NetGalley Reads: Postcards for a Songbird

NetGalley Reads: Postcards for a Songbird

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Hello and happy Friday. This will be my last NetGalley review of January because I have to start focusing on February and trying to plan how everything’s going to go considering my vacation is over. Today I want to talk to you about a book I fell in love with almost immediately and an author that I certainly want to read more of in the future. I’m talking about Postcards for a Songbird by Rebekah Crane. This book was sent to me via NetGalley for reading and reviewing purposes, so as always, I’d like to thank them, the publisher and the author for the opportunity.

I read this book between December 23rd and December 25th, 2019 and gave it four stars. I’ll spoil this review a bit and say I’d totally planned on giving it five stars, but there was one detail towards the end that made me change my rating. It was silly, but not silly enough for me to let go of.

This is the story of Wren, whose mom left when she was a baby and whose sister and best friend Lizzie, just recently left as well. At the beginning of the book, we see that Wren is clearly overcome by absence, and her dad is so worried about her that he thinks it would be best for her to go live with her aunt in another city. The whole deal about the sibling who left gave me Where Things Come Back vibes at first, but as I keep thinking about it, it’s more like Paper Hearts by Ali Novak, since Lizzie left the house voluntarily and, as we discover, starts sending Wren postcards, hence the title of the story.

Wren’s dad is a police officer who works nights, so we don’t see those characters interacting much. We can see the effort he makes to have her kid live a “normal” life despite everything that’s happened to them. I really liked him as a character and I thought that we could witness a bit of development in his relationship with Wren. The plot twist I didn’t appreciate has to do with him and I honestly think his whole character was ruined by it.

The story takes place during the summer, and what we read about is Wren inadvertently taking her life back and in a way moving on from the burden of her mom and her sister. She starts realizing that there is a world outside of the bubble she and Lizzie used to live in, and that leads her to meet an amazing group of people. Besides that, she starts texting her next-door neighbor, a boy who cannot leave the house because he’s super sick and afraid of everything. Don’t worry, they don’t fall in love, although there is some romance.

One of the characters is physically abused by her father, so trigger warning for that. Overall, this is an emotionally charged story, and though we see growth and there are happy moments, it might not be the best choice for someone suffering from depression. To me, this book did what Jandy Nelson failed to do with I’ll Give You the Sun, which I didn’t really like.

Do you like books about siblings? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Reads: A People’s History of Heaven

NetGalley Reads: A People’s History of Heaven

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Hello and happy Wednesday. November and December of 2019 were good months for me blog-wise because I got four different requests to read and review books, which happens but not that often and not all at the same time. I was invited to be a part of a blog tour for A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian and of course I said yes because I’m always open to reading new books and sharing my thoughts about them with you, especially if they represent identities that are often invisibilized. Let me tell you, if you want diversity, read this book. I would like to thank NetGalley, the publishers and the authors for the opportunity to participate in this blog tour.

I read this book between December 30th, 2019 and January 1st, 2020 and gave it five stars. I actually interrupted my reading of other books to devour this one because I was captivated from the very first page. The very first page is a list of the characters with a brief description of them, and I love it when I get that because I feel that I can get to know the characters even before the beginning of the story. Right from that very first page, I felt similarly about this book as I felt towards The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock; I felt cozy, I felt like I was part of the characters’ lives and I felt like they would be a part of mine from then on.

From the initial description of the characters, we know that one of them is visually impaired (I’m not sure if this is the correct term to use, but it’s the one used in the book), one is queer, and one is a transwoman. The story is set in India and the story is own voices, so there is also representation for POC. Honestly, reading this book is almost like a must because at least in my case, it drove me away from the same bland setting and the same bland characters and the same bland authors.

Heaven, where the main characters (who are all female) live, is a slum in India that is being demolished by the government and turned into white-washed buildings like huge malls. I read about colonialism in India when I was in high school, of course, but I’d never read a novel that narrated what actual people went through, and it was eye-opening.

Every chapter or set of chapters focuses on one of the characters and alternates between the past and the present. In this way, it’s more like a collection of short stories that are tied up by the events of the present, the seemingly imminent destruction of the slum and the efforts of the women to stop it.

What books that discuss cultures other than the American or the Western one do you recommend? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Reads: The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Dinosaur Hunter

NetGalley Reads: The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Dinosaur Hunter

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Hello and happy Friday. What a mouthful of a title, right? It seems like I’m suddenly obsessed with dinosaurs, but really it’s all part of this month’s theme, have you guessed it? Today I want to share a review of a middle-grade book I found super interesting and easy to read, so much so that I read it all in one day -in one sitting, actually. I’m talking about The Long-Lost Secret Diary of the World’s Worst Dinosaur Hunter by Tim Collins. This book was sent to me via NetGalley for reading and reviewing purposes, so I’d like to thank them, the author and the publisher for the opportunity.

I read this book on December 22nd and gave it for stars. One thing I love about this book is that it is illustrated. To me, illustrations add a lot to the reading experience. As a teacher, for example, I could have my kids read this book and I could use the illustrations to deepen the conversation, to ensure understanding if something in the text was not clear, or simply to provide a visual reference to the story.

The book is written in diary format written by Ann, our main character. Ann is based on Mary Anning, a real “dinosaur hunter.” I love that we have a female main character who is based on an actual historical figure because that challenges many stereotypes that live to this day about boys or men being the only ones interested in or capable of working as paleontologists.

The story starts with Ann digging what she calls “lizard fish” bones where she lives. Her dad sells these bones for almost nothing until someone comes and becomes interested in Ann’s findings. This leads to Ann traveling to London with her dad to talk about the bones she’d been digging to a group of paleontologists and then travel to the New World to continue her expedition and research.

Occasionally, we get these sections titled “Get Real,” which provide factual information to support the fiction we just read about. For example, we get clarification about the type of dinosaur Ann found, or we also get historical facts about the different places she and her dad visit. Like I said, this book has great educational value and I really enjoyed reading it.

What topic would you have liked to learn more about as a kid? Let me know in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

This Was a Complete Shitshow

This Was a Complete Shitshow

Hello and happy Wednesday. I’m one of those people who think if we read solely for the entertainment value, then that’s fine and we’re doing a great job. Because of this and also because I have a blog and like to keep it interesting both for you and me, I create these reading challenges for myself, or I come up with fun TBR lists, and that leads me to read silly books. Well, I can honestly say that nothing so far had been as nonsensical as Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend by Alan Cumyn. Seriously though, I’m only linking the book because I’m sure many people want to check it out and like me read it “as a joke.”

I read this book between December 26th, 2019 and January 2nd, 2020 and gave it two stars. I didn’t give it one star because I didn’t think there was anything structurally wrong with it in terms of the message it was sending; I don’t even think it had a real message, it was just a shitty book.

This is a good time to tell you that if you’re looking for a serious review of this novel, you will most definitely not find it here. You see, I know this book is a joke, so I read it as such. The reason why it took me so long to read was that I didn’t know this was a 400-page-long joke. The same shitty effect could have been accomplished in 200 pages.

Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend is a parody of your typical YA romance with some paranormal/fantastical elements, and you can tell by reading the first page. You don’t need to read all 408 pages to make a point unless you want to, in which case, who am I to judge when I did read them? If you’ve read this far into the review and you don’t know what this book is about, consider yourself lucky. This is the story of a young pterodactyl who starts attending a human high school as part of an inter-species exchange program. What nobody anticipates, especially not the main character, is that Pyke, the pterodactyl will come to school and basically mess up everyone’s lives with his charm.

I had a discussion a long while ago about what genre this book might belong to (hi, Sam, I hope you’re enjoying the books I bought and sent to your house thinking I’d live there too, in the future), and I would say it’s a contemporary with speculative elements. It couldn’t be magical realism in my opinion since dinosaurs existed, they aren’t magical creatures. That probably makes everything sound more interesting than it is, but don’t be fooled, this “joke” put me to sleep after just one chapter and it took me way longer than other books do to finish.

What else is there to say? Have you read this book or anything like it? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

NetGalley Reads: The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster

NetGalley Reads: The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster

NETFLIX TALK_.pngHello and happy Friday. I don’t know what happened to me a few weeks ago but I was reading a lot. Among those books I read was one which I found super interesting, quick, and easy to read. I’m talking about The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan. This book was sent to me via NetGalley for reading and reviewing purposes, so I’d like to thank the author, NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity.

I read this book on December 23rd, 2019 and gave it four stars. If there were a half-star rating system, I would’ve probably given it four and a half stars. The main character, whose name I can’t remember, lives in a middle-of-nowhere-town and isn’t having a great time in life considering his older brother ran away from home. His family is trying to settle as best as they can with this, so their life is pretty uneventful until our main character goes to the public library and finds this artsy card with a quirky message and a number one.

The main character sets out to collect the other ones, and we all know I love a quest plot. He doesn’t really have much of a quest, considering that Gretchen Oyster, the artist behind the cards, lives in the same town and goes to high school with the main character’s older siblings. We get some chapters from her perspective and it’s interesting to see the process behind the creation of the postcards and what they entail for Gretchen.

