RSS

Category Archives: Young Adult

… and scene

How perfect that this week is the final week of the #edublogsclub blogging challenge (a few weeks shy of a full year) and this past weekend I completed the Rae Carson Gold Seer trilogy. Into the Bright Unknown’s book birthday was Thursday, so I dutifully went to the bookstore to pick it up and read as quickly and slowly as possible because I knew it was the end. Likewise, when Edublogs announced several weeks back that they would be finishing out the challenge on week 40, I couldn’t help but be sad too. So I savored prompt 39 and now write slowly for my last one, knowing it will be the last.

IntotheBrightUnknownCarson’s book was a riveting ending that didn’t quite have the explosions and bang bang shoot ’em up that book number two did nor was it the magic of being introduced to a strong female character, Leah Westfall, in the first (you can never get back that first-read feeling). This book felt mature. It was about each of the ragtag group that trudged through the American west to set up Glory together, all while the pains of prejudice and lawlessness reigned. Carson was so vivid in her descriptions of the west and then California where most of the third book takes place that I actually dreamed of the west.  It was a fitting ending and I won’t spoil it for you here, but there is hopefulness for the future of the fictional characters and a completeness to their story.

There is also hopefulness for the future of my blogging. I flexed the muscle of talking more about education rather than just books and it felt good. While I won’t always post about education and libraries in the future, I will incorporate those thoughts when necessary and in the context of my own professional interests around being a dutiful librarian. And for me, that means reading way more than I could possibly recommend so that I always have something to recommend to every reader. It means coming up with unique programs that keep students engaged and thinking. It means listening to and connecting with the students, our future. Edublogs did rev that engine and I thank them for that. I also connected with another school librarian named Alicia who works at a high school library whose initials are also AHS. You know, same thing: Edublogs inspiring me to be a better educator through blogging and also setting educators up on blind dates. Totally equal.

KissLips

So, thank you Rae Carson for writing yet another fierce trilogy that made me sad to have to walk away. Luckily, I’ll have the books on my bookshelf as a memory of the good times we had. And thank you Edublogs for inspiring thoughtful dialogue among its practitioners and giving me tons of posts to look back on including these which are my favorites from our time together: 1) Folders, folders everywhere, 2) Creative expression, 3) “So, professional development should…”, 4) The swinging pendulum, and 5) Worth a thousand words.

 

Advertisements
 

Insta-reviews

I’ve written before about completing Riotgrams Instagram challenges– a photo each day for a month around the prompt set forth that usually aligns in part with holidays, seasons, and suggestions from Book Riot‘s followers. I thought I’d share some book recommendations based on the prompts and my pictures so far this month. Keep in mind it’s only October 15th, which means there’s still a half of a month to go!

2017-10-14 08.43.42Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs is an addition to the Miss Peregrine’s series. This book is a collection of short stories written under the guise of a historian for peculiars and tells the tall tales that only another peculiar can tell. Some are light-hearted but some are downright depressing. But it brings out the best in Riggs’ creativity and is a perfectly natural (see what I did there?) addition to the family of books.

This post’s inspiration was “books in nature”.

 

 

 


2017-10-09 11.40.35The Round House by Louise Erdrich is an adult novel written in 2012 that is a multi-layered and emotionally-draining portrayal of a family torn apart on the North Dakota reservation of the Ojibwe tribe. This is the kind of book you dive into with every fiber of your being and continue to think about after you’re finished. It’s likely a book I will re-read when I don’t often do that.

This post’s inspiration was “Native and indigenous reads.” 

 

 


2017-10-10 19.19.47-1Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson is the final book in her Gold Seer trilogy that I finished about fifteen minutes ago. I bought it on it’s book birthday because I had to have it and finished it within a few days, though if I could ignore adulthood, I could have been done the following day. Carson demonstrates the facets of immigration and race relations in the 1850s during the Gold Rush though it began years before that in the south after Leah’s parents were murdered and she needed to run, hiding herself in plain sight as a boy and meeting up with a band of interesting people all pushing their way west. If I can provide more encouragement to read the series, know that I had at least one night of dreams set in the wild West myself that demonstrates Carson’s command of setting.

