Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon, April 2018

I'm still reading, really. (Me around hour 17.)

Time for Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon! Sign up here to join the fun. Check here for the start time in your time zone. 

I'll be posting mostly on Twitter using #readathon, but will also post stats here (probably not every hour). 


Friday, March 9, 2018


Even though I'm no longer teaching, the YALSA Hub Reading Challenge is still one of my favorites. I read more adult literature these days, but I will always hold a special place in my heart for YA. 

Here's the lowdown: 
Pick 25 (or more if you're like me) award-winning 2017 YA reads from this sortable list
Add a comment here to sign up.
Share your progress on the monthly check-in posts. 
Use #hubchallenge on your social media posts.
Once you've read 25 titles, fill out the wrap-up form to be entered into a drawing for a bag of YA books. (I've never won, but there's always this year!)

My process for this challenge is to read whatever I can get my hands on, preferably without buying, as I am no longer curating a classroom library. While I still buy YA books books because I still love them, I tend to borrow them first and then only buy the ones that I want to keep on my shelves.

So my starting entries are rereads that are already on my shelves or in my Audible library. I've been using the shit out of the Libby app to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from my local library, but hold times are LOOOOONG. I may have to break down and buy a few of the ones I'd really like to read before the challenge ends (Jason Reynolds, for example).

1. The First Part Last by Angela Johnson ★★★★
In a twist on the single teen mother scenario, Bobby is a teen father raising his daughter, Feather, on his own.  He struggles to care for her while also meeting his other responsibilities.  Alternating chapters describe Bobby's life Then (before Feather) and Now (after Feather).

Beautifully written and poetic; even the soap opera-ish ending doesn't detract too much from this lovely little book.

2. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour ★★★★
Marin, a college freshman, is spending winter break alone in an empty dorm. No one from home has heard a word from her since she left at the end of summer. Now her best friend/former girlfriend is flying from California to New York to visit her and Marin knows they will have to talk about what happened the day her grandfather died.

The writing is gorgeous and evocative. Marin’s grief and loneliness is palpable and reflected in the cold New York winter and her bare dorm room.

3. Scythe by Neal Shusterman ★★★★★
In a utopian world where humans have conquered death and disease and people can "turn the corner" as many times as they please, what keeps population from overwhelming the planet's resources? Scythes live on the fringes of society and mete out death as they choose (though they do have quotas to meet and are disciplined if their "gleanings" show bias or laziness).

Scythe Faraday does something out of the ordinary and takes on two apprentices--Citra and Rowan. Neither actually want the job, but take the apprenticeships, party out of curiosity and partly because their families will be immune from gleaning as long as they are scythes.

While I tagged this as a dystopian novel, it really isn't one. The world is actually pretty great, if a bit boring. Citra and Rowan are in the center of plenty of action and adventure as they learn the art of taking a life, but what I found more interesting were the ethical questions they grappled with.

Thunderhead, the sequel, is sneaking it's way to the top of my TBR.

4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas ★★★★
After seeing her friend die in a drive-by shooting when she was only ten years old, Starr's parents decide to transfer her and her brothers to a predominantly white school in the suburbs. Though her family still lives in the neighborhood, Starr has lost touch with most of her old friends. She gets talked into going to a party where she sees Khalil, once her best friend. He ends up driving her home after a fight breaks out at the party and they get stopped by police on the way home, even though they are doing nothing wrong.

Starr's terror as Khalil is hauled out of the car is palpable. Though he's unarmed, the officer shoots him in the back. Not only does Starr have to watch another friend bleed to death by the side of the road, but she also has to keep her hands up with the gun trained on her. This scene was especially eye-opening for me. As a white woman, I might be annoyed or inconvenienced by being pulled over, but it would never have occurred to me to fear that I wouldn't survive the encounter. That right there is what white privilege looks like.

As we've seen happen over and over in real life, rumors start being reported about Khalil--he was a drug-dealing thug who just maybe got what he deserved. In the court of public opinion, he is on trial for his own murder.

Starr wants justice for her friend, but what she says about Khalil could put her entire family in danger.

The characters in this book are fantastic and their relationships are well-developed. Even though this is a serious topic, there are many light moments, especially between Starr and her parents. She also has a close relationship with her uncle, a police officer, which was a nice touch.

This would be an excellent choice for a book club discussion, especially one with white people who still don't understand that #BlackLivesMatter doesn't mean that other lives don't matter.

5. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon ★★★★
I'm not a believer in love at first sight (lust, certainly) but I enjoyed watching a relationship develop between Natasha (an undocumented immigrant from Jamaica) and Daniel (American, but part of a traditional Korean family).

Natasha goes to the immigration office in a last-ditch effort to keep her family from being deported. Several coincidences later, she's on the way to an appointment with a lawyer who specializes in immigration issues. She meets Daniel as he is on his way to his favorite barber and a meeting that will set him on the path to a life that he doesn't really want.

Daniel is instantly smitten, but Natasha is just not having it. Thanks to a few more coincidences, though, she gives him a chance to prove that he can use science to get her to fall in love with him. As their day progresses, toward its inevitable conclusion, they share more and more about themselves and their lives.

What I actually liked even more than the insta-love that strained credibility on more than one occasion were the snippets of random facts and the behind-the-scenes peeks into the lives of random strangers who influenced the main story in large and small ways.

Update #1: 2018 Hub Reading Challenge April Check-In: Five complete, one in progress.

6. Flying Lessons and Other Stories by Ellen Oh (ed.) ★★★★⭑
I loved this collection of short stories about diverse characters. I would highly recommend it for every middle grade reader. I’m not exactly the target audience, but I still found something to love in every story. 

Although I enjoyed all of the stories, these were stand-outs:

The Difficult Path by Grace Lin (A Chinese servant girl is allowed an education that takes her to some very surprising places.)
Sol Painting by Meg Medina (A first-generation immigrant gets a glimpse of the racism her father faces as he tries to make a better life for his children.)
The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn by Kelly J. Baptist (Both sad and hopeful, a boy dealing with grief and loss finds solace in his father’s stories.)
Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains by Tim Tingle (I loved the story-within-story and the interplay between the children and the storyteller. I laughed out loud.)

7. One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus ★★★★
Excellent YA murder mystery with echoes of The Breakfast Club. Five high school students gather for an after school detention, but only four will walk out alive. Simon, author of a gossip blog, has dirt on brainy Bronwyn, popular Addy, athletic Cooper, and bad boy Nate and plans to release their secrets. When Simon dies under suspicious circumstances, all four become suspects in a murder investigation. 

Kept me turning pages. I think this would translate very well to film or TV series.

8. I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina ★★★★
Alfonso Jones is a gifted student looking forward to playing Hamlet in his school play and crushing on his best friend, Danetta. But while shopping for his first suit, an off-duty police officer mistakes a hanger for a gun and kills him. Alfonso wakes up on a ghost-train filled with other victims of police brutality who are doomed to ride the train until justice is served. 

No justice, no peace. 

A broad overview of why #blacklivesmatter is important that belongs in every classroom library.

9. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman ★★★★★
Excuse me while I feel all the feelings. *sobs

Kiko is a talented artist who has pinned all of her hopes for a better a life on her admission to art school. She dreams of escaping her narcissistic, emotionally abusive mother, her memories of childhood trauma, and her crippling social anxiety. 

The descriptions of her inner monologues (WHAT I WANTED TO SAY vs. WHAT I ACTUALLY SAID) rang so true. Anyone who has struggled with anxiety will be able to relate. 

“I want to be brave, but I don’t know how.”

And then she is rejected by the school. A chance encounter with an old friend leads her to California, where she finds an art mentor and discovers a pride in her biracial heritage and an inner strength she had no idea was there. There is also a sweet love story. 

“Artwork isn’t finished just because you’ve colored up to every corner on the page. Artwork is finished when you get to the end of your sentence.”

Art plays a huge part in Kiko’s growth and the descriptions of her sketches at the end of each chapter were absolutely perfect.

10. Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani ★★★
Priyanka Das has been raised by her mother in California and knows little about her Indian heritage. Her mother came to the US, alone, before Pri was born and refuses to talk about India, or anyone she knew there, including Pri’s father. 

When Priyanka finds a mysterious pashmina and wraps it around herself, she is transported to India. The black and white illustrations become vividly colored (like when Dorothy steps out her front door into Oz) as Pri explores a new world and tries to discover the identity of a shadow lurking at the edge of her visions.

11. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

Friday, January 26, 2018

24 in 48 Readathon - January 2018

Oh, hey. Hi there. It's me again. Just dropping another itsy, bitsy readathon right here.

This isn't my first 24 in 48 Readathon. I don't generally bother too much with the challenges or prizes because it interferes with the reading. 

The community is great, though. I enjoy tracking my reading time and challenging myself to squeeze in a few more pages, even if I don't post much. I'll be reading along with the official Eastern Time Zone schedule (midnight on Friday, January 26 - midnight on Sunday, January 28). 

Here's my little gray cat giving our tiny TBR her approval. 

I also just started using Libby, an app that makes it super easy to connect to your local library and download ebooks and audiobooks. I may dive into one of my holds if I get the urge. 

I didn't think I'd enjoy reading books on my phone, but it's actually quite convenient. Check out the free app here.

Ready, set, 

Saturday, January 27
Hour 6 Challenge: Oldest book on your shelves
The oldest book I have is Lad, A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. Published in 1919. It's one of many books that have been passed down in my family. It's been in my collection since I was about ten years old.

Hour 12 Challenge: Best first line from your stack
"Eva Nine was dying." --from The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerrlizzi

Hour 18 Challenge: Favorite book-to-screen adaptation
This was hard to narrow down, so I did my top three.
1. The Princess Bride
2. Stardust
3. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Books started:
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty 406 pages/9 hours, 38 minutes
The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerrlizzi 204 pages/1 hour, 55 minutes
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 84 pages/59 minutes
Pages read: 694
Time read:12 hours, 32 minutes

Sunday, January 28
 Hour 30 Challenge: Longest owned, but not read
Saving the World by Amy Tan

Hour 36 Challenge: Literal Bookends
Since I'm an alphabetical organizer, the first book on my fiction shelves is Laika by Nick Abadzis and the last is I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

Books started: 
The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman 125 pages/2 hours, 25 minutes
Books finished:
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty 74 pages/1 hour, 27 minutes
The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi 308 pages/5 hours, 5 minutes
Pages Read: 507
Time Read: 8 hours, 57 minutes

Total books started: 4
Total books finished: 2
Total Pages: 1301
Total time: 21 hours, 29 minutes

Oh, well, maybe next time I'll get there.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

POPSUGAR 2018 Reading Challenge

POPSUGAR 2018 Reading Challenge

This one's just for fun. If you need a little motivation to jumpstart your reading routine, check out the 2018 Reading Challenge via POPSUGAR.

A book made into a movie you've already seen
The Martian by Andy Weir (Astronaut Mark Watney, presumed dead in a dust storm, is left on Mars when the rest of the crew evacuates. He fights to survive until (if) help arrives. His journal entries are hilarious. Great mix of humor and adventure.)

True crime
The next book in a series you started
A book involving a heist

Nordic noir
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (A disgraced journalist joins forces with a tattooed hacker to research the mystery of a missing girl and her family's dark, tangled history.)

A novel based on a real person
The Strays by Emily Bitto (A tale of female friendship set during the start of the modern art movement in 1930s Australia. Languidly descriptive writing.)

A book set in a country that fascinates you
The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secrets of the World's Happiest Country by Helen Russell (A light and breezy travel memoir about a couple that moves to a rural town in Denmark. Though it oozes privilege, there is some discussion about how critical a strong social safety net is to happiness.)

A book with a time of day in the title
A book about a villain or antihero
A book about death or grief
A book with your favorite color in the title

A book with alliteration in the title
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff (Gossipy and snarky behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of a truly dysfunctional administration.)

A book about time travel
A book with a wether element in the title
A book set at sea

A book with an animal in the title
Lion by Saroo Brierly (An Indian boy gets lost, adopted, and finds his way home.)

A book set on a different planet
A book with song lyrics in the title
A book about or set on Halloween

A book with characters who are twins
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Opens with a murder investigation and then jumps back to gradually reveal the murder, the victim, and how their paths collide.)

A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym 

A book with an LGBTQ+ protagonist
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (A gorgeous retelling of the Iliad that centers the love story between Achilles and Patroclus. Even if you know how it ends, be prepared for a five-alarm snot bomb.)

A book that is also a stage play or musical

A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you
The Vegetarian by Han Kang (If you’re up for a dark tale of violence, sexual obsession, and mental illness, this is for you.)

A book about feminism

A book about mental health
Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan (A young woman's harrowing account of the sudden onset of a rare brain condition--the same one that inspired The Exorcist.) 

A book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift
Human Acts by Han Kang (Historical fiction centered around atrocities committed during a student uprising-turned massacre in Gwangju, South Korea in 1980 and the ongoing trauma in the aftermath.)

A book by two authors
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Erin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (Conversational and informative introduction of a truly badass woman. RBG's incredible work ethic is matched only by her integrity and intellect.)

A book about or involving a sport
A book by a local author
A book mentioned in another book
A book from a celebrity book club
A childhood classic you've never read
A book that's published in 2018

A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (Different from the movie, but equally fantastic. Inspiring because of the women themselves and also because of the way they actively supported women who followed.)

A book set in the decade you were born

A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn't get to
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (Unrelenting psychological horror that I read in a single, breathless rush. Weird and wonderful.)

A book with an ugly cover
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (Billed as a love story, but I read it as an obsession story heavily steeped in rape culture. Absolutely gorgeous writing but not my cup of tea.)

A book that involves a bookstore or library

Your favorite prompt from the 2015, 2016, or 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenges
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (After seeing his mother die during an attack in a museum, Theo clings to the last thing his mother loved--a small and valuable painting of a goldfinch. The plot goes in some strange directions, but the writing  is utterly luminous.)


A bestseller from the year you graduated high school
A cyberpunk book

A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place
The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman (Lovely narrative nonfiction about Antonina Zabianski and her husband, Jan. They hid Jewish people in their zoo during the Nazi occupation of Poland.) 

A book tied to your ancestry

A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title
The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov (Part-comedy/part-tragedy about an aristocratic family forced to sell the estate they can no longer afford.)

An allegory
A book by an author with the same first or last name as you
A microhistory
A book about a problem facing society today
A book recommended by someone else taking the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

Reading Women Challenge - 2018


As always, I'll be participating in a wide variety of readathons and reading challenges this year. The overarching theme of my reading in 2018 will be to buy and read books by women / POC / LGBTQ+ authors and do my small part of amplifying voices that have been marginalized for too long. The Reading Women Challenge provides an excellent framework for a year of empowering and informative reading. 

If you're on Twitter, tweet your progress at #WomenReadingChallenge.
Eyes need a break? Find links to the podcast here.

1. A book by a woman in translation (bonus if also translated by a woman) 
Human Acts by Han Kang (Historical fiction centered around atrocities committed during a student uprising-turned massacre in Gwangju, South Korea in 1980 and its aftermath. Not of the faint of heart.) ☆☆☆☆

2. A fantasy novel written by a woman of color 
The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana (Indian mythology and a lush, vibrant setting. ) ☆☆☆☆

3. A book set in the American South 
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Lush, lyrical writing about a woman of color on a hero's journey of self-discovery.) ☆☆☆☆⭒

4. A short story collection
5. A graphic novel or memoir

6. A book published by an independent press
The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante (A woman spirals into madness after her husband leaves her for a younger woman.) ☆☆

7. A book set in Russia or by a Russian author
The Womanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich
Currently reading

8. A book with an immigrant or a refugee viewpoint character
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (A beautifully written love story from and immigrant perspective, filled with perceptive observations about race and culture.) ☆☆☆☆

9. A book by an Australian or a Canadian author 
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (An all-too-real dystopian future in which religious zealots have taken over the US.) ☆☆☆☆

10. An essay collection 
Shrill by Lindy West (West takes on the big issues faced by women in a culture that devalues our worth and she does it with candor, wit, and intelligence.) ☆☆☆☆

11. A book about someone with a chronic illness
Still Alice by Lisa Genova (A brilliant Harvard professor notices that she's becoming forgetful and disoriented and gets diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's. Prepare for a five-alarm snot-bomb. Julianne Moore is fantastic in the movie adaptation.) ☆☆☆☆

12. A true crime book
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich (ALL THE TRIGGER WARNINGS. As an idealistic young lawyer, the author is forced to confront her own traumatic memories of childhood sexual abuse as she reviews the case of a child molester/murderer. I was riveted.) ☆☆☆☆

13. A book by an African American woman about Civil Rights
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (A compelling analysis of the way mass incarceration has decimated African-American communities.) ☆☆☆☆

14. A classic novel written by a woman (bonus points if not Austen or a Brontë)
15. A poetry collection

16. A book where the characters are traveling somewhere
The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett (When her husband dies suddenly, Sabine finds out that he had lied about his family dying in an accident. Lovely writing. My only complaint is the abrupt ending.) ☆☆☆☆

17. A book with a food item in the title 
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See (Well-researched historical fiction about an isolated tribe and China's tea trade.) ☆☆☆☆⭒

18. A book written by a female Nobel Prize winner
19. A book from the Reading Woman Award 2017 shortlists
20. A memoir by someone who lives in a country different from yours

21. A book inspired by a fairytale
Uprooted by Naomi Novik (A must-read for fantasy lovers. Dragon, the wizard tasked with protecting the kingdom from the malevolent and magical Wood, takes a village girl every ten years. Agnieszka is prepared for her best friend to be taken, but soon finds things getting way worse than she could have imagined. Inventive and magical.) ☆☆☆☆

22. A book by a local author or recommended by your local bookstore

23. The book that has been on your TBR the longest
The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett (Pregnant and dissatisfied with her marriage, Rose abandons her husband and ends up at St. Elizabeth's Home for Unwed Mothers, where she plans to give up her baby. Then life happens--things change and things stay the same. I loved this beautiful book, right up until the unsatisfying ending.) ☆☆☆

24. A book in a genre you have never read 
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (Speculative Fiction set in a future destroyed by out-of-control bioengineering and corporate greed.) ☆☆☆☆

25. A book by Virginia Woolf
26. A book by Flannery O'Connor

Book Riot's 2018 Read Harder Challenge


Upping my reading game for the 2018 Read Harder Challenge 

  1. A book published posthumously
  2. A book of true crime The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale ★★★ (Meticulously researched tale of a murder and its aftermath.)
  3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)
  4. A comic written and drawn by the same person
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa) The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri ★★★★ (A beautifully written family saga.)
  6. A book about nature
  7. A western
  8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980 Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers ★★★★★ (The magical nanny who inspired a Disney classic.)
  12. A celebrity memoir We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union ★★★★⭑ (In a series of highly personal essays, Union is by turns outspoken, profane, hilarious, raw, and heartbreakingly vulnerable. A fantastic feminist read.)
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection
  14. A book of social science Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein ★★★ (Interesting look at pink princess culture and how aggressively it's marketed to girls.)
  15. A one-sitting book Frontier Grit: The Unlikely True Stories of Daring Pioneer Women by Marianne Monson ★★★★★ (Profiles of twelve women who made a difference in their pioneer communities.) 
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerrlizzi ★★★★ (Eva Nine has been raised in an underground bunker, cared for by a robot she calls MUTHR. She finally gets her wish to explore the wider world, but that world is not at all what she's imagined.)
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood ★★★★ (The God’s Gardeners have long predicted that a waterless flood will wash away all but the faithful. When that flood comes, Toby and Ren, former members, find a way to survive. Since this is Atwood, life is horrible for everyone in this post-apocalyptic future, but she also helpfully highlights the many ways in which women have it SO MUCH WORSE.)
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley ★★★★★ (A graphic memoir about cooking, eating, and the power of sharing meals with the people we love.)
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation
  20. A book with a cover you hate MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood  ★★★★ (The final installment in a trilogy in which a ragtag group of survivors begin the work of rebuilding civilization after a man-made pandemic. The cartoony cover was not a good fit.)
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly ★★★ (Digby, a young Sherlock type, draws new kid Zoe into the mystery of a young girl’s recent disappearance that may also be related to his sister’s cold-case disappearance.)
  22. An essay anthology The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman ★★★★ (A collection of nonfiction pieces including essays, introductions, album liner notes, and speeches covering a wide swath of topics. Especially good if you can listen to the audiobook, read by the author.)
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60 The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg ★★★★★ (After a surprising revelation, a well-mannered Southern lady embarks on a journey of self-discovery and finds links to female pilots who served during WWII.)
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished)