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