Monday, August 22, 2016

TTT: Books That Have Been on my TBR the Longest

Our friends at The Broke and the Bookish asked us to list  "Ten Books That Have Been On Your Shelf (Or TBR) From Before You Started Blogging That You STILL Haven't Read Yet."  Just for fun (and scientific purposes), I'm going to see which ten books have been lingering on my (massive) Goodreads TBR since 2008 when I first joined the site.

Any thoughts?  Recommendations?  Should I just accept that it ain't gonna happen and erase them from my shelves?  I have checked out at least three of these from the library at various times, but always wind up returning them unread.  

Stella By Starlight: Love Wins

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Published 2015 by Atheneum

320 pages, historical fiction/MG.

A beautiful book.

Set in 1932, the year my dad was born.  I was confused by this at first, thinking it was about Draper's grandmother, which didn't make sense chronologically to me, since I think she's a bit older than I am.  I finally worked out that it's fictionalized and combines her grandmother's story with her dad's.

This book deals with some really heavy topics.  There are some terrifying moments, and some sharply painful ones.  I wish the historical injustices could be seen from a distance, but they echo all too sharply today's world.  But if I were to sum up the book in a word, that word would be Love.  Stella's family and community don't have much, but they are wealthy in love.

Stella's writing attempts are sprinkled throughout the book.  At first I didn't really see the point in them, other than to possibly point out that Stella is a better writer than she thinks herself to be.  But as the book continues, you see her cross-outs change from fixing spelling mistakes to choosing more precise words, and her thoughts and topics go deeper and deeper as she matures.

The only reason I didn't give five stars is because, like all MG novels, it feels just a tad pat.  Oh, there's no false resolution made up for the Klan, and you know Stella's life won't be no crystal stair, but nothing irreplaceable is lost.  There aren't many shades of gray.  Characters are Good or Evil.  Stella embraces chores as a way to help her parents.  Her teacher always knows just what to say to her students.  The KKK leader, on the other hand, is also a wife beater.  I find this a little problematic, because it is possible to be a complete asshole without being overtly racist, and it's possible (due to upbringing) to be a generally affable person but also a racist idiot.  Demonizing the racists makes it easy for us nice white liberals to let ourselves off the hook.  A more nuanced look might let one of the black characters be a wife beater, and address more directly the white townsfolk who didn't support the KKK but didn't do anything about it other than show up after the fact with used clothing to donate to the displaced.

Then again, the more subtle issues don't need to be tackled in a MG novel.  There is already a lot going on here, and Draper handles it all beautifully.  I listened to the first half of the book on audio, and it made me think I probably shouldn't read the book aloud to my classes, because the narrator captured voices and accents far better than I could hope to.  I only switched to print because I was enjoying the book so much that I wanted find out what was going to happen faster!

4.5/5 stars

from Goodreads:
Stella lives in the segregated South; in Bumblebee, North Carolina, to be exact about it. Some stores she can go into. Some stores she can't. Some folks are right pleasant. Others are a lot less so. To Stella, it sort of evens out, and heck, the Klan hasn't bothered them for years. But one late night, later than she should ever be up, much less wandering around outside, Stella and her little brother see something they're never supposed to see, something that is the first flicker of change to come, unwelcome change by any stretch of the imagination. As Stella's community - her world - is upended, she decides to fight fire with fire. And she learns that ashes don't necessarily signify an end.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Olympic Book Tag

Are the Olympics over?  Because I just got all excited about this book tag that Shannon at It Starts At Midnight created.  I guess preparing for the Shattering Stigmas event she organized left her plenty of free time.  (Or maybe she's one of those organized, productive people.)  Anyway, AJ at Read All The Things had a fabulous list too, and I got all inspired.  Hope I'm not too late!

For whatever reason, this list skews heavily towards older books, aka backlist books.  Make of that what you will.  

The Scorpio Races.  I do NOT understand why Stiefvater's series get all the attention.  I adore this stand-alone book about racing across the sand on man-eating horses that live in the sea.  "It is the first day of November, and so, today, someone will die."

Going WAY back with this one: Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon.  Published in 1982, this travel memoir details Least Heat-Moon's journey along the side roads and lesser traveled byways of America.  

City of Darkness, City of Light, by Marge Piercy, is set during the French Revolution.  So yes, fighting and bloodshed abound.  I haven't read any Piercy in years; I think I should remedy that.  
(Side note: when I went to enlarge the cover on Goodreads, it was all pixelated, so I tried a different edition.  It turns out that the Kindle version places the titles so that Victory's breasts are covered. Seriously?)

The Wind in the Willows.  Kenneth Graham.  E. H. Shepherd.  Ratty, Mole, "messing about in boats" and bliss.  

Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman's book inspired by his son's experience with schizophrenia, is a very interior book.  Not a lot of action, at least not in the real world.  But a lot going on, for sure.  

One Hundred Years of Solitude is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's gift to humanity, I hear.  Um, did you get a gift receipt?  Can I exchange that for something with, say, a linear storyline and characters that resemble actual people, please?

I still haven't finished Night.  And now Elie Wiesel has died, so I feel even guiltier.  And yes, the book is about 1/8 the length of books I usually zoom through in a day.  

I will never forget the experience of hitting a certain passage in David James Duncan's The Brothers K and starting to cry.  And sob.  And bawl.  I had to put the book down and lay down on my bed and cry it all out before I could keep going.  I know which passage triggered it, but I still don't know why it hit me so hard.  The book is WONDERFUL, not depressing (except in places) and is only my SECOND favorite book by this author.  I wish he were more prolific.  

Have you read Susan Juby's The Truth Commission?  Have you?  Because it only has 1,196 reviews on Goodreads, and that is a crying shame.  I read it as part of the CYBILS awards process, and it was one of my favorites of those very good books.  Normandy and her friends are hilarious and supportive and messed up and real.  Go read it.  It has an awesome cover too. And it's Canadian!  C'mon, how many more reasons do you need?!?

I might be cheating a bit here, but We All Looked Up, by Tommy Wallach, has a love triangle that doesn't end in disaster.  Well, except for that one death.  But otherwise, there's a twist put on the trope that made it much more palatable and believable for me--and granted some cute moments in a not-very-cute story.  

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork isn't your typical "summer" book--no beaches involved.  But it covers the summer when Marcelo, who appears to be on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum, is forced by his businessman father to work in the mailroom at his office.   Marcelo learns more than he expected (and more than his dad bargained for), learns about true friendship, and graces one of the prettiest covers I've ever seen.

Tangerine, by Edward Bloor, starts out a bit dense, but that's because there are multiple mysteries wrapped up in the strange world of Tangerine, FL.  

So many to choose from, but the one that called to me tonight was Francis Hodgson Burnett's classic, The Secret Garden.  Mistress Mary, quite contrary, her aya and the death-filled house, the moors, Dickon, the round-cheeked maid, spoiled Colin, and of course, the garden.  Sigh.  

by Chris Crutcher, features a whole swim team.  I've been following Crutcher on FB lately, and wow, is he a great guy.  I had no idea he's nearly my parents' age--his teenaged characters ring so true to life.