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

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

Thoughts?
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! :)

Numbers
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.

Thoughts?
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.

Numbers:
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?

Thoughts:
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.

Numbers:
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.
Before:

After:

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.

Thoughts?
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.

Numbers:
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

Thoughts?
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

Numbers:
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.

Thoughts?
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:
Giveaway

Numbers:
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)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

TGBC: Round Two!

We move on to Round Two!


Titles and Statuses:

Emma by Jane Austen: Keeping

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen: Keeping

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: Keeping

Persuasion by Jane Austen: Keeping

Pride and Prejudice (LBD edition!) by Jane Austen: Keeping

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen: Keeping

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame: Need to Reread

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies graphic novel by Jane Austen and Set Graham: Chase's

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: Need to read

Illusions by Richard Bach: Chase's

Goblinproofing Your Chicken Coop by Something Bakeley: Chase's

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliott: Need to Reread

The Wright 3 by Blue Balliott: Need to Reread

Peter Pan by JM Barrie: Need to Reread

I should fly through this shelf pretty quickly because while there are 14 books in this round, Chase owns three of them, and I'm not doing a Jane Austen reread. Someday I should, but today is not that day. There's no question that my Jane Austen is staying. 

I have a couple work books and Teen Lit Rocks books I need to read through next, so I should be picking this round up with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies here in about a week!

TGBC: Round One Wrap Up

I finished Round One!

Before:
After!

Wow! I'm impressed, though I say it myself.

Titles and Statuses:

Nettie and Nellie Crook: Orphan Train by EF Abbott: Read, giving away
Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider by EF Abbott: Read, giving away
The Collected Hitchhiker's Guide by Douglas Adams: Chase's, keeping (I am making him make decisions whenever I get to one of his books, BTW)
The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre: Read, giving away
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh: Read, keeping
The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh: Read, keeping
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom: Did not reread, giving away
Guitar Notes by Mary Amato: Read, keeping
A Little Taste of Poison by RJ Anderson: Did not read, giving away
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Caroline Mackler: Read, giving away

That's six books in the giveaway pile, and look at all that space on the shelf! Let's keep going!

TGBC: Round 1: The Future of Us

Picked up A Little Taste of Poison, which was one of the books from my boss last year, only to discover that it's a sequel, and I don't care enough about the description to seek out and read book one, so that went to the giveaway pile, leaving me with just one book left in round one!

Title: The Future of Us
Authors: Jay Asher and Caroline Mackler
Status: Reread

Where did I acquire it?
I know I read this from the library ages ago and then bought a copy when I saw it on sale somewhere.

How long since I've read it?
I do not remember. I could do some research and find out, but that seems like a lot of work. The book was published in 2011, so sometime around then. Four or five years? It's been a while.

Thoughts?
This is a cute book. It's built around a conceit that is never explained, they just expect you to accept, which is okay I guess, but some people might find it off putting. Basically, two teenagers in 1996 download the internet and find they can log into Facebook 15 years in the future, and they start trying to change their future lives based on what they see in status updates. It's an interesting enough conceit, but what struck me this read through was how often I felt like it was shoved down my throat that they're from 1996. I guess this counts as historical fiction, but most historical fiction I feel isn't quite so overt with the references to the time period. I don't know. It's a little thing, but it bothered me. Also, this was published five years ago, so Facebook is already pretty starkly different. I don't think this one is going to age well.

That being said, I do like the commentary this provides of unrequited love and how to maintain a friendship in the face of it.

Status after reading?
It's still cute, but cute isn't enough to keep it on my shelf. This one goes in the giveaway pile.

Numbers:
Books in the project: 425
Books tackled so far: 14
Books still unread: 90
Books I'm giving away: 11

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

TGBC: Round 1: Guitar Notes

I took a slight break and read three books not on the bookshelf. Two were for fun (Romeo and/or Juliet and Ella Minnow Pea, both of which I highly recommend if you like Shakespeare or wordplay) and one was for my book discussion group (Maus II, which is just adding to my constant distress of the world around me, so much for escapism in reading), but now I am back to the bookshelf!

Title: Guitar Notes
Author: Mary Amato
Status: New read

How did I acquire it?
My lovely friend Anne sent this one to me because it is made up of tropes we have a specific affinity for.

How long have I owned it without reading it?
...a really long time. Like, maybe 2-3 years. I don't remember exactly, but she definitely sent it to me when I was living in Virginia.

Thoughts?
This book is kinda like If I Stay, but from a different perspective, with added anonymous penpal-ing, and like 89% less depressing. And let's be real, here. If you write a book where two vastly dissimilar people get to know one another and build a friendship by exchanging letters back and forth, you've already got me almost entirely on board with your story. There are some tropes I am a sucker for, and that is why I write those tropes. Frequently.

But more than the premise kept me reading. I like these characters. I like who they are and how they're working to find themselves and overcome their struggles. I like that they are open to the possibility of a friendship with someone so dissimilar, and I love that that friendship becomes what they both really need.

But what I like the most about this book is that while you can absolutely ship Tripp and Lyla (and are probably supposed to), there's no actual canonical evidence for their romance. They never kiss. They never express romantic feelings to each other or within their own narratives. They care about each other very deeply, that much is obvious. BUT those emotions can be read entirely as a platonic friendship, and I LOVE THAT. Look, maybe they kiss in that subway station after the end of the book. But because we don't see it, I can also choose to believe that they build a deep and meaningful platonic friendship that never has to become anything other than that. That's the part I like best.

Status After Reading:
I'm gonna keep this one, I think. Largely because Shelf 1 is looking very open, but also because this one took me someplace I didn't expect to go, and I appreciate that. I'll keep it on my shelf for a while because I would like to revisit it, I think.

Numbers:
In the project: 422 (I keep getting Paperback Swap books)
Tackled so far: 12
Still unread: 91 (because of those Paperback Swap books)
Giving away: 6 (The discussion for Nightmares has been held, so that one's in the pile, and I got 20 pages into Little Women and couldn't take it anymore, so that one's going away, too)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

TGBC: Teen Lit Rocks title

Title: Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella
Author: Megan Morrison
Status: New read

How did I acquire it?
One of the gift books from my boss.

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

Thoughts?
I have fallen in love with Megan Morrison. Not only am I convinced that she is a better version of myself (she got her start writing Harry Potter fanfiction, she's currently teaching drama to middle schoolers, she went to school for theatre, and she writes about fairy tales -- we are the same person), but she has created a fairy tale world I never want to leave.

I'm not going to give this fairy tale adaptation the Fairy Tale Project treatment like I did with Grounded, mostly because this is not a traditional retelling of Cinderella, and actually barely follows the story we all know. Cinderella loses a slipper and flees from the prince within the first 19 pages, and the ball is over and done with before we even hit the halfway point. And I don't care. See, this Cinderella has much bigger things to worry about than winning the prince's heart at some ball. She has to find a way to fix unfair labor standards that threaten the working class of her kingdom. She has to stand up for those who can't and be a voice for those who are being silenced. And if she thinks about the prince at all, it's because she hopes she can show him the things that are wrong and convince him to do something about it. This Cinderella is a revolutionary -- and I love it.

I love every character in this story. I love the good guys -- Ella, who is fiery and passionate and reckless and stubbornly uncharming. Prince Dash, who wants to be a better person and fights against his privilege. Serge, who is losing his magic because nothing about being a fairy godfather is real anymore, and Jasper, who rekindles the flame of hope inside Serge (and other things, I'm hoping, as the series progresses (I SHIP IT, IF THAT WASN'T CLEAR)). I love the middle guys -- Sharlyn, Ella's stepmother, who's not wicked, she's just business-savvy and pragmatic in a way that crimps Ella's idealism. Clover and Linden, the "wicked" stepsiblings, who are a bit vain and abrasive, but never truly evil. Lavaliere, who's the snotty brat on the surface but with a heart of . . . like, tarnished silver underneath. I even love the bad guys -- Lady Lavier, Bejeweled the corrupt head fairy godmother, King Clement. Everyone is just so wonderful, I love them all.

But most of all, I love how REAL this world that Morrison has created feels. It never falls into "fairy tale world" vagueness, and I can't stress enough how refreshing that is. This book starts out as Cinderella and then becomes a fairy tale version of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and there's something bold about that, make no mistake. This book has gumption, and it says something, and I want so many more books from this world. I am thrilled that the internet tells me I will eventually have six. I only wish that number was higher.

Status after reading: 
This one stays, until it comes out in paperback, which I will then buy so that my copies match. Or, let's be real, I'll probably buy Grounded in hardback because I'm not going to wait to buy the rest of these until they're in paperback, so...

Numbers:
In the project: 418
Tackled so far: 10
Still unread: 91
Giving away: 4

Saturday, January 21, 2017

TGBC Outlier!: Grounded by Megan Morrison

This is an upcoming book group title, so I am jumping ahead in the bookshelf a bit. And since it's a fairy tale that I covered in my fairy tale adaptation project, I'm gonna throw a little bit of that analysis in here, too!

Title: Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel
Author: Megan Morrison
Status: New read

How did I acquire it?
Bought this one at a Scholastic Book Fair.

How long have I owned it without reading it?
A good two years or so?

Thoughts?
I really like the fairy tale world that Morrison has created, and I love that there will be multiple books in this series. The fairy tale adaptation genre has a new author, folks, and I am very excited!

The land of Tyme is split up into 12 fairy tale lands (took me WAY too long to figure out that was a throwback to Andrew Lang's fairy tale collections. BAD fairy tale expert. BAD.)

This book is Rapunzel's story, and it opens in a really disorienting way. Which works, because Rapunzel is a quintessential innocent, so the witch has been erasing her memories her whole life, and we as the reader are experiencing the story and the world with her. Our understanding grows and expands as hers does. It's handled really well, and the way that innocence underlines the whole story is beautifully done. I really enjoyed this world.

Let's bring back my fairy tale adaptation criteria!

Type of adaptation? Retelling, combined with Jack and the Beanstalk (popular choice), as well as a whole host of other fairy tale possibilities. But really Jack and the Beanstalk.

What am I looking for in an adaptation?

Explanation for the parents’ behavior? Yes. Dad was a coward and Mom didn't know. Rapunzel was then swept off before anyone else from her family could follow or find her.

Exploration of Rapunzel’s childhood with Mother Gothel? Definitely. It's creepy and unsettling, but it is there and richly developed.

Explain the unexplained elements. How did Rapunzel’s hair grow long enough to hoist a full grown woman up a presumably tall tower? Magic. The witch has the power to grant anything Rapunzel wishes for, and she manipulated Rapunzel into wishing for super long hair. How was Rapunzel able to stand having her head used as a ladder? She had a special wheel that took the pressure off her skull. Why did her tears heal the prince’s eyes? Wasn't really part of this story.

Wrap up the loose ends. What happened to Rapunzel’s parents? They died, but Rapunzel's grandmother is still alive. What happened to Mother Gothel? MY FAVORITE PART OF THIS ADAPTATION, but I won't spoil it. Go read it. Did the prince live in the wilderness with Rapunzel, or did he return to his kingdom to rule? The prince here is basically Jack, and this part of the story was reworked. What about the kids, folks? No kids, no pregnancy.

Really really well done. And since I need to tackle a Teen Lit Rocks book next, and the sequel is sitting right there among my Teen Lit Rocks books, I'm gonna go spend some more time in this world!

Status after reading: This one's a keeper. ... Why do I feel like I'm going to be much more inclined to keep the fairy tale retellings? Oh, right. Because I'm me.

Numbers:
In the project: 417
Tackled so far: 9
Still unread: 92
Giving away: 4

TGBC: Round 1: Renee Ahdieh

Titles: The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Status: Rereads

Where did I acquire them?
Book 1 I got for Christmas from my brother-in-law; book 2 I got from my boss's stash of 2016 publications. I have wanted both for my collection since I owned them. These were always going to be kept; I just rewarded myself with a reread because I love them so much.

How long since I've read them?
I reread Book 1 when Book 2 came out, and read Book 2 immediately upon publication, so . . . nine months? About?

Thoughts:
I adore literally everything about these books - the story, the characters, the world, the covers. I love it all. These are a retelling of the Shahrzad story, with a beautiful, beautiful conceit. The Caliph is not a murder-hungry, cold-blooded killer, and Shahrzad is not a pure-hearted maiden trying to help him return to the light. He's under a curse he won't tell anyone about, and she's there to kill him. READ THESE BOOKS.

Status After Reading:
Keeping. I am keeping these books until the end of time. That was never an issue.

Numbers:

So, I felt like I was losing control of my numbers, so I did what I should have done at the outset -- I made a color-coded spreadsheet. Official numbers (please ignore where they don't line up with the past numbers section)

Books included in the GBC project: 417
Books tackled so far: 9
Books still unread: 92
Books I'm giving away: 4 (I decided not to reread Mitch Album's The Five People You Meet in Heaven, so it goes in the giveaway pile)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

TGBC: Round 1: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things

As I move through Round 1, I am skipping the collected work of Douglas Adams, not because I don't love Hitchhiker's Guide, but because the collection belongs to my husband, so onto the next book on the shelf:

Title: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things
Author: Ann Aguirre
Status: Reread

Where did I acquire it?
This was a book club freebie from Teen Lit Rocks a couple years ago.

How long since I read it?
Two years.

Thoughts:
I loved this book the first time I read it, and I love it still. It's a YA title that deals with heavy topics without being completely depressing and angsty. It's hopeful, and I love the message that we do get to choose who we become, that anyone can change at any point, no matter their past. The cast is marvelous; there's no one I don't love, everyone is three dimensional and well drawn. I recommend this one all the time.

Status after rereading?
I do love this book, and I am glad I hung onto it and that I read it again. It's definitely a book I will rec to a lot of people. But, I think I'm gonna put it on the giveaway pile. I've read it twice, but I don't know that it will become a go-to reread for me. Still, definitely pick this one up. It's amazing.

Numbers:
I feel like none of these are accurate anymore. I'm so bad at math.
Books included in the GBC project: 422
Books tackled so far: 6
Books still unread: 98
Books I'm giving away: 3

Monday, January 9, 2017

TGBC: Round 1: EF Abbott's titles

The first two books of Round 1!

Titles: Nettie and Nellie Crook: Orphan Train Sisters and Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider
Author: EF Abbot
Status: New Reads

Where did I acquire them? 
My boss sits on an ALA committee at the moment, so she has boxes upon boxes of 2016 children's books she basically unloaded onto us. These are two books from that batch

How long have I owned them without reading?
Only about a month.

Thoughts?
These are two of, I think four titles in a series called Based on a True Story. They're short historical fiction books for kids in grades 3-5. What I really like is that the series is focusing on little-discussed moments from history. The Orphan Trains were fascinating, and I applaud anyone who gives my girl Sybil Ludington a shout. I think these are really good beginner historical fiction books for the target audience. They make the history interesting.

Status after reading?
I enjoyed these, and I'll definitely recommend them to my patrons, but I won't be keeping them on my shelf.

Numbers
Books included in the GBC project: 422 (One book acquired from Paperback Swap, one from the library 10 cent cart because I can't help myself)
Books tackled so far: 4
Books still unread: 98

Teen Lit Rocks Review Book 1

I contribute to a Teen Lit Blog when I'm on top of my life, called Teen Lit Rocks. I currently have 28 books and ARCs to read and review for the blog, so I am interspersing them with the Bookshelf books. And I have finished my first title of the year!

Title: When We Collided
Author: Emery Lord
Status: New Read

Where did I acquire it?
My boss loaned me this one. Apparently the author is going to be in the area at some point this year, or Skyping with us, so my boss asked us to read her novel and let her know what we thought.

How long have I owned it without reading it?
I don't own this one, but I have had it on loan for about three months.

Thoughts?
I will link to my full review when it goes up on TLR, but I did like a lot about this book. It's a YA romance that talks about mental illness very realistically, and it's view of YA romance is realistic, too -- this is a teenage couple who need each other for the summer they spend together, but they are never painted as a forever kind of love. I wouldn't keep this book on my shelf if I owned it, but I really appreciated it, and I'd love to hear the author speak about her experiences.

Status after reading?
Going back to my boss

Numbers:
Books in the project: 420
Books tackled so far: 2
Books still unread: 100

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Round 1

So, I've been trying to figure out the best way to organize this challenge, as it's pretty complicated because Hi, I'm Cassie, have we met?

But I have come up with a system I think will work.

My bookshelves are all divided into square sections. I am going to lump each section together into "Rounds" so that I can really go over each book I own, and so that it's easier for me to keep track of how much I've done and have left to do. This will, of course, be interspersed with the non-bookshelf reading I'm doing, but I think this is the best way to keep track overall.

So. Round One.


Titles and Their Statuses:

Nellie and Nettie Crook: Orphan Train Sisters by EF Abbott: Need to Read

Sybil Ludington: Revolutionary War Rider by EF Abbott: Need to Read

The Complete Hitchhiker's Guide series by Douglas Adams (should that count as six books??? Crap...): Chase's (so, do not have to read for this project)

The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre: Need to Reread

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh: Keeping

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh: Keeping

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom: Need to Reread

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato: Need to Read

A Little Taste of Poison by RJ Anderson: Need to Read

The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler: Need to Reread

In case you're curious, this project will last roughly 33 rounds. :)

I am almost finished with my first Teen Lit Rocks book of the year, and after that, I will be starting on the actual bookshelf, only four books into the new year! 

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Acquisitions mean updated numbers!

New books!

I had B&N giftcards to spend, so I need to update my numbers. I did pretty well -- bought five books, only spent $9 above my gift cards, and only added three unread books to my collection. We now sit at:

Total books in the project: 420
Books tackled so far: 1
Books still unread: 101

Sunday, January 1, 2017

TGBC: Book 1 - Nightmares!

Never let it be said that my days off go to waste! January 1st has a little more than an hour left, and I have already finished two novels! Granted, they were both started last year, but I finished them both today.

The first novel of the year, The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands is not a Great Bookshelf Caper book. It is a work book, and it was wonderful and you should read it, but I'm not going to be talking about it here.

The first Bookshelf Caper novel of the year is Nightmares! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller. I am using a caveat already! This book would come first on really no one's bookshelf if they organize by any system I can imagine, but this is one of my Middle School Book Group's novels this month, so I'm allowed to have jumped to the S's.

Let's do this.

Title: Nightmares! 
Author: Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller
Status: New read

Where did I acquire it?
This was a Book Fair buy back when I worked as an elementary school library assistant. I'm a fan of Jason Segel, so when I heard he'd written a book, I bought it and then never read it.

How long have I owned it without reading it?
Roughly two years

Thoughts?
I gave this one three stars on Goodreads, which is Cassie-rating-speak for I liked it, but I'm probably not going to read it again. I think this book tackles a really important set of issues for 10-13-year-olds, and when looked at for that age group, the book is well done. But I am not its target audience, and as an adult reading, I found the story a bit predictable and a bit heavy-handed. I would recommend this to a lot of my students, because there's a lot of value in it for them, but it's not a book that crosses over to adult readers as well as it could.

Status after reading?
I'm holding onto this one through my discussion on the 24th, but then this will land on the Giveaway pile.

Numbers:
Books included in the GBC project: 415 (updated from yesterday's post upon return of a book I loaned my brother)
Books tackled so far: 1
Books still unread: 98 (see above comment)

So that's one freebie and one from the shelf, which means my next book probably ought to be a TeenLitRocks review. See you when that's done!