Category: Children’s Lit

My domain name has expired but my blog lives on

I just realized I am guilty of a thing that I hate that other people do: not putting Goodreads links (or Amazon or wherever) for books I’m currently reading. I will no longer make that mistake.

Hello! This has been a whirlwind week. First, I have to say I am officially OFFICIALLY on vacation now. I know I said I was on vacation last week (and I was), but I had to wrap up some search committee work, which meant I had to go to work twice. TWICE. That does not count as vacation, especially since I had to (a) set my alarm and (b) go to work and do work. Interviews! Work.

Anyway, it’s over now, and I have three months with no teaching or search committees ahead of me.

A funny thing keeps happening to me. I cannot for the life of me remember what I am planning to do in my classes in the fall. I always remember three of the four assignments I have planned. And it’s only ever three. Usually it’s the same three, but this time it’s a different three. My plan is to put the missing assignment in my phone as soon as I remember.

But I digress.

Continue reading

Welp, it’s definitely not Monday, but I still read some things

This was a good weekend. I went to a wedding, which…I love weddings. I don’t ever want to have a wedding (at least not in the traditional sense), but they are a delight. Anyway, the couple was super cute and happy even if there was a slight rain delay. (It’s been bone dry for weeks so of course it finally rains on the day of their wedding. Of course.)

Anyway, some slight changes had to be made to accommodate the weather, but everything after that was two thumbs up, fine holiday fun.

Then, on Sunday, my daughter and I went to my parents’ to spend Mother’s Day with my mom, and we taught my daughter how to play Spades. She’s almost ready for college for real now.

We also watched Miss India America, which is really cute and fun and a great example of a compelling, though mostly unlikable protagonist. It’s also streaming on Netflix. Ahem.

Continue reading

It’s Monday & Tropical Storm Colin is ruining my plans

I should be at the gym is what I’m saying. But no. Bands of rain with squall lines are coming through. RUDE.

This past week, I read:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounding up

Great characters, EXCELLENT ending. Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda is an A+ narrator. Will review on the blog.

 

Royal Day Out: A From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess e-shortRoyal Day Out: A From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess e-short by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I. Love. Grandmère.

That is all.
 

 

Kill the Boy BandKill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I made it about 1/3 of the way through this book and just could not bring myself to pick it back up again.

I find all of the characters grossly offensive and problematic on pretty much every level. If the author was aiming for satire, she missed. By a lot.

View all my reviews

 

As of today, I’m reading:

Dear Bill, Remember Me? by Norma Fox Mazer

I am still making my way through my library book sale finds, so I started Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories by Norma Fox Mazer last night. It’s a definite palate cleanser after Kill the Boy Band.

I’m currently listening to some podcasts so my audiobook adventures are on hold for now. However, I’m going to have to start packing soon (as in, I should have started yesterday), so I should really get on finding my next read.

Happy reading, everyone!

It’s Monday & I’m smashing my stack while listening to Lin-Manuel Miranda

This past week, I read:

Ender's Shadow (Shadow, #1)Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was fine, but a little dry mostly because it’s very interior and about a kid who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else thinking about how much smarter he is than everyone else. The only problem is that set up leaves little room for interaction with other characters and is, you know, kind of boring. But it was interesting enough for me to finish, so.

Sister Carlotta’s sections were pretty great, though. And I wasn’t that fond of the chapter beginnings. They were unnecessarily vague in places and would have worked better as actual scenes.

 

Royal Wedding Disaster (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, #2)Royal Wedding Disaster by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Suuuuuuper cute with lots of laugh out loud moments. I am extremely tickled that Olivia finds Grandmère to be a comforting presence, but that’s the benefit of a different POV.

These books are just similar to and different from the original Princess Diaries series to delight old fans like me. Although, I do wish Olivia’s nemesis wasn’t basically a mini-Lana.

View all my reviews

 

Last week, I posted:

[wrap-up-posts week=”20″ year=”2016″ listtype=”ul”]

I’m already smashing my stack because I totally pulled Ender’s Shadow right off my shelf. (It was gifted to me several years ago–so long ago that I actually can’t remember when. And, yes, I just got around to reading it. That’s just how I roll.)

 

As of today, I’m reading:

A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich by Alice Childress

In more #SmashYourStack news, I have decided to tackle A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich by Alice Childress (which I just found out was made into a movie starring Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield! So there’s that).

My daughter is so confused by my reading choices right now. Most of the books I’ll be reading from my own shelves are from the ’80s, and I had a small pile of them on my bed.

Her: “Why are you reading all of these old books?”
Me: “Because we’re moving, and I want to read them so I don’t have to pack them.”
Her: *makes a face*

Linda Cooney is up next, basically. Ah, nostalgia. (I bought almost all of these books from the Friends of the Library book sale so will re-donate them to be re-sold to raise even more money for the library.)

 

Aristotle & Dante

 

Call it the Hamilton effect, but I totally just started listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz because Lin-Manuel Miranda mentioned on Twitter that he narrated it. I can’t find the Tweet, so here is the FB post:

 

I had started this book a couple of years ago but didn’t finish because I had hit my no assigned reading during the summer wall (my book club selected it). However, I always planned to get back to it. Turns out LMM was just the boost I needed. And now I get to take him on my morning walks with me.

(And I just found out LMM narrates The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I finished earlier this year. I totally would have listened to that one, too!)

Anyway, I’m enjoying it so far, so that’s nice.

 

Happy reading, everyone!

Armchair BEA 2016: On Audiobooks & Book Clubs

I love audiobooks, but I have to admit that I was nervous to start listening to them. My concern was mostly that I wouldn’t pay attention and would miss a bunch of stuff as a result. However, I found that to be the exact opposite of my experience.

Still, my first foray into audiobooks started with me listening to a book I had already read: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I figured that was a safe way to figure out if audiobooks were for me or not. Because, hey, if I found that I couldn’t pay attention, it wouldn’t really matter since I had already read the book.

Well, I paid attention, and I was hooked. In fact, listening to HP in the car is how I finally got my daughter into the books. We listened to the whole series as we did road trips over the course of about a year. We also make it a habit now to check out audiobooks before going on a road trip–whether we wind up listening to them or not.

Audiobooks are a great way to bond with children or other family members because you have a shared reading experience and someone else gets to read to you. So, here are five audiobooks that I recommend for family bonding, using me and my daughter as the foolproof sample:

1. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (read by Jim Dale) — I am not 100% in love with Jim Dale as a narrator, mostly because his Hermione and Luna Lovegood are both absolutely horrid. However, his overall narration is pretty good. Plus, the Stephen Fry version isn’t available Stateside. So we just gotta make do with what we got.

2. The Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park (read by Lana Quintal) — She is hilarious. Also, you can easily listen to multiple books in the series because they’re so short.

3. The Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look (read by LeUyen Pham) — Also hilarious. Also really short.

4. Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money by Christopher Paul Curtis (read by Joe Holt) — Super hilarious. Also, there is a sequel, but my library doesn’t have it in audio form which is the saddest sad to ever sad.

5. Witch Week and Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones (read by Gerard Doyle) — These were less funny and more completely engaging and enthralling. Also, there are more books in the Chrestomanci series, but those are the only two we listened to, so I can’t rec the whole series. Plus, the other books may have different narrators and Gerard Doyle is perfection.

I should also note that we listened to most of these books when my daughter was a teenager even though a lot of them are kiddie lit and not YA.

 

book club

 

I belong to two book clubs: one that meets during the school year and is full of awesome moms (The No Rules Book Club) and one that meets during the summer and is full of awesome grad students/academics (Children’s Lit Summer Reading Book Club). The school year one meets once a month from September – May and the summer one meets every week (give or take one or two) May – August.

The pros of being in a book club include getting together with awesome people to talk about books, eating delicious food, and being exposed to books I might not otherwise read. The biggest con to being in book club is assigned reading. Just like in school, sometimes I like the book and sometimes I don’t. And sometimes I’m fine with reading something that someone else has picked while other times I just want to read the book I want to read.

Unfortunately, I have a reputation in the No Rules club for not liking the books. However, it’s not that I don’t like them. It’s more that I’m just critical of them. I studied literature and creative writing. I don’t read like normal people.

And to prove that I don’t always hate the books, I have compiled a list of five book club books I dug that I would not have picked up on my own:

1. The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty — I saw lots of people posting about this after I read it. But I still probably would have skipped it. Not YA and I don’t really care about stories focused on marriage.

2. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford — This was nowhere near on my radar.

3. One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern — See #2.

4. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd — See #2. Also, this is a book about slavery. I do NOT read books about slavery anymore.

5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (read by Edward Hermann) — A biography of a WWII vet? Absolutely not my thing. Also, I found this book completely boring when I tried to read it on paper, so I checked out the audiobook because sometimes the medium matters and wound up completely into it. Edward Hermann is FANTASTIC. I would listen to anything else he narrates. Plus also, I almost put this on the audiobook list above because my daughter listened to a little bit with me and was also intrigued (not enough to make me wait to listen to it with her, however, hence its exclusion from the list).

Bonus: Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale — See #2. This is also now one of my favorite books of all time and therefore further proof that sometimes magic can happen in book club.

Okay, party people, tell me what audiobooks you recommend for family bonding and/or a book club pick someone else chose that you wound up digging.

Combo Weekly/Monthly Round-Up (It’s Monday, y’all!)

My eye issue has mostly resolved, so I should be able to keep up with blogs more from now, which is a definite yay. I missed posting last week, so this is a two-fer (though, technically, I guess it’s a three-fer). I read some books is what I’m saying. Let’s get to it.

This past week, I finished:

To Catch a Cheat (The Great Greene Heist, #2)To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars, rounding up

I love everything about this book (okay, almost everything, hence the 1/2 star deduction), including the cover. So fun! It gave me a happy.

View all my reviews

The week before that, I finished:

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor (An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman)Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harriet Tubman is your OG, and you will respect her as such. Harriet Tubman is a complete and total badass. This book is A++ in showing that and giving an overview of her life. Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun.

Nathan Hale’s art is amazing, and he presents slavery in an unflinching and honest way, which is important given discussions around how children’s books are failing to do that right now.

Read Harder 2016: Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography)

View all my reviews

 

Watson and Holmes - A Study In BlackWatson and Holmes – A Study In Black by Karl Bollers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was solid.

I only have two complaints: (1) There were a couple of glaring typos in the first couple of pages and (2) the art work in the epilogue is completely different from the other chapters and it was my least favorite of all the art.

Otherwise, intriguing and an interesting/fun new take on Holmes.

Read Harder 2016: Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years

View all my reviews

 

Jessica Jones: Alias, Vol. 1Jessica Jones: Alias, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first started this book, I didn’t care much for the art–a little too dark and muddled. However, as the story progressed and Jessica’s came out of her depression, the art work shifted. It was subtle, and it worked.

I like Jessica. I liked this. And that ending? Man.

View all my reviews

 

Yes, Chef: A MemoirYes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars, rounding down

So. Here’s the thing. Marcus Samuelsson has led a fascinating life, and I enjoyed reading about it. But at one point, he reveals that he has a daughter, and he decides to be an absentee father while he pursues his dreams. Which, you know, is fine if that’s the choice he wanted to make. But all I could think as he was talking about his time gallivanting around the world as a chef is “Yeah, but what about Zoe?”

WHAT ABOUT ZOE, MARCUS?

So that tempered my enjoyment quite a bit.

Also, hot tip to all the absentee/deadbeat parents in the world: do not thank the parent who actually did the work of raising the child. That probably annoys me more than women who say their husbands are “babysitting” the children.

Read Harder 2016: Read a food memoir

View all my reviews

 

So, all in all, January was:

A good reading month! I read 15 books, 5 of which counted for the Diversity on the Shelf challenge. I am running at lower than 50% reads by/about POC, so I want to improve on that next month. We’ll see how it goes. I also read three 5-star books. Wouldn’t it be nice if 20% of my reads this year turn out to be 5-star reads?

As of today, I’m reading:

The Light Between Oceans is slow-going so far, but it’s for book club so I shall power through. I am not sure yet how I feel about Re Jane. I dig a lot of the changes the author has made (I especially love how she deals with the madwoman in the attic–brilliant!) (also, love the word play in the title). However, this Jane is planning to do something original Jane just would not do AT ALL, so I am not sure if I’ll be able to keep reading if this Jane does something the original Jane wouldn’t. I am not even particularly enamored of the original, but I guess even I have my limits. So. We shall see how that goes.

Original now hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children's lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts &  Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Original now hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children’s lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Happy reading, everyone!

Audiobook Review: Smek for President!

Bahni Turpin is a delight. She’s the narrator for this book, and I love the way she did Tip’s voice. Tip sounds exactly the way I expect a 13-year-old who has saved the world with the help of her alien best friend to sound: a little world-weary but still uncertain. Also, the Boovs were awesome. I loooooved the way she voiced them.