This post’s inspiration was “books & candy”.


2017-10-04 08.01.19Dear Fahrenheit 451: A Librarian’s Love Letters and Break-Up Notes to the Books in Her Life by Annie Spence is a must-read for librarians (duh) and avid book lovers. Her uniquely humorous style provides glimpses into her reading habits and her life. Her and I are kindred spirits because we share an all-time book favorite The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Her approach had me laughing and smirking making for awkward public interactions. But readers certainly can find ways to incorporate this style– a love letter to your books– into some epic internal conversations or as part of your next book group meeting. Love, Alicia.

This post’s inspiration was “current read.”


2017-10-03 16.03.30-1And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard has one of my favorite covers. So while it’s not winter and I wasn’t going to dress in all-black, you get the point. This young adult novel features poetry and inspiration from Emily Dickinson in one of the ways I appreciate contemporary YA authors– bringing back the old by incorporating it into the new. The main character has experienced something tragic and is now at a boarding school and channeling Emily Dickinson to heal. The mystery unfolds over the course of the book and readers get to go back in time and revisit some of Emily Dickinson’s best poetry while Hubbard flexes her own poetry muscles and has Emily writing her own which is just as beautiful.

This post’s inspiration was “three word titles.”


2017-10-11 15.34.27Lab Girl by Hope Jahren is an adult biography that I have recommended widely since reading. While I will never know what it’s like to be a scientist, I felt like I understood the life of one, with the added benefits of chronicling Jahren’s personal life alongside her academic one. Without a doubt, it is eloquently written and organized in a studious manner, with three sections being named for plant life weaving these plants into the story of her own life and her lab partner. It’s as serious as it is cerebral with commentary on mental health, family, friendship, and science itself.

This post’s inspiration was “underrated read”. 

 

Bad, difficult, and nowhere

Over the last several weeks, I’ve read titles that deal with girls in bad places, girls taking a stand as “nowhere girls”, and an adult essay collection by Roxane Gay called Difficult Women. To say that #shepersisted would be an understatement.

GirlinaBadPlaceThe first, Girl in a Bad Place by Kaitlin Ward is a copy I’m reviewing for VOYA, so you can read the full review there, but suffice it to say that when a girl is in trouble, sometimes she finds the path of least resistance and when that path leads to dangerous individuals, it’s important to have a girl friend to keep it real.

TheNowhereGirlsAnd keepin’ it real is what a group of girls in The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed does when a new girl moves in to the house formerly housing another student who moved after a traumatic rape. The school and community’s lack of justice for her and subsequent girls who have tolerated this behavior are ready to stand and fight led by three very unique girls who empower others’ voice. Erin’s autism is useful as she continually discusses how she is underestimated by others. Rosina’s pressures include the conservative Mexican-American expectations of her family as she explores her sexuality and sense of duty. Then there’s Grace, the new girl, who provides fresh perspective couched in a liberal church community that her mother heads. What is admirable and respected in the story are the richness of the voices, but the very real conversations Reed has with her readers.

DifficultWomenAnd while the third book is an adult essay collection with a great deal of sexual content, the rawness of the approach is what won me over. I hadn’t read any of Gay’s other works that include Bad Feminist and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body so I cannot speak to those but each story while sometimes with similar character profiles or development allows for reflection. I’m the first one to admit I love dark books and this one fits the bill as Cornelius Nepos says “after darkness comes the light.”

So, explore womanhood in its many forms in these three newer books.

 

Four before you go any further

As the school year peaks around the corner (staff go back tomorrow), I want to round up a few of my favorite reads in the past few weeks. Of course this excludes graphic novels since I sit on a selection committee and must keep my lips zipped on those. So, without further delay…

  • Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
    • I’m obsessed with fairy tales that are atmospheric and Martin is seamless in her storytelling about two sisters, Snow and Rose whose father has gone missing in the woods which forces their mother and them to move into a tiny cabin in the woods. As they wander the forest and meet the people of the woods who are hellbent on finding out what beast is making their loved ones disappear, they soon discover that the mystery wasn’t so far away the entire time. It’s a mesmerizing tale.
  • Patina by Jason Reynolds
    • The second in his middle grade Track series, I couldn’t help but write the word yes over and over in my Goodreads review. It is every reason Reynolds is seated at the helm of YA and middle grade powerhouse writers. I look forward to my retirement many decades from now and still reading and sharing his books. He has become timely and timeless.
  • Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
    • I had my husband bring home flowers specifically to photograph alongside the cover for a bookstagram shot. While only a small amount of the book takes place in the flower shop, I couldn’t help myself. But I did also pose it with a compendium of Shakespeare in acknowledgement of our bookish co- main character, Lionel aka Lion. This book is full of heart, featuring a wide array of primary and secondary characters including some fabulous adults. I want more fabulous adults featured in YA books! But topics including sexuality, attraction, mental health, religion, and self-discovery are prevalent in an honest and heartwarming combination.
  • If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer Armentrout
    • This was my first Armentrout and it was a recommendation from a local bookstore especially when she found out I was a high school librarian. Ever make a decision you wholeheartedly regret? Lena was upset and got into a car (sober) with friends who were drunk. The car crashed and she was the lone survivor. As much as the book focuses on the darkness of these deaths and the months of recuperation, there’s also a more positive message about how waiting until tomorrow whether it be about finding a way to move on, saying yes to a love interest, or staying positive even if you’re going through hell. Certainly food for thought and a unique blend of a lighter romance coupled with a serious disaster.

If these weren’t on your radar or you were putting them off, put them at the top of the pile. And once you’ve read and adored them, give them a hug from me.

 
 

Cover Love

Covers are integral for selling a book without having to say a word (as well as titles, but that is a blog post for another day). If put on the spot, the kind of covers I drool over are Sarah Cross’ Beau Rivage series, Ellen Hopkins hardcovers, George O’Connor’s Olympains graphic novels, and standalones that capture the mood of the book like Out of Darkness and And We Stay.

So I took the opportunity to capture the beauty of a new book to be released in October that I had an advanced copy for, E.K. Johnston’s (Exit, Pursued by a Bear) That Inevitable Victorian Thing. Not only is the cover art gorgeous, when you really look at it, the artist understood the book as well. Plus, the content is an intriguing alternate history with GLBTQ characters, picturesque settings, and lovable secondary characters.

2017-08-06 21.17.06

Teens will keep interested in the content, but likely what will draw them in if a librarian isn’t there to recommend it is the cover. What other covers do you adore? I can say for certainty that I would poster-print Cross’ covers and hang as wall art if I had the wall space. Well… we are remodeling our house, so maybe this is a real possibility.

2017-07-04 15.44.24

Then, what’s really underneath it all, too? Anne Blankman shared her love for the hardcover where publishers put thought into what’s underneath. Understandably I now strip all my hardcovers to see what’s underneath. Ever done it? You should, you might be a winner! Pun intended– because the last book that I fell in love with was You May Already Be a Winner for it’s navy hardcover with a complimenting golden ribbon along the spine.

Your mission next time you’re holding a book in your hands is to take a few minutes to appreciate the design of the cover. And if it’s a hardcover, see what’s underneath it all *wink wink*.

 
 

They’re not just words, but a full orchestration on bathroom walls

WordsonBathroomWallsSites like Edelweiss and Netgalley that provide advanced reader copies of titles are perfect for the librarians who want to get ahead. We want to know what’s coming soon, so the books are on the next shipment in upon publication. My strategy on both sites is never say, strategic, it is more about surveying the landscape: a mix of new authors and seasoned ones, series that I follow, or topics that are trending. Oftentimes with topics and trends, it’s taking a leap of faith on new authors usually because of a snappy summary, awesome title, or eye-grabbing cover.

I can’t remember exactly why I chose to request Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton but likely it was the tag regarding mental health. Now I admit, everything related to this topic is reflected against Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep *cue book hug and swoon.* So when I got a few pages in… and then a few pages more… and then full chapters and chapters until I was ignoring everything else to finish it, I was blown away by my response to a book about a male teenager with diagnosed schizophrenia undergoing a new experimental drug and seeing a therapist while changing schools and meeting an intelligent life force in a girl named Maya.

