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Tuesday, April 25, 2023

REVIEW: The New Guys, by Meredith Bagby

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The never-before-told story of NASA’s 1978 astronaut class, which included the first American women, the first African Americans, the first Asian American, and the first gay person to fly to space. With the exclusive participation of the astronauts who were there, this is the thrilling, behind-the-scenes saga of a new generation that transformed space exploration

The story of NASA’s Astronaut Class 8, or “The F*cking New Guys,” as their military predecessors nicknamed them, is an unprecedented look at these extraordinary explorers who broke barriers and blasted through glass ceilings. Egos clashed, ambitions flared, and romances bloomed as the New Guys competed with one another and navigated the cutthroat internal politics at NASA for a chance to rocket to the stars.

Marking a departure from the iconic military test pilots who had dominated the space program since its inception, the New Guys arrived at the dawn of a new era of space flight. Teardrop-shaped space capsules from Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo gave way to the space shuttle, a revolutionary space plane capable of launching like a rocket, hauling cargo like a truck, and landing back on Earth like an airliner. They mastered this new machine from its dangerous first test flights to its greatest achievements: launching hundreds of satellites, building the International Space Station, and deploying the Hubble Space Telescope.

The New Guys depicts these charismatic young astronauts and the exuberant social and scientific progress of the space shuttle program against the efforts of NASA officials who struggled to meet America’s military demands and commercial aspirations. When NASA was pressured to fly more often and at greater risk, lives were lost in the program’s two biggest disasters: Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003).

Caught in the crosshairs of this battle are the shuttle astronauts who gave their lives in those catastrophes, and who gave their lives’ work pursuing a more equitable future in space for all humankind. Through it all they became friends, rivals, lovers, and ultimately, family.

I'm not usually a fan of overview, storytelling collective biographies, but this was so well done I couldn't put it down. It's as engaging as the best novel and just exactly right in terms of research and history. It's a literary memorial to the astronauts wre called upon to not only rocket into space, but to help design and build the Space Shuttle fleet.

It's like looking through a window in time, learning about each of the The New Guys, names that any NASA officianado recognizes with little effort, from Sally Ride to Ron McNair, and the people who shaped the program all along the way. It was both intriguing to discover what road they took to space, and awe-inspiring how they drove themselves to reach the heavens.

This is a beautifully woven story of the iconic women and men who touched the stars, the challenges getting there, the heartbreak when we lost those in Challenger and Columbia, and the history of a government program that is made of the dreams of us all.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from William Morrow through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

REVIEW: These Deadly Words, by Nichole Heydenburg

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All Camille Monroe wants is a quiet place to work on her novel. Hoping for inspiration, she retreats to a cabin in Asheville, with only her dog Brody as company.

Leah Strauss thought the summer after high school graduation would be amazing, but when her boyfriend Vincent suffers an untimely loss, her dream of the perfect summer is destroyed. Attempting to cheer up Vincent, Leah’s twin sister Ava and her boyfriend Noah join them on a road trip.

When a snowstorm strikes the mountains while Leah and her friends are hiking, they struggle to find their campsite. After becoming lost in the woods, they stumble across a cabin and seek shelter from the storm.

As the days pass, the guests feel increasingly unsafe in the stranger’s cabin. Camille seems to know all their secrets, and she doesn’t want them to leave. Who is this dangerous writer and what does she want from them? Their biggest problem quickly becomes escaping the cabin alive.

Fast-paced, quick-read, absolutely thrilling!  

4 likeable teenagers, one lonely woman in a cabin who honestly seems not only harmless but likeable herself. The premise is believable--4 older teens out on a camping weekend get caught in a snow storm. It's a captivating story, and if I hadn't known this was a thriller, I wouldn't have imagined the turn it would take as I started reading.

The eerie atmosphere as the storm settles in and how easily Camille (the cabin owner) just lets them take over her space set me on a little bit of an edge. The dual point of view storytelling built the "anxiety" for me---which do I trust? Can I trust either of them? There was just an overall feel of Stephen King's Misery (which I know others noticed) felt kinda old school horror-flick to me. Add all that to my feeling of claustrophobia on behalf of the characters!

Two or three little spots where I'm wishing there was more detail or information, but overall a book that will make me seek this author's work out.

What do you think??
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from the Author through the BookSirens connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

REVIEW: No Two Persons, by Erica Bauermeister

No Two Persons

 Alice has always wanted to be a writer. Her talent is innate, but   her stories remain safe and detached, until a devastating event   breaks her heart open, and she creates a stunning debut novel.   Her words, in turn, find their way to readers, from a teenager   hiding her homelessness, to a free diver pushing himself beyond   endurance, an artist furious at the world around her, a bookseller   in search of love, a widower rent by grief. Each one is drawn into   Alice’s novel; each one discovers something different that alters   their perspective, and presents new pathways forward for their   lives.

 Together, their stories reveal how books can affect us in the most   beautiful and unexpected of ways—and how we are all more       closely connected to one another than we might think

One book. One Author. Nine Readers. Ten reactions, ten responses, ten connections. Ten different ways the book spoke directly to them. It's a truly innovative and creative storytelling. 
Bauermeister put into ten stories that which all readers know--we may read the same book, but we won't read the same story in it. That's the one of the most amazing thing about books, right?You and I will never respond to a book in the same way. 

I enjoyed the different voices, each was unique and came from such different places. No character came across as flat, all were carefully crafted and multi-faceted. Each person was markedly changed by one book, written by a person who just needed to get the story out of her head and heart and on paper. I don't know that I've ever considered so carefully how a book speaks to its author before.

The most important voice, in my mind, is that of the book itself. Theo (the book in the stories) is honestly the main character, interacting with its author and each reader, ultimately connecting some the people who connected with it.

This is book club/literary club material. I highly recommend it, and am honestly heading over to pre-order a hardback copy for my shelf so I can revisit it again and again.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from St. Martin's Press through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

REVIEW: Tell Me What Really Happened, by Chelsea Sedoti

There are stories about the woods around Salvation Creek, about the people who have gone missing. Now their friend is one of them. A riveting, fast-paced YA mystery told entirely through first person police interviews of four teens over the course of a few hours.

It was all her idea. They would get away from their parents and spend the weekend camping. Down by Salvation Creek, the five of them would make smores, steal kisses, share secrets.

But sometime around midnight, she vanished.

Now the four friends who came back are under suspicion―and they each have a very different story to tell about what happened in the woods.

The clock is ticking. What are they hiding? Who is lying? Dark truths must come to light if their friend is to be found...

Told entirely through first-person police interviews, this riveting mystery asks: what really happened that night?

I love a good thriller, and I love when it centers around a cast of characters that has a little something for everyone, like The Breakfast Club. Sedoti pulled that off quite well. Her character development is some of the best I've ever written and I could "hear" the voices quite quickly and easily in my head.  This will make an amazing audiobook---and I'd love to see it as a movie.

Four unreliable narrators telling the story of a fifth in their party who has disappeared. All are guilty of something, but no one really knows what. There were twists and turns, and some expected bits, but overall, I was captured by this read and had to know just what happened to Maylee.

The storyline unfolds during the four separate, and long interrogations held in the police station. The quick change between narrators made the story move more quickly than a strictly linear telling would have. Often, in YA, there's a lot of "drama" that, for me as an avid YA reader, takes away from the story and characters. Not in this book. It was very like listening to my students talk about things, with the occasional asides that are related but not moving the story forward much. I was convinced right up until the end that I knew what had happened and who was to "blame." I was wrong. 

Being YA, there is some language and a few sexual overtones--nothing overt or explicit, just touched on. 

My only "eh" is regarding the ending. It seemed very abrupt to me, initially. I mean, we were rolling along and the pieces fell into place, and was done. I don't normally go for an ending like this at all, but I think the fact that my minds keeps wandering to it and wondering how it played out made it work, probably as intended.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from SOURCEBOOKS Fire through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

REVIEW: Someone is Always Watching, by Kelley Armstrong

Blythe and her friends — Gabrielle, and brother and sister Tucker and Tanya — have always been a tight friend group, attending a local high school and falling in and out of love with each other. But an act of violence has caused a rift between Blythe and Tucker . . . and unexpected bursts of aggression and disturbing nightmares have started to become more frequent in their lives. 

The strange happenings culminate in a shocking event at school: Gabrielle is found covered in blood in front of their deceased principal, with no memory of what happened.  

Cracks in their friendship, as well as in their own memories, start appearing, threatening to expose long-forgotten secrets which could change the group’s lives forever. How can Blythe and her friends trust each other when they can’t even trust their own memories?

Psychological thrillers are a particular weakness of mine. This one checks all my boxes. I honestly don't think I've read anything by Armstrong before, but I'll be seeking her out if I ever see the end of my TBR stack.

Blythe and her friends are relatable and familiar. I mean, I work in a high school and I can "see" these characters in my hallways. Thinking back, not one was described in enough detail to form a picture for me, but I think that added to their development because they could be anyone I encounter any day of the week. Their reactions to the things that happen in the story are real. 

Armstrong doesn't pass us information in bits in pieces. She starts right away with Gabrielle and a dead school principal. And then that's covered up. It rolls on from there. The story unfolds around the characters. It's both a thriller and very cloak and dagger. Who do you trust, when you aren't sure you can trust yourself?

I finished the one in a sitting. It grabbed me and wouldn't let me go until I had the answers, and it wasn't what I expected at all.

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from Penguin Random House Canada/Tundra Books through the netGalley publisher/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

REVIEW: The Eden Compound, by L. Blaise Hues

Star-student Kathryn Speer has her future all planned out until Shardul comes to the school. Since she’s competing with him for top marks, she can’t decide if she should despise or date him.
When Kathryn’s rich uncle extends an invitation to study genetically modified tigers at his compound, Kathryn sees it as an opportunity to impress Shardul and give her a leg up on college applications.
Then Shardul goes missing, and her GPA suddenly loses its importance as she considers using her skills and the tools at The Eden Compound to find Shardul and bring him home.
But once she’s there, she realizes he’s not the only one in real danger.

Creepy and science fiction. This is a definite win. A bit of romance, but done in a way that isn't either over the top or needlessly intense. It's, well, innocent romance, which we need to see more of in YA lit.

Kathryn (not "Kat," not ever "Kat") is top of her class and focused on staying there. She's likeable, especially for this former AP student who chose academics over other teenage life in school. Shardul comes to town, and she suddenly has not only a rival but someone she is frankly entranced by. The feeling is clearly mutual, but Kathryn is fighting it. Both are incredibly relatable, even for the non-nerdy sort. Other characters weren't as lovely--Kathryn's uncle who is clearly demented. Bryce who I have a love-hate feeling about. 

The story itself is believable. Genetic modification science, remote location, people getting too involved in their own science and damn the consquences. This is a Michael Crichton story for the modern YA reader. 

I only had one moment of confusion or "um..wait..." There's a scene where Kathryn is talking to Shardul and Bryce enters the room. It's written as if she hasn't seen him since arriving on the island. Yet, she's had multiple encounters with him specifically, one just a few pages before. It's an editing glitch. 

What do you think??

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this ebook galley from the author through the BookSirens author/reader connection program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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