This book was a lot of fun. I listened to it on the way to and from work on the bus, and I was often smiling or laughing along. The characters are great. Tip and J.Lo are, of course, the best, but the other characters they encounter on the way are all memorable and well-drawn. Including Dan Landry, that jerk.

This book deals with some heavy topics (loss, grief, rebellion, politics, displacement) with humor and grace. I absolutely LOVED the political commentary in the book. The New Boovworld presidential election looks a lot like what’s happening in the Republican party right now. So, basically, everything is a mess, and it’d be funny if it weren’t so serious. (Except it’s funny in the book because it’s fiction! And ridiculous!)

Tip is a bit of an arrogant American traveler, and there’s this great bit where J.Lo goes off on her because she didn’t bother to learn the flash cards with common Boov sayings on them that he had given her, which lands them in a jam. “Goes off” is a bit harsh, probably. He does fuss at her, though, and it’s hilarious. So there are lots of little moments like that in the book.

Though J.Lo and Tip are on an intergalactic adventure, the heart of the story is still their friendship and the meaning of family.

All in all, a really fun read and great way to spend my commute. And now I really want to see Home, which is based on the first book.

Audiobook Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

 

This book is delightful. First of all, it’s a story told in stories, which makes it one big love letter to stories. Second, it’s based on Chinese folklore, which makes it a love letter to folklore. Third, Minli is pretty amazing, and I love her. She is up there with Ella of Frell for me. She’s smart and clever and kind. I love her, basically.

The book also has an awesome message of the importance of gratitude and how to avoid sowing bitterness. It also shows why bitterness isn’t just bad for the bitter person, but those around that person. Plus, it’s a quest/road trip, which means meeting lots of interesting characters along the way.

I also really enjoyed the narration in this book and the production of the narration. Janet Song gives the book a lyrical quality, almost like she’s reading a lullaby. Plus, there’s a little bit of music interspersed throughout. The music isn’t distracting, but rather emphasizes the musical/lyrical quality of the narrative. (Now that I think about it, I could be making up the music part and it could be that the narration was so darned charming, but I swear I heard music at some point.)

Mostly, though, I love that this book shows why stories are important and how they can be important. They are a source of comfort and strength and hope and joy. They can serve as a distraction (in a good way) or a road map. Most importantly, stories bring people together because they show us where people have been and where they are going. Stories! They’re great! Just like this book!

Audiobook Review: The Conch Bearer

In an effort to expand my reading horizons, I decided to go through my Goodreads TBR and check out books listed there. Since I was looking for audiobooks, if the book I had listed wasn’t available, but another book by the author was, then I checked out that book. My plan, then, was to read Mistress of Spices, so that’s how I came across The Conch Bearer.

I had no idea this was a middle grade fantasy book when I started the novel (not that it matters–I love middle grade), so I thought the book was going to deal with magical realism, not be straight up fantasy. However, I found that I liked the fantasy elements, especially since Anand’s experience with the conch seems to really be about someone who receives a spiritual calling. This book is not about religion, but when Anand communicates with the conch, it responds to him in a “still, small voice” and, often, refuses to help him until all human methods have been exhausted. Human methods which include, of course, asking other people for help.

I only have two complaints really: (1) the voices of the people Anand and Nisha encounter along the way aren’t that well differentiated. However, considering that we spend most of our time with the three main characters, it’s not that big of a deal. (2) I don’t know how I feel about the ending.

Again, spiritual calling/higher calling, but I found it odd that [spoiler] the only way Anand could join the brotherhood was to erase his existence from his family’s memory. I feel like letting his family know that he was alive and well but that he was choosing to join the brotherhood, which I would call a kind of monastery, would make more sense. Also, whenever it gets to memory modification, I have lots of question. Okay, so his family won’t remember him, but what about the other people in his extended family? The neighborhood? That’s just a lot. Plus also, THIS is when an orphan narrative would make more sense. His poor mother. [/spoiler]

Other than that, though, I loved that this story was set in India and offered a different take on the chosen one narrative. It’s solid.

“Don’t let the muggles get you down!”

I went out of town last weekend, and, as I was waiting for my flight, I decided to (re)read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling.

After finishing it, all I can say is that Rowling is a mothereffing genius. Like, for real.

***Spoilers for the entire series included in this post***

Continue reading