Monday, April 24, 2017

It's Almost Read-a-Thon Time!

And I'm so excited!  (Check out the details about Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon here.)

Though my class of reluctant readers thought I was super weird when I told them about it.  "You just read?  Sounds boring!"

HA!  If only they knew.  If only I could help them find a book they don't want to put down.

Well, D. keeps telling me the new Scott Westerfeld is good, and S. is pretty dang engrossed in the Brody's Ghost omnibus I finally tracked down.

Here is what I would read this weekend if I had all the powers of concentration needed to do so:

Heartless
A Gentleman in Moscow
The Upside of Unrequited
A Conjuring of Light
The Lies of Locke Lamora




But that would be a tiny bit intense, don't you think?  Plus, there's a lot of reader expectation riding on all of these, and I don't want to get too bummed out by any disappointments, nor do I want to dilute the amazingness of any of them by cramming them back-to-back with the rest.  So, realistically, we're looking at 1 or 2 of the above, and then some lighter stuff for balance.  Graphic novels, accessible poetry, middle grade fiction, novels in verse, and YA contemporaries.  Potentials for that include:

Ballistics
The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price
Tell Me Three Things
Sold
Keesha's House
House Arrest
Salt
Giant Days 2-4


Soon I will have to go buy my Read-a-Thon snacks as well as figure out how to handle the family obligation side of my life.  I will probably take my daughter to her language class, which means I lose an hour in the car (I COULD listen to an audiobook, but I think I want to actually interact with the kid for that time).  But I can hole up in a coffee shop for 3 hours while she's there, and that will be fun.  I've never taken the Read-a-Thon public before.  

I turned down an invitation to get together with some friends and their friends to have an art evening.  Normally I'd love that, but Read-a-Thon is only twice a year!  




Thursday, April 20, 2017

Grumpy Reviews: Wires and Nerve, The Hemingses of Monticello, and My Life in Black and White

Are you ready for some grumpiness?  I have read three books recently (well, read two books and gave up on the third) that just didn't do it for me.

And as much as I kind of hate to be negative--I mean, I LOVE other books by the same author--I also know that it can be both entertaining and helpful to be told why someone didn't like a book.  So I'm going there.

(Let me also say that I've read a few spectacular books lately as well, but I'll talk about those another day.)

Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer is a book I treated myself to after we took a crap-ton of books into Powell's and got a gift card in exchange.  I wanted to complete my Lunar Chronicles collection, and I loved the idea of a graphic novel, and that it would star Iko.

So this evening I sat down to read it and--blahness ensued.

The pictures are too cartoony and cute.  There's no grittiness in any of the characters, and very little glamor either.  The storyline seems desultory.  Iko herself does shine, but the other characters all feel flat and dull.

The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed is one of the first books I ever put on my Goodreads "to-read" shelf.  It sounded fascinating--a history of the enslaved family that was both owned by and in later generations fathered by Thomas Jefferson.  But it also sounded pretty serious and clocks in at over 600 pages, so I decided it would be a good candidate for listening to in the car.  After all, that's how I conquered both Columbine and Pillars of the Earth.  But after a few weeks, I had to give it up.  I feel like a bit of an asshole being the white blogger lady who couldn't get invested in this book, but it was just too dense and scholarly for me.  The author analyzes and argues minute point after minute point.  This is not a work of popular history.  It's worthy and well researched and all that, but it just doesn't make for fascinating reading/listening.

My Life in Black and White by Natasha Friend
This one pisses me off the longer I think about it.  I'm just going to copy and paste my reactions from Goodreads here.

This is the kind of YA book that really isn't meant for adults to read. It's goes by quickly enough that you might not notice at the time, but for all that its heart is in the right place, there's a lot of problematic nonsense involved.

The premise--a beautiful girl with a powerful best friend loses her looks in a scandalous car crash and has to reassess her sense of self--is a good one. And yet for a book that sets itself up to show how wrong it is to value someone (including yourself) for their looks, it sure is obsessed with looks.

There's the whole offensive "Annoying girl's main annoying trait is that she's fat, but then she loses weight and becomes less annoying" thing. There's the "I thought my sister was a loser because she totally does her own thing, but actually, she's so cool that she's hooking up with the super hot guy" subplot. Because of course, sister has no value for being an interesting and confident person unless it's validated by a hot guy. And of course the "I thought I was no longer worthy of the male gaze because my face is disfigured but a BETTER guy came along AFTER the accident, and anyway, I'm not actually disfigured, I just have a tiny patch on my cheek that only I would really care about, and I still have princess hair and a smokin' hot bod." 

Okay, the more I think about it, the more I'm having problems with this. I'm not saying teenagers don't obsess about things like where they sit in the cafeteria and how their mom reacts to their food choices, but why would I want to read about it?

Monday, April 17, 2017

TTT: Ten Must-Read Authors



The delightful bloggers at The Broke and the Bookish host this weekly list challenge.  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check them out!

The topic this week is Top Ten Things That Will Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book 

I certainly have topics*, formats**, settings***, and genres**** that I'm more likely to pick up, but I don't think any of them guarantee I'm going to read a book.  The only thing that makes a book a must read for me is if the author is one I trust completely.  So here are my top ten "I'd even read their grocery list" authors.  

I'm going to keep myself focused by only including authors who are still writing (no Dickens or Austen) and whom I've read more than just one series by (no Suzanne Collins or Marissa Meyers, even though they've both written more than that one series).  I'm also not adding any authors I've only read one book by, no matter how eager I am to read their other work (Zentner, Albertalli, etc.)  Also, I'm not saying I've read every single book by these authors, or that they've never written a book I was just "meh" about.  But they are consistent enough that I will always give them a chance, and I will probably work my way through all of their books eventually, even if I haven't yet.

Alphabetical because I can't rank them!

M. T. Anderson
I love how varied Anderson's work is.  The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing is the first book I read after joining Goodreads, and it was a doozy.  Feed is very different in style and tone--from a gigantic faux journal or historical fiction to a straight forward dystopian novel. And then there's the composer's biography.  Because that fits right in.  I am eager to keep reading his work and see what else he's come up with.

Matt de la Peña
Another author who isn't afraid to try new things. One of my colleagues introduced me to Mexican Whiteboy.  I went on to read Ball Don't Lie and We Were Here , all three of which fit into the same genre category.  I Will Save You went in some new directions, and The Living/The Hunted took that world and moved it into science fiction, and then BOOM Last Stop on Market Street wins the Newbery and reveals more beauty to me each time I read it.  Plus, seeing Matt speak on an author panel made me an even bigger fan (and made me feel like I can call him Matt now).  So much heart, and so damn smart.  And his dialogue sounds like he's been eavesdropping on my students.

Neil Gaiman
I have not loved every single thing I've read by Gaiman, but I've found all of it interesting, and I always want to see what he comes up with next.  He's a Literary Figure at this point, like Twain or Hemingway.

A. S. King
I saw Amy King speak on the same panel as Matt de la Peña and was blown away by her ferocity and complete lack of (and intolerance for) bullshit.  Her best-known work, Please Ignore Vera Dietz, won a Printz award.  Her books all have varying degrees of magical realism.  I Crawl Through It was too challenging for me (though I will come back to it during some summer vacation), but I adored Everybody Sees the Ants, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, Reality Boy, and Ask the Passengers.  I'm looking forward to reading Still Life with Tornado too.

Barbara Kingsolver
I used to read books written for grown-ups too, and when I did, loved me some Kingsolver.  Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven, and Animals Dreams were my introduction to her, many years ago.  I then went on to read her essay collections High Tide in Tucson and Small Wonder, both of which I loved. I even read her first book, which was nonfiction, as well as some of her later fiction that branched away from her southwestern setting.  I was embarrassed to get a bit bored and put off by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but I'm still game to try anything she's written.

Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin will always be my #1 writing hero.  I read the first three Wizard of Earthsea books in middle school, when they were fairly new.  I went on to read some of her adult sci fi, but I think it was when I started reading her essays in college that I really understood what a phenomenal thinker she is.  I love how she's revisited Earthsea as her own understanding has developed--at the time of her original writing, she's said, it never even occurred to her that the strong central figure didn't have to be male.  Her historical fiction is also terrific, and I love many of her poems and stories.   I was recently super excited to come across two gorgeous volumes collecting her short stories and novellas, respectively.  I bought one and am saving up for the other.


Patrick Ness
I don't quite remember how I first heard about Ness, but I know the premise of The Knife of Never Letting Go sounded interesting.  I adored all three books (and bonus stories!) in the Chaos Walking series, and when I saw another book with his name on it (More Than This), I bought it even though I hadn't heard of it yet.  I went on to get A Monster Calls and The Rest of Us Just Live Here.  All these books are different in tone and style, but all push boundaries of imagination and build empathy.  I got to meet him once and found him absolutely lovely.  He's pretty terrific on Twitter as well.  I can't imagine ever not reading something he wrote.  Like, I've never seen a single episode of Dr. Who, but I'm definitely going to try to track down the Dr. Who spinoff he writes for.

Rainbow Rowell
I liked Fangirl.  I loved Eleanor and Park. (I think which of those two you like best is a generational thing.)  Landline and Attachments were okay.  I wasn't that excited about Carry On, and then I read it, and loved it, even though it was so, so different than her other books.  I will definitely read whatever comes next.

Ruta Sepetys
I had to read Between Shades of Gray, since it's about a Latvian family that is exiled to Siberia.  I lived in Latvia for several years in the 1990s, and pretty much everyone I met had a connection to someone that had been deported during the June, 1940 Stalinist raids.  I liked it, but maybe not as much as others did, because it wasn't quite as startling to me, having heard pieces and variations of it already.  I didn't think Out of the Easy would be quite my thing, but I gave it a try because I do want to support Sepetys's work.  I thought it was fantastic.  Salt to the Sea was as well.  I can't wait to see what she does in the future.


Neal Shusterman
Neal Shusterman is pretty much god.  Everlost was interesting and creative, but I wasn't compelled to read the rest of the series.  My students, however, gobbled them up.  Then came Unwind.  WOW.  This series rivals Chaos Walking for my favorite modern sci fi series.  Challenger Deep took a completely new direction, and I read it while I was taking a class for people with family members who have major mental illnesses, so--yeah.  Powerful.  I jumped back and read one of his Antsy books and couldn't stop laughing.  Read Scythe, and while it didn't quite do to me what Unwind did, it has the same quality of raising really interesting and important questions without telling you what to think about them.



* siblings, pioneers, medieval history
** multiple pov, epistolary, double timelines, unreliable narrator, alternative history
*** the far north, Oregon, USSR/Eastern Europe
****fantasy, not super cute contemporary, mystery