Books Read in October

Not going to lie, I have become addicted to Dr. Mario on the iPhone and sometimes I crawl into bed, when it is supposed to be reading time, and instead I end up playing a few rounds. It’s a problem, I know. Definitely ate into my reading time this month.

The InstituteThe Institute by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I find that Stephen King novels are like Star Trek movies for me – every *other* one is one that I like. So at some point I stopped picking them up because I lost track of the pattern. But for some reason, I put “The Institute” on hold and when it came in for me at the library, I was determined to read it within the 3 weeks I had. AND I DID IT! So, that says something right there.

While I always laugh at how King writes children (they never seem to think or talk at an age appropriate level to me), his stories that center around children seem to be some of his strongest. Perhaps because being a kid is scary and when your main character is a kid, doesn’t matter how smart he is, he has less power than anyone else.

This is less horror and more creepy supernatural but, as usual, the true evil comes from the humans themselves. The pain we can inflict on each other in the name of some cause or belief.

Yeah, there are some tropes here (I mean, I saw similarities between this story and an X-Files fanfic I wrote back in middle school so I know they must be tropes) but King weaves his own special kind of magic (or maybe it just seems like magic because I can’t understand the Northeastern slang terms).

If you haven’t read a Stephen King book in awhile, this is a solid one to pick up.

GutsGuts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another good one from Raina. Even though the story is about her stomach issues and anxiety, there is a lot here that anyone can identify with. And, at the core, always, friendship and relationships.

Magic for LiarsMagic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know it feels cliche to say “If you liked Harry Potter as a kid, try this book with adult wizards!” but…you know. That. I think the fact that it takes place at a wizarding school makes it even harder not to link the two.

But the story is not about the teens, but about two adults, sisters – one magical, one not. But when a murder happens at the school and the “magical police” deem it an accidental death, the school reaches out to a private detective, who happens to be the non-magical sister, to investigate further because they suspect foul play.

Good mystery and quick read.

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't KnowTalking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m going to give this 3 stars because it felt like a bunch of Gladwell’s podcasts stuck together with a flimsy connecting theme. I liked all of them individually, but I really didn’t feel like the thesis statement of the book, the TITLE of the book really represented what the book was actually about.

A good listen though, well produced audiobook. Just think the title should have been something else.

The Okay WitchThe Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh I really hope this becomes a series! I loved the characters and the story and the art style is adorable. Reminded me of Disney films, back when they were hand drawn.

Sunny Rolls the DiceSunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars – Not quite as strong as the other two Sunny books, but maybe that is because the subject matter never got quite as serious. But that’s okay too because if you’re a kid with a pretty healthy home life, then just getting older can be serious and stressful.

Sunny and her guy friends all start playing D&D together around the same time her girl friends are starting to become more interested in dating and “what’s groovy”. It’s cute and actually the drama is very low-key, but I know this is a struggle for us lady nerds as we try to decide between fitting in with other girls or embracing our geeky side, even if it means hanging out with boys.

I am glad that the boys never seemed to think it was “weird” that Sunny wanted to play D&D. They were happy to have her there.

Duck, Death and the TulipDuck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the artwork in this oddly sweet little story about death.

Caging SkiesCaging Skies by Christine Leunens
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel bad for this book because I only picked it up since it was listed as the “based on” book for JoJo Rabbit, a movie that I was interested in seeing. But it is clear from the trailer vs the book I just read that JoJo Rabbit is probably more “inspired by” this book than anything else.

This is a VERY dark comedy, with a narrator that isn’t so much unreliable as delusional but you know he is delusional because you’re not a Nazi.

This review/rating probably isn’t fair since I was hoping for a funny book like the JoJo Rabbit trailer and this is much more subtle.

They Called Us EnemyThey Called Us Enemy by George Takei
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is definitely going on my “best books” list for they are one I will be taking with my to booktalks. Another great “next step” graphic novel for teens who grew up reading the Nathan Hale series.

In the book, Takei retells his memories of when his family was taken to the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII and how that shaped his entire life and who he became. It makes you think about what it means to be an American, how democracy can bring out the best and the worst, and how we can learn from our mistakes, if we only educate ourselves.

I only marked it down a star because of the way the story jumped around a bit near the end after being relatively linear (or, at least, flipping from past to present Takei) up until that point. But the story is SO important because this is an often overlooked part of American history and we are very close to repeating it, as is pointed out at the end.

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