Friday, November 7, 2014

I'm almost embarrassed at how long I've had this blog post in limbo waiting to be finished. But I've been unreasonably busy with school in the last couple weeks, mostly because all my group projects are coming up, so I had to actually meet with my groups for them, and I have like four research papers due soon too. So I've been trying to keep my head above water. But I will finish this blog post today!

So here we go, another reading roundup of reviews for what I've read recently.

Ramona Quimby Age 8 by Beverly Cleary : I never read the Ramona books when I was younger. Well, actually I might have read one of them at my friend's house, but I don't remember it very well. I didn't like it very much, honestly. And that's kind of how I felt about this one too. Maybe some middle grade readers would love this one, but I felt ambivalent at best. The one scene which did really get me was where her and her sister make a mess of the kitchen, I wanted to be like, Ramona I'm 24 and I still do that! But yeah, not one I feel the need to add to my collection.

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew :  I read this one for a challenge on Goodreads, and because I have a slight obsession with every thing Yang does. He's incredible. And this work was no exception. In telling the story of the Green Turtle, Yang really tells the story of Chinese immigrants and the harshness of an unfamiliar country. It's an incredible piece and besides being generally wonderful, it's also really entertaining and hilarious. I would recommend it to everyone--it's really good for probably 8 and up.

Favorite quotes:

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang & Derek Kirk Kim: This collection of three stories appears to be unrelated at first glance, but if you spend a little time with the work, connections begin to jump out. I read this one for a class, and while I enjoyed reading them, the discussion really brought this one to light for me. This would be a great choice for a book club or a class. It's about the choices you make in life and trying to achieve dreams and the ways in which life keeps you trapped. I would recommend this one for someone looking for a graphic novel to spend a little time with. Although you can read it quickly, lingering really makes this one memorable. Look out for the little details in each story!

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller : I was so excited to read this one! It was supposed to be about a girl who poses nude for a bunch of artists and then becomes a suffragette, and I was so psyched. But ultimately, I was really let down. Victoria Darling was supposed to be a rebel, but really she was just a whiner. I wanted to smack her about five hundred times. And while her love interest, Will, is decently swoony, their entire entanglement is based on a web of lies which Vicky keeps spinning. I just could not get behind this one. 

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki: So This One Summer got a lot of hype when it came out, and I was pretty excited to read it because it was supposed to be this really inspiring feminist work. And luckily (?) my class had assigned it to look at with Feminist Critical Theory, and I was going to teach it! So I dove into this book with enthusiasm, but ultimately it left me wanting. I don't feel like it's very feminist in its writing and I despair for all the teenagers who are going into this and learning about the contents for the first time.

Mild Spoilers ahead, so just a heads up.

First of all, the main character, Rose, is suffering from some serious internalized misogyny. She picks up calling girls sluts from the boys down the street, one of whom she has a mega-crush on. She also hates on another female character because she's dating the guy (Duncan). Rose has a younger friend, Windy, who is portrayed as childish and obnoxious through out the text, but Windy is the one who calls out Rose on being sexist. It was the kind of book where at the end, I didn't think Rose had actually changed her tune. 

Anyway, I'm not sure who I'd recommend this one too. Maybe older teenagers who are already interested in graphic novels. 

Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson : Toning the Sweep really managed to showcase the many different kinds of female relationships. Although there are no overt female/female love interests, I think they're quite a bit of subtext to indicate one. I really enjoyed this book over all. It's a lot about family: the kind you're born into and the kind you make on your own. And it's a little bit about trying to find yourself when you don't know all about your history. I really enjoyed this one. I would recommend this one to people who like character driven stories and a look into another's life. 

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang : Boxers (with the companion novel Saints) tells the story of the Boxer Rebellion in China. It's incredibly moving and Yang nails the art as usual. I finished this story in about half an hour, and it made me want to investigate the real story behind the text even more. I know very little of Chinese history, so this little glimpse made me want to delve in. I think this graphic novel would be perfect for people who enjoy history (maybe even an English or History class!). 

Nothing but the Truth by Avi : This is a book composed of sort of found documents or multimedia sources. It's transcripts of conversations and e-mail messages and newspaper clippings. It traces the story of Philip Malloy who has been suspended from school. He was accused of making a nuisance of himself in class by singing the national anthem. It's a really interesting story, and it traces the spread of misinformation in sort of the same way as the game "telephone" does. I was really surprised by this one. I couldn't quite give it five stars because I didn't really like the way it was written, but the plot definitely deserves it. So call it a 4.5 although I'm marking it as a 4. Perfect for middle grade and up.

The Girl with the Brown Crayon by Vivian Gussin Paley: This wonderful true story of a kindergarten class that studied Leo Lionni's works in-depth really tugged my heart strings. Paley focuses on one student, Reeny, who makes a personal connection with Lionni. However, my favorite student (if you can choose a favorite from a class of adorable tiny children) is Walter, who actually made me cry at a few different points in the book. This is a must-read for anyone looking to interact with children and books in their jobs. 

Starbird Murphy and the World Outside by Karen Finneyfrock : This was a fun read about a girl who grows up in what other people call a "cult". She leaves them to follow her Calling in the outside world, where she has to face the complexities of the truth or lies she's grown up with. I loved that this book was actually about trusting your gut and the value of learning but also the value of keeping your mind open to other people's lifestyles. I really appreciated this novel over all. However, there was a tiny love triangle which really irritated me and the way it was dealt with also wasn't my favorite. Over all I'd recommend this to people who like books about people and different ways of living.

Favorite Quotes:
Io, Kale, and I built the block tower three more times, knowing each time we built it that it was going to fall.

He just touched me on my arm, and that's when I learned that touching a girl's arm can sometimes be more powerful than kissing her against a tree under the moonlight.

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski: The first in a trilogy, The Winner's Curse, introduces the world of Arin and Kestral. Kestral is a Valorian and the daughter of a General. This puts her at the top of the social ladder in her town of Herran. At the market, she finds herself buying Arin, a Herrani. Herrani people have been slaves since the Valorians defeated them years ago. However, Kestral finds herself falling for Arin, no matter how hard she resists.

This was a spectacular novel. The romance builds up so perfectly. I never had that thought of oh this could only happen in a book. I really believed that these two people could meet and fall in love. Rutkoski also does a phenomenal job with world-building. Everything was consistent and believable. I could picture the world and I wanted to live there. I would recommend this one to anyone who likes books that feature romance and danger and intrigue.

Favorite Quotes:
He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.

What makes you think you can see into the hearts of men?

Okay lovelies, this has gotten really long, so I'm going to catch the last few in another post. Let me know if you've read any of these down in the comments!! I love to fangirl out over books. :D

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