Sunday, June 23, 2019

Sunday Salon: June 23, 2019

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

My life in books over the past two weeks: 
  • A to Z Reading--I have read books with titles for 21 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.
  • Big Book Challenge--I have read 2 books over 400 pages.
  • Diversity Reading Challenge--I have read 38 books.
  • Literary Escapes--I have read books set in 31 states so far, adding Michigan and Utah in the past two weeks. I have read in 41 countries so far, adding the Philippines in the past two weeks.
  • Motif Reading Challenge--The June motif is "Diversity your reading" (read a book by an author or about a character that is a different ethnicity or religion from me) and I am counting With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo for it.
  • Non-fiction--I have read 17 books so far.
  • YA Award Winners--I have read 10 of the 11 winners
Completed challenges:
  • My Own Books--I read 21 books off my shelves from March 15 to May 15, 2019.
My life outside books:
My professional learning week went well and I am now 10 days into teaching American Government in summer school. So far it's going well. But, it means I am grading much of the time.


My big news is that I bought a Tesla Model 3! I love it. It feels so cool and techie. Now that I have bamboo floors with underfloor heating, on-demand water heating, solar panels, and an electric car I feel I am doing better about my carbon footprint and my impact on the environment.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

YA Review: I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn

Title: I Love You So Mochi
Author: Sarah Kuhn
Year Published: 2019

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 308
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)Japan

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Kimi Nakamura loves a good fashion statement. She's obsessed with transforming everyday ephemera into Kimi Originals: bold outfits that make her and her friends feel like the Ultimate versions of themselves. But her mother disapproves, and after they get into an explosive fight, Kimi's entire future seems on the verge of falling apart. So when a surprise letter comes in the mail from Kimi's estranged grandparents, inviting her to Kyoto for spring break, she seizes the opportunity to get away from her disaster of a life.

When she arrives in Japan, she finds a culture both familiar and completely foreign to her. She loses herself in the city's outdoor markets, art installations, and cherry blossom festival--and meets Akira, a cute aspiring med student who moonlights as a costumed mochi mascot. And what begins as a trip to escape her problems quickly becomes a way for Kimi to learn more about the mother she left behind--and to figure out where her own heart lies.

Review: After a few heavy books I was looking forward to this light and fun novel and this book fit that exactly. At first I thought I wasn't in the right mood, that it would be too fluffy for me: teenage fashion and romance, but this book ends up being so much more.

Kimi is a fun character. She has wonderful best friends and is way into fashion, but doesn't see that it can be her life's passion and goal. She is currently "fighting" with her mom and uses the tension as an excuse to visit her unknown grandparents in Japan. On day one she meets a cute boy who is also really nice and has dreams of his own to be a doctor. I love that Kimi sees the wonder in the world, is open to new adventures, wears her heart on her sleeve, and incorporates the world into her clothing designs. We need more teens who are comfortable being who they are as Kimi is.

Japan is a great setting for this book: the colors, the teen fashion, the traditional kimonos, and the incorporation of nature and tranquility within a city all play a role in Kimi's awakening. I also really liked the role Kimi's grandparents play in Kimi's realization that her parents are wonderful and love her and will support her. In fact, this is one of the things this book does best: family and understanding other people.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Non-fiction review: American Prison by Shane Bauer

Title: American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment
Author: Shane Bauer
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult non-fiction
Pages: 351 (including notes, index, etc)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my dad

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In 2014, Shane Bauer was hired for $9 an hour to work as an entry-level prison in Winnfield, Louisiana. An award-winning investigative journalist, he used his real name; there was no meaningful background check. Four months later, his employment came to an abrupt end. But he had seen enough, and in short order he wrote an exposé about his experiences that won a National Magazine Award and became the most-read feature in the history of the magazine Mother Jones. Still, there was much more that he needed to say.

In American Prison, Bauer weaves a much deeper reckoning with his experiences together with a thoroughly researched history of for-profit prisons in America from their origins in the decades before the Civil War. For, as he soon realized, we can't understand the cruelty of our current system and its place in the larger story of mass incarceration without understanding where it came from.  Private prisons became entrenched in the South as part of a systemic effort to keep the African American labor force in place in the aftermath of slavery, and the echoes of these shameful origins are with us still.

The private prison system is deliberately unaccountable to public scrutiny. Private prisons are not incentivized to tend to the health of their inmates, or to feed them well, or to attract and retain a highly trained prison staff. Though Bauer befriends some fo his colleagues and sympathizes with their plight, the chronic dysfunction of their lives only adds to the prison's sense of chaos. To his horror, Bauer finds himself becoming crueler and more aggressive the longer he works in the prison, and he is far from alone.

Review: This book is pretty intense. If you are bothered by swearing, reading about sex, violence, or tense situations this book is not for you. The private prison system, if the rest of it is like Winn, is a total and complete disaster filled with no order, guards that are hardly trained and seem to hate their charges, and inmates that are angry and have no boundaries.

The chapters of this book alternate with Bauer's experiences working at Winn and the history of forced labor in the US. I was more drawn to the work experience chapters, but my dad really liked the historical chapters so there is something for everyone.

