what I have been reading (almost summer edition).

Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste by Carl Wilson (purchased a copy)

I heard the author of this book interviewed on this episode of the Slate Culture Gabfest and I think I ordered the book before the interview was over. It sounded so fun and interesting and it did not disappoint. It’s about looking at taste and snobbery by examining Celine Dion, who you will probably see in a different (more sympathetic) light after reading more about her life and her fans. I love books that challenge expectations, and this one is marvelous. The new edition has essays by different authors who respond to the book, and those are hit or miss but I did enjoy some of them. Recommended for: music snobs, people who secretly sing along with that one Celine Dion song when it comes on the radio.

Why Do Buses Come in Threes: The Hidden Mathematics of Everyday Life by Robert Eastaway (via NetGalley)

You have probably seen some of those math problems on Facebook where people are outraged at how their children are being taught through Common Core. Besides being totally out of context, those people are missing the fact that the problems are focusing on number sense, understanding how numbers work and how they fit together. This book is basically about number sense and how it applies in the real world, covering things like cooking and traffic and botany. It reminded me of The I Hate Mathematics Book by Marilyn Burns, which I loved as a kid. I could definitely see a teacher or a parent talking about these ideas with kids.

No One Needs to Know by Amanda Grace (via NetGalley)

Olivia and Liam are twins who fall for the same girl. The novel switches from Olivia’s perspective to Zoey (the aforementioned girl) but the transitions are not completely smooth because the characters aren’t fleshed out enough to remember which one is which (except that one girl is rich and one is poor). I was struck by the banality of it all – apparently we as a culture are ready for LGBT teen romances that are just as formulaic as the straight ones. Quirky younger sibling: Zoey’s younger sister is not so much quirky as fragile.

Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah (via NetGalley)

This book is about a family that was torn apart by wolf attacks even though wolves supposedly don’t live near their small town. My big problem with the story is that the description of it seemed at odds with what was happening in the first few chapters, so I spent a fair amount of time being confused. Once I finished it, I understood why some of that had happened, but it was still pretty frustrating as it was going on. I can see this being a big hit with high school students who enjoyed books like Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater or who enjoy thrillers or mysteries. Just make sure they know to hang in there even if they are not totally sure what is going on. Quirky younger sibling: makes crafts to protect them from the wolves, has gone missing and left clues as to where she might be.

Words and Their Meanings by Kate Bassett (via NetGalley)

Anna had an uncle who was raised as a brother to her, and she idolized him. In the year since his death, for which she blames herself, she has practiced “coffin yoga” by lying still every morning and by turning herself into Patti Smith. There is a mystery aspect to the story as she realizes that she didn’t know everything about her cousin, and there is a nice romance (that I did not totally buy even though the character was sweet). I enjoyed the story until the end, when something is revealed about her cousin’s actions that I found to be totally jarring and unbelievable. I also raised an eyebrow at the idea that Anna spent all this time on Patti Smith’s words but hadn’t read Just Kids, which turned out to be part of the resolution. There were a lot of vivid and interesting things about this book, but the end fell flat for me. Quirky younger sibling: a sister who likes to hide in small spaces, even the oven.

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Life After Death Row: Exonerees’ Search for Community and Identity by Saundra D. Westervelt and Kimberly J. Cook (purchased a copy)

I go to church with Saundra and taught her son in Sunday School. What a gift it is to know people who are so smart and who share their expertise. Saundra and her friend conducted interviews with people who were wrongly convicted and sentenced to death but then subsequently released. There is no automatic compensation for them, no assistance as they transition back into the outside world, and there are barely any apologies from the state. Exonerees, though they were wrongly convicted, have to go through a complicated legal process to get their records expunged (and if they don’t, their records will be flagged when potential employers run background checks). If they do receive compensation, it takes an average of four years for the money to get to them, but of course it’s needed much earlier as they are trying to find housing and start over. The parts of the book that I found most moving were when the exonerees discussed their conversations with the victims’ families and how much those apologies meant to them. I also really enjoyed the discussion of the ways that exonerees deal with the pain of their wrongful convictions. Some of them turn inward and believe that there were things that they needed to learn or that God used that time to teach them certain lessons. Others take that pain and use it to fight against the death penalty and for more assistance for other exonerees. This is a smart, well-organized discussion of the exonerees and their experiences, and I recommend it for a peek into the injustice of our justice system.

Some of these books came from NetGalley but my opinions are my own.

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