Saturday, January 31, 2015

Sniff Them Out

Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce is the second book in the Hunt Records. 

This book finds Beka a proper Dog, although one that can't hold a partner. It's been five months since she became a Dog, and she's gone through three partners. She finds Achoo, a scent hound, being abused by her current handler and finds herself partnered with a scent hound and returned to her former trainers. But after Tunstall's legs are broken at a riot over the rising cost of bread and the presence of false coins in the market, Beka and Goodwin are sent to find the source of the false money.

This book was just as exciting and intriguing as the first book. Beka grows as a character, but still retains the same personality. She has trained herself to speak up when necessary, but she's still the shy girl we met in the first book.

There were a few things I really liked about this book. The first is that, even though I loved the characters from the first and want to hear more about them, it reflects the growing process of life where people go in and out of life. While I am 100% a Beka/Rosto fan, I also really appreciated the new love interest in this book. It isn't presented as a love triangle, which I was psyched about. 

Overall, I think this was an excellent follow-up to Terrier.

Favorite Quotes: Folk caught up in a riot aren't our cousins and sisters, our brothers and uncles. They are part of a big animal with many arms and claws, armed with stones and sticks.

In matters of wooing, men are confusing.

Life is so different if you or your master has deep pockets to pay for it. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

TBT: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Oh man, this throwback is probably to the 8th or 9th grade, and it was a book I was devoted to.

I read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants at exactly the right time in my life. I was young. I was totally boy crazy but also really loyal to my friends. I always wanted summers to be the exciting sort-of parallel worlds that they're represented as in movies and books, and this was just another book that proved to me I was totally missing out somehow. 

This book made me want to go thrift shopping to find a magical pair of jeans that would fit me and all my best friends (and at this point in my life, I definitely had at least two groups of best friends who did not interact with each other unless it was at like my birthday party). It made me want to be brave and bold and actually like talk to boys I found cute. It made me want to take up sports and movie making and fashion. I wanted to be all four of these girls.

This is the perfect book to satisfy adventure cravings because there are four different stories and four different kinds of adventures all intertwined together. It's basically like reading four books in one but better because the characters know and interact and talk to each other. 

I still recommend this book to contemporary young adult lovers who somehow missed out on it. The movie did not do the book justice. And I read the second book (which I also really liked) but somehow never finished the series. It's a series that I would like to go back to some spring or summer day when I can sit outside and enjoy a book with a glass of iced tea or lemonade. 

Maybe this year.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WCW: Jandy Nelson

Hello Lovelies!

This week is the author who really made me want to start this feature in the first place.

Jandy Nelson is the author of two young adult books as well as being a literary agent herself. 

I'll Give You the Sun was one of my favorite books of 2014 (and probably my life, like seriously it's amazing). I wanted to know more about Nelson, but there's not really a lot out there. She has a BA and two MFAs (one for poetry, one for Children and young adult writing). She has some published poetry in poetry journals (American Letters, Commentary, Five Fingers Review to name a few). 

She considers herself to be very superstitious (which I see comes out in her novels in very good and relateable ways). She's been involved in numerous panels and is fantastic about supporting her fellow authors. 

I cannot wait for her next novel (which she calls The Fall Boys and Dizzy in Paradise on her Gallery page). Her books are amazing, and if you haven't read either of them yet, I wholeheartedly suggest that you do!! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Possible Book Club Picks

Hello lovelies! This week's top ten Tuesday is the Top Ten Books I'd Want My Book Club to Read.

I actually started my own book club a couple years ago, but it sort of dissolved, and then I moved. So now the only book club I'm in is the Forever Young Adult book club which I adore. The nationwide group means that the books for the book club are chosen out of any of our control. However, there are a few books which I think would make good choices (mostly because I want to read them, hahaha).

Station Eleven: I've heard such good things about this book! It's an adult book, so it'd definitely never be picked for the Forever Young Adult book club, but from what I've heard it sounds like an excellent book for a book club.

Let's Get Lost: I've heard mixed reviews of this one, which I think makes it good for a book club discussion. 

A Little Something Different: I've heard mixed reviews about this one, but two of my friends have loved it so far, and I know for a fact that at least one person in my book club would hate it, so it kind of makes me want us to read it.

Anatomy of a Misfit: I mean I've seen it compared to Heathers and Mean Girls, so it seems like a great one for a book club composed entirely of female readers in their mid-20s and up. 

Snow Like Ashes: I think this is going to be one of the next big YA series, so it seems obvious that a YA book club should read it. 

The Distance Between Lost and Found: This doesn't come out until next month, but it sounds like an excellent mystery. And my book club hasn't read many mystery novels yet, so I'd love for it to be on our list!

Playlist for the Dead: I mean, this sounds like a tough read but I think having a space to talk about these kinds of books is really important. So it'd be cool to read it in a book club.

Liar: I just read this one, and I found it so interesting! I think it would make an excellent book club read because there are a variety of ways to interpret it.

The Knife of Never Letting Go: I'm obsessed with this book. I've been trying to push it since I read it a year ago. And frankly, what better way to push a book than having an entire book club read it?

I'll Give You the Sun: This is another obsession of mine which I've been telling everyone to read. And I'm psyched because my book club actually is going to read this book! (In like August or September boooooo.). 

What about you lovelies? What books would you have read?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Track 'em Down

Terrier by Tamora Pierce is a fantastic mystery-based fantasy novel. Or fantasy-based mystery novel? Who knows. Basically it's just really good.

I first read Terrier around the time it came out in 2006, I think. The second book hadn't been released, I thought it was a stand-alone, and I was psyched to have a new Tamora Pierce book to read. However, it'd been a long time since I'd read the first book, so while I vaguely remembered the characters and plot line, I couldn't exactly remember what had happened.

Beka Cooper is a Puppy (the training stage of becoming a Dog aka the law enforcement of Tortall). She works in the lowest areas of the city (aptly named The Lower City). Since Beka was born there and lived there for most of her childhood, she has a certain level of respect for the place. She's paired with two of the most revered Dogs, Tunstall and Goodwin. Between the three of them, they'll need to find the source of a new and semi-illegal gemstone, the murderer of seventeen adults, and the person behind the ghost that's been taking children. 

This book is a bit different from Pierce's other works. It's a trilogy and each book is definitely on the bigger side for her novels (584 pages in hardcover) which I appreciate. It's also written as a journal, which takes some getting used to. I actually found myself enjoying it because Pierce/Cooper takes the time to start at the beginning of the day and not just jump to the important bits (which is what I would always do in my own journal keeping). It's also a great way to reveal Beka's feelings without awkwardly inserting them into conversation or first-person view point (even though I guess it's still in first person). 

My favorite part of this book is Beka learning to make friends. She's characterized (very well, might I add) as extremely shy, so it's hard for her to make friends. And I love that Pierce can create the emotional side of a romance without actually making a romance central to the plot (or really even on screen/page at all). 

Overall, I would recommend this book to fans of Pierce's other works, as well as readers looking for a good fantasy land with a mystery as the center of the plot.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

TBT: 13 Little Blue Envelopes

Hello Lovelies!

To match up with last week's WCW on Maureen Johnson, my TBT is 13 Little Blue Envelopes!

I just realized that photo is of the cover for the audio, but I read the book. It's the best picture of the cover I could find so I'm going to keep it. 

13 Little Blue Envelopes follows Ginny on a European adventure. After Ginny's Aunt Peg dies, she leaves behind a treasure hunt (of sorts) for Ginny: 13 little blue envelopes with instructions inside. Thus begins her adventure.

I honestly need to reread this book. I think I first read it Freshman year of high school (yikes that's 10 years ago!!! Eeeech!!). I loved it. It was a fun and heart-warming story. I mean, I obviously knew it was unrealistic. My parents let me go to France with a summer group and still had issues letting me leave, but I didn't care. The great thing about books is that they'll let you believe the impossible. And who hasn't wanted to drop everything in life and go somewhere abroad? This is a book that lets you believe that it's possible (unless you have a problem with the suspension of disbelief). 

I also remember being totally enamored with the relationship between Ginny and Keith. Was it realistic? Probably not. Was it totally adorable and made my little 14-year-old heart go pitter-patter? Absolutely yes. 

I have yet to read the sequel The Last Little Blue Envelope, but after I reread this one, I'm going to make it happen!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WCW: Anne Bishop

Hello Lovelies!

Let me be honest, I don't read a lot of adult books. There are two things that can pull me into the land of marriages, children, divorces, and cheaters: I've either heard really good things about the books (and that usually means that the four things I mentioned aren't present) or I know and love the author (I did go through a phase in high school where I primarily read books published for adults). This week I'm going to focus on one of the few authors whose works I will automatically read even though they're published for adults.

Anne Bishop is an amazing author of adult fantasy novels. She is primarily known for her Black Jewels trilogy (Daughter of the Blood is the first in the series). She has four series and numerous short stories available. I'm currently anxiously awaiting the third book in the Others series, which will be finally available on March 3, 2015. 

Bishop focused on short story writing before Daughter of the Blood was published. She enjoys gardening, reading, and music outside of her writing time. She lives in upstate New York (for some reason, I always thought she was Canada based when I first started reading her books). 

She's a relatively private person which I can appreciate, so there isn't much information available besides her website. Her books are really well-written, and she does a fantastic job of building worlds with depth and believability.  I wish I could live inside the worlds she creates (even though they are flawed and dangerous and scary places to be). 

