Wednesday, July 17, 2019

January Books

Get ready for a crazy next couple of months.  I had a LOT of books to read for the book committee I'm on, plus a few books that I just wanted to read.


Such a fun read!  Dumplin' is about Willowdean Dixon, a plus sized girl in a small town in Texas.  Her mother was a beauty pageant queen years ago, and now Willowdean wants to enter the same pageant--not to win but to shake things up.  

This story is about friendship, expectations, and love.  It's sweet and funny, but also really deep.  Plus, there's a Netflix movie out right now!

Where Memories Lie

I've been slowly working through past Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James books.  This was just next in the list.  I really enjoy these books (although not as much as Louise Penny mysteries).  If you like mysteries that aren't too bloody, these would be a good choice.

The Witch Elm

Back away from this book.  I repeat, back away from this book.

I love Tana French.  I've been reading her books since they first came out.  They are dark, but this book was a new level of dark.  It was intense and there was no redemption in sight.  You will read this book, and you will leave it with just an icky feeling in your stomach.

You've been warned.

Heavy Vinyl

This comic/graphic novel is billed for teens, but I think it's perfect for my generation too.  If you loved High Fidelity or Empire Records with a little action thrown in, this is a great book to check out.  A record store is the front for a group of crime fighting females.  I believe the second edition is out, but I haven't read it yet.

Fence Vol. 1 & 2

Another graphic novel thrown in.  I really enjoyed these two (and can't wait for the next one!).

Nicholas is an amazing fencer (thanks to his famous fencing dad--who doesn't claim him), but he hasn't had the training that the others at his new private school have had.  But in order to make the team, he has to be one of the top fencers.  

I learned so much about fencing from these two books.  The illustrations are amazing.  It's much more comic style than graphic novel style.  I let a couple of students read this, and they loved it too!

American Panda

Unfortunately, sometimes great books have awful covers.  This an example of that.  I just found the new paperback cover online, and it looks really cute.  I'm glad they fixed that!

This book is about Mei, a Taiwanese teenager who has started MIT early.  Her parents want her to become a doctor, but she loves dance.  Mei is a really great narrator--funny, silly, sweet, a little feisty.  Ignore the cheesy cover and read this book!

I Have Lost My Way

Ugh, I didn't love this book.  It's about three teenagers--an up and coming singer, a gay teenager unable to come out to his Muslim family, and an orphaned boy with no where to go.  It's an interesting plot, but it just sort of dragged.  I didn't really connect with the characters.  I know people like this author a lot, but I wasn't a huge fan.

Dread Nation

Oh man, this book was SO GOOD.  I've never read a zombie book before.  In fact, I've never wanted to read a zombie book before.

But this book changed that.  It's set in the reconstruction period.  Only difference is, the dead from the Civil War have come back to life.  Young freed slaves are trained to be attendants, protecting white women from zombie attacks.  Jane is an attendant, but she doesn't like following the rules. 

This book is the first in a series, and I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the books!

There There

I read this for book club.  It was really depressing, but it was also good.  I think this book is similar to Homegoing, not in the way it is set up but in that it shows the after effects of past actions.  This book follows several American Indian characters in the weeks leading up to a big festival.  I don't want to give too much away, but I do think this is a powerful book.


Oh, another amazing book!  I'm a sucker for a Jane Austen retelling.  This one is set in Brooklyn, with a feisty Afro-Latina main character who loves spoken word poetry.  I also love retellings because I know what the ending will be but not how it will happen.  And the way Ibi Zoboi retells the classic story is wonderful.  

We'll Fly Away

Not the biggest fan of this book.  It's won tons of awards, so I recognize that I might be in the minority here.

It follows the story of two high school boys, Luke and Toby.  Luke is an incredible wrestler, and his skill might be enough to get the two boys away from their homes, from an alcoholic abusive dad and a mom who never has a job.  But things change.  I'll just warn you, the ending is really depressing, which is why I didn't like it.  But I do think it allows the reader to see different people's lives which is really powerful.

What If It's Us

This is the love story of Arthur and Ben, two high school boys in NYC.  Arthur is just in the city for the summer, and he isn't yet out at home.  But he meets Ben in the post office as Ben is mailing back his ex's stuff.  Ben is in summer school and still dealing with a post break up broken heart.

This is a sweet romance full of Hamilton quotes (extra points for that!).  Plus, I think they are making a movie of it!

The Prince and the Dressmaker

This graphic novel ended up being chosen for the Vermont middle grades book award, but we looked at it for the YA award.

It's about a prince who likes to wear dresses, a dressmaker who wants to create beautiful designs, and their secret relationship.  I think it introduces big topics in accessible ways.  Also, the illustrations are amazing.

Darius the Great Is Not Okay

I listened to this book, and I would highly suggest that.  Although, I'm sure it is great to read the book as well.  Just the narrator was so good!

This book is about Darius, a half Persian (or Fractional Persian, as he calls it) boy living in America.  But when his grandfather is sick, the whole family travels to Iran to see him.

This isn't necessarily billed as a coming of age story, but maybe it should be.  It's about Darius figuring out who he is--as a friend, a son, a brother, a grandson, as a fractional Persian.  I love the character development of Darius and I love his voice throughout the book.  

This is one of those YA books that I think adults would love too.

December Books

It's summer, which means I have a little more spare time, which means I'm going to try to catch up on my book posts.  I love being able to look back on these and see what I've read!


If you are looking for a book that address sexual assault, especially in private schools, this was a great one.  Jules, a senior, has broken up with her boyfriend at boarding school and is on the outs.  But she is then sexually assaulted by him.  No one believes her, because he was her ex.  

Jamie is new to the school.  He doesn't have the same financial background as the other students and is there on a hockey scholarship.  He becomes a friend and ally to Jules during this time.

Here's what I loved: this book really explores some big themes about why guys get away with sexual assault and how others aid that by not stepping up.  Plus, Jules and Jamie have no romantic interest.  Jamie is just a guy doing the right thing and stepping up.


Not a fan of this one.  It's about two neighbor girls, one from a liberal family and one from a super conservative, quiver-full family.  I felt like it just had very stereotypical characters.  Plus, the quiver-full dad was abusive.  Look, I'm not a fan of that movement, but I also don't think all of the men in that movement are abusive.  I was worried that a teen reading this book with no other knowledge about that group would make some big assumptions.

That Night

This was an interesting book.  It focus on the aftermath of a mass shooting, following the lives of two  teens affected by a movie theater shooting in Queens.  What I loved was that we got to actually see the fall out long term of a shooting.  It wasn't my favorite book of the year, but it did offer a different view point.

Blackthorn Key: The Assassin's Curse

If you've got a middle grade reader who likes a mystery, these are great books!  This is the third book in the Blackthorn Key series.

Christopher helped solve the murder of his master in the first book, fought the plague during the second book, and now he's back working to protect the King of France in this one.  These books are set during the middle ages, full of mysterious Latin phrases (which I LOVE), are fast paced, and are full of historical facts.  

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I listened to the audiobook of this, and it took me almost a year--not because I didn't like it!  It isn't necessarily a kid friendly book, so I had to find time when Jack and Gil weren't around.  

This book is about Eleanor, a quirky, almost child like character living along in London.  Things change when she meets Raymond.  He's funny and big hearted, and that helps break her out of her systematic life.  But the ending was a total surprise.  

I would definitely suggest this.  I know it took me a while with the audiobook, but it was really fun to listen to it!

And the Ocean Was Our Sky

Oh goodness, I loved this book.  It's short and beautiful.  It's a retelling of Moby Dick from the whales' perspective, and it has the most amazing illustrations.  It's also really accessible for most ages.  I would give this to a 5th grader or an 80 year old and hope that both loved it!

The Summer of Jordi Perez

This was a delightful read!  One thing I'm always searching for in diverse books is a book that's not focused on how hard the diversity is.  Not that those books aren't important!  But sometimes it's good for readers to experience a book with a main character of color who is just living life.  A book where the characters get to have struggles just like every other character.  Or in this case, a main character who is a lesbian who is interested in a girl but isn't struggling with also coming out.  Does that make sense?

Abby is the main character, and she is so fun.  Seriously, I wanted to be her friend.  She's artsy and creative and funny.  She's plus sized, and, even though she takes pictures of her fashion choices, she always keeps her face out of them (even though she runs a popular fashion blog!.  But she starts dating Jordi, a photographer, who tries to push her toward showing her face to her blog followers.  There's some tension there, but there's also just sweet relationships, both with Jordi and with some friends

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

November Books

November was not a big reading month.  I was wrapping up the end of the trimester with grading.  We also did some BIG house projects this month, which took up a lot of time.  But I had read enough earlier in the year, so I knew I would still be able to reach my end of the year goal even with a light reading month.


A YA book, of course.  Ya'll, just get ready to see a plethora of YA books for the next three years.

This book is sort of dystopian.  Dee, a 17 year old, has been unjustly accused and found guilty of the murder of her step-sister.  She's sent to Alcatraz 2.0, where her death, at the hand of a band of crazy executioners, will be live streamed to viewers all over the country.

This book is really clever, albeit not amazingly written.  The book has twitter post scattered throughout it.  I wouldn't rush out to read this book, but definitely give it to your teen readers.

Anne of the Island

Oh, Anne girl.  I love to dive back into Anne Shirley's world, especially in the fall.  This book is about Anne's college years, her relationship with Royal Gardner, and then finally her reconciliation with Gilbert Blythe.

Nine Perfect Strangers

The new Liane Moriarty book!  Somehow I was magically second on the hold list at my local library.

I knew NOTHING going into reading this book.  I just knew that I love this author's books.  It was wonderful to read with no idea of the book, so I am going to do the same to you.

Just read it.  It was great.

What You Left Me

I have mixed feelings about this book.  It has a strange premise, and I didn't love the ending.  But I did enjoy the middle parts.

Martin and Petra are graduating from a huge high school and are somehow seated next to each other.  They have a flirtation and plan to see each other later, but Martin is in a horrible car crash and ends up in a coma.  While he's in the coma, he communicates with several friends through their dreams, including Petra.  

See what I mean?  Just a little strange.  I also didn't love that there was a big event in Petra's past that isn't quite dealt with.  It felt a little unresolved.

Odd One Out

Nic Stone's new book!  Again, I was lucky to get this book.  I walked in to get the Liane Moriarty book, and this was just sitting on the library shelf.

I loved Nic's first book, Dear Martin.  I was super pumped to read this new one, and it was just okay.  Odd One Out is about a love triangle between a straight male, his lesbian best friend, and a new girl. I liked that this book had lots of LGBTQ characters and there were lots of conversations around all of those issues.  I didn't like some more explicit scenes.  I also felt like Nic tried to be too trendy with the writing, and it came off weak.

Kingdom of the Blind

Let's end this month with a win.  Louise Penny is one of my very favorite authors.  I don't think I have ever pre ordered another author's books, but I've been preordering her new book since 2013.  She comes out with a new one every fall.

I won't do a synopsis, because you need to read the series.  You can skip the first one, Still Life, because it's sort of slow (although, once you know the characters, you will want to come back to it).  Just read her!  

And this book was great.  I was so happy with it.

October Books

Ahhh, SO many YA books this month...

People Like Us

I don't like adult thrillers, but there is something about a YA thriller that has been really appealing to me lately.  This book is a great YA thriller/mystery.

Kay is a main character at a boarding school; she's popular, athletic, etc.  But a classmate dies on campus and somehow leaves Kay a timed website instructing Kay to discover other's secrets and reveal them in order to protect their own.  

I couldn't stop reading this book!  I don't know if it's award worthy, but it's definitely an interesting read.

Ban This Book

This book is middle grade, so give it to your elementary school and middle school students!

Ban This Book is about a 4th grade girl, Amy Anne, who LOVES to read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler--but suddenly the book is missing from her school library!  A school board member has challenged it as well as a slew of other loved books.  

Amy Anne decides to fight back by opening a banned books library in her school locker.  Of course, she gets caught, and the normally shy 9 year old learns to stand up for what she believes.

Glass Houses

Ah, a reread.  I just love comfortable rereads.  

Louise Penny's new novel came out at the end of November, so I wanted to read her last novel again to be ready for Kingdom of the Blind.  You don't have to read Louise Penny in order at the beginning, but you do need to later on in the series.  I don't want to say anything about this book and ruin it, but SO GOOD.

The Last Wish of Sasha Cade

A student lent this book to me.  Sasha Cade is a high school senior when she passes away from cancer.  She leaves a series of surprise adventures for her best friend, Raquel.

Again, I don't want to give away the plot, so I won't ruin any of the surprises!  But this book was good--realistic fiction, a tear jerker, lots of character development.

The Girl Who Chased the Moon

Thanks to the kindle gods, this book appeared on my kindle app.  I've seen this author talked about in other places, but this book and the next were my first of hers to read.

In this book, Emily Benedict, a 16 year old, is now parentless, so she moves back to her mother's small southern hometown to live with her quirky grandfather.  She immediately strikes up a friendship with a forbidden boy.

Allen writes southern magical realism, and this book was just delightful!

Garden Spells

I actually ended up reading two books by this author.  This one is also set in a small southern town.  Amazon just informed me that this book is Allen's debut novel, and it is a wonderful one!

The Waverly family is just...weird.  They are strange, and their whole small town knows it.  When the younger Waverly sister comes back into town with her young daughter, some of their secrets come out into the open.  Again, another wonderful read!  I will add more of her books to my list for this upcoming year.

Neverworld Wake

Oh, this book was my FAVORITE this month!  It's up there in the favorite list for the year.

Marisha Pessl wrote Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which is another book I just loved.  This book, and her other one, both reminded me of a YA, less dark Donna Tart.

In this book, Beatrice is a year out of her private boarding high school and a year separated from her boyfriend's mysterious death.  She meets up for a night out with her four best friends from high school in hopes of finding answers.  But after a car accident, the five college freshmen are trapped in a "Neverworld Wake," from which only one person can awake.

This book was intense and a little dark, but also not too fast paced.  Seriously, I just LOVED it.  

Lies You Never Told Me

Ah, another YA thriller/mystery.  This book was amazing.  Not only was it super engaging, it also addressed some big issues in a very authentic way.

The book tells the story of two different teens, one who begins a relationship with her teacher and one who is trying to get out of a manipulative relationship.   I loved the way the stories intertwined!

The Astonishing Color of After

This was maybe my second favorite book of this month, and it's another YA.

Leigh Chen Sanders has never known her Taiwanese grandparents.   But after her mother's suicide, she becomes convinced that her grandparents will be the key to understanding the why's.  She travels there and learns about her mother's past.

This book was beautifully written, woven with culture and color.  It's definitely a read!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

September Books

Ahhh, school was back in swing, and thus my reading list is shortened...


Another memoir!  I mentioned last month that I read three memoirs in about a months time, and I think this one was my favorite.

Tara grew up with survivalist parents in Idaho.  She never went to school, but when she was a teen, she decided to take the ACT and go to BYU.  Amazingly, she ended up also studying at Oxford and eventually getting her PhD.

But this book is less about her education and more about her family dynamics.  It's a tough read because of the subject matter, but I really loved it.


Oh goodness, I just loved this book!  I read it for Green Mountain Book award, so it's YA.  It's technically a sequel (to Dumplin', which is about to be a Netflix movie), but it reads like a stand alone novel.  

Millie, or Puddin', is an overweight teen in a small Texas town.  She always goes to fat camp, but this year she wants to go to journalism camp instead.  This book is about that struggle, her friendship with an ex-dance team captain, and a budding romance.  It's just delightful!

Necessary As Blood
I am really getting into Deborah Crombie.  I ended up reading two of her books this month!  If you are a mystery fan, I would check her out.

This one is about missing parents and the little girl they leave behind.  I don't want to give anything away!  Really good.

That's Not What Happened

I read the ARC of this book, thanks to my school librarian.

This book follows survivors of a school shooting, three years afterward.  Basically, one student, who died, is being held up as a Christian martyr.  But the main character, who is the martyr's best friend and was with her when she died, is now coming out to say, "That's not what happened."

I was a middle schooler for the first school shootings, Pearl and Columbine.  I really loved this book, reading from the point of view of the survivors and how school shootings have affected them.

Garden of Lamentations

Another Deborah Crombie book.  I think this one might be her most recent book.  I have actually read all of these books completely out of order and have been totally fine.  So, if you want to start reading Crombie, don't worry about getting the first one in the series!  Just get whatever books your library has.

In this book, a nanny is found dead in a private neighborhood garden in Notting Hill.  Another great mystery!

Hillbilly Elegy

I know, I'm like the last person to read this book.  I have started it several times, and then I always end up putting it down.  But I was talking about this book with several friends and one loved it and one didn't.  That sparked my curiosity, and I decided to finally finish it!

I'm on the liking it fence.  This book is all about the author's life, growing up as part of a "hillbilly" family, what disadvantages that gave him.  I really feel like he explores to negatives and the positives and just shares what his life was like.  I know not everyone is a fan, but I would suggest at least just giving this book a try.

Orphan Monster Spy

Ohhh, this book was SO good.  It's about a Jewish girl who doesn't look Jewish.  While she's trying to escape Germany, she gets caught by a spy.  The spy recruits her to go to a private German school, for the German elite's daughters.  She is supposed to befriend a girl there, whose father is working on the atomic bomb.

It's fast paced and well written.  It is pretty intense, so I don't know if I would let a 7th or 8th grader read it, but definitely high schoolers!

My Name Is Victoria

Last, but certainly not least, a historical fiction read.  I really loved this book because I ended up looking up a lot of articles to find out the real story behind it.

The main character, Miss V. Conroy, is sent to live in London as a companion to the young Princess Victoria.  The two girls grow up together.  This book was really interesting, and the ending totally surprised me!  

Altogether, a good reading month.  I really liked every book!