Friday, October 18, 2019

Eliza and Her Monsters

What a treat to read an original story idea, one with which many of my students will connect.

Fact to face, Eliza mirk just wants to disappear. Online, however, she is LadyConstellation, the creator of the most popular webcomic, The Monstrous Sea. Her fandom is legion and would never believe it was written by an anxious and socially awkward teenager, so she keeps her identity secret. Anyone who has ever read a book before knows this isn't going to happen.

As an author of a webcomic, author Francesca Zappia knows how this subculture works, as well as the various ways it is misunderstood by outsiders. For Eliza and her fans, The Monstrous Sea means everything, so it is difficult to understand her identity outside of it. This is so relatable for readers who are trying to establish their identities.

There's so much to love here: a unique look at a world that belongs to many young readers, a romantic relationship that exists outside of traditional gender roles, how families relate (and don't) when their interests vary greatly. I have a list of students to whom I want to hand this book, and I'm excited to check out Zappia's third novel.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Recent Audiobook Reads

Hooray for summer vacation and having a car, which means I can listen to audiobooks as I cruise around. 

I'll Give You the Sun
 by Jandy Nelson

I've been working away at my Goodreads To Read List for the past four months: whenever it was time to choose a new book, I'd go there first and intentionally read the books I listed long ago. I've whittled it down by about 50 titles (this includes children's books) and am feeling happy about my progress. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson has been on my list forever, so I was psyched when I found the audiobook in my library.


But this is not a book best suited for audio format.


There are a lot of family folk remedies that I would have skimmed in book format that was impossible on audiobook.


It also felt so long that I had to just get the hard copy of the book so I could skim through it. It's too bad, because the writing is gorgeous, but it isn't worth the slog.

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

This was an interesting reading experience. I enjoyed listening to this book as I drove around New England.


Then I updated my Goodreads and saw there was a lot of criticism of the book in regards to racism and ableism. I hadn't noticed any of this.


Lesson learned: be on the look out for these problems in books.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Rest of the Story

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen has a new book!

And it's set on a lake!

It has all that you expect from Dessen's novels: family drama, cute boyfriends, and a likable and normal heroine with one or two quirks. In this case, Emma Saylor had anxiety, although it really didn't come up much.

I liked that The Rest of the Story delved into class issues more than Dessen's other books have. This is something that many of Dessen's readers should be thinking about. There is also a plotline about opioid abuse that is timely and so important for teens to read.

I'm greedy for Dessen and the countdown begins for her next book begins now.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Everlost - Second Review!

Everlost by Neal Shusterman

This is a novel that starts with a fatal car accident that traps two teenagers in purgatory, where they must learn the rules of life after death. 
But somehow, it is also funny. 

I love how eclectic Shusterman's books are. They vary so much in theme and topic. You'd never guess that this is the author of Scythe or Dread Locks

Craziest of all (to me), is that I read this book nine years ago and have no recollection of it! 

Here's a link to my more in-depth original review. When does Mommy brain go away?!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

A Few Recent Reads

The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

It's so funny that I was looking up my review of Connor's previous book, All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, and realized I had the same issue with both of her books:


Why do authors do this? Cut 100 pages out and I could hand this to any of my students. But right now, I don't have anyone that I would make slog through the first half to get to the interesting ending. Even I skimmed to get to the action.


It's a good book, but I can't recommend it.


The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

I teach in Asia and I want my students to be reflected on my library shelves. I am so happy to have The Shadow Hero to share with all of them, to learn the history of a little-known comic book character, and to see a comic hero that looks more like them.

Plus, it's funny.

I hope this isn't a one-off and that it becomes a series.

Sunday, June 16, 2019


Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

The 90s are back and I am excited. 

Author Jennifer Mathieu is, too, with this perfect love letter to both 90s and current female rebellion.

I was in high school in the early 90s and always in awe of zine culture and bands like Bikini Kill. I'm glad that this book is introducing these ideas to young people. 

The writing is great, the plot is empowering, and it reminds me of a fun older sister to Celia Perez's The First Rule of Punk. I hope everyone reads it.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Few Recent Reads

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

To be fair, Sachar writes in the prologue that this is a book about playing bridge. And that he knows almost none of his readers care about bridge. Still, he loves the game.


At least Sachar gives summary boxes that allow you to skip the card game play-by-plays and read the human story. I definitely took advantage of that option.


I liked the characters and the plot, but there isn't a single person I can think of that I would recommend it to.


So I'm just going to celebrate me because this was the third book I ever added to my Goodreads "To Read" list and it's been six years that I've been waiting!


The Big Dark by Rodman Philbrick

We end our year with a dystopian unit, which is fun for most students. Unfortunately, most of our dystopian titles are very long, which can leave our developing readers feeling daunted.


I was excited to find The Big Dark, which features all the things that growing readers enjoy: cliffhangers to keep them going, action scenes, and short chapters.


The story is enjoyable, too. After a solar flare knocks out the electricity around the country, people need to do what it takes to survive. This felt realistic, as it is something that could happen.


What I didn't like was the ending, which felt too easy and like Philbrick ran out of time or ideas. It feels a bit insulting to readers after the investment in reading it.


Still, I will be sharing it with my readers who need a successful dystopian experience. But I will be asking them how they think it could end instead.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Still a Work in Progress

Oh man, I love Jo Knowles. Her writing is just so inviting that it's like diving into a warm pool. I just want to hang out in her world. I asked my library to add Still a Work in Progress to the collection, as it's been on my To Read list since 2016 and I just knew it would be great. I was right. 

After many years of reading YA novels, I've seen my share of eating disorder books. But I've never come across a book from the perspective of a younger brother, who really can't relate to what his sister is experiencing, but is worried anyway. Totally unique conceit.

I thought that the family dynamics played out really well, but my favorite part of the book was the friendship between our protagonist, Noah, and his two best friends.

It was such an accurate portrayal of nice kids growing at different rates, loving each other deep down, but also getting frustrated and not knowing why. I see this constantly with my students, so it was great to have a book to share when I see someone struggling with it. 

It also nailed how often seventh graders talk about who is going out with whom.

I loved this book and am now going to request enough copies to use it for book clubs.

A Few Recent Reads

And Then There Were Four by Nancy Werlin

This is one of a list of books that I asked my school library to add to the collection. 
The writing?

Was the plot realistic?

Did I want to know what happened?

Jazz Owls by Margarita Engle

I'm glad the book exists, because I had never heard of the Zoot Suit Riots before.
Which should really be called the Sailor Riot
But that part of the book was so short that the book is mislabeled as being about the riot, when it's really just about the travails of a Mexican family in 1940s California.

Margarita Engle has become hit or miss for me. This one was mostly a miss, as I just couldn't get into it.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

A Few Recent Reads

The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz

This had some serious Princess Bride vibes in the best possible way. The writing is even similar in detail and style.
There's a lot about religion in the novel, but in a way that would make for great family conversations.
I can't wait until my son is old enough to read this together.

Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington

Did you like Savvy by Ingrid Law? You will like this book.
Did I like Savvy?
I did not like this book.