Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Book Reviews: Whales, RomComs, and Escape Rooms - Oh My!

I have gotten a bit backlogged on ARCs, and that was my focus for this round. I suppose it's a good problem to have, and part of this is on me for putting in all the requests. So, I took the time in this quartet to go through some future/soon to be released reads to reduce my queue a bit.

Pretty in Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton is everything I/you could ever want in a cheesy romcom YA read. The plot is heavily inspired by Groundhog Day, Pretty in Pink, and there's even a little Breakfast Club. Andie (yes, like Pretty in Pink) is preparing for her first day at a new school. She's spent the summer at her local movie theater crushing hard on Colton while also getting to know Tom. She heads off to that first day, and she has high hopes, but the day spirals into nothing like what she had hoped it would be. She falls asleep that night bummed at what happens. However, she wakes up the next morning, and it's somehow her first day all over again. She tries to do things differently the second time around, and the third, and so on. With each passing day, Andie learns a little bit more about her classmates, as well as herself. She takes each replay to fine tune and make others happier, as well as to figure out what she actually wants. Honestly, y'all, I figured out how this one might end pretty early on, however, I did not care. The cheesy 80s vibe of this love story was just what I wanted, and I loved how it was told. If you're a fan of the work of John Hughes, this will totally be your jam. Also, if you've continually maintained that Duckie is an infinitely better choice than Blane, this will definitely be for you. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me go on this romcom adventure!

Read this book if - You have a love for 80s romcoms. You like a love story/book where you can figure out the ending, but you keep reading just to see how it'll play out.

The Stressed Year of Their Lives: Helping Your Kid Survive and Thrive in their College Years by B. Janet Hibbs and Anthony Rostain was a book I read not as a parent, but an educator. As someone who still interfaces with students, I thought this would be something that I could still find beneficial. I liked how this book started with framing how to prepare for the college experience. Rather than waiting to be in the environment, it explained how to develop strategies now for success later. I also liked how they used a variance of teaching methods. There were case studies, statistics, and tips for how to approach issues. Throughout, they also normalized that these are realities of what might happen, and that's okay. Their focus was on how to help and address issues in a way that is helpful for all involved. The topic is a complex one, and you obviously can't cover every single aspect of all the things. However, this was a strong and quite comprehensive read regarding how mental health impacts the college experience. Thanks to NetGalley for the sneak peek on this April release that's a good one for parents and educators to check out.

Read this book if - You want a conversation starter around mental health in college students. You want a book on tips and strategies for helping a student manage mental health in college.

The Escape Room by Melissa Goldin was a fast-paced and intriguing thriller. In the high stakes world of investment banking, four coworkers are summoned to an elevator escape room. They're familiar with the team builder, and they assume this one will be a similar endeavor. They quickly realize that will definitely not be the case. The story is told through alternating timelines. First, there is looking back at Sara Hall's experience at the company. Sara was a recent graduate who was sucked into the cutthroat and complex world of finance. She couldn't believe she got the job, and she begins to navigate the high stakes world finding it quite full of all the stress and sacrifice to get ahead. Then, there is the escape room experience. In the elevator, "clues" are revealed, as our long-kept secrets (and lies) between the quartet. With each passing minute and clue, the escape room elevator becomes a more concerning and complicated situation. This one was intense in the best of ways. The scandalous twists and turns of this one kept me reading. This one will be on shelves in August, and a thanks to NetGalley for the super early preview. I really dug how this book used an escape room as a plot device, and the reveal at the end was just so wonderfully sensational. It was everything I love in a good thriller.

Read this book if - You like your thrillers full of secrets and scandals. You want to check out a thriller built around a sensationalized escape room sceanario.

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly was a middle-grade novel full of all kinds of heart. Twelve year old Iris is deaf, and this means she often feels she just doesn't fit in. Her grandparents are both deaf which gives her a connection, however she recently lost her grandfather which has been hard because they were especially close. Her parents don't always take the time to connect, and she struggles at school for similar reasons, while also longing to transfer to the school for the deaf in her town. Along the way, she becomes captivated by Blue 55, a whale who has also lost his way. Blue 55 struggles to communicate with other whales, and he is quite lonely. Hearing about him, Iris can relate, and she wonders if she might have a way to solve his problem. From here, Iris decides to explore how she might help this whale. She has to do this virtually as the whale is in Alaska, but Iris is determined to not make that a barrier. This was an enlightening read as it shows the world through Iris' experience. Using her as the narrator allows readers to get a better understanding of how she interprets the world, including the challenges that her deafness brings. However, it also shows how her deafness is an asset and how she learns to adapt to the environment. The parallel story of Iris and Blue 55 was really well told, and I definitely think kids will be entranced by this one.

Read this book if - You want a middle-grade novel that explores a narrator's unique identity. You want a story that shows how a difference can be a gift and asset.

Onto my next reads!