  1. A female writer capturing the insights of a male protagonist so well that I went back twice to remind myself that she was in fact a female writer.
  2. How can this book make me laugh when the book is also seriously discussing schizophrenia in a teenager? It is a beautiful dichotomy and portrays the humanity of all, including those with a mental health issue.
  3. The familial relationships are (just one of many) very real representations of families. There are healthy adult relationships, divorce, loving parents, grandparents, new babies, broken relationships, and more.
  4. Sex. The funny, the true, the butterflies, the necessary conversations that Adam wanted to have with readers about his experiences with Maya. Adam was indeed the most memorable character, though I found Paul, Adam’s stepdad a unique voice in Adam’s narrative. The conversation in which Paul tells Adam where to find condoms in the bathroom was just perfect.
  5. I panicked at the very beginning as it is epistolary and I briefly eye-rolled at the cliche, but it worked. So well. Seeing a therapist and not wanting to talk, so he talks and takes jabs in writing. It worked. So well.
  6. It references the historical event in Newtown, Connecticut from December 2012 when a mentally unstable young man took the lives of twenty-six people: twenty school children and six adults. This was a memorable scene and quote for me as a reader

“They didn’t mean you, Adam.”

“They did, they just didn’t know they meant me.” I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling, when I learned what someone would say if they knew my secret. What they really thought about people with my condition. Not the fake comforting words they’d give that other people would hear. The real words in their heart. If they knew I was a threat, they’d tell me to kill myself. They’d think I was a monster.

I will tell you that I had no less than thirteen quotes, highlighted paragraphs, or bookmarked pages that I wanted to revisit once I finished reading it and plenty of experiences that Adam references that helped me better understand (albeit fictionalized but researched) a person with schizophrenia. At one point Adam discusses the very real problem of not knowing whether music playing when he’s entering a Starbucks is really playing inside the Starbucks rather than in his brain. He uses cues from other people quite frequently to filter out his brain versus reality.

Walton’s portrait is a fully-realized masterpiece that I can only compare to a symphony. Each element of story is tuned to perfection and that is a testament to her writing ability and gift for storytelling. This book has sat with me each day since reading it like others than capture a fundamental story.

So before I finish, I’ll share other recent books that capture a fundamental narrative that I advise reading:

  1. The Serpent King by Jeffrey Zentner (relationships, aspirations and goals, family)
  2. Bad Girls with Perfect Faces by Lynn Weingarten (revenge, relationships)
  3. Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (legacy, friendship)
  4. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (choices, family)
  5. Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist (choices, self-discovery, savvy)

FiveFundamental

 
 

Red, white, and blue titles

USA

Not necessarily red, white, and blue covers, but sharing American experiences. I realized I could write multiple posts on favorite titles (both fiction and nonfiction) that discuss the American experience, but I’ll share a few that highlight different time periods in the history of the United States of America.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Seeds of America trilogy

Last year I reviewed the final book in the series, Ashes, as an appropriate, haunting, and gorgeous finale to her series highlighting the American revolution. The sisters Isabel and Ruth and the most vivid character, Curzon, delve into the harshness of the revolution, especially along color lines and the reality of those that fought for freedom and those that they left at home.

The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi

This is a young reader’s edition both sentimental and uplifting of Welles Crowther, a young man who helped rescue people inside the Twin Towers after the planes struck on September 11th. Crowther died when the towers fell, but it’s the signature red bandanna given to him at a young age that survivors were able to identify after the fact, making him a national figure that then-President Barack Obama knew. Rinaldi’s nonfiction account recognizes Crowther’s heroism and bravery.

Don Brown’s graphic novels Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans and The Great American Dust Bowl 

These graphic novels demonstrate the power of a graphic novel in that both provide a visual narrative of traumatizing and debilitating events in different parts of our country. And Brown’s rich style breaks readers’ hearts through pictures of grief and loss with several panels so bold that they’re mesmerizing.

I’ll certainly revisit the idea of books about American history in future posts, but in the meantime, learn about the revolution, dust bowl, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina with these titles in a variety of genres and formats.