Monday, November 11, 2019

Review: The Toll by Neal Shusterman

Title: The Toll
AuthorNeal Shusterman
Year Published: 2019

Genre: YA fiction (dystopian)
Pages: 625
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map): USA (TX), Brazil, Marshal Islands, sub-Saharan Africa

FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Citra and Rowan have disappeared. Endura is gone. It seems like nothing stands between Scythe Goddard and absolute dominion over the world scythedom. With the silence of the Thunderhead and the reverberations of the Great Resonance still shaking the earth to its core, the question remains: Is there anyone left who can stop him?

The answer lies in the Tone, the Toll, and the Thunder.

In a world that's conquered death, will humanity finally be torn asunder by the immortal beings it created?

Review: How excited was I when I saw that this book came out this past week?! I really enjoyed the first two books in the series (Scythe and Thunderhead) so immediately got myself a copy. And, I'll confess, I am reading it carefully since I'll give it to one of my nieces for Christmas because she has loved the series as much as I have. Yes, I am that person who reads the book first.

I always have trouble in the beginning of a book in a series because I can never quite remember where we left off and who is whom. But once I got back into the rhythm of the Scythedom, I was in!

This book (and the others in the series) have so many characters and so much going on that one really has to focus so as not to get lost. There are scythes (those that kill and control earth's population), Rowan, Citra, Greyson, the Thunderhead, and then tons of others as well. And though some of them are awful human beings, they are all so necessary to the plot.

And what a crazy plot it is. Shusterman deals with issues that are basic to all of humanity, the trajectory we are on, and where it could lead us. He also deals with gender fluidity in this novel and does it well. The best line of the whole book is when the nastiest character of all says "only stupid people build walls." Ah, Shusterman, slipping in political commentary. Nicely done.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Sunday Salon: November 10, 2019

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz has taken over running The Sunday Salon.

My life in books over the past week: 

    Challenge progress:
    • A to Z Reading--I have read books with titles for 22 letters so far: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, and W.
    • Diversity Reading Challenge--I have read 59 books.
    • Literary Escapes--I have read books set in 37 states so far, adding Arkansas and Tennessee in the past week. I have read in 55 countries so far, adding none in the past week.
    • Motif Reading Challenge--The November motif is "Seasons, weather, and elements" 
    • Non-fiction--I have read 25 books so far.
    Completed challenges:
    • My Own Books--I read 21 books off my shelves from March 15 to May 15, 2019.
    • Big Book Challenge--I read 8 books over 400 pages during the summer.
    • YA Award Winners--I have read all 11 winners
    My life outside books:
    Health: Well, I am happy to report that I am (mostly) healthy again. I went from a sore throat and fever to laryngitis/sexy voice for about 5 days. Boy that made work difficult as my job involves lots of talking with teachers.

    I've been taking it easy this past week since I haven't been feeling well, but it means my reading has been good. I took a good long look at my challenges this weekend since I realize we're getting to the end of 2019 (!). So, I'd love input from all of you.

    Have you read books that satisfy these
    challenge categories?

    Titles beginning with K, X, Y, or Z

    Books that are set in these states:
    • Alabama
    • Alaska
    • Colorado
    • Delaware
    • Kentucky
    • Maine
    • Montana
    • New Hampshire
    • North Dakota
    • Rhode Island
    • South Dakota
    • Vermont
    • Wisconsin
    • Wyoming

    Friday, November 8, 2019

    YA Review: Jackpot by Nic Stone

    Title: Jackpot: All Bets are Off.
    AuthorNic Stone
    Year Published: 2019

    Genre: YA fiction (historical)
    Pages: 339
    Rating: 4.5 out of 5

    Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (GA)

    FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

    Summary (from the inside flap of the book): When a hundred-million-dollar lottery ticket from her store goes unclaimed, Rico Danger (that's DON-gur, thank you very much) has to find the winner. If she can unite the ticket holder with the cash, maybe Rico will finally catch a lucky break... and a cut of the winnings.

    For help with her mission, she recruits popular and wildly wealthy "Zan" Macklin--the only other person who saw the suspected winner. As the hunt roll son, the unlikely pair discovers things they weren't expecting: hidden resentments, shared struggles, and maybe even friendship. But what happens when have and have-nots collide? Will this particular shared goal unite--or divide?

    Review: Ah, Nic Stone, nice job (again)! I really liked Stone's Dear Martin so when I saw this book I got it immediately and I am glad I did. I read it in one day.

    I liked all the characters even though I wanted to tell Rico to be more confident, to figure out how she feels, and be brave enough to do something about it. I guess I felt the same way about Zan. They made things so much more difficult for themselves, but I guess we all do that sometimes.

    The premise of the book is a fun one: two people on a quest to find a lottery ticket. You can get mixed up in so many good situations while doing that and it was a wonderful way for the story to progress. As a reader I felt I was also on the journey to find the "little old lady." And, I didn't see the end coming so that's fun. Stone has a way of writing that pulls the reader in and makes us cheer for the main characters.

    Challenges for which this counts: 

    Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

    Title: Before We Were Yours
    Author: Lisa Wingate
    Year Published: 2017

    Genre: Adult fiction
    Pages: 339
    Rating: 4.5 out of 5

    Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (TN, SC)

    FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

    Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Memphis 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family's Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill  is left in charge--until strangers arrive in the force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents--but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility's cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

    Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returnshome to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or redemption.

    Based on one of America's most notorious real-life scandals--in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country--Lisa Wingate's riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

    Review: I heard so much about this book before I picked it up and wonder if my expectations were a tad too high since I liked this book a lot, especially the last third, but didn't love it. I think that's because it was slow in the beginning and I am not great at slow books.

    I like the dual timeline / alternating chapters of Rill in the 1930s and Avery in the present day. We know their stories will connect at some point, and that's okay because we don't quite know what the relationship will be. Seeing it all unfold through Avery's eyes is very effective.

    I really liked the way that the author truly captured the dialect of the characters. It actually took me a few pages to get into the rhythm of it, but that's good because it made me focus on the characters and what they were saying. It certainly isn't a book to skim.

    As with any book steeped in reality, I love the author's post script that explains the truth behind the Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage, the horrible woman who ran it, and all those who helped her to steal babies from poor families and sell them to wealthy and prominent ones. Stealing other people's children! I managed to sob my way through the last third of the book as it all comes together.

    Challenges for which this counts: 

    Wednesday, November 6, 2019

    Reivew: They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

    Title: They Called Us Enemy
    Author: George Takei
    Year Published: 2019

    Genre: Adult and YA nonfiction (graphic novel)
    Pages: 204
    Rating: 4.5 out of 5

    Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (CA, AR)

    FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school

    Summary (from the inside flap of the book): George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers on Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father's--and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

    In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten "relocation centers," hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

    Review: I follow George Takei on Twitter and he is super interesting and politically minded. I knew that he and his family had been in an internment camp during World War II and just yesterday heard about this book. Then today, I saw it under "new books" at one of junior high school libraries and knew I had to read it.

    I have read a number of books about the internment camps and I don't know if I learned anything new in terms of history from this one, but each story is a bit different depending on the author's experience. I liked that George's experiences were those of a child because it meant we got to see the discussions of democracy and what being an American meant to him as he worked through it all as a teenager, young adult, and now as a mature person.

    Takei has worked tirelessly on civil rights in addition to his job on Star Trek and he weaves each of these pieces of his life into a well told story. I really enjoyed this book.

    Challenges for which this counts: