Catch-up Time

I’ve established I won’t be one of those book bloggers who posts at least once a week, gets cool swag from publishers, and has a ton of followers and I’m OK with that. It has been a very long time since I last posted, so here’s a catch-up of what I’ve read since then.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy                                                                          What can I say about this book that so many people haven’t already? Ramona is stuck. She lives in a trailer with her dad and her

Crash Override by Zoe Quinn                                                                      Her account of what happened to her is terrifying and disturbing. What was done to her was completely awful. That was able to overcome it and speak out is a testament to her strength. Now she helps others in her shoes.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera                                                My only quibble about this book is that it took too long for the two characters to get together, especially considering the plot of the book. I loved both boys and everything else about the book.

Black Beauty by Anna Seawald                                                                        I’ve never read this classic before. I liked the horse’s point of view. It’s definitely pro-animal and about being a good person and being virtuous, but I see nothing wrong with that. It made me love horses even more.

Game World by CJ Farley                                                                                   I wanted to love this book. A diverse cast of kids gets sucks into the world of a video game. The plot was a little slow, some of the dialogue was really stilted, and the grammar and wording needed some help. It’s a good story. I just wanted it to be great.

Lazarus vol. 1-3 by Greg Rucka                                                                    Dystopian world. Powerful families rule the sections of the globe. Each has a Lazarus who can’t be killed. Forever wants nothing more than her family’s love and approval. She will do anything for them, believe anything they tell her. I can’t wait to see how this progresses

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park                                                                    I want to take Tree-Ear home and feed him, clothe hi, and house him. His relationship with Crane-Man is so beautiful and so special. This was a sweet and wonderful look into historic Korea.

Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green                                                This was a heart-wrenching read of her life. It is not for the faint of heart. If you’ve dealt with eating disorders or sexual abuse, be careful reading this, it can definitely trigger a lot of things. I could not put it down.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds                                                  Another gorgeous book by Jason Reynolds. This one is his first book in verse and it takes place in one elevator ride. The power behind the words, short are they are, are unbelievable.

Spining by Tillie Walden                                                                                    A graphic memoir of a girl’s life of ice skating. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t speak to me as much as I thought I would.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng                                                            I love love love Pearl. Her relationship with the Richardson family is a great one. Elena Richardson is quite the characters. I wasn’t her biggest fan, but she was written in a way that the reader shouldn’t like her. I do want to read the other book by this author.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer                                                                             A retelling of the Queen of Hearts origin story. It’s a great fractured fairy tale and a feel good version of a character that ends up evil at the end. I love Marissa Meyer and I was not disappointed by this title.

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What I’ve Read Lately

I have been very slack at posting (I really need to work on it more). Instead of trying recall details of some of the books I’ve recently read, I thought I would list them here and add some thoughts.

Enjoy!

Geekerella by Ashley Poston: A modern take on the Cinderella fairy tale involving a movie, a fan convention, and a food truck. Told by both the hero and heroine of the story, it shows how they connect and fall for each other without meeting or knowing who each other is. I enjoyed the plot device and what happens when they finally meet. The stepmother was a tad too mean for my liking; she was truly an awful woman who was horrible to Ellie. It’s sad to think that people like her exist.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia: What can I possibly say about this amazing book? Eliza has a hidden life, one on two others know about. She likes it that way. She doesn’t have many friends, but then Wallace enters her life. I love Wallace more than I can say. They slowly stumble into a relationship. When her secret is finally revealed, she is devastated and lost. It takes Wallace to bring her back and begin to accept both sides of herself. Francesca is somehow able to encompass every emotion in her books which leaving you feeling emotionally drained after reading, but so glad you did.

When We Collided by Emery Lord: Jonah is struggling. His Dad died and his mom has holed herself up in her room. He has so much on his shoulders; working at the restaurant his father owned, worrying is the restaurant will stay open, and taking care of his many siblings. He barely has any time to process his grief. Vivi is only there for the summer. She is a total free spirit who cannot cope with a recent diagnosis. She blows into Jonah’s life and upends it for the better. He, in turn, stabilizes her and helps her realize she needs help. Theirs is a fleeting romance, but so well told. Two broken people finding comfort and happiness with each other for a summer. Who could ask for anything more?

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith: This was my classic read for the summer. It’s a wonderful story of a young girl growing up in poverty in Brooklyn. Her father is an alcoholic and her Mother works herself to the bone to feed them and get them heat. In fact, Francie and her younger brother get jobs as soon as they are able to help the family out. There is a lot of casual racism in this book that took me aback, but it makes sense due to the time period it was written in.

Lazarus Volume 1 by Greg Rucka: I have read Rucka’s version of Wonder Woman and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I had high hopes for this graphic novel. I was not disappointed. This first volume introduces Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of her family. Basically, she can’t die. There is a secret about her that she is unaware of, so I am hoping that comes out in later volumes to see how she deals with it. The setting is a very bleak dystopian world and there is a lot of violence in this particular story. Her family, save for her father, are horrible people. I can’t wait to read more.

This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp: This tale of a school shooting told by different points of view is haunting and gripping. I saw a few reviews that they didn’t like that they made the shooter so one-dimensional. I disagree. This isn’t his story. It’s the story of the students who have to experience it and try to survive. Each character is fully fleshed out and enough background of each is given that I connected to them right away. There are some happy endings and some not-so happy endings for each character.

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel: Steve is an ordinary boy with a very sick brother. When he is visited by what he thinks is an angel who offers to fix him, Steve says yes. What he doesn’t realize at first is that saying yes was the worst possible thing he could do. The angel isn’t an angel. It’s a special wasp who plans horrible things for Steve’s baby brother. How Steve deals with this fear and his worry about his brother is very believable. Steve comes into his own during this short novel. While it wasn’t very spooky for me, I could see how middle grade students might find it so.

It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas: Cindy is an immigrant from Iran in 1970’s America. Just newly moved to a new neighborhood, Cindy struggles to find friends and fit in. She’s frustrated by her mother’s lack of interest in learning to speak English and is annoyed she always has to play translator. After one failed attempt, Cindy meets a great group of friends that make her feel welcome. Then the Iran Hostage crisis begins. Notes are left on their doorstep, her father loses his job, and they live in constant worry for their family in Iran. This is a great book to hand a child to help them understand that time period from a different point of view. Cindy is a typical girl, all she wants to do is fit in. How she goes about it is a wonderful story.

Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey: This is a great read about family and its bonds. Eldest daughter Caroline’s husband has recently left her. Instead of having to face her fellow Manhattanites, she takes her oldest daughter back to Georgia to live with her mother to give birth. Her two sisters decide to join her. The mother, Ansley, suddenly has to cope with a full house and the return of a lost love. The chapters are told from Caroline and Ansley’s point of view. Caroline is hysterical. She loves her husband, but she definitely planned to marry someone with money. She enjoys spending her days eating, shopping, and going to the spa. Having to slow down and do nothing has her re-evaluating her life and what she wants from it. Ansley lost her husband years ago and raised her children by opening her own store. It wasn’t always easy, but she learned how to make it. When the love from her past returns, Ansley doesn’t know what to do. It’s easier for her to be alone than to let someone else in. I loved both their stories and I cannot wait to read the novels about the other two sisters.

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

I thought I would share what books I’ve read for the 2017 BookRiot’s Read Harder Challenge:

Book about sports: Undefeated by Steven Sheinkin

Debut novel: Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

By an Immigrant with a central immigration narrative: Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

All-Ages Comic: BC Mambo by Erik Craddock

Published between 1900 and 1950: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Travel Memoir: Gutsy Girl by Caroline Paul

Book You’ve Read Before: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Set within 100 miles of my location: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Fantasy Novel: Rosemary & Rue by Seanan McGuire

Non-Fiction book about Technology: Distraction Addiction by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Book about war: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

YA/Middle grade by author who identifies as LGBTQ: History is all You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Banned/Challenged book: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Classic by an author of color: Go tell it on a Mountain by James Baldwin

Superhero comic with female lead: Faith: Hollywood & Vine by Jody Houser

Which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

LGBTQ+ romance: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Collection of stories by a woman: Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro

Collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love: Neruda at Isla Negra by Pablo Neruda

Wherein all points-of-view characters are people of color: Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac

Still to read:

Book about books – I plan to read Books for Living by Will Schwalbe

Set in Central/South America by a Central/South American author – nothing picked

500 miles from my location – nothing picked

Published by a micropress – I have three to choose from, but haven’t decided which one

Pax

Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be – with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox. Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own.

This small book packs a huge emotional wallop. The friendship between Pax and Peter goes beyond pet and owner; they know they belong together. The book also tackles the subject of war and its atrocities in a not-so subtle way, but without coming across as pedantic.

I didn’t like the main basis of the plot. Having Peter’s father make him put Pax back into the wild doesn’t make much sense to me. There were other ways the author could have separated the two, but that is my only quibble with the novel. My heart broke at that scene and I rooted for them to find each other the entire novel. I enjoyed seeing Pax meet up with other foxes and learn what it’s like to live in the wild. Pax definitely comes into his own helping the other foxes. He discovers his true fox side and it’s a delight to see. Peter also grows as he goes in search of his friend.

I don’t want to spoil the end, but it was definitely bittersweet.

Rating: 4/5

Books That Impacted Me

I may not remember the plots perfectly, but these books have stayed with me in some form or another. There is no specific order to these, they are listed as I remember them.

Grace in the Wilderness by Aranka Siegel – This was the first book I ever read about WW II and the Holocaust. At the time, I didn’t know it was a sequel. I quickly read the first book, Grace in the Wilderness, right after. This is not a typical Holocaust story. Based on her life, it shows what happened after the Holocaust. The main character and her sister are the only members of her family who survived the camps. Their journey to healing was so well told, it made me want to pick up a pen and write.

The Giver by Lois Lowry – I discovered this book as an adult. It was one of the first teen books I purchased after reading it. The world building is just enough to get a sense of the place. Jonah and the Giver himself are wonderfully written characters. I truly enjoyed discovering the truth alongside with Jonah. The cliffhanger ending was one of the first I read like that. I found out after talking about it with other people that I was one of the few that believed things worked out in the end. When I discovered there were other books, I read the rest of the series.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – I literally hugged this book when I finished it. Ivan’s story is so beautifully told. It’s a heartbreaking and heartwarming book at the same time. I wanted Ivan to get his message out from page one and the ending did not disappoint.  This was another I bought because I wanted to have it on hand to read again if I needed to.

All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely – This was not an easy book to read, but one I feel every single person needs to read. The story of the beating of Rashad told from his point of view and the white bystander who saw it happen is very much of this time. Rashad’s story is the harder one to read. How he processes what happened to him and his healing process is so believably told. I never experienced violence like that and I hope I never had to, but I learned so much reading his story. Quinn’s story was equally compelling. His slow awakening to his privilege and standing up for what’s right may not be realistic for all people, but it’s good to see in a book.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – This was recommended to me while I was in college. I hadn’t read anything like this before. II don’t remember all of the details of the book which is a good excuse for me to read it again. All I can remember is being blown away by his story and the psychology he created due to his experiences. It’s a powerful book.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak – You may notice I tend to read a lot of WWII stories and you would be right. I love the original take on the book, how can you not love a book narrated by Death? His telling of Liesel’s story is hauntingly beautiful. I am still angry it did not win the Printz Award that year.

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger – This one impacted me, but in a negative way. I didn’t enjoy it in high school, so I thought to read it as an adult. I still didn’t like it. I basically want to punch Holden Caufield in his whiny, entitled, spoiled face.

Ogre, Ogre by Piers Anthony – I stumbled upon this book my freshman year of college. It introduced me to the zany world of Xanth. It was a hard one to read in public because I either chortled or groaned at the puns throughout the story (I mean and Imp named Ortant? That’s hysterical!). It also had an added bonus by getting me hooked on a lifelong love for fantasy fiction.

There are many other books that have made me laugh, cry, think, and learn. This post would a novel-length long if I wrote about them all.

Memoirs of a Sidekick

 

Vote Boris Snodbuckle for Student Council President! Boris wants to make Bendale Public School a better place. With the help of his best (and only) friend and number-one sidekick, Adrian, he draws up plans for an epic campaign to win votes. Too bad his schemes only result in epic trouble! Worse, Boris’s opponent is the most popular guy in the school-and aworld-class bully, liar and cheat who will do everything he can to bring Boris down. Does Boris even stand a chance? Well, most say it’s impossible. But they just don’t know the B-Ster.

Told from Adrian’s point of view, this book is about the attempt by Boris Snodbuckle to become President of the Student Council. The problem? No one really likes Boris. Boris isn’t a bad kid, he’s the total opposite. He’s a good kid, but his ideas are a bit big. He overdoes it a lot and it doesn’t help that he isn’t a popular kid at all. Adrian follows along with many of the ideas that Boris has, even helps him with most of them.

This is a quick, fun read about the typical underdog trying to make a name for himself. What made this so unique is the point of view. All the action is from Adrian’s point of view. He definitely sees Boris in a very positive light, so you don’t really learn much about Boris or his life. There isn’t deep character development in this story, but it wasn’t necessary for this type of story. There is something to be said for a simple and fun read and this book definitely fits that bill!

Rating: 3.5/5

The Hate U Give

 

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Along with All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, this book truly captures what is going on in today’s society. Starr Carter lives in a poor neighborhood with her family. Her father, once part of a gang, has reformed himself enough that Starr is able to attend a fancy prep school in the suburbs. While her mother worries about the family’s safety, her father is reluctant to move so he won’t be considered a sell-out to the neighborhood.

Starr lives two lives: her home life and her school life. She acts and speaks differently at school because she doesn’t want to be thought of as ghetto or a thug. Life isn’t always easy for her and it gets harder when her friend Khalil is killed by a police officer right in front of her eyes. Understandably traumatized, Starr doesn’t want to be known as the witness to the shooting. She fears the backlash it would cause. Her voice during this time is so authentic and so heart-wrenching that I wanted to hug her and help her get through this.

I haven’t read a book like this, where a character is so split between her two selves and how she eventually makes peace with herself. I could not put it down. It was powerful, heart breaking, made me learn, think, and cry. Even though the book is very much a part of what is going on in the world right now, it is one that will definitely stand the test of time.

Rating: 5/5