Hello and happy Tuesday. I just got a very sad email from one of my students, so I’ll need a temporary distraction. Last night, Ann from Great New Reads, the host of the Book Review Blog Challenge, emailed the contestants to announce that the results for the challenge were in. If you know anything about me it’s probably this: I am an overachiever through and through, but I didn’t get into this challenge to win.
I didn’t even think I could read all the books I read for the challenge and the ones in my regular TBR! I had so much fun, though and I got in touch with different people who, like me, love talking about books.
So, no, I did not win first place, but…I got second place! And because Ann is most definitely a sweetheart and didn’t go to my school, she believes that second place winners also get a prize. Bless her soul. The prize is a $20 gift card from Amazon and a digital certificate, which I’ll make the thumbnail of this post as soon as I have it.
I know this wasn’t *my* challenge, but I want to give a shoutout too, okay? I want to give a shoutout to Michelle from Unidragronfrag because she kept up with my posts throughout the challenge, actively commented, and she even read and reviewed Number the Stars for one of her challenges, per my suggestion. Is this what having internet friends feels like? I think it does.
If you’re here to find out what I’ll buy with my $20, I’ve got you covered. Here’s my prize wishlist. Obviously, I’m buying ebooks with that money, but I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone.
I read this book between May 11th and May 12th, 2020 and gave it three stars. Like I said, this is a reread for me. It was a required reading when I was in eighth grade, and though I remember some of the story, I realized I’d forgotten what now I think would be the most relevant plot points or themes in the story.
I’d initially thought this was a middle grade, but it isn’t and I honestly don’t know why I thought the characters were like twelve years old and not fifteen and sixteen, but anyway. You know that when I read or reread certain books that remind me of when I was at school, I immediately wonder whether I would have this as a required reading for my students and how I would approach it. Well, this book is pretty mediocre but I wouldn’t deem it problematic, really. I simply would not have my students read it in class.
Stargirl is the name of the new girl who’s quirky and kind and people go from hating her to loving her to hating her again because she is different. But this is not written from Stargirl’s perspective because that would be weird, right? Young women having a voice. So of course, it is from the perspective of Leo, a guy who is basically Joe from You but without being a killer. Maybe he develops that throughout the years. Leo sees everything that Stargirl does and the way people react to her, but he does nothing; he only witnesses stuff and reports it back to us.
Oh, but although Leo is telling us about when he was a teenager, he is now in his thirties, which the author makes it seem way older because of the way Leo narrates stuff. You would think that in reality an old man was the one writing this story. You’d also think that because at times he slips up and talks about how some little girls leave for the summer and come back being full-grown women, or how Stargirl is “not like other girls” because she doesn’t wear makeup. “She game us something to talk about. She was entertaining.” That’s exactly what young women aspire to.
I wish I’d been more critical of this book when I was younger because I wouldv’e torn it apart and I wouldv’e had a very interesting conversation with my English teacher (a man), who’d probably had nothing to do with the choices for required reading. The truth is, I probably didn’t even read this whole book in eighth grade and that’s why I don’t remember so much of it. I was probably bored, like I was this time around, which is why it took me two days instead of one sitting to read this.
Would I recommend this? No. Is this the worst display of male chauvinism and the objectification of women? No. But it’s a book that doesn’t stand the pass of time, really. Being quirky is way more accepted than it was ten years ago and nowadays everyone plays the ukulele and the natural look is all the rage. Like I said, this is one more mediocre book out there and I hope that the movie is better.
Did you participate in the challenge? Any good discoverings? A new favorite? Let me know in the comments below.
This morning I finished The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I read this book between May 7th and May 9th, 2020, and gave it three stars. I liked it and I recognize its importance, but I didn’t love it. The first thing I have to say is that, yes, I know that the title sounds problematic but this is an own-voices novel and the author self-identifies as Indian, not indigenous. This entire book is a conversation about race and ethnicity, then, from the point of view of an Indian teenager, Junior (or Arnold), who decides to start going to an all-white school outside of his reservation.
I can say that this is 100% one-of-a-kind, and although it is a compliment to the story, it is sad that being the well-person that I am, I had not read a book written by and featuring an indigenous person. The main character is fourteen years old and he was born with hydrocephalus, which means, in his words, that he was born “with water in his brain.” I don’t know if this constitutes a disability in and of itself but from what the main character narrates, the condition causes seizures and other health issues. This was not as widely explored as the topic of race, and I am almost certain that this type of representation is not own-voices.
Now, why did I not give five stars to this brilliant work of art? One simple answer is, I liked this book and I appreciate it for what it is, but I didn’t personally love it. I was also pretty conflicted as I read because I didn’t really know how to feel about it at first. I even looked at the reviews and was surprised to find that most were four or five stars. Would I give it four stars? No, even though the book grew on me, I stand by my middle-of-the-road rating.
Since the main character is fourteen years old, I thought this would read like an older middle-grade or a younger young-adult, but it didn’t, which confused the teacher in me. You see, when I read and review middle-grade novels, I think if I would read this with a class or whether I’d recommend this to my students, and the thing is, the answer is no to both questions. I would not even recommend this to a kid in my life outside of school because I think the writing style can be a bit too vulgar. Think I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. Again, here I’m talking about the writing specifically, not the story or the themes.
Since I mentioned themes, I should say that there was one that was mentioned but very poorly handled, and it was eating disorders, specifically bulimia. It was present in only one chapter so if you’re interested in reading this book, you can tell someone you trust to read it before you and to tell you exactly what to skip. It also deals with issues of poverty, alcoholism, death, and grief, which are closely linked with the big theme of race. Those were handled really well, but in a way that I think an adult could understand, especially an adult who is aware of structural violence and intersectionality.
Have you read anything about Sherman Alexie? Let me know in the comments. I’d definitely read something else from him in the future.
I started reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn on May 2nd, 2020 and it has grown on me. It’s weird to say something like that about a story that revolves around murder, but well, what can I say? I was weary going into this book because I was mega depressed when I read Gone Girl by this author and I sort of associate that story with that crappy time in my life. This story is completely different, but it does keep elements that I appreciated n Gone Girl, like the plot twists and the horrible characters you (I) end up sort of rooting for.
If you’re interested in reading this book, don’t read the synopsis because it’s kinda spoilery. There, you’re welcome. I don’t think you need to know anything going into a book, except for the trigger warnings, and in this book like in any other mystery/thriller/true-crime book, you get all of them. When Libby, the main character, was seven years old, her mom and two older sisters were brutally killed in their family farm and her brother Ben was convicted for the murders. Libby testified against him.
Now here’s why I’ve liked this book so far: we get Libby’s perspective twenty-five years after the murders, but we also get her mom’s and her brother’s from the day before the murders. Libby is broke and to get money she starts helping these people who are obsessed with the murder and believe Ben is innocent. Because the chapters alternate between the past and the present, we get to discover what really happened as Libby gets further into her research. That’s what I like, and I’ve also realized I like novels that have this true-crime feel to them.
I will give you a more in-depth review once I am done reading this book, and I might share more about the plot, since we haven’t reached the climax yet. How do you like your mystery/thrillers? Let me know in the comments below.
I read Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen between April 30th and May 1st, 2020 and gave it four stars. This is one of those books that I have no idea why or how I own. I mean, yes, I know it had been in my wishlist for a while and then I got it from BookOutlet, but I don’t know what made me add it to my wishlist in the first place. Then I started reading it and I understood. The main character, Petula, is going to this afterschool art therapy program to deal with what seems like obsessive-compulsive tendencies topped with anxiety/panic attacks caused by past trauma. I say “what seems like” because I am not a mental health professional so I can’t diagnose anybody. While in therapy, Petula meets Jacob, so we also know that he has his own history with mental illness.
Because I am a rebel, I will review review this book in a different style. This is something that I’ve done in the past, but I know that the challenge has brought new readers and followers, so this will be new for you. Basically, I will tell you which books this one reminds me of and the reasons why it does. Hopefully this will give you a better idea of whether you’d enjoy this book and if it is worth reading.
I read these two books last year and it took me a couples of days reading each. Both are all-time favorites now. The main characters in both books suffer from mental illness and for this reason, the plot focuses heavily on what they go through and what they constantly think about. Audrey from Finding Audrey, has severe anxiety, and Aza, from Turtles All the Way Down, has obsessive-compulsive tendencies, although it is never specified that she has been diagnosed with OCD. Petula, from Optimists Die First, calls herself a pessimist because she has these recurring, invasive thoughts about the worst-case scenario in every situation. I related to that when my anxiety was at its worst, but she acts upon these fears, which I think can also fit into the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. I also know that there are psychological currents that agree that OCD and anxiety both fit into neurosis. If you are looking for that kind of representation in a book, then check either of these out.
Hello, my name is Camila and I love to suffer. I also read this book last year and it is also one of my favorites. In this book, Carver, the main character, deals with the guilt of having lost his three best friends in a car accident that he thinks he caused because he was texting the friend who was driving. Both Petula and Jacob, the love interest, deal with the guilt of having caused tragedies that led them to where they are in life. I think both stories narrate similar tragic events from different perspectives, which again, opens up a conversation that is not as present or as popular in young adult contemporary books as it should.
I am talking all about mental health representation, but Optimists Die First had other types of rep as well. Now, before I talk about it, please know that I don’t know if my phrasing is correct or accurate or respectful, and if it isn’t, do correct me. I don’t know if this would count as representation for physical disability, but both in Optimists Die First and Girl Out of Water, the love interests have one arm. I read Girl Out of Water a few years ago, but I am almost certain that Lincoln did not have an accident that caused his arm to be amputated; he was born with one arm. He also does not have a prosthetic arm. Jacob did get part of his right arm amputated and he calls himself an amputee. He does have a prosthetic arm. I think the way this was handled was brilliant and I wish more authors would include characters that are real, that represent people we know and love and that in turn can make us a little kinder and more empathetic. I don’t know if the representation is accurate, but I’m sure you will let me know.
I hope you are having a great weekend. I am personally feeling a little disoriented since yesterday it was a holiday. What did you read to fulfill today’s prompt or what would you have read? Let me know in the comments.
Hello and happy Wednesday. We’re halfway through the Book Review Blog Challenge and I can honestly say this has been one of the things that have kept me motivated and going because whoever said teaching remotely was easy was full of shit and I’d like to have a serious talk.
On a happier note, for day four of the challenge the prompt was family or anything that reminds me of strong family ties. If there’s one thing to know about me is that my life basically revolves around my family and that they are at the center of my universe. Just yesterday, we got pretty exciting news about my sister who got accepted into her dream university for her master’s, so we all know I was a crying mess. I have a particular love for books about siblings and books that feature a grandparent-grandchild relationship, so my choice was a no-brainer. I selected Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.
This is another book that I supposedly read when I was in sixth grade and I’m starting to think that my teacher was plain lazy and she chose books that had been adapted to movies because she knew that nobody was going to read them. There were parts, though, that I do remember having read. Like I said about Matilda by the same author, the plot in the book is simpler than the movie, but there are jokes and comments that children might not get, which I think the movie adaptation simply removes or changes. There is also old vocabulary that I am pretty sure could be considered slurs. I’m not going to mention examples, but beware and also understand that these books are old and that there were things that were acceptable then and unthinkable now. My final warning is towards the very apparent hatred that the author had towards fat people. I noticed it while reading Matilda and it was there in this book. Do I think we can consider Roald Dahl fatphobic? Call him what you think is appropriate to you, I think that he was trying to be funny in a time when it was more socially acceptable to make fun of fat people as it is now. I’m also fat, so I am more aware of these types of comments.
I read this book between April 27th and April 28th, 2020 and gave it four stars. I think by now we all know what Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is about, right? There’s this wonderful yet mysterious candy factory and one day the owner, Mr. Willy Wonka, announces that five lucky children will get to visit it. He hid five Golden Tickets in chocolate bars and the kids who find them will be the ones going to the factory. Of course, that sounds amazing, but Charlie Buckett and his family have no hope since they are poor, but luck is on Charlie’s side because he finds the last Golden Ticket and the chance to meet Mr. Wonka and visit his factory.
This is a middle-grade book, and I thought it would be super whimsical like the latest movie adaptation (I have yet to see the first one), but it was way more tame than I’d thought. What can I say? I expected a lot more. What my teacher heart didn’t anticipate were all the opportunities for conversation about issues like poverty, starvation, kindness, and greediness. I think this would be a great read for fifth, sixth, and seventh graders.
Are you still on quarantine? What have you been doing lately? What’s keeping you emotionally stable? Let me know in the comments.
I also love that the prompts are related to different aspects of my life. Today’s prompt, for example, was Golden Classics or any book published before 1995. I immediately thought about Number the Stars by Lois Lowry and hoped with all my might that it would fit the prompt. It did since it was published in 1989. Like I said, this book is important to me for several reasons.
I first read this book when I was in sixth grade when a teacher told us we could pick what we wanted to read. My mom had bought it for me at a school event. I think besides telling us stories about our family and how they had been victims of the Holocaust, her way of teaching us about it was through literature. So, yes, I am Jewish, like Ellen, who is Annemarie’s, the main character’s best friend. And I do not have a necklace with a Star of David but I do have one with the Chai symbol, which means life. Fun fact about that first time I read this book: my teacher then selected it as required reading for the following years.
Now, Yom HaShoah, or the Holocaust Remembrance Day, was earlier this week (April 20th to April 21st), and as a teacher and as a Jew, I feel like the best way to remember is reading the stories about other people who were victims of the atrocious events of the Holocaust. Even though Annemarie and Ellen might not have existed, many girls like them did, and their story is one that should live and be passed on among the generations.
Now you know why this is an important book for me. I reread it between April 24th and April 25th, 2020, and gave it four stars. This story is set during World War II in Copenhagen, Denmark. Annemarie and her best friend Ellen live in the same building. Ellen is Jewish, Annemarie is not, but her family belongs to the Resistance. This is a very short book and it takes place in only a few days, but I swear you can’t breathe while you read it.
Upon rereading, I realized that there was a lot that went over my head the first time I read this and I am glad that now I’m older, I’ve read more about the Holocaust and as a teacher, I can also understand what the best way to approach this book would be. This is a middle-grade book, but since it is hard-hitting, I think young readers should have guidance from an adult and the conversation on the history of World War II should be open. I am grateful that my mom was always very straightforward when sharing about how our own family suffered because of the war, which ultimately resulted in us being Colombian.
I am putting together a novel study for this book and I will be working on it next week. What is a book that has marked you in special ways? Let me know in the comments below.
I read this book between April 20th and April 21st 2020 and gave it four stars. Of course, the stakes were high because I haven’t met a Nina LaCour book I haven’t loved. This wasn’t the exception, obviously. If anything, We Are Okay is more hard-hitting than her other books, at least the ones I’ve read from her.
Marin, the main character, is staying in her dorm over winter break because she claims she has no home or family to go to. The way in which she describes everything made it pretty clear for me that suffered from depression, and I know that for me this would have been triggering a few years ago. I think for that reason, the first chapter is hard to get through. It personally reminded me of a kind of crappy time in my life, but once I was past that, I could appreciate the story for what it was and I stopped relating it to my own life story.
We find out that a character called Mabel is going to visit Marin and she has conflicting feelings about this visit. Mabel is (was?) Marin’s best friend back home and Marin has been ignoring her texts since she decided to leave. This is a Nina LaCour book, so we know, even before learning about Mabel and Marin’s story that there had been something else going on between them. And, oh, my angsty heart.
There are two timelines in this book and the alternate between the chapters. We get Marin in New York on winter break, and we get the events that led to Marin’s leaving so suddenly without telling anybody and basically shutting everyone from her life out. At one point those two timelines collide and then we only get the present, and honestly, it felt like I’d been reading this book for months and not for a couple of days because there was so much to unpack.
Like Marin, I had conflicting feelings towards Mabel. There were times when I loved her and others when I wanted her to leave Marin alone and be gone from the book. This is something that has happened before with Nina LaCour books, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story in any way. If you’re into understated, quiet contemporary YA novels with hard-hitting elements that feature a queer relationship without it being the center of the plot (or a coming-out story), then you’ll love this.
I hope you’re having a great day and do let me know which book you’re reading/would read for this challenge.
I read this book between April 17th and April 18th, 2020 and gave it three stars. Here’s the deal: I really wanted to like this book, and even though I don’t dislike it, I cannot in good conscience recommend it, at least not as an empowering read or an initial approximation to feminism as I thought it would be. Maybe that was my mistake, you know? I thought this would be a cool introduction to feminism for tweens and teens, but it’s not that.
First off, this book was not empowering but it was rather informative. Like I said, the author is a Ph.D. in neuroscience and you can tell. This is very fact-based, and she uses, for the most part, a very straightforward, no-nonsense, no-bullshit language when she explains certain concepts. The book is divided into six chapters, one about the female body, another one about ways to properly care for our body, one about love, and another one about coping with stress. Yes, I forgot the other two, but you get the point.
We all know that I have issues with books that are targeted specifically “for girls” because I think they are implicitly heteronormative and sadly, this was. I don’t think it was the author’s intention, but in describing the female anatomy, for example, it was clear that the book was intended for cisgender women. Yes, she discusses trans people, but she dedicates a paragraph to them and continues focusing on cis folk. I get it, though; it was probably neither her objective nor her place to be discussing transwomen since she is not trans herself, but that’s something to keep in mind.
I know I’m all over the place with this review, but I’m just typing as things come to mind. Reading this entire book gave me the feeling that this could have been titled “Growing Up” and changed so that it could be gender-neutral, or in other words, targeted to people from all genders because the information, which, like I’ve said was very straight-forward and facts-based is applicable to every young person, not only young women. Also here I want to add that the graphics, illustrations, and snippets of information were great and that I appreciated the resources provided throughout the book, although I think they were mostly U.S-based.
Like I said at the beginning, I would not recommend this as a feminist read, but I think it is a valuable source of information, not for tweens particularly but for teachers, parents, caregivers or other adults that have young people in their lives. I think that this book would be way more helpful if an adult read it first and used its contents as a basis for conversation and reflection. I say this also considering that, since the book relies so heavily on science, it disregards the commentary that the social and cultural sciences must provide, especially in the “biology vs. culture” debate that is everpresent when talking about gender and sex.
I would like to give you an update on Matilda since I hadn’t read it in my last post. It took me two days and a few hours to read it because I had work stuff, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot, I think, is way simpler than what the movie makes it out to be, but the language and the jokes in the book are way more “grown-up” than what I was expecting, especially since Matilda is only five and a half years old. I gave it four stars and I have all the questions for my book study written down by hand, so next week I’ll be working on the product to put in my TpT store. If you have a kid in your life who wants to read this book, I’d say fourth to sixth graders would enjoy and understand it the most.
I hope you have a great afternoon and that you’re having fun participating in this challenge or at least following me on this journey.
Hey all cool cats and kittens. We knew I had to do that, right? What can I say? I’m excited because today the #BookReviewBlogChallenge has officially started and I’m here for it.
Today is Day 0 of the challenge and the prompt is “any book cover that sparks joy,” so naturally I chose Matilda by Roald Dahl, because what can spark more joy than a pink background and a girl surrounded by books? I thought about maybe recreating it, but I have to start working in half an hour, so that’s not going to happen, at least not today.
When I was a kid, there was this Colombian TV network that would always broadcast Matilda around vacation time, I guess to have kid-friendly content while students were out of school. That means that I had watched the movie about thirty times by the time I was fourteen, which was when I read it for school. That was the plan, at least. I remember reading parts of the book in class but I never read the whole thing, so this is my chance.
We all know what Matilda is about, right? It’s about a girl who was pretty much born in the wrong family. She is brilliant and special and loves books and her parents don’t appreciate that, or her, for that matter. I honestly don’t know what can be a spoiler when talking about such a well-known book, but I’ll leave it at that.
I’m going to start reading this book today and I’ll do a book study on it. If you’re new here, hi, I’m Camila, and I am a teacher as well as a reader. I create and sell educational resources on Teachers Pay Teachers, several of which are sets of questions and activities based on books I read. I’ll talk about this some other time since it doesn’t really concern the challenge.
Are you participating? I hope you are, or at least you’re joining me on this journey. Okay, time to go to work.