Squeakers & Buttberp

“It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” ― Oscar Wilde

#26 The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin April 1, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — risserreview @ 8:35 pm

  Mara is experiencing symptoms of PTSD after a horrifying accident that killed three of her friends, and left her in a coma for a few days.  She has no remembrance of what happened that day or why, but she’s been having hallucinations that leave her wondering what’s real and what isn’t.  Her family moves from Rhode Island to Florida, so she can start over.  Enter Noah Shaw.  The lady killer of her new school.  While Mara’s on to his tricks, she can’t help but fall for him.

The book’s fast pace keeps you reading just to find out what in the world is going on.  It is a wildly entertaining mix of mystery, thriller, and romance that pushes you to keep those pages turning.  By the last 100 pages of the book, I wasn’t sure how Hodkin was going to wrap up all of the loose ends.  It got to be a little rushed, and definitely created more questions for me than answers, but left a great cliffhanger for a sequel (which I will definitely be reading when it’s written).  This book is full of imagination and creativity.  A refreshing change from the paranormal world of vampires and werewolves that is dominating the market right now.  And did I mention Noah Shaw?

4/5 Squeakers (Quality of Writing and Effectiveness of Plot)
5/5 Buttberps (Unabashed Entertainment Value)
9/10 Total


#25 The Running Dream – Wendelin Van Draanen March 25, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — risserreview @ 3:40 pm

  2012 Schneider Family Book Award Winner

Another wonderful read I can’t say enough good things about.  This book was simply amazing and so very inspiring.  If this doesn’t get you off your couch and up exercising, nothing will!

Jessica Carlisle, a 16 year old track superstar, has just broken the record for the 400-meter and is in prime position to be the best in the league.  However after a terrible bus accident, Jessica is left with only one of her legs.  Everything she valued, the very core of her being, has been taken from her and she doesn’t know how she’ll get through it.  The pages that follow take you along on Jessica’s journey to recovery.  And as her character develops, you’ll be speed reading to win a race of your own.

Van Draanen has crafted a realistic yet very inspiring novel that is so well balanced, I’m surprised she didn’t go through it herself.  She is able to capture every raw emotion, both good and bad, that Jessica goes through.  It just takes your breath away.  The novel never gets too depressing, nor does it become overly after-school special.  It is just beautiful.

I’ll be heading out on a run promptly after this post.

5/5 Squeakers (Quality of Writing and Effectiveness of Plot)
5/5 Buttberps (Unabashed Entertainment Value)
10/10 Total

Wendelin Van Draanen and her husband also coordinate a program called Exercise the Right to Read which helps raise money for school libraries and disadvantaged children.  Click the link above if you’re feeling inspired yourself!


#24 Wonder – R.J. Palacio March 24, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — risserreview @ 12:35 pm

Love, Love, Love this novel!  If this isn’t an award winner in the near future, I’ll be awaiting the zombie apocalypse.

August “Auggie” Pullman was born with a rare facial “deformity” that makes kids run away from him screaming in fear.  And if you think that’s bad, you should see what the grown ups do.  Auggie’s been home-schooled his entire life, but now that he’s entering fifth grade, he’s going to try out real school.  As if being the new kid isn’t hard enough, how is he ever going to survive the tortuous beginning of middle school with a face like his?

The message, the characters, the hope – it’s a well rounded tug on the heart strings.  Auggie’s story is told from multiple perspectives throughout the course of the story, which I wasn’t expecting, wasn’t sure I was going to like, but absolutely adored by the end.  I really wanted to see how this boy handled all of the things life through at him from his perspective.  So when the first section was over, and I had to listen to someone else talk about it, I was a bit disappointed.  However, once you come to expect it – those characters’ points of view made the story more real, more believable, and more raw.  It was really a great choice by the author.  I am currently plotting a way to get all of my 6th grade students to read this novel because it is just so powerful. (*strums fingers in front of face a la Mr. Burns*)  It’s chock full of life lessons and discussions on character.  Every middle school student should be required to read it.

5/5 Squeakers (Quality of Writing and Effectiveness of Plot)
5/5 Buttberps (Unabashed Entertainment Value)
10/10 Total


#23 Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream – Tanya Lee Stone March 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — risserreview @ 7:25 pm

  2010 Sibert Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction

In the 1960s women were not allowed in space.  In fact they were rarely left out of the kitchen.  But that didn’t stop 13 brave women pilots from trying to reach for the stars.  Stone chronicles the journey of these women through the trials and tribulations of their fight to share space with their men counterparts.

Not typically a nonfiction aficionado myself, this book blew me away.  It’s engaging, well written, and inspiring – and somehow reads with the suspense of a novel you’re willing to stay up into the night to finish.  These women paved the way for future generations.  They stood up to inequalities with strength and grace. They endured harsh trials both physical and emotional to prove themselves – and did so without complaint.

I can’t recommend this book enough.

5/5 Squeakers (Quality of Writing and Effectiveness of Plot – or in this case text structure)

5/5 Buttberps (Unabashed Entertainment Value)

10/10 Total!


#22 Gone – Lisa McMann

Filed under: Uncategorized — risserreview @ 7:09 pm

  A nice closing to Janie and Cabel’s story.

In a nutshell:  Janie meets her father for the first time, has graduated high school, and must now make some huge decisions about what to do with the rest of her life.

This edition was back on track compared to the second book in the series.  We got the best of both worlds as far as a mystery to be solved and some back story around Janie’s parents and her abilities.  Her mother’s alcoholism comes to the forefront and becomes a central theme in this novel.  While it does come off a bit over the top – it’s still believable and relates well to Janie’s own characterization.  She remains a bit overly dramatic and self-centered – nothing new there.  I do wish there was a little more plot line to drive this final novel forward a little more.  But I was by no means disappointed with the ending of the trilogy.  McMann does a nice job of giving us information we were looking for and leaving the future a hopeful idea for our imagination.

3/5 Squeakers (Quality of Writing and Effectiveness of Plot)

4/5 Buttberpts (Unabashed Entertainment Value)

7/10 Total


#21 Fade – Lisa McMann March 11, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — risserreview @ 7:19 pm

  The story of Janie and Cabel continues in book two of the series.

This time the police are tipped off by an anonymous caller a teacher at the high school might be taking advantage of students.  Janie and Cabel are on duty to find out who might be involved and why this news isn’t spreading across campus like most other juicy gossip.  However, the assignment puts great strain on their budding relationship.  Teen drama ensues.

I continue to enjoy McMann’s writing style in this novel.  It’s short, sweet, and very gripping which makes for a very quick and engaging read.  Many young adult novelists get bogged down by description, but she really gets it right in this series.

I didn’t enjoy Fade as much as the first book in the series, however I was getting enough hints and answers to my many questions that I didn’t really mind.  This story read more like a CSI episode which I could have done without, but did set the stage for better character development especially the Captain.

I’ve already ordered Gone, the third book in the series, and will anxiously continue reading to see how McMann is going to tie up some of these loose ends!

3/5 Squeakers (Quality of Writing and Effectiveness of Plot)
4/5 Buttberps (Unabashed Entertainment Value)
7/10 Total


#20 Wake – Lisa McMann March 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — risserreview @ 7:46 pm

  Whenever 17 year old Janie is near a sleeping person, she is sucked into that individual’s dreams.  She frequents the falling dream, embarrassing naked dream, and even an occasional boring dream.  However lately she’s been getting into some real nightmares.  Janie hasn’t told a soul.  Besides, who would she even talk to?  She’s only got one real friend.

And then she starts hanging out with Cabel – the first person she’s ever really wanted to tell her secret.

This novel was a quick and entertaining read.  The story kept a fast pace and drove me to find out more about Janie and her strange ability.  There were parts that could have been more detailed, as I was frequently hoping for more back story.  Later in the novel when I thought I was finally getting some information, it just kind of fell flat and wasn’t explained.  Also the relationship between Cabel and Janie, while cute and full of teenage supercharged emotions, was a bit melodramatic at times.  Yes teens can sometimes overreact, but it became unrealistic and even a shade annoying. Despite those complaints, I still couldn’t put the book down, and will most definitely be starting book 2 in the series this evening.  I think teen readers will eat this book up, especially some reluctant readers who may find the short length of the book more enticing and manageable.

3/5 Squeakers (Quality of Writing and Effectiveness of Plot)
5/5 Buttberps (Unabashed Entertainment Value)
8/10 Total