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.


#MurderTrending



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...

Educated

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.


Puddin'

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!

August Books

The year is almost over, and now I still need to do the past four months of books!  I used to update my blog regularly, but life has taken over the past year or so and I just don't.  Oh well, I am still committed to these posts, though, because I love to use it to track my reading.


The Monogram Murders



Hm, this book was not great.  It was written in the style of Agatha Christie, like a new Hercule Poirot novel.  Had it not been for that, the book would have been fine.  The murder story was interesting and fairly well done.

But goodness, they messed up Poirot!  He is such an amazing detective character, and I felt like this book twisted him up and gave a new spin to him.  I'm not really okay with that...

So if you aren't a huge Agatha Christie reader, you might enjoy this book.  Otherwise, stay away!


The Cheerleaders



Did I mention that I am on the Vermont YA award group this year (and the two years after that)?  It's called the Green Mountain Book Award Committee, and I will thus be reading a LOT of YA books in the upcoming three years.

This was a YA mystery/thriller.  I really enjoyed it.  Five years before the story starts, the main character's older sister and three other girls, all cheerleaders in a small town, died within two weeks of each other.  The main character has always felt like something was off, so she starts investigating.

I thought the mystery was really well done.  The content was good--interesting for high schoolers but not too much language or gore.  I really liked it.


The Glass Castle


I am not the biggest non-fiction reader out there, but I'm really trying to push myself.  Memoirs are a good middle ground for me.  They are non-fiction but often read like fiction.

Jeannette Walls writes about her growing up years, with parents that struggle, unbeknownst to themselves, with mental illness, about moving constantly, etc.  It is a really interesting book.  While I did really enjoy it, I read three memoirs in the course of a month, and this was probably my least favorite of the three.  Of course, that isn't an indication of the book itself.  It was up against two other great books.  I would definitely suggest this book!


P. S. I Still Love You


Always & Forever, Lara Jean



Ah, back to the world of Lara Jean Song.  These are the two sequels to To All the Boys I've Loved Before.  Goodness, these books were just delightful.  This whole series is wonderful.  They are interesting, but not filled with language and sex (although those aspects aren't totally absent).  The main character is charming, fun, and so quirky.  If you haven't read this series, you should definitely check it out.


Truly Devious



Another Green Mountain Book Award read, and I loved it.  It won't make the list because it is very clearly the beginning of a trilogy, but it has been one of my fav YA reads thus far this year.

This mystery is set in Vermont at Ellingham Academy and spans 80 years.  There are two mysteries that happen, one in the 1930's and one current day.  But, spoiler, since it is the beginning of a trilogy, the mysteries are definitely not solved at the end of the book!

I couldn't put this book down.  It wasn't even just that it was set in Vermont (although I did love that), but the premise behind the academy itself was just really engaging.


The History of Jane Doe



Another YA read.  Jane, not her real name, moves to a rural Connecticut town, befriends two nerdy guys, falls in love with one of the guys, and then something drastic happens.  You don't really know what happens until the end, although there are lots of hints and you can make an educated guess early on.

This story is less about the dramatic event and much more about the characterization.  What makes us who we are?  Can we change?  Can we defeat what we struggle with?  I really enjoyed this book.


I'll Be Your Blue Sky



This was my first Marisa de los Santos book to read, and I really liked it.  I've heard some mixed reviews, but I was a fan.  It is a time lapse novel, so beware if that's not your thing.

The book switches back and forth between the 1950's and today, telling the story of two women who both are impacted by domestic abuse.  I think Kate Morton is still better at the time lapse genre.  But if there are no new Morton books, this will do!


This Heart of Mine



Hm, I was iffy about this YA read.  Here's the premise:  Leah has a heart disease and needs a heart, Matt's twin kills himself and Leah gets the heart, and (I'm sure you saw this coming) Leah and Matt fall in love.  

Okay, that's fine if that's where it ended.  Maybe a bit of Return to Me style plot?  But the author wants to throw in some mystery as well.  Matt thinks his brother didn't really kill himself, and Matt and Leah are determined to find out what happens.  Also, the ending deals with some big issues, except it doesn't really deal with them, just puts them out there and doesn't handle it.

Yeah, just don't.  


13 Little Blue Envelopes



This book, as do many others, magically appeared on my kindle.  Thanks, Kindle Fairy, aka Mom.  

I wanted to read it because the author also wrote Truly Devious.  In this book, Ginny's peripatetic aunt has passed away and left her with 13 envelopes (which also happen to be little and blue...shocker, right?).  Ginny has to travel all around Europe to discover what's in the envelopes and what her aunt has left her.

Not that crazy, right?  But throw in the fact that Ginny is in high school, super protected, and she can't travel with a cell phone or extra money.  Whew, I was stressed.  Seriously, this book stressed me out.

It wasn't a bad read, if you aren't, by nature, overly anxious.  It really was fun.  But get some traveler's checks, Ginny!


So there's August.  It was a little meh...


Saturday, August 4, 2018

July Books

July is always one of my biggest reading months, and this year was no exception!


A Study in Charlotte



A friend gave this to me for my birthday.  I really like it at first, I got to a point midway where I wasn't sure of my thoughts on it, and then I finished it really liking it.  I'm not usually a book quitter, and I am really glad I didn't quit on this one.

Okay, so the book takes place in an American boarding school, but the main two characters are British.  Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are descendants of the real life Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  Yes, I know that the Holmes stories are fiction, but just pretend they were real people.  Watson and Holmes are classmates who barely know each other, but, when they are both framed for another classmate's murder, they have to work together to clear their names.

The reason I almost put the book down?  It's dark.  I mean, I know that Holmes was addicted to opium, but I don't remember it being as big of a deal in the original books.  This book made it a big part of the story.

But overall, a really interesting book.  The mystery was engaging, and I enjoyed the two main characters.  There are two other books in this series, and I will definitely check them out!


The Beach Club



In the summer, I love to read Elin Hilderbrand novels.  I usually read a couple a summer, because they are the PERFECT summer read.  The Beach Club was her first novel, and I am just now getting around to reading it.

All of Hilderbrand's books take place on Nantucket.  This book weaves together the lives of several Nantucket dwellers: the owner of a summer hotel, his manager, his manager's girlfriend, a couple of hotel staff members and guests.  This wasn't her best novel, but it was a good read.  I like that Hilderbrand's novels aren't super fluffy, even though I think of them as beach reads.


Force of Nature



In my book post from May, I wrote about The Dry.  Force of Nature is the sequel that I referenced.  Aaron Falk is back into the Australian outback, investigating a missing woman.  The woman was on a corporate hiking trip, and her corporation also happens to be under investigation for financial issues.

I really enjoyed this book.  If you are a Tana French fan, this would be a perfect author to read!


All Rights Reserved



This is another book from my YA book order.  I wanted to read this book for two reasons.  First of all, I ordered it and wanted to know what I was recommending to my students.  Second, I want to use it for my first round of book clubs in the fall; it's a dystopian unit!

The premise of this book is that EVERYTHING has been copyrighted: every world, phrase, song, etc.  Not only that, but people have been fined for their ancestor's copyright infringements.  So if your great-great-grandmother downloaded songs illegally (Napster, anyone?), you could now be help responsible.

Speth is born into a family that is hugely in debt, due to their ancestors.  But, on the day in which she would begin paying for her words, she makes a drastic decision: she doesn't talk.  She becomes silent and, in doing so, starts a whole movement.

I did like this book, and I still want to use it with students.  However, I thought the ending was too short and left some plot holes.  But perhaps there will be a sequel? 


Beauty



Ah, I love when books magically appear on my kindle.  And by magically appear, I mean my mom buys books for the family kindle account.  But same thing, right?  Thanks, mom, for getting this one.

Robin McKinley has long been a favorite author of mine.  When I was a middle schooler, I read and reread The Hero and the Crown.  Beauty is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  This book doesn't do what current retellings do, that is, tell the story from the villains point of view or change the plot.  Instead, this story just gives more of a before story about Belle.  

I really enjoyed this book.  It wasn't earth shattering, but it was beautifully written and just a fun book to read.


And Justice There is None


I'm still enjoying picking my way slowly through Deborah Crombie's books.  There are 17 in the series, and I think I have read 6 by now.  What's nice is that, even though there are plot points throughout the books, you don't have to read them in order.  I am able to pick up on what's going on pretty easily.  This means I can just grab whatever Crombie books are at my local library at any given time.

This book was available before my trip down South, so I checked it out.  I won't say anything really about the plot, because it wouldn't mean much.  But, if you like mysteries, especially Louise Penny, this is a good series to check out.


Rules of Civility



More Amor Towles!   After I read and loved A Gentleman in Moscow last month, I wasted no time reading his first book.

Midway through this book, I was so so about it.  I just wasn't sure if I liked it, if it was worth reading, why it got so much hype.  But I finished and am so glad that I did!

This book reminds me a lot of Great Gatsby, in it's style and subject.  I really loved the main character, Katey.  The book covers a year in the life of Katey, starting on New Years Eve, 1937.  I don't want to tell any of the plot because it is so interesting.  You should read this.  And A Gentleman in Moscow.  They are both so good!


Last Night in Montreal



Station Eleven is on my favorites list.  Emily St. John Mandel has a new book out, but, before I read that, I checked out this older book of hers.

Lilia has always been on the road.  Her father kidnapped her from her mother when she was a young child, and they travelled all around the US, stopping for, at the most, a week before moving on.  Now that she is grown up and on her own, even though the danger is past, she can't stop moving.  She leaves her boyfriend of 6 months, Eli, but Eli doesn't simply just let her go.  He tries to find her and, in the search, discovers more about why her father took her.

This book was hauntingly beautiful.  I didn't love it as much as Station Eleven, but it was still a good book.


I've Got My Eyes on You



Mary Higgins Clark needs to retire, and this book is proof of it.  Look, I know Clark isn't the best writer out there.  She is formulaic.  All of her books are slightly similar.  But the books are still engaging!  

This book, however, was the worst book I've ever read of hers.  If she had been my student and had turned this in, I would have handed it right back and made her work on it.  The plot was interesting enough; that wasn't the problem.  Her writing was ATROCIOUS.  This was almost completely dialogue or simple description.  

I just googled her age.  Mary Higgins Clark is 90.  Mary, put down the pen and stop writing!  Or write more with a co-author.


Flight Season



So I am now on the Green Mountain Book Award Committee.  Basically I help curate a list of great books from each year to suggest to high schoolers across the state.  This also means that when I got home from Mississippi, there were three boxes full of the current YA books to read.  Basically my biggest dreams come true.

Flight Season was in the box, and I pulled it out to read first.  Honestly, I thought it has a beautiful cover.  Are we sensing a theme here?  But I got lucky, because the book was also pretty great too.

There are three narrators: Vivi, an ivy league student whose father passed away several months before, TJ, a Brazilian nursing student, and Angel, a Guatemalan illegal immigrant who is dying.  All three narrators are working together in a hospital in St. Augustine for the summer.  None of them like each other in the beginning, but, of course, they end up being entwined together.  

Will this end up on the GMBA list?  I'm not sure.  That's up to other people as well, and I also need to keep reading to compare it to other books of the year.  But I really liked this book.  And it was pretty clean, so a good book for teens to read.