I think one of the reasons why I read this book so quickly was the narration style. Think John Green or Adam Silvera; the main character/narration is telling the events as if they were talking to a friend, and I love that because it makes me really connect to the story. The chapters are super short, so they left me wanting to keep going and before I knew it, I was done with the book. I also really liked that we got inserts of the postcards made by Gretchen and since I had a digital copy they were in full color. It added to the experience of reading this novel.

While there are positive aspects to the story being short, you also as a reader have to consider that it will be lacking some depth and development. There’s stuff that’s glossed over, there are situations that resolve too easily or too quickly or none at all.¬† The characters don’t really grow or change in any way, but then again, I don’t think that was the purpose of this novel. The main character is thirteen years old, so I would say this is a good transition between middle grade and young adult since the contents are hard-hitting and raw at times.

What was the last book you read in one day? Would you recommend it? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

An Unexpected Find

An Unexpected Find

Hello and happy Wednesday. I’ve been trying to up my middle-grade game for some time now, but I’ve discovered that as a reader I’m sort of prejudging books in this age range. I say this because it’s happened to me a few times now that I’m overwhelmed by how much I end up liking a middle-grade novel as if I had originally thought I wouldn’t. I know that’s a “me” thing, and I know that the more I read middle-grade, the less prejudiced I’ll be towards it. Recently, for example, I read The Fourteenth Goldfish by¬†Jennifer L. Holm and I was seriously amazed, so much so that I read the whole thing in one sitting.

I read this book on December 22nd, 2019 and gave it four stars. Per middle-grade fashion, it is a quick and easy read, and the chapters are really short. I’ve realized that the reason why I like short chapters is the fact that I feel encouraged to keep reading the next one, and then the next, until, before I realize it, I’m done with the book.

The main reason why I really enjoyed this novel is the fact that it subverts stereotypes or tropes that are present even in middle-grade. Our main character is Ellie, and her parents are divorced but they’re friends, like my own parents. There are no hints or suggestions that they’ll get back together, and Ellie lives a happy life with her mom, talking to her dad on the phone when he’s traveling and seeing him in person when he’s not.

Ellie’s mom is a drama teacher, and this causes her to be constantly arguing with Ellie’s grandfather, who is a scientist. At the beginning of the book, we’re told he’s just discovered the “cure” for aging, which makes him look like a thirteen-year-old. Aside from being a very original premise, I think it’s an awesome introduction to “harder” sci-fi or speculative books, especially for people like me, whose reading tastes are completely realistic.

Because Ellie’s grandpa now looks like a teenager, he starts living with her and her mom, going to school, and living like an actual teen -in his own way. They both form an uncommon bond, but one I like reading about: there’s just something about grandparent-grandchild relationships that warms my heart. Both characters start developing unlikely friendships with other people, like Raj, the goth kid.

The science component and the conversation about family relationships and what it means to age makes this, in my opinion, a great book to transition from middle grade to young adult. What are your general views toward middle grade? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

Reviews for Young Readers: A Bear Called Paddington

Reviews for Young Readers: A Bear Called Paddington

 

Hello and happy Thursday. I’m very excited to bring you this review because I think it can be the start of something fun in this blog. Basically, for reasons that I might explain in another post, I will be reading and reviewing books for young readers. By this, I mean even younger than middle grade, which is an age category I don’t tend to ever read. I want these reviews to be useful for adults who are in some way responsible for a child’s reading process, so I’ll be giving my input both as a reader and as a teacher.

Today I want to start with probably the cutest discovery of the year for me: A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond. I read this book between July 1st and July 4th, 2019 and gave it four stars. As a Colombian, I did not grow up with the figure of Paddington, and I actually only heard about him a few years ago when the movie was released. I have yet to watch the movie, but I expect to love it.

Paddington is a bear who got adopted by the Brown family and who makes an adventure out of every activity, no matter how mundane. I think his books are a great addition to an elementary classroom because the stories are very simple and they are about a family’s everyday life. Besides the tiny little detail of having a bear who talks, reads, writes, and wears proper human clothes, the story is pretty relatable. I would recommend it for children who are dealing with a new sibling or who are trying to understand the process of adoption or being moved to a new family.

The book is divided by chapters but really every chapter is a separate story. You might want to start with chapter one, though, because that one is the story of how the Browns found Paddington and how he got his name. Other than that, you don’t need to read the other chapters in any particular order. I think these stories could be great for a read-aloud, especially for kids who might deem picture books as too simple for them. This is also great for independent reading because it has the most adorable illustrations.

One thing I will say is that you must keep in mind that this book was written over sixty years ago. There is no language that could be considered offensive nowadays, but on two occasions I did notice the use of the words “policeman” and “fireman.” That’s antiquated, in my opinion, and I always use gender-neutral language with my students. Other than that, I found the books to be pretty harmless for young readers.

Have you read A Bear Called Paddington? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila