Sunday, August 27, 2017

TGBC: Round Four: Justina Chen

Going to tackle both of Justina's books in one post.

Title: North of Beautiful
Author: Justina Chen
Status: Reread

How did I acquire it?
I bought it after reading Return to Me because I liked the author a lot.

How long has it been since I read it?
This was my first reread, so ... four-ish years? Something like that.

Thoughts?
This book falls near the top of my list of underappreciated YA books. It deserves a lot more love than I typically see it getting. There are so many wonderful, powerful things happening in this story. I love the characters, even the ones that you hate in the world of the story; I love the growth we see everyone go through; I love that the world Chen creates in this novel is messy and complicated and shaded with gray. The characters and situations feel real, and I was so invested from the beginning, even knowing how the story would end.

Status after reading?
This one stays on the shelf.

Title: Return to Me
Author: Justina Chen
Status: Reread

How did I acquire it?
This was a Teen Lit Rocks monthly book club a few years ago, so I was sent a copy for that.

How long has it been since I read it?
About four and a half years, I think.

Thoughts?
I gave this book a really positive review when we read it for Teen Lit Rocks. I remember really enjoying it. And I enjoyed it on the reread -- until the end. Or, at least, until what should have been the end. Because the book had about eight different endings. I thought I had reached the last chapter again and again, and that was the biggest issue I was left with on the reread. She took the story too far. She showed us too much. The last seven chapters, and especially the epilogue, were unnecessary. I don't need to have every detail filled in and every loose end tied up. And I don't need a seven-year-jump epilogue to assure me that everything worked out exactly as our main character dreamed it would -- with one notable exception to keep it real, I guess?

Status after reading?
I'm glad that this book introduced me to Justina Chen, I'm glad that I reread it, but I don't need to keep it on the shelf any longer.

Numbers:
Books in the project: 475
Books tackled so far: 88
Books still to read: 81
Books given away: 45

Sunday, August 6, 2017

TGBC: Round Four: Roar

Title: Roar
Author: Cora Carmack
Status: New read

How did I acquire it?
This was one of my latest Teen Lit Rocks ARCs.

How long have I owned it without reading it?
A couple months.

Thoughts?
I like this one. The world of Caelira is beset by storms -- wild, furious, and nearly sentient. The rulers of Caelira's kingdoms are supposed to be able to tame the storms and so protect their people. But Aurora, heir to the kingdom of Pavan, is no Stormling. She has not a touch of magic about her, a secret she and her mother will do anything to protect, including arranging a marriage to a cruel and vicious Stormling prince. And then Aurora learns about people like her, born without magic, but able to tame the storms nonetheless.

It's a captivating story. I love the world. I love the way that magic works, that it exists as part of these storms, and I love the way that we are opened to understanding the world bit by little bit, and only as Rora learns and understands. That element reconciles me a little to the shifting perspectives, which are often jarring, though I still believe the story would be stronger if we kept to Rora and this mysterious, villainous Stormlord.

This is Cormack's first YA novel. Her other books are all adult romance, and it shows here. This is definitely a steamier novel than most YA goes for, but I did appreciate that it's always tasteful, never graphic, and I truly appreciated the amount of respect and consent-seeking we are always shown in the romance. I was a little worried at the start that I was going to absolutely hate the obvious love interest because he's your classic strong-man protector type. But I really appreciate how Carmack worked to subvert that trope. He may have started out that way, but he grew the more he connected with Roar, and I have high hopes for that continuing in the sequels.

Status after reading?
I'm keeping this one.

Numbers?
Books in the Project: 472
Books tackled so far: 86
Books still left to read: 82

Books giving away: 44

TGBC: Round Four: Sarah and Rebekah

Title: Sarah; Rebekah (books 1 and 2 of the Women of Genesis trilogy)
Author: Orson Scott Card

How did I acquire them? Rebekah I've had for ages, since high school. Sarah I got through Paperback Swap a few months ago.

How long has it been since I read them?
I last read both of these books in high school, so about 12 years?

Thoughts?
I loved these books in high school. I remember being really impressed with the depth of Biblical history explored, and I remember thinking that they were quite feminist in their narrative approach. And having read them again, I don't disagree with those old opinions, exactly. I'm just more aware of how much of a racist ass their author is. Which severely limited my enjoyment.

I only reread Sarah. There was a lot that I liked about it, though I did find Sarah to be a little cloying and a little too perfect, for all her supposed flaws. The religion aspect also struck me as a bit more heavy-handed this time around. But what really soured me was the treatment of Hagar and Ishmael. Look, you can read what you want into Bible stories, and you can craft and expand these characters however you choose. But now that I'm much more aware of Isaac as a kind of starting point for the Judeo-Christian people and Ishmael as the same for the Arabs, and also being much more aware that Orson Scott Card is a racist tool . . . the characterization of Hagar and Ishmael as wholly selfish, vindictive, cruel, and out for the destruction of Sarah and Isaach does not sit well.

I did not reread Rebekah.

Status after reading?
I'm not going to keep these.

Numbers:
Books in the Project: 472
Books tackled so far: 86
Books still left to read: 82 (My library may have weeded the Teen section. I may have taken home eight books)
Books giving away: 44

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.

Thoughts?
 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!

Numbers
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.

Thoughts?
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.

Thoughts?
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!

Numbers
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!

Before:

After:

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

Thoughts?
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.

Thoughts?
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.

Numbers:
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

Thoughts?
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.

Numbers: 
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.

Thoughts?

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.

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