Saturday, February 22, 2020

Sunday Salon: February 23, 2020

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

My life in books over the past week: 
The following books were 2019 CYBILS finalists so I read them a while ago, but am posting them now that the winner has been announced:
Challenge progress 2020
  • Literary Escapes Challenge--This week: 2 states (AL, WV) and 1 country (Ghana). 13 states and 6 countries total
  • Mount TBR Challenge--5 book read this week, 18 books total
  • Popsugar reading challenge--2 book read this week, 14 books total
  • Social Justice Challenge--1 book read this month, 2 book total
  • YA Award Winners--I have already read 5 of the 12 award winning books
My life outside books:
This past week at work was a busy one. Lots of all day meetings with small groups of teachers, a day of union negotiations, and follow up union meetings with more groups of teachers to see how they feel about what we're negotiating.

And, I still don't know who to vote for in the presidential primary! I only have until March 3. I am torn between the candidates whose policies I most agree with and who I think can win in November. The big problem is that I have no idea who can win so that means I cannot make up my mind. I'll wait to see who does well in Nevada and South Carolina then I'll have to make a decision.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

YA Review: Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Title: Don't Date Rosa Santos
AuthorNina Moreno
Year Published: 2019


Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 336
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (FL) and Cuba

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that's what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you're a boy with a boat.

But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.

As her college decision looms, Rosa collides-literally-with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?

Review: I can totally see this book doing well with teenagers. It's got romance, family drama, a bit of travel, good friends, and more. For me, it was good, but not great. It is my least favorite of the CYBILS finalists this year.

Rosa is a good character; she is smart, driven, organized, inquisitive, loves her friends and family, and she is starting to break out of her shell. I also like the people around her. They balance her out, challenge her, and love her.

There is some magical realism in this story, which I am not good at. So, that's not the book's fault, it just isn't what I want from a book.

I did like the story as a whole, especially the relationships between Rosa, her mother, and her abuela. I also liked the feelings evoked about Cuba, their lost loves, and family. In fact their whole small town felt like one big family and I really got a sense of what life can be like for Cubans living in Florida.

Challenges for which this counts: 
For the Pop Sugar challenge, this book is set in a country begining with C (Cuba).

Monday, February 17, 2020

YA Review: The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Title: The Downstairs Girl
AuthorStacey Lee
Year Published: 2019


Genre: YA fiction (historical)
Pages: 366
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I received this book as a gift

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): By day, seventeen-year-old Jo Kuan works as a lady's maid for the cruel daughter of one of the wealthiest men in Atlanta. But by night, Jo moonlights as the pseudonymous author of a newspaper advice column for the genteel Southern lady, "Dear Miss Sweetie."

When her column becomes wildly popular, she uses the power of the pen to address some of society's ills, but she's not prepared for the backlash that follows when her column challenges fixed ideas about race and gender. While her opponents clamor to uncover the secret identity of Miss Sweetie, a mysterious letter sets Jo off on a search for her own past and the parents who abandoned her as a baby. But when her efforts put her in the crosshairs of Atlanta's most notorious criminal, Jo must decide whether she, a girl used to living in the shadows, is ready to step into the light. With prose that is witty, insightful, and at times heartbreaking, Stacey Lee masterfully crafts an extraordinary social drama set in the New South.

Review: This book is another finalist for the 2019 CYBILS and I was really excited because I had it on my TBR shelf and wanted to read it anyway! Perfect.

This book is so different from a lot of other YA, which made it extra fun to read. I love YA historical fiction and this one covered an era I haven't read about before: Reconstruction in the southern US states. In addition, this story focuses on a Chinese woman (while not ignoring issues of African-Americans) and how post Civil War issues affect her.

Jo Kuan is a strong and independent character who manages to work the system so that she can make money and fit into society. She knows what her strengths are (hat making, writing, her spunk) and how to use them to her advantage. I love the relationship between her and some of the other servants as well as between her and Old Gin.

About two thirds through the book there are some twists that I didn't see coming and that was fun since they were totally believable. Although I am not sure how this book will do with most teenagers, if you are someone who enjoys historical fiction and an underdog story then I recommend this one highly. And that cover, I love it!



Challenges for which this counts: 
For the Pop Sugar challenge, this book was written by a woman of color

 

Sunday, February 16, 2020

YA Review: I'm Not Dying with You Tonight by Jones and Segal

Title: I'm Not Dying with You Tonight
AuthorKimberly Jones and Gilly Segal
Year Published: 2019


Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 242
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she's going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school.

When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together.

They aren't friends. They hardly understand the other's point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they're going to survive the night.

Review: This book was one of the finalists for the 2019 CYBIL Awards, of which I was a judge. I actually read the book back in early January, but couldn't post the review until the winner was announced.

The 2015 riots in Baltimore were the impetus for this book and I can see that the authors did their homework as the scenes feel very real. I was tense as I was reading from the early pages when the fights break out at the school until the very last page, hoping that the girls would be ok, that they they would stick by one another, and that no one else would get hurt.

The issue of race is pervasive in this book, but in an interview with the authors, they said that more than race, they feel the book is about perspective and that is definitely true. How do Lena and Campbell view one another, the events of the evening, the rioters, and Lena's family and boyfriend's friends. There is so much to unpack in this novel and I think it's all handled really well.

Challenges for which this counts: 
For the Pop Sugar challenge this book has an upside down image on its cover.

Sunday Salon: February 16, 2020

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

My life in books over the past week: 
Challenge progress 2020
  • Literary Escapes Challenge--This week: 2 states (AL, WV) and 1 country (Ghana). 13 states and 6 countries total
  • Mount TBR Challenge--5 book read this week, 18 books total
  • Popsugar reading challenge--2 book read this week, 14 books total
  • Social Justice Challenge--1 book read this month, 2 book total
  • YA Award Winners--I have already read 5 of the 12 award winning books
My life outside books:
The CYBILS have been announced and I had a really good time as a round 2 judge for YA fiction. Here's my post about it which has a link to all the winners.

Things are going well these days, a definite improvement from the fall, thank goodness! I feel like I have my mojo back at work and that is in part due to a a new group I have formed with some of our social studies teachers: #DisruptHistory. And that's what we plan to do. We're going to increase the student-centered learning (got to get them away from too many teacher-directed lectures!) and moving away from the white/European-centered teaching that dominates history. I've been doing a lot of equity/social justice reading and work on myself and am excited to make an impact in some of our classrooms. I am taking a graphics class so have designed a logo (totally out of my comfort zone), which I am getting made into stickers for the participating teachers.