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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

TGBC: Round Three

Round Three!

Titles and Statuses:

Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard: Need to read

Doll Bones by Holly Black: Need to read

The Diviners by Libba Bray: Need to read

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: Need to reread

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray: Need to reread

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray: Need to reread

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan: Keeping, might reread anyway

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: Keeping, might reread anyway

This is gonna be a longer round, because
a) Chase has no books in this round,
b) ALL my Libba Bray is in this round and her books are MASSIVE, and
c) I need to read almost every book in this round.

The last two in the round I will decide if I want to reread when I get there. So here we go!

Round Two Wrap Up

I blew through the end of Round Two, so let's wrap it up!

I was about 25% of the way through Chasing Vermeer, and it was driving me crazy. The whole plot hinges on an insane amount of coincidences, and while the book is self-aware in that respect, I just couldn't keep reading. And if I'm not keeping book 1, it doesn't make sense to keep book 2, so those are gone. I will still happily recommend these books to kids, because the puzzles are wonderful, and they teach art history in a really effective way, but I'm not going to keep them on my shelf.


So some gappage there!

Titles and Statuses:
Emma by Jane Austen: Did not reread, keeping
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: Did not reread, keeping
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: Did not reread, keeping
Persuasion by Jane Austen: Did not reread, keeping
Pride and Prejudice (LBD edition!) by Jane Austen: Did not finish reread, keeping
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: Did not reread, keeping
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame: Did not finish reread, giving away
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies graphic novel by Jane Austen and Set Graham: Chase's, he hasn't made a decision yet, so I've delivered it to his office until he does.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: Read, keeping
Illusions by Richard Bach: Chase's, giving away
Goblinproofing Your Chicken Coop by Something Bakeley: Chase's, no decision yet made because my husband is a slacker
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliott: Did not finish reread, giving away
The Wright 3 by Blue Balliott: Did not reread, giving away
Peter Pan by JM Barrie: Did not reread, keeping

Four books given away this round!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

TGBC: Round Two: Red Queen

Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Status: New read

How did I acquire it?
I bought this title with Christmas gift cards because I had a coworker who wouldn't shut up about how good it was.

How long have I owned it without reading it?
Not long. Just a couple months.

The mark of a good plot twist is that before it happens, you don't see it coming, and after it happens, you don't know how you didn't see it coming. Red Queen got the drop on me not once but twice, so good job there because that is not easy to do.

And I like the world that Aveyard has created and the characters she's drawn. I like that nothing is straightforward or simple. I appreciate all the expectations she set up and then pulled out from under you as you read.

And yet, I am so torn on how I feel having finished this book. Because the whole time I was reading, the overwhelming feeling was "I have read this book before." Red Queen is Hunger Games meets Game of Thrones meets The Selection meets superpowers, and I want all those things to combine in a way that is innovative and new, but they don't entirely. I have heard this story before. I've even heard these plot twists before. They're fairly classic plot twists, when you get right down to it.

So I don't know. I enjoyed it. I was invested in the characters. I was fascinated by the world. But it still has that overwhelming feeling of "First installment of a YA dystopian fantasy trilogy." Because it's yet another first installment of a YA dystopian fantasy trilogy. And that doesn't make it bad. It just makes it, for lack of a better word and at the risk of sounding pretentious, a bit derivative.

I'm gonna have to ruminate on this one before I finally settle on how I feel, I think.

Status after reading?
I'm keeping this one on the bookshelf because when I get around to reading the final two installments, it may really end up surprising me, and if it does, I'll be sad to have given away book one and have to reacquire it.

Books in the project: 425
Books tackled so far: 26
Books still unread: 86
Books giving away: 13

Sunday, February 26, 2017

TGBC: Teen Lit Rocks Title: Some of the Parts

I've made some weird progress on the shelf lately. I'm skipping all my Austen because they're automatic saves, so the next Shelf book was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and after I put off picking it up to read for the fifth day in a row, I decided to just put it in the giveaway pile and move on.

Then, because my last TLR read was a bust in terms of being able to write a positive review for, I decided to move to the next book on that pile. Which is today's review. Which will also not be going on TLR because it wasn't great. Desperate then to read something I can actually review for the blog, I moved on to the NEXT TLR title, which I stopped reading after 50 pages because it was infuriating. So I'm a little Teen lit stuck right now, but I'm moving through that shelf pretty speedily. Small favors.

Mini review though of Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here, the book I put aside without finishing. I have high standards for fandom-centric books, and this one did not meet them. It felt formulaic, I hated the main character, and I felt like it was trying way too hard to be a "good" fandom book. I'm reading the supposedly hilarious fanfic of a write who supposedly has tens of thousands of fans, and all I can think is that if I was reading it in real life, I'd have hit the back button by paragraph three. I flipped ahead and skimmed to see if things got better, but I saw no evidence of that, and hints of the opposite. And since life's too short to read books I'm not enjoying, I put that one aside.

Today's main review, though, is of a book I actually pushed through to the end of.

Title: Some of the Parts
Author: Hannah Barnaby
Status: New read

Where did I acquire it?
This was a boss gift book at Christmas

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

I was, overall, not crazy about this book. This may be because it is, in many ways, very similar to the last book I read -- Dreamers Often Lie -- main character suffering mental trauma after a serious accident, having trouble coping until she meets a dark and broody new male student who gets caught up in her life, both haunted by family members lost in car accidents.

I did appreciate the dark broody male character in this one, though. Honestly, he wasn't that broody, and he's why I kept reading. I liked who he was and what he was willing to be for Tallie when she needed someone and wouldn't admit it. But there weren't many other characters in the story that I actually liked, which is a problem.

Overall, I did like how the book subverted some expected tropes in the end, that was a nice payoff. But I did have to force myself to keep reading to get to that payoff.

Status after reading: Giveaway

Books in the project: 425
Books tackled so far: 25
Books still unread: 87
Books given away: 13

Monday, February 13, 2017

TGBC: Teen Lit Rocks Title: Dreamers Often Lie

I'm a bit behind on my TLR books, so I tackled one of those. Unfortunately, I can't use it for the blog because I don't have a positive review, but we'll get to that.

Title: Dreamers Often Lie
Author: Jacqueline West
Status: New Read

Where did I acquire it?
This was in the first batch of ARCs I was sent for Teen Lit Rocks

How long have I owned it without reading it?
Way longer than I should have. Like a year.

Man, I really wanted to like this book. It's about Shakespeare! It quotes Shakespeare characters constantly! And it's that rare mythological creature -- an accurate representation of a high school theatre program in a novel!!!

And to be fair, I did enjoy about 75% of the story. But then it got weird, and this is a book with a girl who regularly hallucinates Hamlet and Ophelia making out in the back of her car. Now, granted, I read an ARC, so maybe some of this was cleared up in the final draft. But honestly, the ending went completely off the rail for me. I felt like the book ended twice because the same thing happened twice in a row. Once, I bought. Twice, not so much. Also, the ending was really abrupt and confusing. I felt like there was no real resolution of the issues I cared about in the story. The ending did not match what had been set up. Which really was a shame.

Status after reading:

Books in the project: 422
Books tackled so far: 22 (all my Austen are being kept, and Chase made a couple decisions)
Books still unread: 89
Books I'm giving away: 10 (my numbers were super weird last post, not sure what was going on there)