Wednesday, March 20, 2019

YA Review: Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan

Title: Watch Us Rise
Author: Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 349
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Jasmine and Chelsea are best friends. This year at their NYC high school, they plan to rock the theater and poetry clubs ... until Chelsea realizes the poetry club is more interested in the "classics" than poems that matter, and Jasmine has an experience that is more drama than theater.

Sick over the way even their progressive school fails to listen to their voices, they start a new club, one dedicated to writing and creating work that supports women's ideas. Because art is never just art, and they know they can use their art to make a statement, to create change.

They turn their voices to Write Like a Girl, an online outlet for essays, poems, and actions to inspire. But when Jasmine and Chelsea's work goes viral, fans and foes come out online and in real life, and the school administration threatens to shut them down for "instigating." Not willing to be silenced, Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices--and those of other young women--to be heard.

Watch them write their way into every future they can imagine.

Review: A book about young women rising above it all using their own voices for good? Sign me up! And René Watson also wrote Piecing Me Together, which I loved.

Yet, I'll confess at first this book took me a bit to get into. It felt like it might be overwhelming to have the two main characters, who alternate chapters, talk ALL THE TIME about women's issues, racism, fat shaming, misogyny, and more. But guess what? I got used to it and loved the poetry and blog posts that the characters wrote. I loved their passion and their voices.

I really like the main characters and their friend group; they are loving and supportive of one another.  It is great that their poetry, bog posts, and art work are sprinkled throughout the book in an effective way. The teachers and parents are also well done and help move the story along.

I am recommending this book to the teachers creating our new 9th grade English with an ethnic and social justice studies emphasis. I think it would fit perfectly with the themes of the course. 

Challenges for which this counts: 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Salon: March 17, 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: 

  • Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
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, L, M, N, O, P, Q, T, U, V, and W.
  • Diversity Reading Challenge--I have read 13 books.
  • Literary Escapes--I have read books set in 16 states so far, adding Hawai'i in the past two weeks. I have read in 26 countries so far adding Iran in the past two weeks.
  • Motif Reading Challenge--The March motif is "Royalty, Kingdoms, Empires, Governments" (characters who are involved in government), but I haven't figured out which book to read for this yet.
  • Non-fiction--I have read 10 books so far.
  • YA Award Winners--I have read 6 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 1 of them.
My life outside books:
I got the job! What a relief. Now I can relax a bit and look ahead to the future knowing that I am the district's Social Studies Instructional Support Specialist (don't love the new title, but there's nothing I can do about that).

I spent the past 3 days in Palm Springs at the CUE Conference--a conference for technology in education. I love it! It's 3 days of geeked-out educators carrying around multiple devices, and talking about how to enhance education through the use of technology (and not just tech for tech's sake). I went with a great group from my district, which made it twice as fun. And, I was a fangirl when I met Matt Miller, a tech teacher guru.

My daughter decided not to come home for spring break. How dare she?! Actually, I get it. The lure of her friends and sunshine (Florida and Puerto Rico) were just too much and, I realize, it means I've done my job if she is becoming more independent.

We've been working on our Advanced Health Care Directives in our household Have you done yours? Deciding all those end-of-life decisions is a bit overwhelming, but so important.

Oh,  chipmunk ran into my house this morning and I can't find it! Please tell me it immediately ran out one of the other open doors. I have visions of it lurking in my bedroom and pounding on me tonight while I sleep.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Review: Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Title: Daughter of Moloka'i
Author: Adib Khorram
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 312
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Honolulu, 1917. Infant Ruth arrives at the Kapi'olani Home for Girls after being taken from her mother, Rachel, who has spent most of her life quarantined at the isolated leprosy settlement of Kalaupapa.

Ruth is adopted by a Japanese couple who raise her on a strawberry and grape farm in California, and she later marries. But in the midst of World War II, her world is turned upside down as she and her family face internment at Manzanar Relocation Center. Then, one day after the war, Ruth receives an unexpected letter. The signature at hte bottom reads "Rachel Utagawa."

Review: I loved Moloka'i when I read it in 2016 and was so excited to see that a sequel was available. What I didn't realize is that Manzanar would feature in it right after I read Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill, which is also about Japanese internment. It was interesting to read some of the same names and events in both novels, showing that they were the real being infused into fiction.

This novel is more than just Japanese internment however, we also learn about the history of the family and Ruth in particular from 1917 to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That portion is interesting with family, life in Hawai'i, migration of Hawaiian Japanese moving to California for faming, and more.

I love the characters, the descriptions, and the story of this novel just as I did in the original. A good family saga will get me every time and this one is done well. I also loved learning more about Japanese and Hawaiian cultures, especially the importance of family, which is such a strong theme throughout this book.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

TLC Book Tour Review: Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Title: Within These Lines
Author: Stephanie Morrill
Year Published: 2019

Genre: YA fiction (historical)
Pages: 347
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map): USA (CA)

FTC Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours for an impartial review

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Evalina Cassano's life in an Italian-American family living in San Francisco in 1941 is quiet and ordinary until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that interracial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to an internment camp.

Degrading treatment makes life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi's only connection to the outside world is treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out against injustice, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.

With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their ideals and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.

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

Connect with Stephanie: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Review: I am a lover of historical fiction and I think YA historical fiction plays an important role in exposing teenagers to history in a way that makes it interesting and accessible. The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is particularly important for students (and adults) to read about since we are quick to judge Germans about the Holocaust (as we should). While Manzanar was no Auschwitz, the rounding up of Japanese Americans is a horrifying and embarrassing time in our nation's history.

Centering this story on a loving relationship is smart. Teens love a good Romeo and Juliet story and will route for these two characters to be together. They are smart, kind, caring, and treat each other well--all good examples of how we want relationships to be. I also liked that Taichi's best friend is Latino and that their two families support one another personally and professionally throughout the whole ordeal.

The conditions in the internment camp are described well, matching up with all that I have read previously on the subject. I always forget about the tensions between those that were loyal to the US and those that were loyal to Japan in response to being locked up.

While I think this book is well done, it did feel a bit pollyana-ish to me, especially the ending. That said, I think it will do well with teens and would be a good addition to a school library.

Challenges for which this counts: 


Review Tour:

Monday, March 4th: Where the Reader Grows and @wherethereadergrows
Tuesday, March 5th: Bookish Bliss and Beauty
Wednesday, March 6th: Bookworm for Kids
Thursday, March 7th: @readingbetweenthe_wines
Friday, March 8th: @diamondxgirl
Tuesday, March 12th: Christian Chick’s Thoughts
Wednesday, March 13th: @librarycutie
Thursday, March 14th: Helen’s Book Reviews
Friday, March 15th: Book Fidelity
Monday, March 18th: Books and Cats and Coffee and @bookncatsncoffee
Tuesday, March 19th: Broken Teepee
Friday, March 22nd: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, March 25th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, March 26th: @jennblogsbooks
Wednesday, March 27th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

YA Review: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Title: Darius the Great is Not Okay
Author: Adib Khorram
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction (LGBTQ)
Pages: 312
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)Iran

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues that the Persian ones. He's a Fractional Persian--half, his mom's side--and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.

Darius has never really fit in at home, and he's sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn't exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparent only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they're spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city's skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush--the original Farsi version of his name--and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he's Darioush to Sohrab.

Review: With two of the Youth Media Awards under its belt, I had high expectations for this book. It's strange, though, my librarian friend says she is having a difficult time getting the students to read it. Maybe it's because we don't have much of a Middle Eastern population here? I wish that sort of thing didn't influence what students (and adults) read.

This one didn't start out slowly for me, but I did have a bit of an adjustment time to get used to Darius' voice, the way he repeats phrases, and his references to Star Trek. Once I got into the rhythm of his speech patterns I was off and running!

Darius is a wonderful character, so full of self-doubt a desire to be liked and loved. His new friend Sohrab is also fantastic. He brings out the best in Darius and shows him that life can be good, fun, and full of love.

Mental health is a huge part of this story and it is handled well as we see the day to day influences of depression on both teenagers and adults. Family and friendship are also strong themes, bringing out the best and worst in each character. I feel like I really got to know Darius and those that make up his world.

Challenges for which this counts: