Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sunday Post

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  It's "a chance to share news, a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog."

In which I solve two problems at once.  

My monthly recaps were getting longer and longer, yet I was strangely reluctant to leave any of it out.  And I've been in a blogging slump after my super-blogging in March and super-reading during Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. Therefore, I've decided to start participating in this weekly summary. Yay!

Reading This Week:

I've read six books this week.  Since I set my own challenge to read at least 50% non-white authors this month, I've been focused on starting on the right foot, and five out of six have qualified.  Most of them were books that have been on my Goodreads TBR and/or in my immediate pile of books from the library.

I've never read this series; it looked "too manga" to me.  But not only have several students plowed their way through the entire thing, then my daughter brought home the first one from her school library and asked me to read it with her.  Reading graphic novels and comic books aloud can be challenging, but it works okay one-on-one like that, where she can lean against me and follow along with the pictures as I read.  The book itself was bizarre and charming.  I didn't realize the series hasn't ended yet--it seems like it's been around awhile--and I made several students' day by splurging on a new copy of the latest edition--our school library had volumes 1-6, but not seven.  I will definitely work on getting the entire series into my classroom library as well. 
3.5 stars.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
I enjoyed it, but didn't find it at all new or exciting.  Her world is creative, but I didn't really get the WHY of it.  Neighboring kingdoms that each only have one season?  M'kay.  
3 stars

Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim
I love how the drawing style is very different between each of the stories in this book, and I love how despite that, the themes of self determination and reality vs. fantasy carry through all three.  I enjoyed the first one, although the resolution was pretty predictable.  The second one was intentionally ugly in tone and art, with a terrific ending.  The last story was my favorite.
3.5 stars

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
How I hoped to love this award winning memoir in verse.  If it hadn't had award stickers all over it, I might have been able to enjoy it more, but my expectations were so high that my main response was "That's it?!?"   When we shared our books in class last week, I told the kids that I thought the book was good, but not "OH MY GOD THIS BOOK IS SO AMAZING I MUST GIVE IT ALL THE AWARDS EVER" good.  One of my students shared that he's reading Boy 21, after I book-talked it, and he said, "Those awards?  They should be on this book," and I was all, "I know, right?!?"  
3 stars

Charm and Strange by Stepanie Koehn
See, now, this one I didn't have any particular expectations for, and I loved it.  I can't talk much about it, because it's a book best entered without preconceptions or hints.  It's set at a boarding school in Vermont and features an unreliable narrator with a troubled past.  
4 stars

Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
I thought Alsaid's second novel, Never, Always, Sometimes was a fun read and well written, but pretty much fluff, so I wasn't in any hurry to get to his debut.  But after Brown Girl Dreaming and Charm & Strange, some romantic fluff from a young man's point of view sounded perfect.  And it was.  While some complain of insta-love, I had no trouble accepting that two good looking, smart teenagers would be instantly attracted, and that, having compatible minds and hearts, would pursue that initial attraction with enthusiasm.  The episodic nature of the book made it a super fast read, and I enjoyed the "madcap adventure" aspect of it all.  
4 stars

I wrote my April wrap-up a few days early, which means there are some books that fell through the cracks between that post and this.  Since I had a solid streak of great books in there, I'm going to mention them as well.  

A Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis, Wild Things by Clay Carmichael, Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones, and Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston were all terrific.  Madness has had plenty of blog love, and yes, the cover adds 10% to ones enjoyment of the books.  Wild Things, on the other hand, has sat unloved in my classroom library all year because that cover--ew.  I'd heard somewhere it was good though, so I finally gave it a try, so I could possibly recommend it to kids.  Glad I did.  Stop Pretending is a semi autobiographical novel in verse that was gorgeous and painful and beautiful.  Exit actually gave me a whole new appreciation for cheerleaders that I put into use yesterday when the high school team came to our middle school to perform.  Instead of rolling my eyes at the pom poms and short shorts, I admired the lifts and drops.  More to the point, I loved how Hermione (yes!) isn't shattered and loathed after getting drugged and raped, but actually supported and respected.  I totally get that slut-shaming is a thing, as are double standards, but I'm always a bit skeptical of books where girls are treated like shit after being actually raped.
4 stars for Madness and Wild Things, 4.5 stars for Stop Pretending and Exit.

More cover love.

(Also, 2 stars for Kristen Hannah's Night Road.  Please tell me Nightingale is better than this, because I'm tempted to take it off my TBR.)

Blogging this week:

Wow, okay.  I wrote one post this week.  One!  Did I mention my blogging slump?  Anyway, I was obsessing about my students who won't read, so I wrote about that.

Also, I started, but did not finish in time, a post for the TTT topic of children/YA characters that I'd like to find out as adults, and I started working on a really, really, really rough draft of a post about books about mental illness.  

More excitingly, I made the decision to go to a writing retreat next month.  Beth Woolsey of Five Kids is a Lot of Kids hosts occasional "Writing in the Mess" retreats at the Oregon coast.  It feels very weird, but also throughly wonderful, to spend money, and time away from my family, on something that is just for me.  I wasn't sure if it would be feasible, but my husband was super supportive--both of the financial commitment and of being left alone with the kids for three nights.  He did claim dibs on the next big excursion, which is 100% okay with me.   I am, of course, nervous about all sorts of things, like Will they think I'm lame because I don't even really have a writing goal? and Are they going to be all spiritual and if so, will that weird me out? and At what point does self-care become self-indulgance? and Will my boss be pissed at me because I'm taking two days off, even though those days are AFTER school actually finishes?  and Can I get away with wearing my one pair of yoga pants for four solid days?

Joke's on you, Uncle Vernon!

Life this week:

It was teacher appreciation week, which is a lot like Mother's Day in that people are pressured into doing something nice that now seems insincere because they had to be given a specific time to do it in.  Also, in that it's always great to be given treats, even if they aren't 100% sincere.  The leadership class had the genius idea of offering us free car washes, so I got my truck clean for the first time all year.  And the librarian gave us delicious cake pops, which were the tastiest of all the food treats that came our way.  My favorite tradition at our school is that kids write specific compliments about each teacher on sticky notes and leave them on our classroom doors.  Mine said, "She's not afraid to be herself," "Caring and super laid-back," and, of course, "She loves books."  

In a few hours we're going to a fish barbecue that our friends host annually--he's a former Alaskan fisherman and still has connections--and then to my mother-in-law's for a family dinner.  I made some shortbread for the first event and gluten free brownies for the second.  It's great to be able to bake and not worry about eating it all myself.

We'll see how Mother's Day goes.  It's a little weird, since my kids have another living mother.  The first year it was awful; one went into meltdown mode but denied it had anything to do with the occasion, and the other was depressed and clingy all day.  It's gotten a little better each year since, and I suspect I'll be getting breakfast in bed and roses.  I'd still like to downplay the whole thing.  Mother's Day was my mom's least favorite holiday, and I finally understand why.  If you're not going to clean the house for me, just chill out and leave me alone to enjoy my Sunday.  I prefer to eat sitting up, and to be surprised when I get flowers.  It all feels too Hallmark-y to me.

Now that I've dumped rain all over that parade, um, happy Mother's Day?  May your day be less angst-filled than that last paragraph.

Coming Up Next Week

I will get my act together and participate in the TTT this week.  Also on Tuesday, I'll be bringing a busload of kids to see April Henry speak at the Beaverton Powell's.  That's all I know for sure!


  1. Hey glad you joined the Sunday Post. Charm and Let's Get Lost sound good! And Happy, um, Mothers Day lol hope it's a good one. :) If I remember right April Henry wrote The Body in the Woods which I wanted to read and never did... just never got to it. Nice to see she has another one coming out... I'll have to look at it.

    The writers retreat sounds great!

  2. Happy Mother’s Day . . . I think? Anyway, sorry to hear that you were underwhelmed by Brown Girl Dreaming. I want to read that one. Also, I have Charm & Strange sitting on my TBR shelf, so hopefully I’ll like it as much as you did.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. Hi there and welcome to the Sunday Post. And - dare I say it? - Happy Mother's Day. It's a struggle for me as well for various reasons.... mainly the not-being a mother thing.

    I hope the fish barbecue went well and the GF brownies sound delicious!

    1. Yeah, the other really bad Mother's Day for me was the first one after my mom died, when our adoption journey looked like it might not work out.

  4. "It was teacher appreciation week, which is a lot like Mother's Day in that people are pressured into doing something nice that now seems insincere because they had to be given a specific time to do it in."


  5. Snow Like Ashes is one that I feel like I need to read because everyone else seems to love it. But I tried listening to it, and it was hard to listen to and keep up with. Exit is one that I still want to read. Hope you have a good week!
    Check out my Sunday Post

  6. Cake pops were a great invention. And a car wash! I don't know when the last time I washed my car was. I didn't even realize it was Teacher Appreciation Week last week. I really should stay on top of these things. Although, I do agree with your sentiment about the sincerity being kind of lost in this day and age. I have to say though, Mother's Day was especially nice for me this year as a mother because my daughter was so enthusiastic about honoring me. She, at least, was sincere. ;-)


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