Book Reviews · Mystery · POPSUGAR Reading Challenge · Science Fiction · Young Adult

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2020 Update: Week Seven

It’s officially the end of Week Seven of the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge! How is your reading coming along so far? I started the week by finishing a great cozy mystery, and then spent the rest of the week reading science fiction titles and comic book collections.

A book that passes the Bechdel test…

The first book I finished this week was Close Encounters of the Curd Kind, by Kirsten Weiss. This is the third book in the At Wits’ End cozy mystery series.

The main character and narrator, Susan Witsend, is the owner of a UFO-themed bed and breakfast that she inherited after her grandmother’s death. After one of her neighbors is murdered, Susan finds herself being talked into investigating some strange, possibly alien-related activity that is connected to the daughter of the murdered man. Susan doesn’t think there’s anything to it at first, but then she sees an alien face outside the window of her bed and breakfast…and discovers that the alien has made off with the lemon curd that she spent days trying to perfect.

I really enjoyed reading all three of the books in this series. The mysteries are very engaging, and I found myself laughing out loud several times. Susan is a very relatable character, and her driving need to be organized and “on-schedule” makes her a great detective…even if the local police would really prefer that she stay out of their investigations. If you’re looking for a clean, well-written mystery, I highly recommend reading the entire series from the beginning. Currently, the series includes the following books: At Wits’ End, Planet of the Grapes, and Close Encounters of the Curd Kind.

Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge… “a book set in space” (2019)

The second book I read this week was The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, by Lauren James.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe takes place on a NASA spaceship known as The Infinity, which has been traveling through space for nearly twenty years, on its way to a new planet. It’s current commander is Romy Silvers, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been alone on The Infinity since the death of her parents. Her only human contact is audio messages from a NASA-assigned therapist named Molly, until she gets the news that another ship, The Eternity, has been launched from Earth and will rendezvous with her in a year. Not long after learning about The Eternity, Romy receives a message stating that Earth is at war, and her contact with Molly is disrupted.

This is one of those books that gets progressively more exciting as it goes along. While I read the first few chapters over a period of a couple of days, I found myself reading the remainder of the book in one sitting. But it’s not just the plot that caught my attention. Romy is a very complex character, who deals with both anxiety and depression as a result of her circumstances, and I found myself empathizing with her very strongly. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe was definitely a worthwhile read.

A book with a great first line…

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

Feed, by M. T. Anderson (page 3)

I first encountered M. T. Anderson’s Feed when I was a college student. At the time, I was taking a course called “Adolescent Literature.” The course was focused specifically on young adult titles that had been banned from schools. Feed was one of many novels that we were assigned during that semester.

Feed is one of those novels that gets attention for the wrong reasons. According to a 2013 article by librarian Anne Rouyer (Fight for Your Right to Read: Banned Books Week 2013), located on the New York Public Library’s website, Feed was challenged for “being ‘trash’ and ‘covered in the F-word.'”

Far from being “trash,” Feed is a young adult novel that will make readers think. The book takes place sometime in the future, after technology has become integrated into the brain itself in the form of “the feed.” The feed transmits news, entertainment, and advertisements at all hours of the day; and allows people to access the Internet, and send private and group messages to each other, simply by thinking. It’s also integrated into the body in such a way that a malfunction could cost you your life.

The novel is told from the perspective of a teenager named Titus, who visits the moon with his friends over Spring Break, only to get caught up in an attack by a hacker while visiting a club. Because of the nature of the attack, Titus and his friends have to go without their link to the feed for a few days, which gives him the opportunity to get to know a girl named Violet without his implanted technology dividing his attention. Once his link to the feed is fixed, Titus finds that he is still interested in Violet, and begins to spend more time with her. But Violet is different than Titus, because she’s not content to just go along with the feed.

I think books like Feed are important because they give us the opportunity to see what could happen in our future. Feed takes place in a scary world; one of extreme and nearly instantaneous consumerism, environmental destruction, apathy toward education, and growing health concerns. It’s a world where corporations have taken over the education system, replacing skills like reading and writing with lessons on “how the world can be used” and “how to decorate our bedroom” (Anderson 109-110). Unfortunately, it’s a world that is all too plausible.

Of all the books I’ve read this week, Feed is the one that I feel the strongest need to recommend. While the book does include profanity and a few sexual references/situations, this book has an important message.

A book with a three-word title…

My final POPSUGAR Reading Challenge title for this week was Venom: Lethal Protector, by James R. Tuck. This novel is an adaptation of a comic book series by the same name, originally created by David Michelinie, Mark Bagley, and Ron Lim.

Since my reading of this book was part of yesterday’s Venom-tine’s Day celebration, I will avoid repeating my description of the plot and my thoughts about the book from yesterday’s article. I will simply say that I loved it just as much as the original comic book series, and will definitely be reading it again in the future. If you’d like to read more about this book, you can find my thoughts here.

This week’s reading choices bring my POPSUGAR Reading Challenge total to 17 prompts completed (out of 50). Next week is shaping up to be a very busy one, so my goal for the upcoming week is simply to enjoy reading when I have the opportunity, without trying to complete POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompts. I will post a challenge update next Saturday as usual, though that update might look a little different than normal.

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