Tag Archives: Summer Reading

Reviews Aplenty: “Dark Matter,” “Y: The Last Man,” and “The Winter of Our Discontent”

Remember my summer reading plans? Remember how those plans were derailed? Well, they weren’t thrown off entirely, since I was able to squeeze in several texts of my own choosing, one of which was even on my original summer reading list!

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

I finished this one a while ago and didn’t feel inclined to blog about it because I really had very little to say. This was partly because I felt a bit confused at times and that often overshadowed the excitement. It should come as no surprise that particle physics isn’t within my comfort zone; Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Astrophysics for People in a Hurry has been on my nightstand for at least a month, since I read the first 5 pages and got a headache. I’m not ashamed to admit that thinking of that level is far over my head. However, although Crouch’s narrator, Jason, is clearly a genius, he has conversations with people who are not, giving the reader the opportunity to catch up on the situation. Anyone who has read The Martian and felt sorely inadequate at maths will sympathize and, sadly, I don’t think Crouch’s attempts to make the subject matter relatable and simplified is as effortless as Weir’s.

However, I thought the idea was quite original and I wasn’t so lost that I was unable to enjoy the story. I know people who were unresolved with the ending and, I must admit that I was slightly peeved, since it was left so open-ended that it felt a bit like a cop-out. But alas, by now, it comes as more of a surprise when an author does give a satisfying ending than when s/he puts all the effort into the rising action, conflicts, and climax. I’m not pleased, but I’m not surprised, either.

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“Y” is none other than unemployed escape artist Yorick Brown (his father was a Shakespeare buff), and he’s seemingly the only male human left alive after a mysterious plague kills all Y-chromosome carriers on earth. But why are he and his faithful companion, the often testy male monkey Ampersand, still alive? He sets out to find the answer (and his girlfriend), while running from angry female Republicans (now running the government), Amazon wannabes that include his own sister (seemingly brainwashed), and other threats.

Not really sure what to say about this one. It managed to be feminist and anti-feminist at the same time; it was empowering, at times, and extremely discouraging at others. It was fun to read for a teacher of English, since the main character has an English degree and the story contains tons of references that might only be relevant or funny to those with similar interests. The illustrations are amazing and detailed, so this graphic novel would be a huge success even if only based on the images. The story itself is unique and intriguing, so I enjoyed reading it, but this is volume 1 of 10; I’m not that invested. I will not pursue the series further, but that is mostly because 10 volumes is just too much of a commitment for this lazy person. I also won’t keep it in my classroom, as long as I’m teaching 9th grade, at least. There is a great deal of mature language and the subject matter itself could be too much for some audiences. It’s too risky to keep it within reach of all, but some mature students could really enjoy it.

Ethan Allen Hawley, the protagonist of the novel, works as a clerk in a grocery store that his family once owned. With the decline in their status, his wife is restless & his teenage children are hungry for the tantalizing material comforts he cannot provide. Then one day, in a moment of moral crisis, Ethan decides to take a holiday from his own scrupulous standards.

My grandmother gave me her copy of this text and I haven’t read enough Steinbeck, so I decided to tackle this one this summer. I had forgotten how long-winded the classics can be. There were entire pages describing the street upon which the main character lived. I could’ve done with a bit more conciseness and a lot more action, but I can’t say that I disliked it. It was slow and a lot of things that seemed like pointless conversations or comments ended up proving meaningful in the end. However, I hate to have to get to the end of a book before I realize that what I read was purposeful instead of ramblings. I may have been steeped in YA for too long, since I used to be all classics all the time, but this one just seemed dull and pointless until the very end. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I do, however, feel as though it is a good representation of small town life, especially in the 1960s. Life in a small town isn’t always (or even often) exciting, as I know all too well, so it is highly likely that the lack of plot twists is meant to reflect a mundane life. I had no trouble seeing why Steinbeck is considered a great author of the American experience, but kids just won’t buy into this. No intentions to teach this.

I’m currently reading Waking Gods, which is the second book in the Themis Files series. My review of the first book is here and I hope to finish the second one soon. I need something awesome!

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Summer Reading List

Much like Dobby, Lindsay is free! I’ve graduated from my Master’s program; I’ve been offered a teaching position (about which I am jazzed); I have a summer job in the meantime. Currently, I have no homework, no “I should be working on *insert school task here.*” I don’t remember the last time I had my life together to this degree and I just needed a moment to bask and brag. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the books I plan to devour this summer!

My Goodreads challenge goal was to complete 52 books this year, or roughly one per week. I’m currently making slow progress on a rather voluptuous tome, so the progress is slow-going at the moment, but I hope to complete at least 10 books in the 12ish weeks of summer. This list is not a promise, but more so a projection; thus, it is subject to change if a more enticing option presents itself, but I will try at least to maintain (some) variety.

Winger – Andrew Smith: I made a promise that I will read this one at some point this year on my New Year’s Recommendations post. It feels like all my MAT cohort-mates have read it and loved it, and I need to get more “bro books” under my belt. Feels like a summer read to me!
Tags: YA, realistic fiction, contemporary, 1st in series

Babylon’s Ashes – James S. A. Corey: No surprise here. I remain obsessed with the Expanse Series and, whereas all my other copies are paperbacks, I recently broke down and bought the hardcover copy of Book 6 cuz I NEEDS IT NOW!! Needless to say, starting with this one.
Tags: Adult fiction, scifi/fantasy, “space opera,” mid-series

Sons of Ares – Pierce Brown: Again, hold your surprise. Wherever Pierce goes, I go. This one is a comic book, so it is proving to be allusive and I will ultimately have to order it online since none of my local book stores or comic shops have it. Wassup with that??
Tags: Comic, fiction, scifi/fantasy, prequel

Under the Banner of Heaven – Jon Krakauer: Krakauer is another author I’ll follow to the ends of the Earth. I need to get more nonfiction under my belt, and I already know I like Krakauer’s style and the subject matter sounds fascinating, so count me in.
Tags: Adult historical nonfiction, mystery/true crime, religion

Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero: From what I can tell, this one is a spin off of Scooby-Doo, which was my lifeblood as a kid (and still today). This one could have been written FOR ME or could be the most insulting thing I’ve ever read. I have high hopes, since I found it in my endless search for scary books. Like, I want some real horror! Is that so much to ask?! It’ll be published in July, so I have time to psyche myself up for some good ol’ Mystery Gang fun.
Tags: Adult fiction, horror, mystery, fantasy

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch: The hubby read this one recently (which means BONUS, we already own it!) and liked it. I know there has been a lot of buzz about it and I missed the initial gravy train, but I’m happy to jump on to the caboose. Hopefully, it’ll be a nice thriller? I actually know nothing about it…
Tags: Adult fiction, scifi, thriller, mystery

Waking Gods – Sylvain Neuvel: This is the sequal to Sleeping Giants, which I read around this time last year and really enjoyed. We all know I’m a scifi junkie, so this one is purely for my enjoyment and I cannot wait. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll go grab a copy today so the motivation to read it can propel me through Babylon’s Ashes even faster!
Tags: Adult fiction, scifi/fantasy, 2nd is series

Rise of the Rocket Girls – Nathalia Holt: Again, my attempt to intake more nonfiction leads me to this text. It sounds remarkably similar to Hidden Figures but I’ve heard that Hidden Figures is actually rather boring (I haven’t read it, so this is just hearsay), so I think I’ll give this one a try. Sounds empowering!
Tags: Adult historical nonfiction, feminism, science/space

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak: I assume it will surprise everyone that I haven’t read this. I’m known to devour WWII literature and this one had its hayday recently when it became a movie. I didn’t see that either, so I’m blissfully ignorant of the details and will now consume it.
Tags: YA, historical fiction, WWII/war

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury: I don’t know how I went this long without reading this, but I need to now. I love Bradbury, so I’m optimistic. Classics revival!
Tags: Adult fiction, classics, dystopian

I’d love to know what everyone else is reading this summer. Any thoughts on my choices? Replacement options? Comment or link so I can see what everyone is up to and maybe even make some swaps.

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