Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday Salon: October 14, 2018

My life in books: 


  • Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo
    --exceptional adult non-fiction
  • Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake--important YA about sexual assault
    Challenges progress:
    • Big Book Summer Challenge (complete)--I read 5 books longer than 400 pages this summer. This challenge is now done since summer has ended.
    • Non-fiction (complete)--My goal is 20 books and I've read 38! 
    • Literary Voyage around the world--Read books set in as many countries as possible. I have read in 37 countries so far, and in the past two weeks added Canada.
    • Literary Escapes--Track the US states. I have read books set in 30 states so far and in the past two weeks added none.
    • Read all of the ALA YA Award Winners (complete)--I have already read all of the winners!
    • Motif Reading Challenge--The October is New (2018) or Old (a classic) so I chose Bess and Frima (2018) by Alice Rosenthal.
    My life outside books:
    I have been writing a ton of curriculum over the past couple of weeks. There is a federal law called the FAIR Act, which says 8th and 11th grade social studies classes must cover the history of LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities. Our teachers need some pushing on this so I am writing lessons for them. I love creating lessons!

    My daughter came home rom Vassar for her October break a couple days ago and it is so wonderful to see her! She is here for a week, but is already gone down to LA to visit high school friends. I am taking a couple half days so we can hang out.

    She has made a list of "must see" movies so her first two nights home we watched "All the President's Men" and Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds". Both super good, but in very different ways!

    I like that fall TV has started up again. I am watching ...

    Saturday, October 13, 2018

    Review: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

    Title: Girl Made of Stars
    Author: Ashely Herring Blake
    Year Published: 2018

    Genre: YA fiction
    Pages: 289
    Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

    FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

    Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara's friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn't know what to think. Can her beloved brother really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn't help that things have been strained with her best friend and ex-girlfriend, Charlie.

    As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future and how to move forward.

    Review: This book seems so timely given the Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh hearings that took place this past week and the fact that I just read Picking Cotton a few days ago. The issues of sexual violence / assault, if and when the survivors (not victims says this story) tell, and how are they treated all feature in this YA novel.

    The story is told from Mara's perspective, but it feels like we know how events affect Owen, her twin, Charlie, her best friend, and Hannah, the survivor. Seeing how things feel for all of these characters is key to understanding the issues involved. Who do we believe, how do we treat survivors of various forms of assault, how do students tell?

    In addition to issue of assault, the characters deal with dating, friendship, loyalty, family, and more. Given all these heavy issues, the book is a quick and easy read.

    Challenges for which this counts: none

    Sunday, October 7, 2018

    Review: Picking Cotton by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo

    Title: Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption
    Author: Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton with Erin Torneo
    Year Published: 2017

    Genre: Adult non-fiction
    Pages: 287
    Rating: 5 out of 5

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

    FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

    Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape, and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken--but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face-to-face--and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives.

    In their own words, Jennifer and Ronald unfold the harrowing details of their tragedy, and challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.

    Review: I have heard about this book for a while now and am glad that I've finally gotten around to reading it. What a stunning story!

    Narrative non-fiction is definitely a genre I enjoy reading; real life stories that read quickly like fiction where I learn something? Bring it on. And if the author(s) can tell me the intimate story of a couple people, but relate it to a larger issue, even better. Picking Cotton does just that.

    The story of Jennifer and Ron is heartbreaking on both sides. Jennifer experienced an awful rape and assault in her home, but managed to have her wits about her throughout the entire ordeal. She memorized the assailant's face, his body, his voice. She managed to escape and report it to the police. She went to the hospital and had a rape kit done (twice). She did everything right. She was a stellar witness and was able to put the man who attacked her behind bars for life. Right?

    Well, it's all true except the last part. Eye witness memory is a tricky thing and this book shows that. While Jennifer harbored hate for 13 years, Ron was surviving in prison, telling anyone who would listen, that he was innocent. Luckily DNA testing came to light in his 11th year in prison and it proved his innocence.

    While their stories are fascinating on their own, part three of the book is remarkable as it tells how they became friends and work with the Innocence Project. Guilt and forgiveness are profound ideas and it is interesting and riveting to read about both in this book.

    Challenges for which this counts: 

    I got $100 of books for free!

    Yes, free. Can you believe it? What book lover / reader / book blogger wouldn't be excited about that?!

    My school district is doing voluntary implicit bias training for its staff so I signed up. I'll admit it feels a bit like we're just the guinea pigs for a local university researcher, but for doing 2 surveys I got a $100 Amazon gift card. Well worth it.

    • The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzie Lee--I really enjoyed the first boo in this series so this book was a must.
    • Underground America: narratives of undocumented lives edited by Peter Orner--Primary sources for the social studies teachers with whom I work. 
    • The Voice of Witness Reader--for work. It's interviews with people who have survived the world's major events.
    • The War Outside by Monica Hesse--another WWII novel by an author I like.
    • The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak--1980s references? Yes please!

    • Little Boy Lost by JD Trafford--Recommended by a couple bloggers and it just looks so good.
    • The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby--a fun YA book that was the first book I read of this group
    • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles--recommended by so many people I must read this one
    • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate--also recommended by a bunch of people

    Do you have favorites among these books?

    Friday, October 5, 2018

    Review: The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby

    Title: The Fashion Committee
    Author: Susan Juby
    Year Published: 2017

    Genre: YA fiction
    Pages: 305
    Rating: 4.5 out of 5

    Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)Canada

    FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

    Summary (from the inside flap of the book): What if one contest could change the course of your entire life? Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion.

    John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn't care less about clothes.

    Both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. And whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship.

    Review: I'm not sure why this book appealed to me from the moment I heard about it, but it did and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. The feeling of the novel was different from what I thought it was going to be, but in a good way.

    Charlie Dean is precocious. Wait, I need to think of another word to describe her. Confident, particular in her style, talented, and strong. She talks about herself in the third person, which gives her a certain odd air about her. But as her story unfolded I came to admire her and the work she was doing.

    John Thomas-Smith is easier to like and understand. He is honest about why he is entering the competition, his disdain for the process and the other contestants. But, he is also able to realize that he is wrong, that there is more to the experience than he imagined.

    I enjoyed this book; it's a quick read and fun.

    Challenges for which this counts: