Tater’s March 2021 in Books

It is April 1. That means two things – people on the Internet crying about April Fools Day and my review of the books I read last month.

  1. Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang – I love Yang’s work and this one is just as good as his other books. Yang taught at Bishop O’Dowd in Oakland. The basketball team has gone to the state championship game multiple times and lost. In 2015 they had their best shot yet of winning. Yang decides to travel with the team and write a graphic novel about the season. I am a big basketball fan, so I was pretty sure I was going to love it and I did. I think people who aren’t basketball fans will also enjoy it. He tells the story of the team, but also includes a lot of historical details about the game.

2. We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry – Set in the late 80’s, we follow a field hockey team in Danvers, Massachusetts who discover that the witchcraft of their ancestors might be the key to a winning season. They have never had a winning record until they start to sign onto a pact at summer camp. Suddenly, they start winning on the field and off. We follow them through their senior season and finish with a reunion 30 years later. It took me a bit to read the book. I liked it, but it isn’t one you can breeze through. I enjoyed the story and it was well written. I was happy to have the reunion at the end to see what happened to each girl after high school. I can see why it was on an award list.

3. Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh – This is a collection of comedic, autobiographical, and illustrated essays. It has stories from her childhood, stories about her pets, and other parts of her life. It was OK, but by the end I was reading to finish more than I was reading for enjoyment. It all started to sound the same. It was a quick read, though.

4. Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth – There were two different stories here. 1902 at The Brookhants School for Girls where two girls have died and current day where they are making a movie about Brookhants and the possible curse/haunting. I feel like there was potential for a good book here. I enjoyed the current day story more than the 1902 story. I usually am OK with flipping back and forth between time periods, but this one always took me out of the story when there was a switch. It was too long. The author seemed to think she was more clever than she really was. It was disjointed and the story switched at terrible times. I think she was going for cliffhanger anticipation with some of the cuts, but I just found it annoying.

5. Smoke by Joe Ide – this is the 5th book in the IQ series. IQ has left the city to escape a gang that wants him dead. He settles in a small town in the hope of leaving all the bad that comes with his detective work. That is short lived when a young man who has escaped from a psychiatric facility breaks into his house and says a serial killer is coming to town. There are also side stories in the city with regular characters Dodson, Deronda and Grace, In this case I think I enjoyed their stories more than the main one. I love this series and all of the characters. I think it would make a good TV show. I recommend starting with the first book, IQ.

6. The House on the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune – Linus Baker works for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is sent to investigate a house where six highly classified, possibly dangerous magical youth live. He learns there is more to the children and the man who runs the house than can be learned in a file. This is a great book about prejudice, belonging and finding your place in the world. I highly recommend it.

7. Game Changer by Neal Shusterman – Ash is a high school football player living a good life. God friends, popularity and a chance at a football scholarship. In the first game of the new season after a hard hit on the quarterback he feels weird and then realizes the world has changed. It starts small. Stop signs are now blue. The next game the hit changes things a little more. As each hit changes the world and Ash more Ash begins to see things through different eyes. Can he figure out how to get his world back? My daughter read this one first and immediately said I should read it. It is very good. Suspenseful, interesting way to show how your view of the world change when you see it through someone else’s eyes. Highly recommend.

8. Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman – A would be bank robber flees and takes a group of people hostage at an apartment open house. A father/son duo of police officers investigate as the bank robber has disappeared after the hostages are released. The story goes back and forth between the investigation, the events during the hostage situation, and things in the past that connect some of the characters. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think I liked it nearly as much as the people who recommended I read it, I think Bachman has voice that appeals to some more than others. I am on the outer edge of those to whom it appeals. I would recommend it, but I can’t say for sure that you will like it.

I started and gave up on Fake Accounts by Lauren Oyler. It got great reviews. It just didn’t click with me.

Tater’s February 2021 in Books

It is March 1. That means it is time for my monthly review of what I read last month. Again, in order of read, not enjoyment

1. Broken by Jenny Lawson – I got this one from a Goodreads contest. I didn’t even know I won. The book just arrived on my porch one day. That was a pleasant surprise. As with her other books, she discusses her battle with depression and anxiety. She explores her experimental treatment of transcranial magnetic stimulation. She talks about her frustration with her insurance company. Very tough subjects, but done in a way that makes you laugh while also feeling her pain. Lawson is one of the favorite authors and I enjoyed new words from her. I would recommend all of her books. You can read her blog here.

2. Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi – This is a very short book about two siblings with extraordinary power. It starts when Ella is a child and Kev is born and takes us through their adulthood when Kev is incarcerated and then out on parole. Ella visits him both in person and supernaturally and shows him a possible future of a revolution that burns down the new fascist society. The book definitely kept me reading. It was a little hard to follow as it had time jumps and I had a hard time figuring out how much time had passed and how old they were through a good portion of the book. I would recommend it, though.

3/ Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson – A book in verse about the son of an NFL player dealing with how CTE has changed his dad. His dad is a star tight end who has suffered multiple concussions. His headaches get so bad he has to stop playing while the doctors try to figure out what is causing the headaches, mood changes, and memory loss. It takes place before CTE was a known result of the constant head injuries football players deal with. Woodson is a very good author and this is another very good one from her. I recommend you read anything she has written.

4. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour – Darren lives in Bed-Stuy. He was valedictorian at his high school but opted not to go to college. He is working at a Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building and has no desire for anything different. This all changes when a encounter with Rhett Daniels, the CEO of New York’s hottest tech startup results in Darren being offered a spot on his elite sales team. He is given the nickname Buck by the racist head of sales. As he gets more immersed with Rhett and makes more money he changes and is estranged from his mom and his friends in Bed-Stuy. A tragedy at home and a scandal at work sets ups a chain of events that changes everything. I loved this book. It is compelling. It is funny. It is well written. It has great characters This could easily end up being the book I most recommend this year.

5. Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman – This is the latest in the Alex Delaware series. In this one, Milo is asked to take on a very cold case when a wealthy woman pulls strings to get it reopened. It is the case of a woman found with a bullet in her head in a car crashed off the hills on Mulholland Drive. It seems like an unsolvable case, but as they investigate they find too many coincidences and discover someone is trying to stop the investigation. I love the Delaware novels and this one is as good as the rest. Milo and Alex are a good investigative duo. Old favorites pop up in supporting roles. The mystery is a good one. I would recommend it, but I’m also a “read in order” guy, so go start from the beginning of the series.

6. Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth – This was one of the award winners from the ALA Youth Media Awards. It is a memoir in verse. Gansworth tells the story of his life growing up on the Tuscarora reservation in New York. He also tells a little about his grandparents being sent to boarding school as kids to learn to be more like white people. I really wanted to like this more Kind of like I really wanted to like the one fiction book of his I read more than I did. He has a moving story, but unlike other books in verse, this one just didn’t draw me in at all. I was bored a lot. I probably should have given up on it and moved on to something that I found more appealing. I’m not sure what the people who gave it a Printz Honor Award saw in it.

7. This is my Brain in Love by I.W. Gregorio – Jocelyn Wu is a junior in high school. Her parents own a Chinese restaurant in Utica. When her dad says they might need to move back to NYC so he can work for family there she tries to help bring the restaurant to modern times to save it. Will Domenici is a junior at the local private school who wants to find a paying summer internship. Jocelyn hires him to help with marketing the restaurant. They, of course, fall in love. It is complicated by Jos’s parents’ prejudice, Will’s anxiety and Jos’s possible depression. I always like a good YA romance and this one was very good, if maybe a tad bit too long. It was nice to have diverse characters – Will’s mom is Nigerian, the Wu’s are Chinese, Jos’s best friend is Indian-American – and characters dealing realistically with mental illness. I would recommend.

8. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee – This is an account of a group of young second-generation Japanese American citizens in San Francisco whose lives are changed by the mass US incarcerations of World War II. The story is told through the eyes of different teens as were move from the rumors of “evacuation” after Pearl Harbor into the incarceration camps. We follow their lives in the camps. We follow two of them to the front lines of the war as they fight to prove their loyalty to the country. We follow some families to a more secure camp after they refuse to say yes to a loyalty contract. We eventually follow them back to San Francisco after the war. It took me a couple of days to get into the book. It was an abrupt change from the romance book from before. My daughter loved it, so I kept reading. Eventually, I got to the point where I couldn’t put the book down. I was completely invested in their lives and wanted to follow them to better times. I would highly recommend this one.

Tater’s January 2021 in Books

I decided to do a monthly review of the books I have read. Here is what I read in the month of January in order of when I finished.

  1. The Living Dead by George Romero and Daniel Kraus This was started by George Romero and then completed by Kraus after Romero died. I’m sure you can figure out by the title and author that it is a zombie novel. It is a 656 page zombie novel. It is a commitment. I would not recommend it to anyone who is hesitant about reading a zombie novel. The majority of the book is split into individual stories. An autistic government employee tracks the outbreak and then collects the stories of survivors. These survivors include the medical examiners who first had a body come to life, a news anchor who stays on the air to provide updates, sailors on an aircraft carrier and a black teen from a Midwestern trailer park. The stories eventually connect, but a little too late for me . There were some really good individual stories, a couple of slower ones and then the ending sort of fizzled.
  2. The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton – I had a found copy of this in the house and decided it was a good gap book until I decided what to read next. It tells the story of the US president who is being investigated for possible treason while the nation is under threat of an attack. The president goes missing to meet alone with someone who has information about the attack. It is a race against time to stop the attack and find the real traitor. This is better than most of the recent Patterson books I’ve read, but has the same problem as most of his books – the protagonist is too perfect and bulletproof. If you like Patterson, you will like this one.
  3. 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon – Pinky is tired of her conservative parents criticizing all of her decision, especially her choice of boyfriends. Samir likes to play things safe and likes things predictable and steady. inky is at her summer house with her parents. Samir’s DC internship has fallen through. Pinky decides she needs a fake, more suitable boyfriend to placate her parents and promises Samir an internship with her lawyer mom if he becomes that fake boyfriend. Samir agrees and spends the rest of the summer pretending to be Pinky’s boyfriend. Of course, they eventually really fall in love. This is a nice, sweet teen romance. Menon is really good at this type of book. This is the 3rd book I’ve read by her.
  4. The Shadows by Alex North – When Paul Adams was a teen, two of his friends murdered another of his friends. One of those murderers, Charlie Crabtree disappeared after the murders. Now, years later, Paul returns home when he gets word his mom is ill. Around the same time, a copycat murder takes place in a nearby town and odd things start happening around Paul. Is it possible Charlie is back? This is probably the best book I read this month. I was hooked from the start. There was a twist I wasn’t expecting and the ending was satisfying. It is dark and creepy, but very good.
  5. Deadly Cross by James Patterson – I loved all of the early James Patterson books and the Alex Cross ones were some of my favorites. I still read the new Cross books even though I have generally stopped reading Patterson books. In this one, Alex investigates the murder of the ex-wife of the vice president and the principal of the school his daughter attends. He also is investigating the rape and murder of several teen girls in the area. They may be connected in some way. The story is decent. It is a fast read. The entire Cross family is still too perfect and it just makes the whole thing ridiculous.
  6. Majesty by Katherine McGee This is the sequel to American Royals. It takes place in a world where George Washington became King of America and follows the current day American royal family. In this one Beatrice has become the first Queen of America and is preparing to marry. Her sister Samantha is still dealing with the fact that her sister is marrying her crush while their brother Jefferson is getting over his breakup with Samantha’s best friend. Generally, a lot of romantic hijinks set around the American palace in DC. I enjoyed the books, but would like to see one that is not just based around the romantic entanglements of the royal kids.
  7. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas – This is the prequel to The Hate U Give. It follows 17 year old Maverick Carter as he deals with the news that he is about to become a father. The mother is the girlfriend of his best friend King. Around the same time, his cousin Dre, one of the leaders of the King Lords discovers Mav and King have been dealing drugs on the side. He offers Mav the chance to go straight. Mav gets a job at the local grocery store, but then questions his decision when he gets the news his ex girlfriend is pregnant and a second kid is on the way. I loved The Hate U Give and liked this one even more. Mav is a great character and we see his growth as he struggles with fatherhood at 17, the death of a family member, and his desire to eave the gang life. Highly recommend.
  8. Kind of a Big Deal by Shannon Hale Josie Pie was supposed to be a star. She was Kind if a Big Deal in high school. She was the lead in all of the school musicals. She got an audition on Broadway, dropped out of school and headed to New York. It all fell apart. Her dream of stardom gone, she takes a job as a nanny and moves with the family to Montana. As she deals with the loss of her dream and being distant from her friend and boyfriend, she decides to start reading again and finds herself actually in the book. She becomes the lead in a romance, a zombie novel, a YA rom-com, etc. The longer she stays in the book, the harder it is to get out. Will she find a story so good she stays forever? Not my favorite of the month. A little too long and the main character was not likable enough to really invest in her story. It was a interesting concept.

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson — CHAPTER CHATS

I always avoided attempting to write a real book review. I was asked about contributing to a blog for work. This meant my first attempt at a real book review. You can find it below.


Review by Alan S. ‌Big‌ ‌Sky‌ ‌is‌ ‌the‌ ‌fifth‌ novel ‌featuring‌ ‌Jackson‌ ‌Brodie‌. ‌Brodie‌ ‌retires‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌small‌ ‌coastal‌ ‌town,‌ ‌and‌ ‌sometimes‌ ‌cares‌ ‌for‌ ‌his‌ ‌teenage‌ ‌son,‌ ‌while‌ ‌working‌ ‌as‌ ‌a‌ ‌private‌ ‌investigator.‌ ‌Brodie‌ ‌will‌ ‌soon‌ ‌discover‌ ‌that‌ ‌small‌ ‌towns‌ ‌can‌ ‌hold‌ ‌big‌ ‌secrets‌ ‌after‌ ‌a‌ ‌chance‌ ‌meeting‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌beach‌ ‌draws‌ ‌him‌ ‌into‌ ‌a‌ ‌criminal‌ ‌conspiracy.‌ ‌ ‌Big‌ […]

via Big Sky by Kate Atkinson — CHAPTER CHATS