Wednesday, April 24, 2019

YA Review: White Rose by Kip Wilson

Title: White Rose
Author: Kip Wilson
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA fiction (historical)
Pages: 341
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map): Germany

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): German university student Sophie Scholl is about to face sentencing for a crime punishable by death: distributing pamphlets that speak out against Hitler's regime. How did she and her beloved brother end up here? Is it too late to do anything to save her own life?

White Rose retells the incredible true story of Sophie Scholl, a young activist who put her life on the line as she tried to rally her fellow Germans against a fascist regime. This novel asks the most difficult question that remains timely today--what would you risk not for your own freedom, but for someone else's?

Review: The Story of the White Rose is one for which I have always had an affinity. I was a German Studies major in college and lived in Germany during my senior year so that probably has something to do with it. One of my first lessons as a student teacher was taking on the roll of Sophie Scholl's mother reading her daughter's diary. 

This book tells the story in a wonderful way. I hadn't realized it was written in verse until I picked it up to read it and I wasn't sure how I felt about that until I began reading. The author is a poet and she does a fantastic job conveying the facts, emotions, and history of Sophie's story onto the page.

While this book is fiction, it is based largely on news accounts, letters, diaries, etc so is true to the history of Sophie, her parents, her brother Hans, their friends Fritz, Werner, and Christophe as World War II begins and their activism grows.

I highly recommend this book for both teens and adults.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: My First 10 Book Reviews

I became a high school librarian in the fall of 2009 and began this book blog in the November. I hoped that students would flock to my blog, eager to see what I was reading and recommending. Did any of them actually read my blog? I have no idea, but here I am, 10 years later, no longer a librarian, and still reviewing.

My first ten reviews were all in one post as I summarized what I had been reading recently. So, they weren't really reviews, but an accounting of what I had read and how I ranked them.

It was fun to do this and look back at how it all started. These books bring back (mostly) happy reading memories.

  • Loving Frank by Nancy Horan--Adult fiction about Frank Lloyd and his long time affair. 4.5 out of 5
  • Chinese Cinderella by Adleine Yen Mah--Adult nonfiction about an unwanted daughter in China. 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Ana's Story by Jenna Bush--YA nonfiction about a young woman living with HIV and raising her daughter. 4 out of 5 stars.

  • Ice Bound by Jerri Nielsen--Adult nonfiction about a doctor stationed at the South Pole, who discovers she has breast cancer and has to treat herself. 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. YA fiction based on the author's life. Very good and funny! A guy who grows up on the Indian Reservation, but enrolls in an all-white high school to get a better education. 5 out of 5 stars
  • Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper. YA fiction based on Romeo and Juliet, but modern day and inter-racial. Pretty good. 4 out of 5 stars
  • Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon--YA fiction in which a teenager's dad announces he is gay and that they are moving to Montana. Really good book. 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley--YA fiction about a snowboarding rich girl dealing with absent parents, friend issues, and guys. This was one of my favorites. 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston--Adult nonfiction, the author tells of when he went hiking in Utah and his had got stuck between 2 boulders. He was stuck for six days before he cuts off his own hand. 3.5 out of 5 stars
  • Crazy for the Storm Norman Ollestad--Adult nonfiction that describes the author's experience as the only survivor of a plane crash when he was a child. 3.5 out of 5.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

YA Review: The Only Thing Worse than Me is You by Lily Anderson

Title: The Only Thing Worse than Me is You
Author: Lily Anderson
Year Published: 2016

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 339
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Doctor Who figurines at the local comic-book store and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books, but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson vs. West is as vicious as the Doctor vs. Daleks and Browncoats vs. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey-bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. Until Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating. Until Trixie cries foul play, and they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.

Review: This is book two of my I-am-sick-and-need-a-fun-YA-book-to-read weekend. It's got romance, friendship, and antagonism so it's all good. And, it's a retelling of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew so there's that as well. Actually, Taming of the Shrew has always bothered me since the basic premise is that there is an out-of-control female who will be "fixed" by a male. That does happen in this story, but it seems less controlling and more teenage romance.

The modern day setting is at a private high school for geniuses, which allows the characters to talk about calculus, take a course on the American Immigrant Experience, and vie for the top spots on the monthly posting of class rank (can you imagine a worse thing to do to students?!). Trixie is definitely testy. She's brilliant, like all her friends, and is trying to navigate school, puberty, college applications, and the fact that her friends have become "boy-crazy."

Of course, there's a nemesis: Ben. Ben is also contrary and super smart so he's a good match for Trixie's verbal barbs. And, as we all know, verbal barbs in YA lit often equal attraction. I do like the way we were able to see the good side of Ben before Trixie did because that means it isn't ridiculous that they end up liking one another.

All in all this book was fun and a perfect read for my snot-filled head. I even stayed up until 11:00pm to finish it even though I really should have been asleep so I can start feeling better.

Challenges for which this counts: none

Saturday, April 20, 2019

YA Review: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Title: Heist Society
Author: Ally Carter
Year Published: 2010

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 287
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (NY), Italy, Austria, France

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre... to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria... to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving the life for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried to hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's priceless art collection has been stolen and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled off this job and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help.

For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and stela them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully, just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's (very crooked) history--and with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Review: I meant to read this book when it came out in 2010 (I was a high school librarian at the time), but for some reason didn't get around to it. Nine years later, I have read a bunch of heavy books so needed something a little lighter for this weekend. And, now I am sick so it's even better that I chose this book as it's a fun one.

This is a story where you have to suspend reality for a bit to accept teenage art thieves, but I was more than willing to do that. I liked the characters, their quirky traits, the fact that the ring leader is a girl, and that they are all smart and efficient at their jobs during the heist.

There is a historical twist to this story that I didn't see coming, but it definitely fits and gives the story more depth and interest. Maybe that's because I am a history teacher, but it is well done and adds depth to the novel.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday Salon: April 14, 2019

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz is taking over The Sunday Salon and she has decided to make it a blog again rather than only a Facebook group. Yay! I am not doing FB these days so I love that I get to participate again.

My life in books over the past two weeks: 
  • The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni
  • Visible Learning for Literacy (a book for work)
  • Swing by Kwame Alexander
  • Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Challenges progress:
  • A to Z Reading--I have read books with titles for 18 letters so far: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, and W.
  • Diversity Reading Challenge--I have read 25 books.
  • Literary Escapes--I have read books set in 21 states so far, adding Idaho in the past two weeks. I have read in 33 countries so far, adding Somalia and South Korea in the past two weeks.
  • Motif Reading Challenge--The April motif is "Crack the Case" (Read a mystery, detective story, true crime, cozy mystery, or book involving a puzzle to solve) and I am counting The Eighth Sister by Robert Dugoni
  • Non-fiction--I have read 11 books so far.
  • YA Award Winners--I have read 8 of the winners
  • My Own Books--This challenge runs from March 15 to May 15, 2019 and I will try to read 10 books off my TBR shelves. So far I have read 12 of them!
My life outside books:
Work is work. Actually, it's been busy and good recently. I was down in Corona-Norco (Riverside County) this past week at a conference where I was on a panel. It went well so that's a relief. It was fun to hang out with work people, most of whom were high up administrators, and get to know them a bit better.

Actually, one of the books I read this week, Visible Learning for Literacy, turned out to be fantastic and is going to be the book I have my newly-formed social studies leadership team read this summer.

Charlie when we first got him 11 years ago
This past week has been a tough one personally. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that our dog seemed to be having a tough time. He wasn't eating much (he had lost 2.5 pounds of his 11 pounds), he was sleeping a lot. He just didn't seem like himself. We took him to the vet three times in the past month and they couldn't find anything wrong. However, on Monday we took him again and they said it was time. His heart was finally giving out and in fact, was having moments of not beating.
Charlie on his last day
On Tuesday afternoon my mom and I took Charlie to the vet for his final appointment. I was pretty much a wreck during the process, but our vet was amazing and the process was quick and peaceful for Charlie. I miss him terribly, but know that he is no longer suffering and that we made the right choice.