I was shocked throughout this book by the cavalier and aggressive attitude of the prison trainers, the guards, and the Board members. They didn't seem to care about the health or welfare of the inmates, the contraband, or anything besides the money. I think one of the most shocking things was how the job affected the author, leading him to be more aggressive and negative as well. 

This book is super interesting.

Challenges for which this counts: 

TLC Review: A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards

Title: A Family of Strangers
Author: Emilie Richards
Year Published: 2019

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 491
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (FL, NM, UT) and Costa Rica

FTC Disclosure: I was given this book for TLC Book Review

Summary (from the back of the book): All her life, Ryan Gracey watched her perfect sister from afar. Knowing she could never top Wendy's achievements, she didn't even try. Instead Ryan forged her own path while her family barely seemed to notice.

Now Wendy shares two little girls with her perfect husband, while Ryan mourns the man she lost after a nearly fatal mistake in judgment. The sisters' choices have taken them in different directions, which is why Ryan is stunned when Wendy calls, begging for her help. There's been a murder--and Wendy believes she'll be wrongfully accused.

While Wendy lies low, Ryan moves back to their hometown to care for the nieces she hardly knows. The sleuthing skills she's refined as a true-crime podcaster quickly rise to the surface as she digs for answers with the help of an unexpected ally. Yet the trail of clues Wendy's left behind leads to nothing but questions. Blood may be thicker than water, but what does Ryan owe a sister who becomes more and more a stranger with every revelation?

Is Wendy, who always seemed so perfect, just a perfect liar--or worse?

Purchase Links Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Emilie Website | Facebook | Twitter

Review: A family-involved thriller / mystery? Yes please! While this book took me a couple days to get into, it was due to my circumstances rather than the book. Once I was in, I was in.

I really like Ryan as a main character. She is straightforward, honest, competent, caring, and smart. She isn't all about kids, but knows it is important to listen to them, take care of them, and make them feel loved. She feels tense about her parents, but she keeps them (well, her mom) informed of what's going on with Wendy and grows to be more comfortable around them. And then there's Teo, the man from her past. Yay! is all I'll say about them.

The mystery unveils itself at a good pace. As Ryan figures things out so does the reader and it all seems plausible and well-paced. Not once did I feel like information or a revelation came out of nowhere. And as someone who is well connected to her hometown, high school, and family, I liked those connections as well.

Challenges for which this counts: 
Review Tour:
Monday, June 17th: The Baking Bookworm
Tuesday, June 18th: Girls in Books and @girlsinbooks
Wednesday, June 19th: Girl Who Reads
Wednesday, June 19th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Thursday, June 20th: Helen’s Book Blog
Monday, June 24th: @my_book_journey
Tuesday, June 25th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, June 26th: Write Read Life
Thursday, June 27th: Book by Book
Thursday, June 27th: @crystals_library
Friday, June 28th: Run Wright
Tuesday, July 2nd: Treestand Book Reviews 
Wednesday, July 3rd: @beauty_andthebook
Friday, July 5th: Booked on a Feeling
Friday, July 5th: @angelareadsbooks
Monday, July 8th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Tuesday, July 9th: Lori’s Reading Corner – spotlight
Wednesday, July 10th: The Meganerd Blog and @meganthemeganerd
Wednesday, July 10th: @cassies_books_reviews
Thursday, July 11th: Books and Bindings
Friday, July 12th: Books and Cats and Coffee and @bookncatsncoffee
Monday, July 15th: @one_more_paige
Tuesday, July 16th: @sarahandherbookshelves
Wednesday, July 17th: The Lit Bitch
Thursday, July 18th: Books Before Bedtime and @booksbeforebedtime
Friday, July 19th: The Pages In-Between and @thepagesinbetween

Thursday, June 13, 2019

YA Review: Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay

Title: Patron Saints of Nothing
Author:Randy Ribay
Year Published: 2019

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 318
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (MI) and Philippines

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Jay Reguero plans to spend the last semester of his senior year playing video games before heading to the University of Michigan in the fall. But when he discovers that his cousin June was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, and no one in the family wants to talk about what happened, Jay travels to the Philippines to find out the real story. 

Hoping to uncover more about June and the events that led to his death, Jay is forced to reckon with the many sides of his cousin before he can face the whole truth--and the part he played in it.

Review: Wow. Can a review be just one word? Probably not. I don't know if I can do this book justice, but I will try.

There are so many things I love about this book. The writing is good, it flows, it is poetic, it is descriptive, it's raw, and it is powerful in its message. I was pulled into the story very quickly and it didn't let go.

Jay and the other characters are well done. Through them we can see the span of emotions that are present when a family member dies, when we reconnect with family and our heritage, and when we face the truth. Though I hated Jay's Tito Manning, I can also understand how he feels. There are a lot of characters / family members in this book and each one is important, bringing a new viewpoint to the story and the truth.

I also love that we learn about the Philippines and the filipino people and culture. While I always enjoy learning when I read a book, I feel like I understand the issues surrounding Duterte and his actions against drug addicts and dealers more. I certainly don't agree with it, but I am more knowledgable. This book is also a reminder that there are always at least two sides to each situation.

So, if you're ready to read about family, emotional pain, learning about one's culture, and more, get this book and read it.

Challenges for which this counts: