Book Recommendations (Vol. 03)

We’re 3 weeks and a bit into a new school year, it’s September, my birthday is on Friday, and we’re ALMOST THREE QUARTERS OF THE WAY THROUGH 2017?????

I’m a little early on my 3rd quarter book recommendations, but I’ve certainly read enough books since the last post, so I think it’s ok to be a bit early.

Read previous editions:

Vol. 01 | Vol. 02 |


I’ve now read 60 books this year (blowing past my 52 book goal for a book a week for the year in August…), which makes 26 books since my last recommendations post.

Here’s the top 5 from this quarter:

Every Soul a Star – Wendy Mass

Ally has lived at her parent’s campsite on the path of the August 2017 solar eclipse most of her life. She is so excited for the eclipse, and she loves space and the outdoors. Bree is popular and very concerned about staying that way. Jack is awkward, not great at school, and used to kind of blending in and staying out of the way. What happens when just before the eclipse, Ally finds out her parents are selling the camp to Bree’s parents as soon as the eclipse ends, and Jack ends up at the campsite with his science teacher so that he can make up his failing science grade?

I was one of the many who kind of went eclipse crazy last month (pictures of our staff watch party here). I loved every minute of it. A friend who works at a library recommended this book to me and I am so glad I read it before the eclipse, even though it’s a juvenile fiction chapter book. The character depictions were all very real and pulled you in, and the eclipse and space information included was really well researched and detailed. Even though the eclipse is over, I still think this would be an enjoyable read that explores a pure dynamic of three very different kids being forced together by circumstance and letting themselves enjoy science.


Zenn Diagram  – Wendy Brandt

Eva Walker has a strange gift. She can read people’s emotions by touching their belongings. This comes in handy when she’s tutoring people in math and can touch their calculators and figure out exactly what they don’t understand, but the rest of it has basically led to her…not touching anyone or getting close to anyone or having friends. Then she meets Zenn – he’s cute, and the violent set of emotions she gets when she touches his jacket accidentally should make her steer clear, but instead…

I was recommended this book by Diann, who informed me: “it’s kind of about math only it’s not really about math, but that’s why I picked it up and then it was really good and you’ll like it”. And she was totally right. This book is enveloping – the emotions you feel and see along with Eva are intense and all you want is for her to figure out how to build a relationship with someone outside her family. When you also find out about what happened to her parents, your heart is twisted even more. The ending totally floored me and this was one that I stayed up (in the summer, not on a school night, although I won’t pretend that hasn’t happened before) until around 3 am reading to finish.


Eliza and Her Monsters – Francesca Zappia

Eliza is the weird girl at school who doesn’t really interact with anyone. That’s fine, because at home, she’s the secret and anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic, Monstrous Sea. Like, so popular that she has secret bank accounts hidden from her parents with the profits. Then Wallace transfers to her school. She discovers that he is one of Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writers, and decides to start sharing her secrets with him.

As someone who has partaken in the online worlds of fanfiction and fandom in general a lot over the years, I’m very partial to this type of plot. This caught my eye as being a similar thought to Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, and it kind of is at first glance, but it also ends up being a deeper exploration of mental health and privacy and a lot of other things that I really loved. The book also contains images from Eliza’s webcomic throughout which was really cool. Another thing I loved about this one is that Eliza started as a super fan of a series of books, and then created her webcomic not as a fan work of that, but as an original work inspired by something she loved a lot. Then she inspired her own fanworks! Way cool. But also, Zappia has written the fictional work that Eliza was originally interested in. That’s totally on my list to read now (it’s online available to read here). Sort of a reverse of what Rainbow Rowell did, since she wrote about Cath’s fanfic in Fangirl and then published said fanfic as a novel in Carry On. Very interesting exploration of fandom and really fun.


Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness – Susannah Cahalan

A nonfiction account of Susannah, a reporter at a major NY newspaper, at a promising moment in her career, who gets bit by bedbugs. Or did she get bit by bedbugs? She goes to the doctor, who suggests she’s drinking too much (she’s not). Soon after, she finds herself in the ICU, labeled a flight risk, unable to remember things or control her responses or do basic tasks. What happened? A rare disease – one that almost didn’t get diagnosed soon enough to save her life.

Wow, this book was riveting and terrifying. I now suddenly get scared that I’ve contracted the disease Susannah had and panic about how much time I have to find someone who actually knows how to diagnose it. She writes painfully honestly and so captivatingly about what happened to her. There is a lot that she cannot even tell, because she doesn’t remember it. She refers to her parents’ accounts, her boyfriend’s, the doctors, and video security footage from the ICU. She pulls together this story of this bizarre thing that happened to her and almost killed her because only a few doctors knew about it. It’s really remarkable.


Made You Up – Francesca Zappia

Alex can’t tell the difference between her real life and what her brain makes up. Well, she can, when she takes pictures. Or does that work? She meets Miles, and she thinks he’s the boy she freed the lobsters with in the grocery store when she was little. But her mom told her that wasn’t real. So is Miles real? What is real? How can she tell?

Oh look, another book by Francesca Zappia! I fell in love with this author’s writing during Eliza and her Monsters, so I figured I’d give this one a shot. Also incredible. This puts you right into Alex’s mind and leaves you just as frustrated as her about telling what is real. I even totally called the plot twist in this one and still found myself sobbing when it actually came, that’s how impactful the writing was. Wonderful and captivating read.


Author: missmastalio

Math teacher at an alternative high school. Living the best life.

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