Thursday, July 4, 2019

YA Reivew: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Title: Pride
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 289
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this from my school's library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn prid, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can't stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, and college applications hovering over the horizon--Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick's changing landscape or lose it all.

Review: A rewrite of Pride and Prejudice is always fun--you know the story, you know how it's going to end, but it is still really fun to read and this one is no exception.

I love that Darius and Zuri both need to learn to be open to new ideas and people, they both need to experience a life that is different from their own, and they need to fall for each other. It's expected and it's fun YA literature.

I liked the clash of cultures (Brooklyn and private school; lower and middle class), which pointed out that race/ethnicity aren't the only dividing factors in this country. I also like that Zuri and Darius are open to learning from one another and putting their differences aside.

Challenges for which this counts: 

TLC Review: Side by Side by Anita Kushwaha

Title: Side by Side
Author: Anita Kushwaha
Year Published: 2019

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 300
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)Canada and the UK

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

Summary (from the back of the book): Kavita Gupta is a woman in transition. When her troubled older brother, Sunil, disappears, she does everything in her power to find him, convinced that she can save him. Ten days later, the police arrive at her door to inform her that Sunil’s body has been found. Her world is devastated. She finds herself in crisis mode, trying to keep the pieces of her life from falling apart even more. As she tries to cope with her loss, the support system around her begins to unravel. Her parents’ uneasy marriage seems more precarious. Her health is failing as her unprocessed trauma develops into more sinister conditions. Her marriage suffers as her husband is unable to relate to her loss. She bears her burden alone, but after hitting her lowest point, she knows she needs to find a better way of coping.

Desperate for connection, she reaches out to a bereavement group, where she meets Hawthorn, a free-spirited young man with whom she discovers a deep connection through pain. After being blindsided by a devastating marital betrayal, she wonders if a fresh start is possible in the wake of tragedy. Will she escape her problems and start over? Or will she face the challenges of rebuilding the life she already has?

Side by Side is a story about loss, growth and the search for meaning in the wake of tragedy, illuminated through one woman’s journey from harm to care.


Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Chapters/Indigo

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Review: The premise of this book is a good one: family drama, taking place on multiple countries, and siblings. But, the first half didn't grab me the way I had hoped. Maybe that's because the pain of the main character is something I (luckily) haven't experienced. But that suggests that I can't empathize, which isn't true. 

But, then Kavita attended a bereavement group and I think that's when the novel came into its own. The relationship between Hawthorne and Kavita seemed real and important; finding someone that can help her through her grief and recovery was well done and believable. I liked the second part of the book much more than the first part. Maybe that's because it was more hopeful.

I do think the book does a great job of showing the anguish of surviving a loved one's suicide. I have a number of fringe friends/acquaintances and students who have committed suicide and it definitely feels like there is something we all should have known, seen, or been able to do to stop it from happening. But, it really is about that person, not the survivors and that's a difficult thing to remember. Kavita needed to figure that out for herself.

I really liked the ending few pages of the book. Nothing is fixed or perfect, but there is hope.

Challenges for which this counts: 
Review Tour:
Monday, July 1st: Lit and Life
Tuesday, July 2nd: Literary Quicksand
Wednesday, July 3rd: Instagram: @simplykelina
Thursday, July 4th: Helen’s Book Blog
Friday, July 5th: Instagram: @megsbookclub
Monday, July 8th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, July 9th: Instagram: @pieladybooks
Wednesday, July 10th: Instagram: @readingwithmere
Thursday, July 11th: Tina Says…
Friday, July 12th: Instagram: @libraryinprogress
Monday, July 15th: What Is That Book About

Sunday, June 30, 2019

YA Review: Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

Title: Nowhere Boy
Author: Katherine Marsh
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 353
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)Belgium, Germay, Austria, and Hungary

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stranded in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Syria, only to lose his father on the perilous journey to the shores of Europe. Now he's struggling to get by on his own, and with no one left and where to go, his hope is fading.

Then he meets Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy. Lonely and homesick, Max is having trouble at his new school and just cant' seem to do anything right. But with one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed's lives collide and a friendship begins to grow. Together, Ahmed and Max will defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave and how hope can change your destiny.

Review: Wow. This is such a good book! 

Before I tell you why I enjoyed it so much, if you read the book you must read the conversation with the author at the end. It tells where the inspiration for the story came from and how much of it is real. Amazing.

This novel would be good for middle grade or high school students (and, obviously, adults) as it combines Europe's history in the Holocaust, the Syrian civil war, and Europe's current issues with refugees. The Holocaust portion is small and really is just for reference, but it is an important connection to the present day in Belgium. And, actually, this book is about humanity, how we do and should feel about one another, and how we can help.

Marsh does a wonderful job at showing people's fears, their bravery, their ignorance, and their love. What more could we want from a book?!

Challenges for which this counts: 

Sunday Salon: June 30, 2019

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

My life in books over the past week: 
  • The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
  • White Fragility: Why It's so Hard for White People to Talk About Race by Robin DiAngelo (for work)
Challenge progress:
  • 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 41 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 42 countries so far, adding the El Salvador in the past two weeks.
  • Motif Reading Challenge--The July motif is "Through the years" (read a book involving time travel, changes in time, etc).
  • Non-fiction--I have read 18 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:
Summer school finishes in 3 days! Grades are due Thursday and I leave on my vacation at 10:00am so it will be a bit of a scramble, but I will be done and officially on vacation.

As a teacher of American Government I get excited about election time so watching the two democratic debates was fun for me. It also helped me narrow down candidates to keep an eye on. I think Harris, Buttegeig, Castro, Warren, and Booker are my top 5. The rest are good (except the crazy anti-vaccine author lady), I will vote for them if they are the candidate, but I think they should be cabinet posts (or something similar) for the winner.

This is totally nerdy, but I am excited that I changed the favicon on this Blogger site. I've meant to do it for a while, but it was super easy (as soon as I had the image as a square and under 100kb). Here's a how-to video if you have Blogger. 

Thursday we head off on our vacation so I won't post on the blog or check blogs for 3 weeks. I will have withdrawls for sure. We are headed to the UK for about 5 days then my mom and I are taking a river cruise from Prague to Berlin. I'll give a full report upon my return.

Monday, June 24, 2019

YA Review: The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante

Title: The Grief Keeper
Author: Alexandra Villasante
Year Published: 2019

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 306
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)El Salvador and USA (Washington, DC)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Seventeen year old Marisol has always dreamed of being American--of living a life like the characters on Cedar Hollow, her favorite American television show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under the threat of death and stealing across the US border as "an illegal"--but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister Gabi's life is placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is all her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl, her mother wouldn't be hiding and she and Gabi wouldn't now be detained by the Unites States government.

Consumed by her guilt, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She agrees to become a grief keeper, someone who takes the grief of another into her own body, relieving them of their pain as she lives through it. It's a risky experimental study, but if it means keeping Gabi safe, Marisol will do anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love.

Review: Given all that is going on in this country regarding immigration and the detention of small children, I thought this would be an appropriate book to read. However, I didn't read the entire summary of the book before purchasing it and as I started, I was a bit worried it would be magical realism, which I am not great with.

But, it's not magical realism and it's not sci-fi. I guess slightly dystopian in concept, but it didn't feel that way when I was reading it. It just feels like realistic fiction even though the concept of a grief keeper is anything but realistic. Ok, enough of that. 

I quite liked this book and Marisol. She is such a care taker. In El Salvador she tried to take care of her little sister and her older brother when gangs took over their lives, she protected her sister on their journey north to the US and while they are in detention. So being a grief keeper is a natural move for her. I also thought the relationship between Marisol and Rey, the girl who is grieving, progresses nicely, building from wariness to mutual moral support.

I liked the social and political commentary about immigration, politics, and wealth vs poverty, but it isn't preachy or obnoxious. It plays an important role in the story.

Challenges for which this counts: