Mrs. Gordon's Picks

Want to know what Mrs. Gordon is reading and what she thinks? Check out her reading list for 2015.

currently-reading

The ProgramThe Program by Suzanne Young. This is a sci-fi young adult fiction novel about a teenage suicide epidemic caused by the overuse of depression medication.

In an effort to cure the epidemic, a psychological treatment has been created, called “The Program”. Sloane, a teenager whose school is one of the first to be involved in the program, has lost her brother to suicide. As more students are pulled from class, and entered into “The Program”, she fears she may be next.

 

 

 

 

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What She Left BehindApril 23, 2015: What She Left Behind by Ellen Marie Wiseman. This is an adult historical fiction, set in the late 1920s and in the mid 1990s. The story is told from two perspectives, Clara and Izzy. Clara is an 18 year-old girl living in New York, with her old-fashioned, wealthy bank tycoon parents. She meets a young Italian immigrant named Bruno whom she falls deeply in love with, much to her parents’ dismay. When she argues with her parents in an effort to defend herself, her father has her institutionalized in an asylum.

Izzy is a 17 year-old girl in foster care. Her foster parents run a museum and are called upon to recreate the lives of former inmates at the long-closed asylum using luggage left behind. Her mother had also been institutionalized for murdering her father, which she has been unable to understand and come to terms with. When Izzy finds Clara’s suitcase, she becomes entranced by her and becomes determined to find out what happened to drive her crazy. Will she bring closure to Clara’s story, or find herself hitting too close to home?

I absolutely adored this book. I could easily say it is one of the best books I have read in my life. Many of the reasons Clara was locked up would seem utterly normal in today’s world. So how is it possible for someone to be locked up for expressing themselves? It was such an unbelievably emotional story that had my stomach in knots while reading about Clara’s experiences. I cannot say enough good things about this book, and for that reason, I eagerly gave it 5stars


The Girl on the TrainApril 17, 2015: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This is an adult psychological thriller set in a suburb of London. The story centers around Rachel, an alcoholic divorcee who rides the train into London each day. On her journey, she passes the same house whose owners she often sees outside. In her head, she has painted a life for them, reminiscent of the life she dreams for herself. Her daily ride is nearly identical, until one day she witnesses an odd occurrence, but speaking up could shine a spotlight on her crumbling life. She desperately wants to do something good, but will her efforts harm those around, rather than help?

I had really high expectations for this book. All the hype I experienced was about this giant twist. However, because I expected something completely unexpected, I found myself trying to guess the outcome at every turn. Eventually, I had worked out a scenario that was similar to the actual ending. As a result, I was a little let down by the conclusion. I also did not feel an emotional attachment to this book after I completed it. It did not stick with me, and in fact, the more I thought about it, the less I feel I enjoyed it. For these reasons, I gave it 3stars


 

Number the StarsApril 15, 2015: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is yet another historical fiction novel that takes place during the Holocaust, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Annemarie and her best friend, Ellen, are inseparable. They live in the same building and their mothers are friends, as well. However, Ellen is Jewish and Annemarie is not. With rumors of an impending roundup of Jews, Ellen’s parents are taken somewhere safe for the night, while Ellen is hidden with Annemarie’s family. When Nazis come looking for Ellen’s family, everyone recognizes the severity of their situation. The next day Ellen, Annemarie, her mother, and sister travel to Uncle Henrik’s farm house on the edge of Denmark. Annemarie begins to realize that their trip is more than what it seems. She is not exactly sure what is happening, but she knows that Ellen and her parents need her. Can she be brave and risk her life for her friend, or is she just a scared girl?

This book is such an amazing story about the power of friendship and bravery. Annemarie is an excellent example of courage under fire. It’s an easy read and the author’s writing is simplistic and elegant. I wanted to re-read this book, because the last time I had read it was about 20 years ago. I remember I loved it, but wanted to read it as an adult and see if I still felt the same way. I gave it 4stars


 

In Real LifeApril 14, 2015: In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. This is a graphic novel about a young girl, named Anda, who joins an all-girls guild in an MMO (a massively multiplayer online game) called Coarsegold. While in the game she stumbles upon an illegal gold farmer, a gamer who collects objects and illegally sells them for cash. Yet, he is not an average game player looking to profit, he is a poor Chinese boy whose job as a gold farmer supports his family’s efforts to send him to college. Although Anda would like to rid the game of gold farmers to keep the game fair, she begins to realize that maybe life is not always so black and white. Will she take a risk and be able to exist in the gray, to advocate for those who cannot do so for themselves, or will she continue on in her black and white world?

