Sunday, July 23, 2017

TGBC Outlier: What Goes Up

Title: What Goes Up
Author: Katie Kennedy
Status: New read

How did I acquire it?
This was in my latest batch of Teen Lit Rocks titles

How long have I owned it without reading it?
Mmm, since however long ago I got that box.

 Rosa and Eddie are juniors in high school and they're smarter than you. They're smarter than most people, and that's why they've been selected to test for placement in a special division of NASA. If they place first and second, they'll become the third team to be trained to make first contact with alien lifeforms. But in the midst of their testing and training, the unexpected happens, and it might be up to these teenagers to save the human race as we know it.

I really enjoyed this book. I was worried, when I started it, that it would be too sciency and it would go over my head, but Kennedy handles the science aspect very well. It's obviously there; it would be jarring it if wasn't. But it was never necessary for me to understand the science. I just had to believe that Rosa and Eddie understood the science.

This story is driven by the characters. You care about the journey that they are on because you care about them. Rosa, Eddie, and other focal characters like Trevor and Reg and Eddie's grandmother, they are the focal points, and they are all drawn beautifully.

When the science fiction comes out in full force, and the aliens appear (as you know they're bound to), and it gets all mind-twisty, I'll admit that I got a little lost. But I was able to latch onto those central characters and keep reading, and I enjoyed even what I didn't totally understand. Read this book for the characters, and you won't go wrong.

Status after reading?
Keeping this one -- I enjoyed it a lot!

Books in the project: 464
Books tackled so far: 77
Books still unread: 75
Books giving away: 42

The Great Bookshelf Caper Round 4: 2 for the price of 1!

Hey, I'm getting back at this! Let's catch up!

Title: 13
Authors: Jason Robert Brown and Dan Elish
Status: Reread

How did I acquire this?
Bought it literally ages ago. I've had this book for...almost ten years, I think?

How long has it been since I've read it?
Almost ten years, I think.

I own this book because 13 the Musical is one of my top five favorite musicals, and when I found out they had turned it into a novel, I of course had to buy and read it. The musical is better. There's something beautiful that I love about this story in musical format that doesn't quite translate to novel format. I think I don't like being quite so inside Evan's head. I also think that the music really elevates the story. I still enjoyed the novel, but it doesn't move me the way the original format does.

Status after reading?
Even being slightly warmer than lukewarm toward this book, I'm going to keep it. I have a lot of students who love the musical as much as I do, and who I think would get a kick out of reading the novel. It's also not widely available anymore.

Title: The Secret Garden
Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett
Status: Reread

How did I acquire this?
I'm not sure I actually acquired it, and it didn't just spontaneously appear on my shelf.

How long has it been since I read it?
Golly, I cannot remember.

I mean, it's a classic. It's The Secret Garden! (Again, theme for this post, the musical is better) It meanders toward the end, but it's The Secret Garden.

Status after rereading?
Keeping the classic!

Books in the project: 464
Books tackled so far: 77
Books still unread: 75
Books giving away: 42

Thursday, June 1, 2017

TGBC: Round Four!

Round Four!

Titles and Statuses:

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosch: Keeping
13 by Jason Robert Brown and Dan Elish: Need to reread
A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C Bunce: Keeping, might reread anyway
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: Need to reread
Sarah by Orson Scott Card: Need to reread
Rebekah by Orson Scott Card: Need to reread
Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card: Chase's
Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass by Louis Carroll: Keeping
Graceling by Kristin Cashore: Keeping
Fire by Kristin Cashore: Keeping, might reread anyway
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore: Keeping

This will also be a bit of a longer round, because I need to throw some Teen Lit books in there, and because both jobs are crazy right now.

TGBC: Round Three Wrap Up!

So, round three took forever, as I knew it would, but I have finished, so let's review!



So, not a lot of space added, but that's because Libba Bray writes such long books, and this was a fairly good round!

Titles and Statuses:
Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard: Read, keeping
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarin Bivald: Read, keeping
Doll Bones by Holly Black: Read, initial said keeping, later decided to give away
The Diviners by Libba Bray: Did not finish reading, giving away
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: Read, keeping
Rebel Angels by Libba Bray: Read, keeping
The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray: Read, keeping
Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan: Did not reread, keeping
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Did not reread, keeping

Two books given away this round!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

TGBC: 4 for the price of 1!: Wonderful Feels Like This and the Gemma Doyle Trilogy

I've fallen a bit behind, so let's play catch-up! I have a Teen Lit Rocks title and a trilogy to review!

Title: Wonderful Feels Like This
Author: Sara Lovestam
Status: New read

How did I acquire it?
This was a Teen Lit Rocks ARC.

How long have I owned it without reading it?
About a month

I finished this a little bit ago, about a week and a half, and I've already forgotten a lot of it, which is not the best sign. I enjoyed it enough to keep reading, and there were issues it discussed very well -- bullying and the underlying reasons why people attack other people, the importance of connecting with people of different generations, how to find the courage to pursue your dreams -- but overall, this wasn't a stand out novel for me. It's not one I'm going to press into other people's hands and say "You HAVE to read this!"

Status after reading?
I'm giving this one away

These three books are the real reason it's been so long. I'm doing series all together, and these three have 1,770 pages between them. So it took me a while.

Titles: The Gemma Doyle Trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing)
Author: Libba Bray
Status: Rereads

How did I acquire these?
Good gracious, I don't even remember. I remember buying the third one, or getting it as a gift, because I needed the end of this series.

How long has it been since I read them?
I last reread/read this series when the final book came out, in 2007. So it's been a while.

I remembered adoring these books in high school.  I remembered every plot twist and turn of book 1 and most of book 2, because I've read both of those a few times. The last book, I remembered the big ending and a few details here and there, but I haven't reread the books since the last one came out because the ending is so devastating. It still was, but this time I was braced for it, and it's devastating in a beautiful and meaningful way.

Status after rereading?
I'm hanging onto these.

Books in the project: 455
Books tackled so far: 66
Books still unread: 76
Books giving away: 36

Sunday, April 16, 2017

TGBC Outlier!: Sticks and Stones

Title: Sticks and Stones
Author: Abby Cooper
Status: New Read

How did I acquire it?
This was a gift from my boss at Christmas

How long have I owned it without reading it?
About four months

This is one of the titles for my middle school book group this month. I liked a lot about it. Elyse, the main character, has a disorder where the words people use to describe her show up on her skin. Good words feel good; bad ones itch. As she gets older and gets into middle school, the words get more and more negative, especially as she puts herself into the spotlight at school. Eventually, the words she uses when she thinks about herself also show up on her skin.

I liked this book for what it is -- a middle-school-aged allegory about self esteem. I think it tackles that issue in a really unique and effective way for that age group. For me though, the metaphor got a bit heavy-handed at times. Nevertheless, I liked the touch that Elyse was as affected by what she thought of herself as she was by what other people thought of her. And I liked the conclusion she eventually comes to -- that what other people think of her might make her uncomfortable at times, but their opinions only define her if she lets them.

Overall, this is an effective book, and I'm excited to hear what my students thought of it.

Status after reading:
I'm gonna hang onto this one for a bit, I think.

Books in the project: 451
Books tackled so far: 60
Books still unread: 76
Books giving away: 33

TGBC: Teen Lit Rocks Title: This Is My Brain On Boys

Title: This Is My Brain On Boys
Author: Sarah Strohmeyer
Status: New read

How did I acquire it?
This is a Teen Lit Rocks ARC.

How long have I owned it without reading it?
Started reading this one the day after I got it, actually.


While I was reading this one, I couldn't decide how I felt about it. I needed a few days after to ruminate and come to the conclusion that I like it.

Addie Emerson doesn't believe in love. She believes in the chemicals that create feelings of love, and she believes that those chemicals alter a person's thoughts and actions and brain chemistry, but that's not the same thing as believing in love. Especially when Addie has a theory that "love" can be induced by manipulating circumstances to ensure that a person's brain puts out the chemicals that create feelings of love.

What I liked most about this novel was the complexity of the main character, Addie. Addie is very clearly autistic (if you are at all familiar with autism), but this isn't a story about autism. It's a story about a very analytical and driven young woman succeeding in a scientific endeavor. Addie is not portrayed the way that autistic individuals are typically portrayed in media. She has friends (yes, plural -- she has more than one), she's not painted as an outcast, and no one tries to change or fix her. She is written like an actual, real person, not as a token representation of autism, and I really appreciated that.

I also liked the turning-on-the-head of the trope where a scientifically-minded person who "doesn't believe in love" falls in love and learns the error of their ways. I love that the twist we see with Addie is in the nuances. She believes in the chemicals and endorphins, and she recognizes that the chemicals and endorphins typically associated with love make you feel good, and that's both fine and desirable.

And I like the other issues this book touches on -- second chances, the transition from high school to college, escaping toxic friendships and relationships. Overall, I thought this was a well-written book. It's a fairly predictable story, and the "twist" was not particularly surprising to me. I also wish that the book came out and said that Addie is autistic rather than leaving it to be intuited. But overall, I'd be interested to see what other people thought of it.

Status After Reading: 
I'm gonna keep this on my shelf for now mostly because I want to loan it to some people and see what they think.

Books in the project: 451
Books tackled so far: 60
Books still unread: 76
Books giving away: 34

Thursday, March 30, 2017

TGBC: Round Three: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

I feel like I haven't read a book for the project in ages, and that's largely because I've been slogging my way through obligatory books, but one of those obligatory book is Libba Bray's The Diviners. This is the third time I've tried to read it, and I'm 150 pages in and still have no motivation to pick it up. So sorry, friends who love this book and keep telling me to read it. I'm calling it. I'm giving it away and moving on.

Title: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Author: Katarina Bivald
Status: Reread

How did I acquire it? 
Bought it last week, and it happened to fit into this round

How long since I've read it?
About a year

I don't often pick up realistic adult fiction. It's not typically my jam. But this title popped up last year in a recommended title list on some library site, and the synopsis intrigued me, so I read it and really enjoyed it. Last week I had a super crappy day and I needed some retail therapy and I was tired of slogging through boring books I was obligated to read, so I treated myself to a book off my "Want to Own" list, then treated myself to a reread.

I really like this book. The basic premise is that a directionless young woman from Sweden (Sara) falls into a correspondence with an elderly woman in Iowa (Amy). They bond over their love of books and literature, and eventually Sara agrees to come visit for a summer. Only when she arrives in the tiny, dying, middle-of-nowhere town of Broken Wheel, she discovers that Amy has passed away.

The townspeople insist that she stay, and so she does. She gets to know them, and in her desire to find Amy, she decides to take Amy's extensive library, move it into Amy's empty storefront in the pitiful downtown, and start a book store. The residents of Broken Wheel cannot fathom why they would need a bookstore, but Sara perseveres and eventually they come around.

Sara changes the town. She falls in love with it, and they fall in love with her, and by the end of the summer, the town will do anything to keep her from leaving -- including launching a marriage scheme.

It would be really easy for this book to miss the mark and veer off into the ridiculous and overblown, but it doesn't. I love books about books and about the connection stories bring us, and this is a beautiful one. It's simple. It's understated. And it's heartfelt and real. You fall in love with Broken Wheel along with Sara, and with Sara along with Broken Wheel, and I enjoyed this book as much the second time around.

Status After Rereading?
I just bought it! I'm not giving it away! :)

Decided to stop holding on to all the old ARCs from a year and a half ago that I was supposed to read for my book blog. So the giveaway number has jumped up significantly. I've also acquired several new books from library weeding, indulgent book buying, and PaperbackSwap.

Books in the project: 440
Books tackled so far: 50
Books still unread: 75
Books giving away: 27

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

TGBC: Round Three: Doll Bones

Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black
Status: New read

How did I acquire it? I bought this at a Scholastic book fair because it had garnered much acclaim.

How long have I owned it without reading it? About three years.

I know Holly Black by reputation only, as a writer of weird and dark modern/urban fantasy, so I had those expectations going into this book, and those expectations were not quite met. This is a story, largely, about imagination and growing up and hard it can be to have the first and do the second. This was a story I really identified with. I went through what these three kids went through. I was an imaginative kid, making up elaborate fantasy stories and acting them out with my friends. And I hit an age, around twelve, when overnight, it seemed, that became no longer something my friends had any interest in doing. They were suddenly too old for it, and that was a rough transition for me as a kid.

So I loved seeing that represented so authentically. And I loved even more that you can absolutely read this book as a weird, dark modern.urban fantasy, where the doll is a ghost and it is leading these three kids on this elaborate and dangerous quest -- but you don't have to. It's left ambiguous and open-ended, and I really appreciate that the author doesn't tell us if it was "real" or not, because in the end, that doesn't matter. What matters is how this friendship survives the events of the story, and that is written just beautifully.

Status after reading:
This one is staying on the shelf.

Even with a beautiful color coded spreadsheet, I still apparently can't keep track of numbers correctly. I'm almost positive these are finally correct.
Books in the project: 430
Books tackled so far: 37
Books still unread: 84
Books giving away: 16

Sunday, March 12, 2017

TGBC: Round Three: Lucky Strikes

Title: Lucky Strikes
Author: Louis Bayard
Status: New read

How did I acquire it? 
This was a TLR ARC sent to me last year.

How long have I owned it without reading it?
About a year?

In the middle of the Great Depression, 14-year-old Melia suddenly finds herself without a mother, and in charge of not only her two younger siblings, but her mother's old gas station as well. Without a legal guardian, Melia and her siblings will be split up in foster care and the station will go to the oil tycoon looking to impose a monopoly. So when a drunk drifter with a penchant for performance falls off a coal truck, it seems to be the answer to all Melia's problems.

I really enjoyed this book. I love Melia. I love her fire, her determination, her stubbornness. I love how she pushes against what society expects. I love how smart she is. In fact, there is no character in this book that I don't love. Drifter Hirim who has no reason to get himself tangled up in Melia's deal, but does anyway. Janey and Earle, Melia's sister and brother, who are smart and sharp and see everything. Chester, Melia's lawyer who is willing to put his job on the line to help these kids. Even the oil tycoon and the town biddies are all wonderfully drawn, three-dimensional and fully contributing to the rich tapestry of small-town life in 1934.

But it's the message of this book that really makes it stand out. This is a story of found families, of the connections beyond blood that forge people together. This is a story of following dreams, but one that makes it clear that following your dreams, or someone else's, requires a whole lot of sweat and blood and dedication. This is a story about figuring out what's important and creating a place where you belong. And most importantly, this is a story that does not shy away from the unfairness of life and the sacrifices that get made. The successes the characters win feel stronger and more real for what they lose in the process.

Status after reading:
I think I'll hang onto this one. I liked what it had to say.

Books in the project: 426 (acquired a couple from my parents')
Books tackled so far: 31
Books still to be read: 84
Books given away: 16