Crown, 336 pages, paperback). I maybe broke down and bought this the night before the readathon because I worried that I didn’t have enough “lighthearted” reading to cleanse my palette. Yes, I’m the weirdo who finds reading about ER visits and death-defying surgeries “relaxing”. If you like tell-alls and behind-the-scenes glimpses and medical dramas, this book won’t disappoint. But don’t be squeamish about your protag making a mistake, because ours? Makes plenty. 3 of 5 stars.

Book114The Beach, by Alex Garland (1996, Riverhead Books, 448 pages, paperback). This book has been on my To Be Read list for a long time, and on my shelf since Christmas. Backpacking in Thailand isn’t normally my thing, but crazy islands are. I thought I’d be way more into this, and maybe I would have if I had’ve attacked it any other time than at the end of my readathon. It’s not that it’s all dark and twisty – that doesn’t happen until the very end – but the very idyllism and over-the-top Daffy just…nope. Nope nope nope. Couldn’t work for me. Couldn’t buy it, no matter how I tried. 1 of 5 stars.

Book113Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere, by Andre Aciman (2011, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 208 pages, paperback). This was one of the books included in my last Quarterly Box, and I was delighted because personal essays are my jam. Aciman didn’t quite get to Anne Fadiman level, but his lyricism was really a wonder to behold. His essays covered nearly all of Europe, it seemed, and were as varied as my mind on a particularly ADHD afternoon. Different wheres, different whens, and all with that soft, nostalgic gauziness of memory overlapping everything. Looking for a collection of essays for your Read Harder challenge? Look no further! 3 of 5 stars.

Book112Hearts in Atlantis, by Stephen King (1999, Scribner, 523 pages, paperback). This was the next book up on my Great Stephen King Re-Read Project, but I wasn’t too happy about it. I didn’t remember Hearts with any fondness, for all that the main novella had to do with the Dark Tower. The Low Men creep me out. Like, bad bad. …Maybe because I believe they really exist, but that’s neither here nor there. I ended up enjoying the re-read more than I thought, due in large part to how comforting King’s writing is. It’s like slipping on a favorite sweatshirt that still smells like home, or wrapping up in your favorite afghan and finally feeling warm. 4 of 5 stars.

Book111Burn, Baby, Burn, by Meg Medina (2016, Candlewick, 356 pages, hardcover). This was one of the books included in my last Young Adult Quarterly Box, and I was super excited to find it! It was a starred addition to my TBR – a story about two teens in Queens during the summer of Son of Sam and all those arsons? Yes, please! Our Latina protag, Nora, is worried her abusive brother and his hella-creepy best friend/dealer might be behind the arsons, she’s worried she and the new hottie at her deli job might be targeted as they make out in cars, she’s worried for her mama who just lost her job, and for her friend’s mom and her cohorts who are very active in the women’s rights movement. But for all that going on, I can’t say a single memorable thing happened. I loved the diversity of characters and class, and the family dynamics were incredibly interesting in their tiny little details that made them in ways the rest of the book didn’t. Otherwise…meh. I’m disappointed to say it was a take it or leave it story for me. 3 of 5 stars.

 

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