Bishop also gives me hope as a writer. She didn't publisher her first novel until her 40s, so I am forced to remind myself that I'm not a failure because I haven't done so by my mi-20s. She has worked for every bit of her success and while she may not have reached the same pinnacle of fame that other authors have (J.K, Rowling or George R.R. Martin for example), she does have a very dedicated and enthusiastic fan base who care greatly for her works. And that's something everyone can appreciate.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Teach Me Something New

For this week's Top Ten Tuesday, I decided to look at books which I would want to put in my curriculum if I end up teaching high school English (it's what my original degree is in after all). Sometimes I'm reading a book, and I'm like this book makes me wish I was a teacher again. And this week's TTT is going to feature ten of those.

The Port Chicago 50: Apparently I only gave this book four stars? WHAT WAS I THINKING, PAST-ME?? This book is incredible. It may also have some flaws, but the great thing about teaching is you get to point out both good and bad parts.

The Book Thief: I know that The Diary of Anne Frank is typically taught as the "WWII" book, but my question is why can't we have more than one? I mean, I did get a little burned out on WWII when I was in school because I felt that it was the only war we learned about. Obviously it was atrocious, and we do need to learn about to see what can happen when we don't question those in power (although WWII is not the only case where that has occurred). But this book is so beautifully and interestingly written, and I think that students could really connect with it. I know that some teachers are already using it--I just hadn't seen it used when I was going through the program and student teaching.

American Born Chinese: I know this book is being used in lots of classrooms now, but it's one that I hadn't even heard of before I started working in a bookstore. And I think it's being used often because it's worth teaching. It really encompasses the feeling of being an outsider which is something every one can connect with whether they are a "minority" or not. I also think it's important to include diverse books in the curriculum, and I think using graphic novels creates another entry point for students.

Locomotion: While some people might argue that the reading level for this is below high school, I'd argue that there are a lot of people not at high school reading level who are in high school. I also think this story is not restricted by age. It'd be a phenomenal book to use alongside a poetry unit to teach poem forms.

Persepolis: Another nonfiction book, but this one is a memoir and a graphic novel. It's also by an Iranian woman which is a viewpoint rarely represented in high school texts.

Monster: I know this one is also used in schools, but it wasn't in my schooling or program. I definitely think it should be. It's writing style is attention catching (part journal, part screenplay). The story is scarily relevant to today's society (11 years after it was published). It would provide a lot of discussion.

Never Fall Down: Although this is called "a novel", it's much closer to being a memoir. It's based on true facts, but McCormick occasionally took some artistic license to recreate conversations which Arn Chorn-Pond couldn't quite recall. It also talks about a subject that's rarely broached in average high school history classrooms : The Cambodian Genocide of 1975-1979 and the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge.

Nothing but the Truth: Another non-traditional writing style. This book would be great for talking about spread of information. It's a look at media studies and interpretation without really involving current media. It'd be a great unit to read alongside looking at advertising and popular culture and news and biases.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: This book would be a tricky one to teach. It touches on a lot of important but sensitive subjects: racism, sexism, and slavery to name a few. But I also think it could be really beneficial to have students read and talk about it.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: I actually did teach this one while I was student teaching, and let me tell you, I cannot explain how awkward and hilarious it is to say the word boner 23 times in one class period. But I do honestly think it's an important and necessary narrative to share. It would be interesting to do this alongside American Born Chinese for comparisons of the dangers of stereotyping (whether negative or positive portrayals).

What about you lovelies? Do I have any teachers out there who would agree with me? Or horrified by my choices? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Flappers and Fantasy and Serial Murders

The Diviners by Libba Bray is a fun historic fantasy. 

I've loved Bray's writing since I read the first Gemma Doyle book in 8th grade. The Diviners was no exception. In fact, it's pretty high up there on my favorites.

Evie is a 17 year old flapper from Ohio who, after a disasterous party where she humilated a rich boy, is sent to Manhattan to live with her uncle and his assistant, Jericho. Memphis is a numbers-runner for one of the biggest speak-easy owners in Harlem. Theta is a showgirl for Ziegfield, one of the most prominent stage shows in New York City. Sam is a pickpocket trying to make some money on the street. Each of them have a secret. With a mass murderer on the loose in NYC, Evie's uncle, Will has been asked to consult for the NYPD. It might be the roarin' 20s but there's more happening in the world than prohibition and rebelling young people.

While I was constantly questioning Evie's choices, I did really appreciate all of Bray's main characters. They are each unique but shaped by their secrets. I rooted for them, and I felt nervous for them. Even though there were several main characters, I did feel like their lives were in peril. I never thought that they were main enough to escape being a victim—which I feel like can sometimes impede the tension of a murderer-on-the-loose plot. I knew there was going to be a sequel before I started the book, but thankfully, it can also be a standalone (which I know for some people 574 pages is enough).

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy historical fiction with fantastical elements.

Favorite Quote: How do you sever a thread of evil once it has woven itself into the world?