Sunday, August 19, 2018

Review: You're Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardne

Title: You're Welcome Universe
Author: Whitney Gardner
Year Published: 2017

Genre: YA Fiction (winner of the ALA Schneider Family Award for teens living with disabilities)
Pages: 293
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (OR?)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): When Julia finds a slur about her best friend scrawled across a wall at the Kingston School for the Deaf, she covers it up with a beautiful (albeit illegal) graffiti mural in an attempt to protect her friend's reputation.

But then Julia's (supposed) friend snitches, the principal expels her, and her moms send her to a "mainstream" school, where she's treated like an outcast as the only deaf student.

Julia's only outlet is her art. She paints anywhere she can. But Julia soon learns that she might not be the only vandal in town. Someone is adding to her tags, making them better, showing off. Caught in a graffiti war, Julia must risk arrest to go toe to toe with her rival... or face losing the only piece of her identity that still makes sense.

Review: An award-winner with graffiti, a teen with a "disability," LGBTQ+ characters, and friend betrayal? Sign me up. It feels good that I am finally getting to read another of the ALA award winners.

I can see why this book won the Schneider Award. Julia is a great character who happens to be Deaf (she chooses a capital D). Julia loves being Deaf even though it determines her life, her interactions with people, what she understands and doesn't, and how she responds to life's experiences. The secondary characters really show the range of how other people deal with Deaf people: they are curious and rude, they ignore her, they learn to sign and yell at her, they are patient and angry. I really feel like the reader gets a sense of what it is like to live in a hearing world.

Julia is sixteen-years-old and that also ties into a lot of her experiences. She is moody, angry, embraces life, feels betrayed, has crushes, laughs and cries. It very realistic. And the art / graffiti aspect is totally great.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

I splurged on books!

I planned to go to our local independent bookstore, Chaucer's, and purchase two YA books. I buy YA then donate them to our school libraries, which I totally use as a justification to spend the money. At least I'm honest.

Well, I didn't buy two books, I bought 8. Yes, 8. They've all been recommended to me by bloggers that I follow and the only reason I didn't buy more was that the store didn't have the other books that I wanted (and the list is long so it's a good thing they weren't on the shelves).

Recommended by Rummanah at Spotlight on Books
  • My So Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Shama
Recommended by Kathy at Bermuda Onion
  • She Love You (yeah, yeah, yeah) by Ann Hood
Recommended by Sue at Book by Book
  • The Lotterys Plus One by Emma Donoghue (middle grade)
Recommended by Annette at Annette's Book Spot
  • The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
ALA Award-winner
  • You're Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner (middle grade)
Books I chose just because they sound good
  • The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger
  • Puddin' by Julie Murphy (anyone who has read her book Dumplin' will understand why I chose this one and I just noticed it's a signed first edition!)
  • From Twinkle, with Love by Sandhya Menon (I read and enjoyed her book When Dimple Met Rishi)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sunday Salon: August 12, 2018

My life in books: 
It's been a slightly slower reading two weeks because I had family in town and work has started. Also, 2 of the books were over 400 pages.

Challenges progress:
  • Big Book Summer Challenge--I have read 4 books longer than 400 pages this summer. 
  • Non-fiction--My goal is 20 books and I've read 34! 
  • Literary Voyage around the world--Read books set in as many countries as possible. I have read in 33 countries so far, and in the past two weeks added ... none.
  • Literary Escapes--Track the US states. I have read books set in 26 states so far and in the past weeks added Washington. 
  • Read all of the ALA YA Award Winners--I have already read 6 of these winners.
  • Motif Reading Challenge--The July motif was Travel so I did that with Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch and August is Award Winners so I counted Stephen King's The Outsider.
My life outside books:
I am back to work even though school doesn't start for a few more days. I've been working with teachers one-on-one and planning for the start of school professional development days. And I just found on Friday that I have to help full days every day this next week with iPad distribution. So, definitely busy.

We had a wonderful week with my brother and his family visiting from the UK. There was lots of hanging out, a yoga class, walks, and a sunset cruise along the coast on their last night.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Title: The Great Alone
Author: Kristin Hannah
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 438
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (AK)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam War ad changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another  job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America's last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents' passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely  independent community of strong men and even stronger women. the long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights' lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt's fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves. 

Review: I am emotionally spent having sobbed for the last hour and a half of reading this book. What an amazing novel. It is at once, tragic, love-filled, powerful, intense, touching, and overwhelming.

I got The Great Alone from the Book of the Month, even though I wasn't convinced it was my kind of book, because I kept seeing good reviews of it. Then I put off reading it for months. Well, how wrong I was. Leni's story is so intense, in both positive and negative ways. Stories of abuse are always tough to read as I so desperately want the character to leave. Just get out. But they don't and can't. This one is done beautifully.

And Alaska. I've never been there, but this book captures the ruggedness, the beauty, and the isolation well. It seems like the kind of place that either kills you or makes you the person you were destined to be.

If you want to read a novel that will pull you in to the characters, the setting, and the plot, that will make you feel like you are part of the process, read this book.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Review: After Nightfall by A.J. Banner

Title: After Nightfall
Author: A.J. Banner
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult fiction (mystery)
Pages: 243
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (WA)

FTC Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book for a fair and honest review

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Imagine your closest friend utterly betraying you. Years later, when she seeks forgiveness, you invite her to your engagement party as a gesture of reconciliation. But seething hostilities rise to the surface, ruining everyone's evening. After an awful night, your friend's battered, lifeless body is found at the bottom of a rocky cliff.

Newly engaged Marissa Parlette is living this nightmare. She should be celebrating her upcoming wedding, but she can't shake the image of her friend lying dead on the beach. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Or did she take a purposeful step into darkness? Desperate for answers, Marissa digs deep into the events of the party. But what she remembers happening after nightfall now carries sinister implications: the ugly sniping, the clandestine meetings, the drunken flirtations. The more she investigates, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her friends, the man she once trusted, and even herself.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with A. J. Banner

Facebook | Instagram

Review: I got two offers to review this book, A.J. Banner sent me a copy and then it was on the TLC Book Tour list! So, to be upfront with my readers, I went to high school with A.J. Banner and love to read and review her books. I was really excited to read this one and I love the cover! There is something that really pleases me.

I really enjoyed this book and am going to describe it as a gentle mystery. I can't think of the exact word I want, but gentle will do. This is because there is no scary bits, no needing to read it only during the daytime, and nothing jumps out at the reader. Instead, the story is steady, building up to an ending I did not see coming.

I was pulled in by the characters and their intriguing and overlapping relationships. I wanted to know how they all fit together and who was looking out for little Anna. It seemed like they could all be responsible for the murder, which is a good thing.

I also liked the portrayal of Anna and her problems, that are slowly revealed as the story progresses. Anna is pivotal to the story, but her role is understated until just the right moment. If you like mysteries I definitely recommend this one.

Challenges for which this counts: