Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Title: The Poet X
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 357
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours her frustration onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers--especially after she catches feelings fo ra boy in her bio class. With Mami's determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

When she is invited to join her school's slam poetry club, she knows that she could never get around Mami's rules to attend, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can't stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in spite of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Review: When I was a high school librarian, I started a student poetry slam, which was so much fun! So, this book appealed to me as soon as I heard about it. There are so many young people who have so much to say and I learned that slam poetry was a great outlet for many of them. And, it made the long list for the National Book Award. Not bad!

This book, written in verse, is good. Very good. Xiomara writes wonderful poetry for herself, it's the only way her voice is heard. But a caring teacher hears her voice and encourages her. Encourages her to believe in herself and to make her voice heard. And sometimes you have to ask over and over.

I also liked the supporting characters, even Xiomara's mother who made me so angry. I could understand the fear that drove her to be so harsh with her daughter. I also liked the relationship between Xiomara and her twin, though I think it could have been even stronger.

There's a lot going on in this book: family, school, bullying, sexual harassment, and empowerment.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

I am a CYBILS judge!

I am really excited to announce that I've been chosen (again) as a judge for this year's CYBILS Awards! What are Cybils, you say? They aim to "recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal."

I am a round two judge, which means I'll be reading like a ton in January and early February to whittle down the books for graphic novels. Last year I was a round 2 judge for junior high/high school non-fiction so I am excited to try out another category. I am really looking forward to seeing what books make it to the short list!

Nominating Books

If you have books that you would like to see nominated for this year's awards, here's the scoop:
  • Nominations are open October 1 to 15, 2018
  • Fill in the form that will be on the CYBILS Awards site
  • You may only nominate one book per category
Happy reading!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: Tear Me Apart by J.T. Ellison

Title: Tear Me Apart
Author: J.T. Ellison
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 485
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2018 Google Reading map)USA (CO and TN)

FTC Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book by the publisher for an honest review
Summary (from the inside flap of the book): The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison's Tear Me Apart is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them. 

One moment will change their lives forever.... Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she's suffering from a severe form of leukemia, adn a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.

Who knows the answers? The race to save Mindy's life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart... and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family's deepest secrets.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with J. T.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Review: I didn't read the first book in this series, Lie to Me, but it doesn't matter because this book easily stands alone. And it stands alone so well! I read it in only two sittings, not wanting to go to bed so that I could finish it.

There are important and interesting issues within the book: mental illness and suicide being the top two. The author handles both of them with grace and care while still giving the reader a tense mystery that slowly unravels through the end of the book. A mother's love it also paramount in this novel and is portrayed in a few ways, all of which are painful and beautiful.

There are a bunch of main characters in this story, all of whom are interesting, frustrating, sympathetic, and important. I like the way they worked together, interacted, changed alliances, and fit into the story. Each one is necessary and brings something different to the plot.

I also liked that some chapters went back in time so that the reader gets the background to the "now." The novel is tightly written and a joy to read.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Review: The History of Jane Doe by Michael Belanger

Title: The History of Jane Doe
Author: Michael Belanger
Year Published: 2018

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 273
Rating: 4 out of 5

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

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Raymond Green was a history buff without a story of his own. 

Simon Blackburn was Ray's best friend, a passionate consumer of tween vampire novels and milk.

Their high school status was: Agressively Ignored

Then the sarcastic, folk-music-loving Jane Doe moves to Ray and Simon's weird little town of Burgerville, and a miraculous thing happens: she chooses Ray and Simon as her people. And rather than imploding, the universe bends to accept this new reality.

So begins their junior year of green cows, epiphany-filled minivan rides, and first love. For once, Ray is more excited about the present than the past. But here's the thing about the present: you just don't know what's coming.

Review: How could I not be drawn to a book that mentions green cows?! Seriously, who has ever heard of a green cow.

This book starts out so differently from how it ends up, which is a good thing. In the beginning the story feels like it will be about a boy, Ray, his friend Simon, and Jane, the girl who brings a twist to their lives during junior year in high school. The chapters are told alternatively between time before and time after. For much of the book we don't know the event that is day 0.

As we get closer to day 0, the book takes a turn and becomes more exciting, more intense, and more significant. Jane's depression is more evident and her struggles begin to have a stronger effect on both Ray and Simon. I don't want to say any more, but the issue of mental health is dealt with well.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Sunday Salon: September 16, 2018

My life in books: 


The long lists for the National Book Award came out on Friday. How is it that I haven't read any of these books?! It's so embarrassing!
Challenges progress:
  • Big Book Summer Challenge--I read 5 books longer than 400 pages this summer. This challenge is now done since summer has ended.
  • Non-fiction--My goal is 20 books and I've read 36! 
  • Literary Voyage around the world--Read books set in as many countries as possible. I have read in 35 countries so far, and in the past two weeks added Jordan and Sweden.
  • Literary Escapes--Track the US states. I have read books set in 28 states so far and this round added Rhode Island.
  • Read all of the ALA YA Award Winners (complete)--I have already read all of the winners!
  • Motif Reading Challenge--The September is Spooky so I counted People Kill People by Ellen Hopkins.
My life outside books:
Whew! We have spent the past two weeks helping our ETS department resolve about 1500 tech tickets! And I've been organizing Voter Education Week for our high schools. In California, 16 and 17 year olds can pre-register to vote so I work with all our social studies teachers who teach 11th and 12th graders to give students the opportunity to register or pre-register.

It feels so quiet around the house with my daughter gone, but she seems to be settling in well at Vassar.

I managed to fall this week when I was walking my dog. We don't have sidewalks so I was trying to get off the road as a car came toward me and I tripped and fell right on my knees. I'm fine, just scraped up and I've bruised some bones in my right hand.

Not much else is going on. I hope everyone is having a great weekend!