Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Review: Speak the graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll

Title: Speak the graphic novel
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Illustrator: Emily Carroll
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction (graphic novel)
Pages: 372
Rating: 5 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): "Speak up for yourself--we want to hear what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless--an outcast--because of something that happened over the summer. Now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen. So what's the point of talking? Through her work on an art project, Melinda is finally able to face what really happened that night. But before she can make peace with the ghosts of the past, she has to confront the reality of the present--and stop someone who still wishes to do her harm. Only words can save her. She can't stay silent. Not anyone. 

Review: I read the original Speak novel when it first came out and thought it was wonderful so as soon as I heard about the graphic novel I knew I had to read it and I am so glad I did!

As with the original story, Melinda is facing a ninth grade year as an outcast after calling the police at her first high school party. She cannot face telling anyone the horrors that happened at the party, even though it means failing classes, fighting with her parents, and losing all her friends.

Adding Emily Carroll's illustrations to Halse Anderson's words is genius as they set the mood, convey the sadness and horror, and pull emotion from the reader. Not only are the illustrations shades of black and white, they are bold, descriptive, chaotic, and full of movement.

If you have any interest in this topic or if you enjoyed Speak the novel, this graphic novel is definitely worth your time.

Challenges for which this counts: none

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

2019 Reading Challenges I will tackle

It's December that means reflecting back on the reading I've done this year and thinking ahead to the reading I'll do next year. After lots of pondering and checking out 2019 Challenge lists, here are the challenges I've decided to take on in 2019. I do feel I'm cheating a bit since these are the types of books I'd read anyway, but reading them as part of a challenge makes it more fun.

In the past six months began to post my reviews to Twitter in addition to my blog, but this coming year I am going to try to remember to include hashtags for the various challenges in which I am participating.

Thank you to the following bloggers who compiled lists of 2019 challenges, which helped me make my decisions: Christine at Xxertz Blog; A Novel Challenge; and Feed Your Fiction Addiction.

YA Award Winners
This one isn't an official challenge, but I will try to read all the YA books that win awards from the American Library Association for 2018. I may have read some of them this year, but that's ok. The winners aren't announced until early February so I can't begin this one until then. And the logo may change as well, we'll see.

This challenge is new to me, but the idea is to read books whose titles begin with every letter of the alphabet. It is hosted by Ginger Mom and the Kindle Quest.

Literary Escapes (and Reading Around the World)
This challenge is hosted by Dollycas and the goal is to read books set in as many US states as possible. In 2018 I read 33 states so I'd like to do better in 2019.

I love reading books set outside the US so would read these types of book anyway, but it's fun to have a challenge along with it. I couldn't find a challenge specifically for reading books set around the world, but The Literary Escapes Challenge gives bonus points for out-of-the-US locations so I'll count this challenge for this as well. 
**This year I am going to be better about posting to the Facebook group for these two location-based challenges.

Motif Reading
I participated in this challenge in 2018 as well and like the motifs even better for 2019. Hosted by Girlxoxo. #monthlymotifgxo

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: Hide With Me by Sorboni Banerjee

Title: Hide With Me
Author: Sorboni Banerjee
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 358
Rating: 4 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In the dying cornfields of his family's farm, seventeen-year-old CAde finds a girl broken and bleeding. She has one request: hid me.

Tucked away in an abandoned barn on the edge of the farm, the mysterious Jane Doe starts to heal and details of her past surface. A foster kid looking for a way out, Jane got caught up in the wrong crowd and barely escaped with her life.

Cade has a different past of his own. He's been trapped in the border town of Tanner, Texas, his whole life. Reeling from his parents' messy separation, Cade is focused on one thing: a football scholarship--his only chance.

Cade and Jane spend their nights in the barn planning their escapes, and their days with Cade's friends: sweet artistic Mateo and his fiery sister Jojo, who vows to be president one day.

But it's not that easy to disappear.

Just across the border in a city in Mexico lies the life Jane desperately wants to leave behind--a past filled with drugs and danger, information she never wanted, and a cartel boss who is watching her every move.

Review: This book is definitely one that keeps you glued to the pages, turning them quickly as the book progresses to find out what happens to Jane and Cade.

This book is definitely intense and feels timely with the cartels in Mexico, drugs and people being ferried across the border, and collaborators on both sides. At first I thought: this is all a bit far-fetched, but then I realized that this is real for so many people. It's why we have caravans of families leaving Central America and Mexico for the US. So that part felt strong and real.

The part that doesn't feel as realistic is the involvement of the teenagers. While adolescents definitely get themselves into trouble, these high school seniors do a bit much: they don't tell authorities and they try to take on the cartel themselves. It just seemed a bit unrealistic for me. But that doesn't mean the novel isn't good and I think it will do really well with teen readers.

Challenges for which this counts: none

Sunday Salon: December 9, 2018

My life in books: 
  • DNF: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green--I tried, I really did, but I just could not get past about page 60 of this book. I will probably be the only person who can't finish it.
  • Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris--Adult thriller that is super gripping and good
  • A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi--YA with a great message

Challenges progress: As we approach the end of the year, I have got to start choosing books that satisfy challenges!
  • 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 46! 
  • Literary Voyage around the world (complete)--Read books set in as many countries as possible. I have read in 40 countries so far, and in the past two weeks added none.
  • Literary Escapes--Track the US states. I have read books set in 31 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 December motif is Winter or Holiday, but I haven't done this yet.
My life outside books:
It was definitely strange to be back to work after almost 2 weeks off (Strep and Thanksgiving), but it also felt really good and I feel like I am back on track after a month of feeling a drift.

Not much to report.... I've got a bunch of Christmas shopping done in NYC over Thanksgiving so that feels good to be on top of it. Yesterday my mom and I had one of our totally efficient Murdoch women days where we did tons of errands and Christmas shopping and got everything done including things we thought we'd have to put off for a week.

Part of our errands took us to the "Corner Green" in our part of town where there is a memorial to those who died and did rescues during the Thomas Fire and the Debris Flow that devastated our area a year ago. Next to this memorial is a plaque thanking those that donated money to create the green space in 1993. I scanned the names and found that someone donated money in honor of President Mikhail Gorbechev. Don't you think that's funny?!

I bought my first fake Christmas tree and I must say it looks really good. It's only four and a half feet tall and came pre-lit. I planned on putting it outside, but when I got home, the instructions said it was for indoor only so now my part of our house has its own tree.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Title: A Very Large Expanse of Sea
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 310
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (state not specified)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): In 2002, a year after 9/11, and Shirin has just started at yet another school. It's an extremely turbulent time for the world, but also for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who's tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. But she's tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments--even the physical violence--she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. She decided long ago not to trust anyone anymore, and she doesn't expect, or even try, to fit in anywhere or let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons breakdancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He's the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her--they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds--and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she's not sure she'll ver be able to let it down.

Review: I first read about this book on Books In the Spotlight when Rummanah recommended it. Books like this are so important as they bring to the fore issues facing teenagers in a way that makes them realize they are not alone. True, not every adolescent who reads this book is Muslim, but my guess is that, sadly, most of them have been made fun of, tormented, stereotyped (for race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender, etc), or harassed. This story will show them they are not alone.

Not only is this book important for the reasons I have just stated, but it will also show them the impact of fear and hatred. Insensitive questions, mean comments, blind gossip... it all has an impact even if the perpetrator doesn't see it. This book brings all of this front and center.

I was married to an Arab man when 9/11 happened. We were lucky that we didn't experience events like those described in this book, but we were both well established in our community by 2001, having been there for decades. I think that helped. But when we traveled, it was a different story all together.

Yes, this book has YA romance so be prepared for that. It's always intense and love beyond everything else. But the romance in this book plays an important role. I hope students read this novel and can find something to take away from it. I am sure they will especially given the way public hatred seems to be okay these days in the US.

Challenges for which this counts: none