Monday, May 27, 2019

TTT: A Decade of Favorites

 TTT is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl .  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 it out!

The topic this week is: favorite books released in the last ten years (one for each year). I love this idea, and may appropriate it for my 50th birthday this summer, choosing one for each year of my life. I'll be able to do that without repeating any of the books I chose this week because there is definitely more than one book I've loved in each of the last ten years!

 It was SO HARD to choose just one, and I could easily make five alternate lists that are equally wonderful. But without overthinking it, here's my list.  I'm using the publication date, not my read date.

2010 A Visit from the Goon Squad

2011 The Scorpio Races

2012 The Steel Seraglio

2013 Vicious

2014 How It Went Down

2015 You can't make me choose. Six of Crows. Orbiting Jupiter. Darker Shade of Magic. The War that Saved My Life. Challenger Deep. Drowned City. Made You Up. Every Last Word. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. Symphony for the City of the Dead. All American Boys. Most Dangerous. It was a banner year. And that's not even counting the picture books!

2016 The Serpent King

2017 Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

2018 The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

2019 The Paragon Hotel

As hard as it was to choose, I feel good about the list overall. We've got middle grade, YA, and adult. Fantasy, historical fiction, realistic fiction. Graphic novels. Multiple narrators. Wildly popular books and a few odd ducks. It's a good representation of what I read. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday Post #33/Sunday Salon #6

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz is expanding Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read: 4 books (1 re-read)
I spent the week getting to the end of two series as part of of the "Can You Read a Series in a Month?" challenge from Because Reading is Better than Real Life. I finished Someday, and I read March, volumes 1-3. I talk in more detail about all of them on my challenge wrap-up post.

What I'm Reading/What's Next
I'm in the middle of Pie in the Sky, which I just got for my classroom. So far, it's wonderful. A Chinese boy has immigrated to Australia, where he feels like a Martian, misses his late father, is annoyed by his little brother, and bakes cakes against his mother's directions. It has both text and comics, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, (only with more plot).

Pie in the Sky

I also intend to finish Donna Gephart's In Your Shoes so I can start the ARC of her The Paris Project. Which is a whole lotta middle grade in a row, so I will most likely read some YA or adult book(s) in there too.

Three Things
  • There are chocolate chip cookies in the oven right now. So this afternoon will involve reading and eating cookies. Living the dream.
  • My kid was at Outdoor School this week. Do they have that where you live? It's a sixth grade rite of passage in these parts. My oldest sister went, so that must have been in 1968 or so.  The next two missed it because of funding issues, then I went in, oh, 1980? It faded out for several years around the turn on of the century, but people were upset enough about that many districts were actually able to pass levies just to pay for it. She had a great time and came home exhausted.
  • I finished season one of "Dead to Me." I really enjoyed it. We also watched season one of "It's Bruno," which was odd and hilarious and told in 10-15 minute episodes, so it was easy to fly through. 
I hope everyone has a great week!

Saturday, May 25, 2019

May Challenge: Entire Series

The wonderfully titled "Because Reading is Better than Real Life" sponsored a challenge this month to finish an entire series. Part of it could be re-reads, but you had to read at least two new-to-you books of a three+ book series, and had to read at least 3 books total.

My first series I finished was Every Day. I'd read the first book years ago, and never got around to the rest. So I re-read the first book, and really enjoyed it. "A" wakes up in a new person's body each day, and does their best to live that person's life safely and without causing disruption. One day "A" wakes up in the body of a teenaged boy with a girlfriend, Rhiannon, who seems anxious to not anger him. "A" is intrigued by her and spends the day enjoying her company and acting like a guy who actually likes her. The next day, as always, A is in a new body, but can't forget Rhiannon. They come back to her over and over, gradually letting her in on their secret.

The next book told the exact same story from the girl's point of view. No change in time frame or anything. So there I was a day later, reading the same dialogue word for word. This was disappointing, but I kept going to book three, and that was a treat. It went on to new events (yay!) and also introduced some new points of view, including an evil entity that exists like "A" does, but that definitely does NOT take care to not disrupt their daily hosts' lives. The story bogged down a bit in the middle as A and Rhiannon spend too much time agonizing over what their relationship is and should be, and the conflict is resolved rather abruptly, but the ending is sweet and gives a satisfying sense of conclusion.

Since there was still time in the month, I went ahead and finished another series. I know that March, the graphic novel autobiography of Congressman John Lewis, is a modern classic, but when I read the first one a few years ago, I struggled with the small font. Now I have glasses, so I gave it another go. Like Every Day, I had to re-read the first book then read the next two in order to wind up the series. Framed with John Lewis attending Barack Obama's first inauguration, these books cover the bulk of the Civil Rights movement from the late 1950s through the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Lunchroom counter sit-ins, Freedom Riders in Mississippi, policy disagreements between the SLCC and SNC,  the bombing of the church in Birmingham, the March on Washington and the marches in Selma--all of it is laid out in a way that highlights the courage and insights of that generation of protesters. It also reminds me that our current administration does not occupy a unique place in our history--the powers of bigotry and hatred, of violence and fear have long lineage. 

I'm grateful to this challenge for giving me the impetus I needed to complete these two series. What series are lingering half-read on your shelves?

Friday, May 24, 2019

Book Photos and Votes!

I love my library so much. I stopped by to pick up two books they'd brought in from other branches: Red Clocks and Scooby Apocalypse, both of which were recommended by other bloggers recently. I also grabbed a copy of the graphic novel of Speak because I have a student who really wants to read it, and my copy is AWOL. I found season one of The Handmaid's Tale on DVD, since we don't get Hulu. I'm reading the series March, but book 2 is missing from my classroom library. so I got that too. Finally, I picked up a few board games for the family What a lovely haul.

As we enter the last two full weeks of the school year, I polled my students on their favorite books of the year. They had some GREAT answers! I then took the books that seemed to get the most votes and/or the most checkouts during the year and set them into brackets. The kids will be voting next week, but you can vote today! Just choose your favorites from each match-up. If you haven't read either book, skip it. If you've read one of the two, you can choose whether to vote for it, vote against it, or skip the match-up. If I did this right, it's set up so you can see results so far after you vote, and I'll come back later to let you know how the book people voted and how my students voted.  (Keep scrolling after you're done; it takes up a bunch of white space.)

I'm having fun prepping for my summer reading. Because of my teaching schedule, I do get a lot more reading done during the summer than the rest of the year. I wanted to prioritize specific books--books that are OBOB or ProjectLit titles, books on my Classics Club list, and ones I've just kept meaning to read. So I made myself this Bingo sheet. I'll try for a blackout, and even if I don't get there, it will still be good. I also made a Book A Day list. It's an average, not a literal thing, but it's still satisfying to jot down a title for each day. Mine runs June 1- August 31, even though I'll be at work the first couple of weeks and the last couple of weeks of that. 

I probably already told you, but Paula Stokes offered to send me a bunch of her books for my classroom, and of course I accepted. She sent multiple copies, so I could share with other teachers, and personalized each one. She's local, which might be why we started talking on Twitter? I really don't remember, but I am so, so grateful for her generosity.

Then today I came home to this ARC of Donna Gephart's new book. I am not a huge MG fan overall, but I've loved this author's work, and I was thrilled when she asked if I'd like my name on a list she was giving her publisher of teachers who might want an ARC. I guess I passed their test! 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Sunday Post #32/Sunday Salon #5

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz is expanding Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read: 6 books
A lot more than last week, and some really great ones (and one not).

  • I really liked Just Jaime, the third middle grade graphic novel by Teri Libenson. It's a lot about toxic friendships, which is something my personal middle schooler is dealing with, so I'm going to leave it laying casually around the house this summer. 
  • Tana French's The Witch Elm is a stand-alone, which I didn't realize until I started reading. It has an unreliable and unlikable narrator, and got SUPER dark at the end. It's not my favorite of hers, but I wasn't disappointed. 
  • I re-read Every Day, David Levithan's book about "A," who wakes up in a different person's body each day, as part of my attempt to finish an entire series in May. It's been several years since I read it before, and I really enjoyed it. 
  • Then I moved on to book two, Another Day, and about died of boredom as it was the exact same damn story from another POV. Complete with vast chunks of dialogue repeated word for word. 
  • I prefer reading physical books, but I am occasionally tempted by the free ebooks on Simon Teen's Riveted, because it's so easy to fly through them in that format. 100 Sideways Miles has been in my classroom library since it was new, and I liked Winger, the only other Andrew Smith novel I've read, so I read it. It was good. Parts were quite witty, and all of it is spectacularly vulgar in a way that seemed very true to teenaged boys. 
  • I knew Lindsay Faye from Jane Steele, so when I saw her name on  The Paragon Hotel in the library, I picked it up solely based on that. I LOVED it. One of my friends DNFed it, so clearly it's not for everyone. I'm a sucker for historical fiction set in Portland, but I also loved Nobody/Alice's flapper voice, the stark look at racism in Oregon, the friendships, the danger and twists, and pretty much everything else about it. 

What I'm Reading/What's Next

I'm working on Someday, book 3 in the Every Day trilogy, and so far it's MUCH better than the middle book. It takes the story forward and includes a new and delightfully disturbing voice.

Two of my five classes voted to do one more read-aloud during our final 3 weeks, so I'm deciding between Nightjohn, The Crossover, and Witness. All are short (which is important at this point) and very good stories.

Three Things
  1. I won a giveaway for three upcoming books on Twitter! FatLikeMe Podcast is going to send me Julie Murphy's first MG novel, Dear Sweet Pea, AND Renee Watson's new book, Some Places More than Others, AND Chris Baron's book with a boy main character, All of Me. All support body diversity and feature fat protagonists who aren't defined by their weight. These are going to be great additions to my classroom library.
  2. We did state testing. Sigh. It's interesting how the vast majority of kids who are opted out are the children (or siblings) of educators. I opted both my kids out. If their teachers don't know their strengths and weaknesses by this point in the year, they're not paying attention.
  3. We started a family archery class this week. It was very fun. And NOT THAT IT'S A COMPETITION, but I totally got the best score of my family. I just have to gloat a little, as the least athletic family member. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Occasional Poetry

In college, I took a few creative nonfiction writing classes. At one point I attempted a poem based on a memory, and the professor basically told me, "This is...not actually a poem."

I'm no poet.

On the other hand, I also remember a student I had several years ago who throughout the year would come up to me with a book and say, "Mrs. Gassaway, I'm not a reader, but this book is fantastic!" or "You know I don't like to read, but this one is really good!" Eventually I pointed out to him that for someone who really didn't like to read, he sure loved almost every book he read.

Every year or so, I have a compulsion to write a poem. And I do. And I share it publicly on here. Are they art? Are they "real" poetry? Who cares?

Here's my latest, which references "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden.

My mom
probably didn't know the poem
about "love's austere and lonely offices"--

building the fire,
blacking the boots--

but she told me once
that my dad always got up first
so he could

start the furnace,
brew the coffee--

I like to remember them, fifty years married and more
Not so austere,
Never lonely.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Taking the Plunge into Classics Club

I've been reading about Classics Club nearly as long as I've been blogging. Erudite bloggers such as Deb at Readerbuzz, Lori at Emerald City Reviews, and Anne at My Head is Full of Books have impressed me with their eagerness to read books that require a little more thoughtfulness and a little less speed than the books I tend to pick up. Back in the day I was a big fan of classics--I'm one of the weird people who loved reading The Scarlet Letter, Great Expectations, The Color Purple, The Chosen, Cry, the Beloved Country, and Death of a Salesman in high school. (But not Walden, The Stranger, or Ethan Frome!) But I had more time and mental energy in those days. Or maybe I've just gotten lazy.

I knew the requirement was to read 50 classics of your choice within five years. There are definitely more than fifty classic books I'd still like to read, but there's a reason why I haven't read them yet--I'm intimidated by their size, archaic language, and/or cerebral subject matter. But then Deb finished hers, which re-inspired me to look at the rules, and it turns out you can RE-READ. Which means fun and easy options like Charlotte's Web and Eight Cousins are on the table, as well as familiar, once-beloved books I want to re-experience, like, well, everything by Dickens and Hardy.

So I went through my Goodreads shelves and the Classic Club's list and came up with nearly 100 titles. I whittled them down by focusing on books published before 2000, even if they were "modern classics," because honestly, I'm more likely to read those anyway.  I still had over seventy, so I eliminated a few of my old favorites that I don't want to spoil by re-reading as a grumpy old lady, and a few books on writing.

Without further ado, and alphabetically by title, here are my fifty books. I will complete them by May 15th, 2024. Re-reads are highlighted, then I'll add "done" dates and link to reviews as I go. 

Completion date