Year 6, Book 39

39. Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal
If you’re female and you grew up in the 80’s than you probably read one of the Sweet Valley series (Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High, Sweet Valley University), which are series of books based around the lives of Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. They are twins who are very different from each other, Elizabeth always being the studious, reserved twin while Jessica was always the partying, popular, outrageous twin. This book picks up 10 years after the end of the earlier series. Elizabeth is living in New York having we learned recently broken up with her long-time boyfriend Todd, whom readers of the earlier books will remember. What we soon learn is that the reason for the break-up is that Todd on Elizabeth with Jessica and they are still living back in Sweet Valley about to be married. The story goes back and forth between what is happening the present and all the things that happened in the past leading up to Todd and Jessica being together. I was kind of confused about the flashbacks at first as I had never read any of the Sweet Valley University books. I wasn’t sure if they were just pointing back to things that had actually been written about in those books or not. I could be wrong, but I finally decided there were way to many of them to actually have been previously written. It was definitely a fun trip down nostalgia lane reading the book. I highly recommend it for anyone who was a fan of the earlier Sweet Valley series. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 6, Book 38

38. Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon
This book is part fantasy and part reality based in that you don’t actually know if the world of the fairies that is an integral part of the book is real or just a childhood fantasy. The story revolves around a little girl named Lisa who disappeared 15 years prior to the books present day. Leading up to her disappearance she had what she claimed as an active relationship with fairies and there is some question as to whether she was kidnapped or actually disappeared into the world of the fairies. The story alternates between the past leading up to Lisa’s disappearance the present where we are drawn into the lives of Sam, Lisa’s brother, and his girlfriend Phoebe. Suggestions that Lisa has returned from the fairy world lead them to investigate what actually happened 15 years ago. It’s a well-written suspenseful novel that kept me reading to actually find out what really happened. I actually wasn’t thrilled with very ending of the book, but that is just my own personal preference about how I wanted things to end and has nothing to do with how good of a book it was. I liked this book a lot and would highly recommend it. I give it a 9 out of 10.

Year 6, Book 37

37. Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail by Caitlin Kelly
As a break from her career as a writer and to earn some extra money, Kelly takes a part-time job working retail at The North Face. She shares stories of her experiences on the job both good and bad while taking a deeper look at the world of retail employees in general. It definitely brought back memories of my own years of working in retail. I think she does a fairly good job of accurately portraying life as a retail employee, although obviously experiences will vary to some degree. Particularly most of the other employees she worked with were undereducated minorities, which was not my experience at all. But perhaps this is the difference between working in a book store versus working in a clothing store or just her particular location. I give it a 6 out of 10.

Year 6, Book 36

36. S’Mother: The Story of a Man, His Mom, and the Thousands of Altogether Insane Letters She’s Mailed Him by Adam Chester

The title of this book pretty much explains exactly what it is. From the time he went away to college the author’s mother sent him hundreds of letters most then entirely inane. For some reason he saved them all and reprints them in this book with commentary weaving them into a narrative about his life and their relationship. It’s kind of amusing to read the entirely bizarre things should would write to him and his take on them, but it did start to get a little old after awhile. I give the book a 6 out of 10.

Year 6, Book 35

35. Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook
Estabrook takes a long hard look at the world of the tomato from it’s inception as a food crop to how it has become a mass produced object that barely resembles food any more. He also provides a look at the tomato growers and the people who pick the tomatoes and their poor working conditions. It’s another book in what is becoming a long line of books about the high cost of low cost food, but unless you’re entirely burnt out on this genre of books it is an engaging read that provides a look into yet another niche of food system. I give it a 7 out of 10.

Year 6, Book 34

34. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I read this book for one of my book clubs. It’s actually a YA novel, but definitely holds appeal for adults as well. It’s the story of an Indian boy living on a reservation in Washington State, who winds up going to a public school off of the reservation. Once he leaves he has to juggle being somewhat of an outsider in both places. There are also many depressing things that happen in his life that are common occurrences on Indian reservations. Despite what sounds like it would be a difficult and depressing read, Alexie actually manages to treat these subjects with humor and a sense of lightness without trivializing them in any way. I really enjoyed this book, and plan on reading some of his adult fiction now as well. I give it an 8 out of 10.