June 2022: Book Review

Happy July!  I hope your Summer has been treating you well and that you’re looking forward to making plenty of summery memories.  Before you do though, let’s take a look back at what I’ve read during the month of June!

Books will be rated on a 1 – 5 star scale with 1 being bad and 5 being excellent.  If you enjoy what you see and don’t want to wait until the next book post, please follow us on Goodreads.  We’ll stay consistently updated there before compiling our month’s reading and thoughts here.

The comics Chaos has read will also be included at the end of the post.  Normally those will just be listed and not officially reviewed.  If you ever want to hear about a comic in particular though or want his thoughts, don’t be afraid to ask.  He enjoys discussing everything he’s read. 

Let’s Go!

Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth – 4/5 Stars

Aideen’s life is a mess and that is the reality she has learned to accept.  However, when Aideen stumbles acrossing the annoying and overachieving Meabh having a breakdown over her overstuffed schedule, Aideen breaks her ankle.  Meabh literally asked for it.  This sets off a chain of events that soon has Aideen fixing problems for other students as well.  If you can’t fix your own life, why not help others?  Can Aideen keep this up indefinitely, or will she finally have to face her own issues and maybe accept some help of her own?

When I started reading Not My Problem, it began as I expected.  I got some teenage drama mixed with plenty of cutesy wit that I chuckled and decided to play along with the ridiculous set up.  As the novel progressed, I found the book had more to offer.  The witty banter and silly situations that Aideen found herself in remained, but the novel also proved to have more heart than I expected.

Smyth allows her characters to slowly reveal themselves to be deep and well-rounded.  Aideen’s quirks and desire to get involved in wacky scenarios all stem from her insecurities and dysfunctional home life.  Many of the side characters turned out to be quite layered as well.  The exploration and peeks into their deeper selves never feels forced or heavy handled.  The truths the characters reveal come as part of their growing trust and vulnerability with each other.

The novel is heightened teenage fare with strong messages and a solid heart.  Also, if you like the idea of opposites learning to appreciate one another before flirting with the idea of romance, this book will be for you.

Not My Problem was a surprisingly good read and one that I would recommend for anyone who enjoys young adult literature, comedy, and touching stories overall.  

The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera – 4/5 Stars 

In the near future, Earth is doomed due to an incoming comet.  The human race’s only hope lies in the scientists and families chosen to be sent to a new planet.  The trip will take hundreds of years, with half the passengers put into stasis and the other half tasked with keeping the ship and the frozen passengers safe.  

Petra, a young girl who dreams of being a storyteller, is one of the passengers set to be awoken when the ship finally arrives at the new planet.  The good news is that the ship has finally arrived.  The bad news is that a lot can happen during the course of a few hundred years and Petra is now the only one with memories of Earth.  Can Petra use her memories and stories to protect humanity’s chance at a future, or will The Collective, a group aiming to purge all traces of the past, have their way, possibly creating a new world not be worth having at all?

I went into The Last Cuentista with high hopes. It’s a Newbery Medal and Pura Belpré award winner.  I enjoy science fiction, and I was excited to read a novel with a Latina protagonist.  Despite hearing praise for the novel, I also went in blind to the plot and any other details.  I am happy to say that The Last Cuentista feels deserving of its awards and was a joy to read.  

The novel wastes no time setting up its premise and grabs the reader’s attention immediately.  I liked how instead of just saying a comet is headed to Earth, the details are shared in the form of a folklore-ish story.  Higuera does a nice job of balancing the progression of the plot with the stories, cuentos, interspersed throughout the novel. 

Throughout, the novel stays a quick read and despite being aimed at a younger audience, the story developments held my interests, both as plot details and as situations to ponder over.  This never felt like too much of a kiddie book.    

There are a handful of characters developed beyond Petra herself and each serve their role well, even if they might not be the most memorable.  Petra, however, gets plenty of development as the protagonist and narrative voice.  I like how she had a love for the storytelling that she wanted to do but also an appreciation for the value science passed on by her parents.  

Overall, I strongly recommend The Last Cuentista, even if I wish the ending was a little different.  It’s solid sci-fi for any age group. 

Where Great Teaching Begins: Planning for Student Thinking and Learning by Anne R. Reeves (Instructional) – 3.5/5 Stars

Where Great Teaching Begins focuses on the instructional planning and implementation of lessons that are both student focused.  The text aims to teach about objective setting, activity planning, and progress assessing.

Overall, I would say this is a strong and well put together resource for new educators and any teachers who want to brush up on what should be the foundations of instructional planning.  The text breaks the planning process down step by step and makes sure that each part of the lesson is centered on students and their actual learning.  

As a veteran teacher, I felt that the text was well-written and it definitely helped me reflect on my own practices, making sure that my goals are meaningful and activities have true purpose (other than taking up time or being simply interesting).

Textbooks can be dry and wordy at times, and this one is no different, but if your aim is to learn about or review the foundations of instructional design, this is a solid choice.  I would definitely recommend Reeves’ text to other educators.

Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott – 3/5 Stars

Navigating the waters of romance as a teenager can be difficult.  It’s even harder when you have the uncertainty of tomorrow hanging over your head due to illness.  Stella and Will both have cystic fibrosis, but handle it in very different ways.  Stella seeks comfort in control and planning.  Will faces his neverending onslaught of treatments with contempt and a rebellious attitude.  When these two total opposites end up in the same hospital, will they drive one another mad or find someone to lean on?  Let’s just hope it’s not literal leaning because getting closer than six feet may lead to cross contamination, which could put both their lives at risk.

It was interesting reading this 2018 novel in 2022 because the main characters’ needs of staying six feet apart and wearing protective masks to prevent spreading infection felt a lot more relatable in a world that has experienced COVID-19.  I won’t harp on this idea, but I really resonated with Stella and Will’s feelings of isolation that came with the need to keep themselves safe.  I also found it extremely frustrating when they were constantly ignoring safety guidelines, taking off their masks to talk, and cearly getting too close.  I guess that just happens when you’ve lived in a world where a lot of people ignored what might be best for themselves and others.  

Refocusing on the actual book itself, I found this to be a solid but not extraordinary read.  I appreciated the unique setting (hospital) with a nice twist on the obstacle to love (cross-contamination), but below the surface this does fall into the standard opposites-attract genre.  The novel did a good job of making me want to root for Stella and Will, but it also set up a premise that felt lose-lose when it came to their long-term relationship potential.  That paired with the speed at which their romance evolved kept me from fully investing in their relationship.

However, I did like both characters as individuals.  Both Will and Stella were well fleshed out characters.  I appreciated that Lippincott spent time giving them a lot of character and personality beyond their diagnosis of cystic fibrosis.  How they dealt with their disease and other factors in their lives, especially their parents, really helped inform who they were and they they interacted with the world around them.

If you have the opportunity and time to read Five Feet Apart, and you’re into teen romance, I think you’ll enjoy the novel.  However, this isn’t one that you necessarily need to go out of your way to read.  

Sadie by Courtney Summers – 4/5 Stars

Sadie Hunter has not lived an easy or happy life.  Her one goal has always been to protect and care for her younger sister Mattie.  Then, Mattie is murdered.  Sadie believes that she knows the man responsible for her sister’s death and she is desperate to get revenge.First, Sadie must track the man down and discover more of the evil he spews into the world.  However, when Sadie disappears to hunt this killer, her story catches the interest of West McCray, a podcaster.  The novel alternates between Sadie’s quest for justice and West’s investigation of Sadie history and whereabouts. 

This was a highly engaging novel that had me rushing to find out what would happen next.  I liked the format of alternating between Sadie’s first person perspective of hunting down her sister’s killer and West’s podcast episodes that filled in any background readers might need while also providing an interesting story in itself.  The podcast framing allowed Summers to share a lot of detail in a way that never felt like a dumping of exposition.  The voices she creates for the many characters that appear throughout the podcast are very well-crafted.  I may be biased as a lover of podcasts, but I would definitely listen to West McCray’s podcast if it was real.

Thankfully, Sadie’s side of the story is even more gripping than the podcast half of the novel.  As she seeks the killer and unravels his history, there is a constant  sense of danger mingled with dread at what may happen to Sadie or what she may do to others. 

If you’re okay with intense stories that deal with darker subject matter, Sadie is worth checking out.  The characters, plot, and pacing are all very well done. 

Comic Books:

  • Ant-Man: World Hive by Zeb Wells and Dylan Burnett
  • Avengers vol. 7 – The Age of Khonshu by Jason Aaron
  • Avengers vol. 8 – Enter the Phoenix by Jason Aaron
  • Iron Man: Books of Korvac II vol. 2 – Overclock by Christopher Cantwell
  • Thor vol. 3 – Revelations by Donny Cates 

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