Saturday, October 20, 2018

Review: The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess

Title: The Quiet You Carry
Author: Nikki Barthelmess
Year Published: 2019

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 352
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Victoria Parker knew her dad's behavior toward her was a little unusual, but she convinced herself everything was fine until she found herself locked out of the house at 3:00 a.m., surrounded by flashing police lights. Now, dumped into a crowded, chaotic foster home, Victoria has to tiptoe around her domineering foster mother, get through senior year at a new school, and somehow salvage her college dreams . . . all while keeping her past hidden. But some secrets won't stay buried especially when unwanted memories make Victoria freeze up at random moments and nightmares disrupt her sleep. Even worse, she can't stop worrying about her stepsister Sarah, left behind with her father. All she wants is to move forward, but how do you focus on the future when the past won't leave you alone?

Review: I will confess right up front how I got a copy of this book that won't be published until 2019. I was the yearbook advisor for 11 years at the high school where I worked and one of my students was Robby. Robby married Nikki. Nikki wrote this book. I was really excited when Nikki said I could read the book to review it, so here we are, and I feel lucky to have had access to this wonderful debut novel.

In order to truly understand this novel, I think it's important to know a bit about Nikki: she is a journalist published everywhere from lifestyle blogs to survivalist magazines. She entered foster care in Nevada at twelve, and spent the next six years living in six different towns. During this time, Nikki found solace in books, her journal, and the teachers who encouraged her as a writer. She graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno. In other words, she knows what she's writing about.

This story is heartbreaking for many reasons. For kids in foster care, for the emotions and stories they carry around with them in silence (hence the title), for the missed opportunities, and for the system that just can't keep up. Although there are many wonderful foster parents, some of whom I know well, there are also those who are horrible. And, perhaps equally awful, those that don't care. But half way through this novel, we learn more about Victoria's foster mother and things become clearer. Everyone has a story.

This book is well written, pulls you along from page one (I read it in one long sitting), and covers such important and emotional issues. I am excited for this author as she starts her writing career and can't wait to read what she publishes next.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Dewey Read-a-thon 2018

It's that time again... the Dewey Read-a-thon! And as usual, I am not reading as much as I hoped, but come people, it's mid-October and 80 degrees here so I feel like I should be outside a bit.

My companion today is Charlie, our 12-year-old miniature poodle. He doesn't read much, but he is nice and quiet and cuddly.

I have actually already finished one book: The Outside War by Monica Hesse

[Update 5:00pm] I have finished book two: The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess (a debut coming out in 2019).

Here are the answers to the read-a-thon questions:
  • What part of the world are you reading from today? Santa Barbara, CA
  • Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? The Quiet You Carry by Nikki Barthelmess
  • Which snack are you most looking forward to? Costco chocolate chip cookies
  • Tell us a little something about yourself! I'm a social studies and tech coach for a local school district. I read mostly YA, but also enjoy adult novels and narrative fiction.
  • If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? I've done a bunch of read-a-thons and it's always the same: really great intentions to read huge amounts and, in reality, reading less than I hoped. But, I still enjoy myself!

Review: The War Outside by Monica Hesse

Title: The War Outside
Author: Monica Hesse
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA historical fiction
Pages: 315
Rating: 4 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): 1944. Crystal City, Texas. Margot gave up everything to keep her family together. And now they are together--imprisoned in the Crystal City family internment camp, worlds away from their German-American farm community in Iowa. But the camp is changing them, day by day and piece by piece. As Margo watches her mother's health deteriorate and her loving, patriotic father turn into a man who fraternizes with Nazis, she wonders what more it will take to keep her family whole.

Haruko tries to maintain a facade of serenity in Crystal City, making friends at high school and shopping in the general store. Yet Haruko feels anything but serene, suffocated by dust, heat, and her deepest fears: that her own father is hiding something from her, and that her soldier brother, fighting in the Japanese-American unit of the US Army, is hiding something from everyone.

After a dust storm throws Haruko and Margot together, the two strike up an unlikely, secret friendship. Their time together becomes a gift and a refuge--but in a desert prison camp that presents a pale imitation of life, can anything so real and fragile survive?

Review: I have read so many world war II books, but not very many set in the US internment camps so I was looking forward to this one. And it's written by Monica Hesse who did such a good job with Girl in the Blue Coat.

I love it when authors have a note at the end of a historical novel telling which parts are true (many of them in this story) and which are not (the idea of the girls' friendship). Learning that there really was a camp in Crystal City, TX where Germans and Japanese (and Italians) were kept together is so interesting. They were not rounded up because of their nationality, but rather because there was "evidence" of spy work. But how odd that their families joined them voluntarily.

The story seems slow to me, picking up only at the end. Not necessarily slow in a bad way, but more like a study of life in the camp. It felt only plot driven near the end when all the pieces came together in a crescendo.

As an aside (and on a totally different subject), Hesse wrote a disturbing but wonderful article about sexual assault in the Washington Post.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review: The Stranger Game by Peter Gadol

Title: The Stranger Game
Author: Peter Gadol
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult fiction 
Pages: 299
Rating: 4 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book for a fair review as part of a TLC Tour
Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Rebecca's on-again, off-again boyfriend, Ezra, has gone missing, but when she notifies the police, they seem surprisingly unconcerned. They suspect he has been playing the "stranger game," a viral hit in which players start following others in real life, as they might otherwise do on social media. As the game spreads, however, the rules begin to change, play grows more intense and disappearances are reported across the country.

Curious about this popular new obsession, and hoping that she might be able to track down Ezra, Rebecca tries the game for herself. She also meets Carey, who is wiling to take the game further than she imagined possible. As her relationship with Carey and involvement in the game deepen, she begins to uncover an unsettling subculture tha has infiltrated the world around her. In playing the stranger game, what may lead her closer to finding Ezra may take her further and further from the life she once lived.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Author's website:

Review: I think the premise of this novel is really good: the stranger game is where people follow strangers. Yes, it's stalking. But it's temporary (like, for an hour or so) and you never follow the same person twice or interact with them. Those are the rules. But what if people stop following the rules?

What if people follow the strangers for days and begin to break into their houses (but not steal anything)? What if the following begins to spread and it's a group effort? That would be bad. And it is. 

My problem is that I didn't connect with the characters. I didn't learn enough about how they are, rather I know what they do and what happens to them. I wanted more. But I also found myself thinking about how this book is such a good commentary on today's social media. We follow people we don't know, for years. We feel like we know them. And we're obsessed with them. Maybe I need to unfollow some people.

Challenges for which this counts: none

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 ...