Sunday, March 31, 2019

Quarterly Review

This is a look back on my reading of the past three months: the best of the best, the books I couldn't finish, and the non-fiction and adult books I don't review on the blog. These only cover new-to-me books and not rereads.

The Non-Fiction:
A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Night by Elie Wiesel (reread)
A Thousand Sisters by Elizabeth Wein

The Adult Fiction:
Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren (contemporary romance)
Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright (contemporary romance) 
The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn (historical romance)
Three Little Words by Jenny Holiday (contemporary romance)
Unmarriageable  by Sonia Kamal (contemporary fiction)

The Best of the Best: 

From Twinkle with Love by Sandhya Menon 
Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren 


The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

On the Come Up  by Angie Thomas
The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

Pride  by Ibi Zoboi

Thursday, March 28, 2019

On the Come Up

Angie Thomas proves in her sophomore novel, On the Come Up, that her talent is vast, and she has so much to give the world.

I'm not going to do a long, thorough review of this book because I feel like its not really my place to comment on a lot of the life experiences in the book, but I wanted to single it. It was definitely a 5 star read for me, and I never put 5 star reads in Shorter Musings posts.

I will say this about it:
Bri is messy, talented, confused, hurting, and amazing.
Bri is REAL.
Bri's voice is perfection.
The supporting cast of characters it top-notch. Every. Single. One.
This book made me laugh.
This book made me cry.
This book made me laugh and cry on the same page.

I love it even more than The Hate U Give.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

TTT: Favorite Broadway Musicals

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly themed blog hop created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl.

This Week's Topic: Audio Freebie

Today we are going to visit one of my other favorite things in the world: Broadway Musicals. I love them. My collection of musicals is the largest of any genre of music I own. It all began when little second grade me when on a field trip to see a regional production of The Sound of Music. Since then, I have tried to see every National Tour possible. I have been fortunate enough to see several of my favorites not just on National Tours but also on Broadway.

Here are my favorites in the order I fell in love with them. (Limited to shows I've seen and not just listened to. And I would totally pay to see over and over.)

 Times I've seen it: 5
Favorite Song: "On My Own"
Favorite Number to See Live: "One Day More"

 Times I've Seen It: 3
Favorite Song: "I Still Believe"
Favorite Number to See Live: "The Fall of Saigon

 Times I've Seen It: 2
Favorite Song: "Back to Before"
Favorite Number to See Live: "What a Game!"

Times I've Seen It: 3
Favorite Song: "No Good Deed"
Favorite Number to See Live: "Defying Gravity"

Times I've Seen It: 1
Favorite Song: "Wait for It"
Favorite Number to See Live: Everything from "Guns and Ships" through "The Battle of Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)"

Times I've Seen It: 1
Favorite Song: "Me and the Sky"
Favorite Number to See Live: Is it cheating to say the whole thing? Because the honest answer is the whole thing. It's such a big story told in such a small space with only 12 actors and each number flows into the next flawlessly taking you and all your emotions with it.

(Otherwise Known As: The one that I sneered at for a super long time and then ended up loving and becoming obsessed with therefore having to eat crow with my teenage daughter.)
Favorite Song: "In My Dreams"
Favorite Number to See Live: Quartet at the Ballet

I will give the last three spots to musicals I LOVE, but have not yet been privileged enough to see.

Any other Broadway fans out there? What is your favorite show to see live? What is the number one show on your to see wish list?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Shorter Musings (YA Fantasy)

Here are some shorter musings on some recent YA fantasy reads.

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore
I've been meaning to try Anna-Marie McLemore's books for quite some time. People have raved about her the last few years, but I've just never had the chance or a book that interested me quite as much as this one. (We all know how I feel about fairy tale retellings.) I can see why she is beloved by some people. Her writing style is just not for me. Her writing is ethereal and winding, but for me it came at the expense of the characters. I was never able to fully connect with them in anyway because of the loftiness of the prose. This is just one of those not the right fit things. I did finish it despite my disaffection, but it didn't leave me with a strong impression at all.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
Sawkill Girls has an intriguing premise. The setting of the island and the mystery of missing girls is done well. I don't typically enjoy thrillers, but as this is more of a fantasy thriller, I found it to be more my speed in terms of plot. Until something at the end, which I can't go into details about because it's a major spoiler. I get why it works with Legrand's themes, but it was disappointing in terms of reader satisfaction for me. The girls were interesting and very different. I liked the way they came together as a team even though there were things that should have been insurmountable. The themes of feminism and patriarchy Legrand was working with are important, and while I see some of what she was trying to do with them, some of it didn't quite make sense to me. This is an issue I had with the one other YA novel of hers I tried. I think maybe for me personally she just works better as a MG author. (I love her MG books. And I'm still going to read Furyborn.)

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
A Skinful of Shadows is a historical fantasy that takes place during the reign of Charles I in England and focuses on the time prior to the Glorious Revolution. The heroine Makepeace was raised by Puritans, but she has the power to commune with the dead, which is obviously problematic in such a time and place. I loved the historical setting and details. However, I found myself underwhelmed by the book as a whole. It dragged for the first half, and once the pace picked up, I found myself not as invested as I wanted to be. Makepeace and James were both nice characters. I just didn't care much. I'm still trying to figure out if that's a problem with me or the book or both. I'm sad this is the second Hardinge book in a row I've felt this way towards since so many of her other books are favorites of mine.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Lost Girl

I knew The Lost Girl  by Anne Ursu was going to hold a special place in my heart just a couple chapters in. About half way through I had a feeling it would be the book of 2019 that I would try to shove into the hands of any and all who expressed slightest interest in a book recommendation. By the time I was finished with it, I knew it would be a book that would stay with me always. Then comes this part. The part where I want to tell the world why. I kept thinking that I needed to give my emotions time to settle. That I needed to be able to approach it with calm rationale. But you know what? That is nonsense. This book made me feel. That is part of its power. So this isn't going to be objective. I doubt I will ever be able to think about this book objectively.

Iris and Lark are identical twins. Though they might look the same they are completely different people. However, they are also two halves of a whole. A pair. A team. When fifth grade begins, they discover the powers in their lives have decided it is time for them to learn to navigate life without the other one to rely on. They are in separate classes for the first time ever. They are being forced into separate after school activities. Practical, rational, fierce Iris finds she lacks the confidence she once had. She is quieter. Less in command. As if in not being able to speak for Lark, she has lost her voice. Lark shrinks further into herself unsure of how to navigate a teacher who terrifies her, the grade bully, and an environment that doesn't value her creativity without her sister there to help her. And then things start going missing. Small things at home. Big things around the city. And. a mysterious shop opens up that seems to hold both questions and answers and has a strange pull on Iris.

One of the reasons I can't really look at this book objectively is Iris. The story mainly follows her. We have far more insight into her activities and thoughts than we do into Lark's world. It is a brilliant narrative choice on Ursu's part. The mysterious narrator begins the novel discussing both girls and slowly narrows the focus to Iris. Because Lark is such an integral part of Iris, she's there too, but we aren't in her head nearly as often. I identify with Iris so thoroughly that it is almost scary. There are so many pages with so many quotes that felt pulled directly from my own head. I get Iris on a molecular level, so it was inevitable that I would be invested in thoroughly invested in her story. In her. Iris is prickly, values rationality, knows she is smart (but probably shouldn't say it out loud), has trouble making friends, is confident but introverted, and is a unilateral problem solver. She doesn't consult others, but acts when and how she deems it necessary. And speaks her mind without thinking of all the consequences. That she ends up  in trouble is unsurprising though how she gets there is in many ways. Lark is the creative one. She makes up stories, is an artist, and sees the world in beautiful ways. She has a talent for seeing the light in the dark and twisting the tale to show that the monsters are weak and beatable. Lark does have trouble navigating the world the way it is in many aspects, but she has an inner strength and courage all her own. The girls have a beautiful relationship, and I felt every bit of their anger, fear, and resentment at being separated.

The story itself is highly relatable for all readers. No one likes change. No one likes feeling out of control. Any person who has ever felt lonely, isolated, abandoned, or lost will find something in this book with which to relate. All of the day to day to school and family problems are typical of any child. I loved how well Ursu gets the dichotomy between kids and adults though. Sometimes you read a MG book and know that it is being written by someone who is remembering being a kid and not really spending time getting to know actual kids. Then sometimes you a read a book that gets it so exactly right, and this is one of them. It's one of those books I want to hand to adults and say, "Read this so you understand them. Read this so you remember they are beings with feelings and emotions all their own and not just an extension of you." A place this is really obvious is in the generational differences in how the characters speak and handle problems. I love that the college student who is in charge of Iris's after school club is often flabbergasted by her young charges and what they know and can converse about. It's not a wide age gap, and yet the difference is staggering, which is very true to what I see in my own experience working with a wide range of ages. The way the girls at the library club discuss both super-heroes and fairy tales is very true to Gen Z (or whatever we're calling the current crop of elementary students now).

The other major reason I can't think objectively about this book lies in its very premise and resolution. It's hard to discuss thoroughly without spoilers. Suffice it to say that the villain is one any girl will recognize from ten paces out, but it is also completely understandable why Iris is not more wary. What Ursu did with that whole part of the plot is nothing short of phenomenal crafting. Read it as it is and accept its surface value and it has so much power. Stop and thinking about all the possible symbolism there, and it packs a whole other punch. Either way, it will have an impact. And the way that evil is finally defeated even more so. I sobbed my way through last the pages of the novel. Cried all over it. It was good crying. The sort that has a power all of its own and is renewing.

I want to put this book in every girl's hands so they know that they are not alone.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Future Favorites Friday March-19

I take the 2nd Friday of every month to highlight some upcoming releases I am looking forward to that I hope are Future Favorites. Feel free to do your own post, just please link back to my blog and tell me about your post in the comments.

Ibi Zoboi wrote a MG novel? With that synopsis? Yes please and thank you!

In the summer of 1984, 12-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet makes the trip from Huntsville, Alabama, to Harlem, where she’ll spend a few weeks with her father while her mother deals with some trouble that’s arisen for Ebony-Grace’s beloved grandfather, Jeremiah. Jeremiah Norfleet is a bit of a celebrity in Huntsville, where he was one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA two decades earlier. And ever since his granddaughter came to live with him when she was little, he’s nurtured her love of all things outer space and science fiction—especially Star Wars and Star Trek, both of which she’s watched dozens of time on Grandaddady’s Betamax machine. So even as Ebony-Grace struggled to make friends among her peers, she could always rely on her grandfather and the imaginary worlds they created together. In Harlem, however, she faces a whole new challenge. Harlem in 1984 is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Hunstville, and her first instinct is to retreat into her imagination. But soon 126th Street begins to reveal that it has more in common with her beloved sci-fi adventures than she ever thought possible, and by summer’s end, Ebony-Grace discovers that gritty and graffitied Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.

Release Date: August 27, 2019 from Dutton Publishers for Young Readers

There's another new Renée Watson book coming out this Fall as well. Two in one year! 

All Amara wants is to visit her father's family in Harlem. Her wish comes true when her dad decides to bring her along on a business trip. She can't wait to finally meet her extended family and stay in the brownstone where her dad grew up. Plus, she wants to visit every landmark from the Apollo to Langston Hughes's home.
But her family, and even the city, is not quite what Amara thought. Her dad doesn’t speak to her grandpa, and the crowded streets can be suffocating as well as inspiring. But as she learns more and more about Harlem—and her father’s history—Amara realizes how, in some ways more than others, she can connect with this other home and family.
This is a powerful story about family, the places that make us who we are, and how we find ways to connect to our history across time and distance.

Release Date: September 3, 2019 from Bloomsbury Children's Books

We know how I feel about Pride and Prejudice redos.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that only in an overachieving Indian American family can a genius daughter be considered a black sheep.
Dr. Trisha Raje is San Francisco’s most acclaimed neurosurgeon. But that’s not enough for the Rajes, her influential immigrant family who’s achieved power by making its own non-negotiable rules:
·       Never trust an outsider
·       Never do anything to jeopardize your brother’s political aspirations
·       And never, ever, defy your family
Trisha is guilty of breaking all three rules. But now she has a chance to redeem herself. So long as she doesn’t repeat old mistakes.
Up-and-coming chef DJ Caine has known people like Trisha before, people who judge him by his rough beginnings and place pedigree above character. He needs the lucrative job the Rajes offer, but he values his pride too much to indulge Trisha’s arrogance. And then he discovers that she’s the only surgeon who can save his sister’s life.
As the two clash, their assumptions crumble like the spun sugar on one of DJ’s stunning desserts. But before a future can be savored there’s a past to be reckoned with...
A family trying to build home in a new land.
A man who has never felt at home anywhere.
And a choice to be made between the two.

Release Date: May 7, 2019

Friday, March 1, 2019

February 2019 Stats

I didn't get quite as many new books in this past month. I'm still encouraged as it wasn't due to a lack of wanting to read, but a combination of prep work for school and a never ending roundabout of sickness the kids and I were sharing.

The February Favorites:

A look at my February Reading in Numbers:

MG: 7
YA: 3
Adult: 2

Fiction: 12
Non-Fiction: 0
Realistic Fiction: 7

Onward and Forward!

I have decided that March is going to be a Read the Books You Own month. I'm not putting any more library books on hold. I've managed to get my outstanding holds down to two, so I should have plenty of time to dedicate to this. Since my most anticipated release of this month is a book I've already pre-ordered, it will slip right into this.