This was a great, quick, and simple read. Even so, it has a very developed and complex theme about growing up and helping those less fortunate than yourself. It really held my attention and wrapped up the story arc quite well. I gave this graphic novel 5stars


Playing for the CommandantPlaying for the Commandant by Suzy Zail. This is another historical fiction novel set in Hungary during World War II. As German Nazis emptied a Jewish ghetto in Hungary, 15 year-old Hanna carefully dislodged the most important possession she could carry with her, a black C sharp piano key. It would serve as her beacon of hope when she got off the putrid cattle car at the front gate of Aushwitz-Birkenau, a German work camp. Her survival depends on one thing, her skill as a concert pianist. When the commandant chooses her as his own private pianist, she must entertain him, his visitors, and his son, Karl. She should hate him, he is the enemy. Yet, she can’t. Will he return his feelings, when will the Russians come, and more importantly, can she use her special privileges in the commandants villa to save the lives of her family?

 I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The writing was simplistic, but it evoked so much anguish. The horrors of German work camps were appalling and that was portrayed in the author’s writing. I found myself really cheering for Hanna and hoping she would not make any mistakes that might endanger her life, and her family’s lives, further. It did not speak to my emotions as much as other novels within the same time period, but still evoked a deep sorrow and empathy for Hanna and the others. I gave this book 4stars


 

Is it night or dayApril 9, 2015: Is it Night or Day? by Fern Schumer Chapman. This book is a standalone historical fiction novel based on true events. Edith Westerfeld is a German Jew living in small-town Nazi Germany with her family. As anti-Semitism begins negatively affecting her family in the late 1930’s, her parents make the difficult decision to send her to America as a refugee. Alone and afraid, she must now adjust to her new country, new language, and family she has never met. Will she ever see her family again, adjust to her new life, or forever be an orphan of Germany?

I cannot say enough good things about this book. I love stories of hope and survival amidst devastation. However, the most emotional and satisfying portion of the book was in the bonus material. The material focused on the real Edith Westerfeld in present day, and a crucial friendship she forged on the escape from Germany all those years ago. The only reason I did not give this book 5 stars is that my favorite part was not actually part of the story, but the bonus material. Yet, it was fairly close. I gave the story 4stars


 

The Well's EndMarch 24, 2015: The Well’s End by Seth Fishman. This is the first book in The Well’s End series. Mia Kish is a 16 year-old girl attending one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the county. As a resident of Fenton, Colorado, she is considered a “townie” and the girl that fell down the well. She soon finds herself in a precarious situation, again, with a deadly virus running rampant on campus. To save herself and her friends she must escape the quarantine and find her father, who may have the answer as to why and where the virus originated.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book until the end. I could not decide whether I loved it or hated it. I think I will have a better view on my feelings about the book after I read the second book in the series. I rarely feel so conflicted about whether I enjoyed a book or not. I was left feeling a bit confused when I finished the book and was disappointed with where the book ends. I am hoping to get many of my questions answered in the next book, because I want to like this series. The author’s writing was really unique and dark, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I have hope for the next book. Mostly out of confusion for my feelings, I gave this book 3stars


 

daughter-of-smoke-and-boneMarch 17, 2015: The Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. This is the first book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, a fantasy series about forbidden love. Meet Karou, a 17 year-old, art student living in Prague. However, she’s not your average teenager. She is an orphan who collects teeth for the otherworldly creature, a Chimaera, that raised her. All along, she feels like she is missing something, until she meets Akiva, a Seraph. She knows he’s the natural enemy of the chimaera, but something draws her to him. Will it ever work between them or will an otherworldly war keep them apart as enemies?

I really enjoyed this book and am anxious to follow up with the rest of the trilogy. Laini Taylor’s writing is especially gripping and transports you seamlessly between Prague and the world of the Chimaera. As a fantasy novel, it entails quite a bit of world-building and background information, resulting in a slower-paced initial read.  By the end, I did not want to put it down and gave it 4stars


 

9780312674397February 23, 2015: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is a YA novel about the tragedies that face teens, and the emotional and psychological effects of those experiences. In Speak, we meet Melinda, a 9th grader who has been socially ostracized for calling the police on an end-of-summer party. Something happened at the party, but what? She feels that she can’t tell anyone, even her former friends. Will she speak of it, and how will others react?

I really liked this book. The author’s writing was so powerful and her story is one that can affect teens everywhere. The way Melinda’s emotions manifested themselves physically was heartbreaking, and forced the reader to feel her pain and anguish. I think this book is one every teenager should read at some point and shows teens that trusting those around you and speaking up is the right thing to do. I gave this book 4stars


 

1402928540000-The-Fairest-coverFebruary 22, 2015: Fairest by Marissa Meyer, the prequel to the sci-fi YA series, The Lunar Chronicles. In this installment of the series, we are transported to Luna where the Evil Queen Levana’s backstory is revealed. We learn that tragedy has occurred in her life and how those experiences shaped her into the Evil Queen we meet in the Lunar Chronicles.

I also really enjoyed this book. Marissa Meyer’s writing is so compelling and her storytelling make us even feel a bit bad for the Queen. Her adult self still remains unlikeable, but her past plays a large part in the person she has become. The book was advertised as a full-color, full-length novel. I am not sure I agree with that distinction. It was fairly short at 272 pages (much shorter than the other novels in the series) and the full-color art was only one blue-washed artist rendition of Luna. Overall, I thought the book fit in really nicely with the other books in the series. I gave it 4stars


Cress-final-e1378337072559February 20, 2015: Cress by Marissa Meyer, the third book in The Lunar Chronicles. This series is a very loose sci-fi interpretation of popular fairytales, such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. In Cress, we are introduced to Crescent Moon, a Lunar shell and hacker, who was taken from her parents as an infant and kept prisoner in a satellite orbiting Earth. Will she be rescued, and in return help save the Rampion crew?  The fourth book, a prequel, came out on January 26th, and focuses on the evil Lunar Queen Levana, with the final book in the series coming out in late 2015.

 Again, I adored this book. Cress blends in with our other main characters seamlessly and her romance is cute and quirky. I found myself really rooting for her throughout the entire book. The way that the storylines intersect is flawless and keeps the reader guessing. I cannot say enough good things about this series, in general. I gave it 5stars


scarlet-marissa-meyerFebruary 13, 2015: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, the second book in the Lunar Chronicles. This series is a very loose sci-fi interpretation of popular fairytales, such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. In Scarlet, we are introduced to Scarlet Benoit whose grandmother is missing. In her search for her grandmother she stumbles across Wolf, posing as a street fighter. Scarlet must decide whether to trust Wolf in her quest, or abandon all hope of finding her grandmother. Will she find her grandmother in time, or is Wolf trouble? The fourth book, a prequel, came out on January 26th, and focuses on the evil Lunar Queen Levana, with the final book in the series coming out in late 2015.

I really loved this book. I am not a fan of fairytale retellings, as I feel the originals are perfect as is. However, this series pulled me in right off the bat. Each character is so complex and likable. The way that the storylines intersect is flawless and keeps the reader guessing. I cannot say enough good things about this series, in general. I gave it 5stars


 

untitledJanuary 27, 2015: The Martian by Andy Weir. The story centers around Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut on a Mars Mission. After a freak accident, his crewmates believe him dead and abort their mission, leaving Watney behind. He must now fight for survival in the harsh condition of his new Martian home.

This story is geared toward adults because of language and  concept difficulty. I really enjoyed reading this book because I love all things science-fiction, especially those with a realistic storyline. I gave it 4 stars rather than 5 because it is very chemistry heavy. At times, the concepts seemed over-involved for the average reader. However, the plot and Mark’s dry, anxious wit read very quickly and held my attention. Overall I gave this book 4stars

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