If the first two books I’ve read from this list are any indication, judging the best one will be difficult. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson is a powerful and apropos story for today’s climate. I kept thinking that I’d love to see some of Jade’s art. I love collage. It’s a uniquely beautiful art form and the descriptions of it made me curious. Oh well, I’ll just have to imagine it.
Jade is an artist, a scholar and an all-around bright girl who knows full well that the only way she becomes successful is if she gets out of her neighborhood, maybe even out of Portland. She’s a scholarship kid at a swanky private school, where she’s one of the very few black students. She’s determined to take every opportunity that the school provides; Saturday morning SAT test prep and tutoring are in her regular rotation. One opportunity, though, she’s not sure she wants. She’s been invited to take part in Woman to Woman, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Her mentor, Maxine, is a graduate of the same private school and is black but that doesn’t mean she understands what Jade is dealing with. Still, completion of the program means a scholarship to a good university so Jade decides to hunker down and get what she can out of it. Soon, though, she’s frustrated with everything and decides to teach these women a thing or two about what girls like her really want, really need to be successful. Jade finds her voice and her light which she uses to guide those around her and herself to a whole new level of respect and understanding.
There’s a lot to unpack in this book. Issues of race, police brutality and gender inequality are woven into the narrative of a strong, self-aware young woman determined to be more than just a statistic. Renee Watson is a consummate storyteller, deftly dealing with these charged issues with compassion but with a little bit of a bite. I look forward to reading more from her.
Have you ever read a book so beautifully written that, upon closing your eyes, you can see everything? I am always awed by an author’s ability to use the same words that the rest of us use but in a way that evokes an image that the reader feels a part of it. Inkheart is one such book and that Cornelia Funke’s first language isn’t even English makes it even more astounding. Another book to add to the list is The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. This is one of the VA Reader’s Choice (high school) titles for the 2018-2019 school year.
“I could see where the winds yawned with silver lips and curled themselves to sleep. I could glimpse the moon folding herself into crescents and half-smiles.” Maya is a princess who has been left to her own devices for most of her life. She has free reign of the castle and grounds and takes advantage of it. This day, however, she cannot spend daydreaming. Her father has an announcement about the impending war. From her perch in the rafters, she is shocked when his solution involves marrying her off to appease the rebels. Her days of freedom are over, or so she thinks. As it turns out, being the queen of Akaran gives her the voice she’s never had and a power she never expected. Not all is as it seems in her new kingdom, however. There are doors that are locked to her and secrets hiding behind Amar’s eyes. Soon, she will make a decision that will shake herself and everything around her to the core and she must find her way through the secrets in order to save herself, Amar and the very world she loves.
This story is fantasy, mysticism, and magic; a tapestry woven with human strands that fray and end. It is a story of betrayal and rebuilt trust but most of all, it is a story about the power of love.
If you’ve read YA books at all, you know that they all deal with some sort of teenage issue because teenagers are some of the most interesting people on the planet. I am, of course, biased as I have worked with them for most of my adult career. I started You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Gardner because I like the idea of graffiti. It’s beautiful, complicated, defiant, unruly, emotional…just like most teens. There are a plethora of issues in this book and I was a bit worried that they would steal the focus but in the hands of a good writer, it was just a really good story!
The slur was nasty and Julia could not let that stand. Jordyn is her best (and only) friend so Julia paints over the ugliness with a beautiful mural on the school wall, late at night, without permission. Days later, she is kicked out of her nice, safe school for the deaf. Why? Because Jordyn snitched on her to the principal. Now, Julia is stuck in a regular public school with a t00-perky interpreter and the weight of her two mother’s disappointment. The only thing left to her is her art and she’s not about to give that up. In an effort to carve out her own space, she tags several locations only to find them changed the next day. Not just change but improved. She’s been called out and must answer but at what cost? With some unexpected allies, Julia finds herself in the middle of a graffiti war that touches more than just overpasses and water towers.
Deaf culture, prejudice, lesbian parents (one of whom is Indian-American), graffiti…seems like a lot to tackle in one book but Whitney Gardner expertly weaves them through the tale making it as vibrant and wild as the street art that may just be Julia’s true best friend.
I love to read. The thicker the book the better. A few summers ago, I indulged in the re-reading of the Outlander series…all 8 books. That’s close to 7,000 pages! I absolutely loved every second. Each turn of the page made me feel like I was meeting an old friend. Tears and terror, anger and pain, love and healing kept me up late or early, again. I did this because the television series was beginning the following fall and a new book was coming out. The television series was everything I hoped it would be. The T.V. Jamie was the same man I fell in love with in 1991 when I first read Outlander. The book, however, was a different story…literally.
I don’t like to read short stories. They are, well, short; TOO short. When I get to the end, I’m usually frustrated because I want more. I bought Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, though, because it’s by Diana Gabaldon and I love her books. Still, I wasn’t sure I could trust her to write the kind of stories that wouldn’t leave me hanging on the edge of a cliff by my fingernails during a rainstorm with lightning flashing all around me and nothing but jagged rocks to dash my body to bits waiting below. I shouldn’t have worried, though. She’s Diana Gabaldon, master storyteller and keeper of dreams (I’m still waiting to find my very own Jamie…).
Reading the stories was like savoring my favorite meal. The starter is just enough to whet the whistle for more goodness to come. The main course was full of flavor, complicated and spicy storylines and interesting twists to familiar favorites. Dessert was the perfect blend of sweet and savory with a dash of heat to finish things up. Has this book changed my mind about short stories? Probably not but at least they kept me entertained as I wait for the next REAL Outlander book, Go Tell the Bees I’m Gone. Hurry Up, Diana…we’re all waiting on the edge of that cliff I mentioned earlier!
I have been reviewing books for about 15 years. For the last 10 or so, I’ve used a combination of WordPress for the discussion and Wikipages for my archives. Well, I went to add some reviews the other day but low and behold…Wikipages is going away! Like, poof, leaving the Internet! So, I had to embark on a quest to find a new location for all those reviews. I was forced to use Google sites because it’s a very stripped-down site manager. I can’t even install a search box for people to use to find a specific book! I have to use that because my school system has BLOCKED EVERYTHING ELSE! I’m all for protecting our children from bad stuff on the internet but this county does not allow teachers to have Youtube channels. You can’t download ANYTHING onto your school computer. We, teachers, aren’t even allowed to know the wifi password for our other devices! Boy, I sure miss my days at Lovett or even Montross!
Venting done. I’m sorry that finding books on my site just got harder and I’m still going to search for a better solution for archiving my reviews but, until then, we are all stuck!
No matter how you deal with it, losing someone hurts. It leaves a them-shaped hole in your soul. In the book Words in Deep Blue, Rachel has pushed her grief deep inside. So deep, in fact, that she feels almost nothing at all. She has finished school, for now, and has moved back to where she grew up; back to where the boy who was her best friend and secret crush (who broke her heart) lives. No one there, save her aunt, knows about her brother’s death. They do know that something has changed the once-carefree girl into a quiet, sometimes cruel person. Her one refuge is the bookshop where she works but it is also a curse because “The Boy”, also known as Henry, works there, as well. As they work together, they find a comfortable rhythm. Her job is to catalog the stories in the Letter Library. It is the heart and soul of the bookstore where people have left notes to others, known and unknown, inside of books. His job is to help his slowly disintegrating family decide whether to sell their beloved bookshop or not. Together, they reveal themselves to each other and help heal the hurt that each one caused.
Cath Crowley’s poignant love story is powerful and sweet, painful and healing. The characters move through their own lives like feathers on the wind, coming to rest at odd places but always picking up bits and pieces along the way. Her “Letter Library” is a brilliant creation; one that every bookstore and library needs.
John Green has long been one of my favorite authors. His books are fabulous and he and his brother Hank, the Vlogbrothers, have the best videos around. They tackle all kinds of topics and issues with humor and insight. They also educate. Their history/civics videos, in particular, would spice up any high school classroom and help students understand our past.
John’s new book, Turtles All the Way Down, takes on an issue that is closer to him than most; mental illness, specifically, OCD. He speaks about it on his Youtube channel. With tenderness and humor, he gives us a glimpse into his world and what it feels like to be stuck in a spiral. In particular, the scene when Aza and Daisy are in the tunnel and Aza uses the situation to help Daisy understand a little of what she goes through each day is poignant and heartbreaking.
Spirals are cool looking figures. They seem to continue in an ever-tightening, infinite circle. Aza is not particularly fond of spirals, though. Her thoughts can sometimes corkscrew out of control and take her with them. It might start as a simple question, “Did you change your band-aid this morning?” Then, as fast as a machine gun, more questions, doubts, terror crowds out her world and all she knows is the spiral. Her best friend Daisy has stuck by her for most of their lives, no matter what. When the two girls decide to play detective and find the town’s missing millionaire who disappeared under suspicious circumstances, their road diverges into uncharted territory for Aza; boys, a particular boy named Davis Pickett who also happens to be the missing millionaire’s son. It’s a roller coaster ride for Aza as she figures out a way to navigate the budding relationship with Davis, maintain her friendship with Daisy, and also deal with her worsening OCD symptoms. It all comes to a head with a crash and Aza must learn to move forward even if it hurts.
I first discovered Mr. Anderson at a conference in Atlanta when I first started at The Lovett School. I was awed. He was articulate, funny, handsome, did I mention funny? Since then, I have read everything he’s written. I am still awed and he is still articulate, funny, handsome and really, freaking funny! I just finished his latest book, which is sci fi meets Pleasantville with a dash of Mean Girls thrown in for effect.
Adam is an aspiring artist with fantastic talent when the vuvv invaded. Was it really an invasion, though? The vuvv offered free advanced technology and the cure for every disease on Earth. As it turns out, yes, it was. There are very few jobs because vuvv tech has replaced human workers and completely decimated the Earth’s environment in the process. Those miraculous cures are impossibly expensive. Adam makes some creative sacrifices to help his family endure the impossible hardships but soon enough, he must decide how far he’s willing to go and what he’s willing to surrender for their survival.
Every form of media uses them. We all know why…they want you to come back next season or buy the next book, right? And it works EVERY TIME because who doesn’t want to know what happens? Does your favorite character survive? If not, what impact will this have on the other characters and the story? Just how attached are you to him or her? Many authors are quite adept at the cliff hanger but none more than Cassandra Clare, author of the Immortal Instruments and the Infernal Instruments series. Her latest is the Dark Artifices series. The saga began with Lady Midnight and the young Shadowhunters of the Los Angeles Institute. When last we saw Julian, Emma and their passel of children (Julian’s younger siblings), they had lost more than most people do in a lifetime. They were healing, but that didn’t end the problems for the valiant young people. Julian had a full plate. He was basically running the Institute and raising his siblings since his older brother and sister were taken away from him. Still, they had allies, people they trusted to help. Unfortunately, there are few people whose betrayals hurt more than those we trust the most. When the worst happens, they land roughly on their feet and begin to pick up the pieces. In Lord of Shadows, Mark has returned to them, but he’s a bit at sea as to his role in a family that has grown up without him. With mounting pressure to find The Black Volume and what is causing the influx of sea demon attacks, Julian and Emma have to keep things together but keep themselves apart to keep their secret. Keeping secrets is what Julian is best at, making him calculating, sometimes vicious when there are threats against his family. Not everything is peaceful outside of Los Angeles either. A battle is brewing within the Shadowhunter community which threatens to tear apart their ancient bonds. The family is called to account for the nefarious activities of their institute when suddenly a dagger flashes and finds its mark; Thus ends the book!
I can tell you that I actually cried out, “No way!” A bit embarrassing as I was at Panera eating my breakfast. The worst part? I now have about a year to wait to find out what happens next!!!
With Cliffhangers, I have a love-hate relationship.
We’ve all read the stories about Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, Alice and their evil counterparts, Grimhilde (The Evil Queen), Mother Gothel (Disney version), Wicked Stepmother, and The Queen of hearts. Did you ever wonder how they came to be evil or wicked? There has been a spate of authors who have wondered and have stepped up to answer. Gregory McGuire tackled the Wicked Witch of the West in his book Wicked. Marissa Meyer took on Wicked Stepmother in her series The Lunar Chronicles (which had a steampunk bent…another of my favorite things). While not a step-by-step guide to becoming villainous, you can read between the lines. Will their back stories make them a little less evil? Maybe you will relate to their plight?
Marissa has stepped into the ring once again with her book Heartless, hoping that she doesn’t lose her head.
Cath is bright, energetic, happy girl living in the magical world of Wonderland. she is the only daughter of doting parents who want all the best for her. Like most girls, Cath has dreams about what she wants to do with her life. Unlike most girls, they don’t include marriage to the king! Rather, Cath wants to open a bakery with her best friends and fill all of Wonderland with fantastical confections. At the ball, the king was supposed to propose to her but her life took a side step when she met Jest, an exotic stranger who tugs mightily at Cath’s heartstrings. In secret, she and Jest enter into a courtship that will bring pleasure, pain and, ultimately, grave danger to all of Wonderland. With her heart on the line, what path will Cath choose?