Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Salon: November 19, 2017

My life in books:
Since my last Sunday Salon, here's what I've read. I feel like I'm getting my reading mojo back and the holidays are coming up so there's lot of reading in my future!

  • Currently reading--Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton
Challenge updates:
  • Read Your Own Damn Books--My goal was to read 25 books from my TBR shelves this year and I am up to 34.
  • Travel the World in Books--The idea is to read books set in as many countries as possible. I added Switzerland and Bolivia in the past two weeks.
  • Literary Escapes--Similar to the previous challenge, this one tracks the US states. I didn't add any new states because every YA book is set in New York. :-)
  • Read all of the ALA YA Award Winners--complete
My life outside books:
I have taken on another project at work: getting bilingual signage at all of our school sites. I attended a week at the Institute for Equity in Education back in October and we had to create a project. That was mine and the superintendent wants to do and he'll find the funding. So, he has asked me to start with one of our elementary schools that is 98% Latino.

My daughter is busy working on college applications; it's so different from when I applied. I remember filling them all in by hand, the same information for every college. Now they have the Common Application process, which seems so much more streamlined. The University of California has it's own system, but dealing with two versions isn't too bad. I am so eager to see where she ends up! She is applying to Vassar, Reed, Wellesley, Kenyon, Bowdoin, Connecticut College, Williams, and UC Berkeley. It's a great list and I think she'll be happy no matter which one she goes to.

She came home yesterday for the holiday and it's wonderful to have her home. She also got her senior photo and I think it came out beautifully.


I was so excited about a week ago to attend an evening with Samantha Bee. I was ready to laugh... a lot. So, you can imagine my disappointment when we got into the theater and saw two chairs on stage. It wasn't stand up, but a conversation with Samantha Bee (that's not how it was advertised). The interviewer asked boring questions (where do you get your blazers? How do stay trim? What's your morning routine?) and we were all sorely disappointed! Samantha Bee kept saying "Are you sure you want to hear this?" Um... not really. I was ready for political commentary and witty insights. Guess not.

I am watching the new/current seasons of:
  • Madam Secretary
  • Criminal Minds
  • Project Runway--just watched the final episode
  • Will and Grace

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Review: The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Title: The Lines We Cross
Author: Randa Abdel-Fattah
Year Published: 2017

Genre: YA fiction 
Pages: 389
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map): Australia

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.

Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart--and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents' politics seem much more complicated.

Mina has a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like.

Review: This novel seemed so timely and I enjoyed Abdel-Fattah's other book that I read (Does My Head Look Big in This?) so I couldn't resist buying it as one of the books to pull me out of my reading slump. What a good choice!

With all the nasty political rhetoric being thrown around in the US these days this book fit right in. The way that Michael's parents feel about refugees coming to Australia sounds very like the way Trump and his supporters feel in this country. It makes me sad to think that people are so scared of the "other" that they will go to extremes to get rid of them. I don't want to give away any of the plot, so I won't elaborate on that.

Somewhere near page 300 I felt that this book was going to be too long, it needed to pick up the pace and get the story progressing and the next thing I knew I had read the final 89 pages and I was done! So, it lagged a for about 30 to 40 pages, but otherwise had a good story and characters that I like.

Mina is a good main character; she is bright, thoughtful, and though she has had a tough life, she gets on with it. She doesn't wallow in her past, but rather uses it to urge her to success. Michael is struggling with his parents' racist views, trying to figure out what he believes and wants in life. That's difficult to go against everything you've heard in your house from a young age. To go against one's parents takes time and this story shows that.

I also like the message the novel gives that speaking up for what you believe, whether it's poplar or not, isn't easy, but it's important.

Challenges for which this counts:

Friday, November 17, 2017

Blogoversary and a question

I have been blogging since November 2009 when I became a high school librarian. Although I am not a librarian anymore, I grew to love reading YA and Adult books and blogging about it. Even when I haven't been a "good" blogger and read other people's blogs, even when I've been in reading slumps, and even when I haven't been consistent about blogging, I have considered myself a book blogger.
One of my favorite parts about book blogging--other than getting to know fabulous book bloggers--is doing the read-a-thons (which I'll confess I haven't done in years) and reading challenges. While doing challenges I still read books that I want to read, but the challenges get me to stretch myself and try some books I wouldn't normally make time to read.

I do like reading challenges and have gotten back into them this year after taking a few years off. I find I have more time to read now and like to see what categories I can fit my books into. For 2017 I participated in the following challenges (I'll do an end-of-the-year update in December):

  • Read My Own Damn Books
  • Round the World in Books
  • Literary Escapes
  • ALA YA Awards

You can see all my past challenges on my challenges page, and in addition to the challenges listed below from this year, some I've really enjoyed were:

  • Mystery and Suspense
  • What's in a Name
  • GLBT
  • POC (people of color)
  • Graphic novel
  • Women Unbound

So, as this year's holidays begin and I start to think about next year, my big question is...
What are your favorite challenges
and who sponsors them?

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Review: Bone Box by Faye Kellerman

Title: Bone Box
Author: Faye Kellerman
Year Published: 2017

Genre: Adult fiction (mystery)
Pages: 480
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (NY)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): On a crisp September morning, while walking a bucolic woodland trail, Rina stumbles upon human remains once buried deep beneath the forest floor. Immediately, she calls her husband, Peter Decker, a former detective lieutenant with the LAPD now working for the local Greenbury Police. The body has been interred for years and there is scant physical evidence at the gravesite: a youthful skeleton, a skull wound, and long, dark strands of hair surrounding the bones. As Decker and his partner, Tyler McAdams, investigate further, they realize that they're most likely dealing with a missing student from the nearby Five Colleges of Upstate--a well-known and well-respected consortium of higher learning.

And when more human remains are found in the same area, Decker and McAdams know this isn't just a one-off murder case. Short-staffed and with no convenient entrée into the colleges, Decker enlists Rina's help to act as his eyes and ears on campus. Winding their way through a dangerous labyrinth of steely suspects and untouchable academics, Decker, McAdams, and Rina race to protect their community from a psychopathic killer still in the area--and on the hunt for a fresh victim.

Review: I love me a Faye Kellerman mystery and this one was no exception. I love that I know the main character, Peter Decker, his wife, Rina, their kids and families, and his co-workers. It's like reading about family that you haven't seen in a long time.

The Deckers have moved from LA to upstate New York where they live in a small town containing a five-college consortium. Reading this book, I realize she may have based those colleges on the Claremont Colleges in Claremont, CA (Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, Scripps, Pitzer, and Pomona). My daughter is now at boarding school in Claremont so I've become very aware of these amazing colleges. I realize that has nothing to do with the book, but I found it personally interesting.

This novel is about 3 bodies found in the woods, missing college girls, professors that seem a little sleezy, arrogant college boys, and drug-dealing college girls. What else can I say? The writing is good, the story is intriguing, and the mystery rolls out well.

If you've read and liked Faye Kellerman before, you'll enjoy this book. If you haven't read her books before, start at the beginning with Ritual Bath so that you can get to know the family of characters.

Other Faye Kellerman books I've reviewed: HangmanGun GamesThe BeastMurder 101The Theory of DeathBlind Man's Bluff

Challenges for which this counts:

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder

Title: An Uninterrupted View of the Sky
Author: Melanie Crowder
Year Published: 2017

Genre: YA fiction (historical fiction)
Pages: 279 plus glossary
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)Bolivia

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Bolivia, 1999. Francisco's life consists of school, soccer, and trying to find space for himself in his family's cramped yet boisterous home. But when his father is arrested on false charges and sent to prison by a corrupt system that targets the uneducated, the poor,  and the indigenous majority, all hope is lost. Francisco and his sister are left with no choice: they must move into the prison with their father. There, they find a world unlike anything they've ever known, where everything--a door, a mattress, protection from other inmates--has its price. 

Prison life is dirty, dire, dehumanizing. With their lives upended, Francisco faces an impossible decision. Should he break up the family and take his sister to their grandparents int eh Andean highlands, fleeing the city and the future that was just within his grasp, or keep them together in the increasingly dangerous prison? Pulled between two equally undesirable options, Francisco must confront everything he once believed about the world around him and his place within it.

in this heart-wrenching and timely novel inspired by true events, Melanie Crowder sheds light on a little-known era of modern South American history--where injustice still darkens minds and hearts alike--and proves that hope can be found, even in the most desperate places.

Review: Yes! Another YA novel based on real life events. That is definitely for me. And it has the added bonus that it is set in South America, an area for which I haven't read many books.

I feel like I learned a lot by reading this book and that is something that I enjoy. I didn't know about the 1008 laws in Boliva (arresting citizens for drug issues). These laws apparently came into being at the "encouragement" of the US to slow down the drug trade. What happened instead was that thousands of innocent men were arrested and thrown in prison for years and sometimes decades. Bolivian officials wanted to show the US government that they were making an effort even though the arrests made no impact.

And the conditions in the prison! No guards inside (only outside) and prisoners have to pay money to have a cell (and be safe), eat, get furniture, etc. When the prisoners have no one on the outside to take care of their children, then the children live in the prison as well. I cannot even imagine.

Following Francisco's time in the prison was so interesting and heart breaking. He and his 8-year-old sister are allowed out to go to school, but have to be back in the prison by 6:00pm or they are on the streets for the night. The author did a really good job of showing the poverty, the distress and the cultural divide between the indigenous population and the Spanish population. I definitely felt what it was like for the main characters; their fears, desires, and their efforts to improve the situation.

Challenges for which this counts: