Thursday, October 27, 2016

Book Review: "It's All Your Fault" by Paul Rudnick

Caitlin is almost as sheltered as you can get.  She has been homeschooled, is devoutly Christian, and sings wholesome tunes in her large family's band a la the Partridge family.  She hasn't seen or talked to her cousin Heller in 4 years, even though they grew up together and were best friends.  Something terrible happened between them then, and Catey just can't get past it.  But Heller needs her now.  Heller is a gigantic movie star, about to premiere her blockbuster film and she needs (according to the studio and her management) someone to watch over her and make sure she doesn't do any of her crazy alcohol or drug fueled stunts that could sink the movie.  She needs Caitlin.  But by the end of the weekend, they are in jail, and Caitlin has a tattoo, nose piercing, multi-colored hair and .....  what happened?

I could see the idea of this book within a few pages.  Kind of a Lindsay Lohan (at her worst) on a Hangover type weekend with a complete goody-two-shoes along for the ride.  I had only hoped that it would stay entertaining enough for the ride.  And this delivered!  The actual events that take place are completely over the top, and very comical.  There are some great one liners in here.  Also the exaggerated stereotypes were hilarious!  Granted, I am not one who would be offended by any of this, but maybe someone could be?  I really don't know.  I just had fun with it.

Ultimately, this is a friendship book and looks at trying to get back a friendship that was needed but almost/hopefully not completely ruined.  Catey and Heller need to talk about what happened, but neither really wants to do it.  So circumstances force the issue, of course, but you can feel how much it helps.  It also makes Catey get off her damn high horse, which was gratifying as well.  The bottom line is that this is between the two girls, and no boys get involved to muck it up on them.  Well, there are those two actor guys...   but that hardly even counts.

This is just pure entertainment with a nice little friendship story in there too.

It's All Your Fault
by Paul Rudnick
Scholastic, 2016
294 pages
Source:  ALA-MW galley



Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Review: "Orbiting Jupiter" by Gary D. Schmidt

Our narrator is 12 year old Jack who tells the story of when Joseph came to live with his family.  Joseph is fourteen, in the state's care after a juvenile facility and he is a father of a baby girl he's never seen.  Joseph doesn't talk about what happened in the facility, but rumor has it that he tried to kill a teacher.  He definitely has his guard up, and is obsessed with the idea of his daughter.  Eventually, Joseph begins to trust Jack and his family... and asks for their help in finding his baby girl.

I had heard about this book about a year ago, and I was intrigued.  I remembered how much I liked Okay for Now and wanted to read more.  I didn't even know that a character from that book would reappear here!

This is definitely written for the younger teen, a reluctant reader or a lower level reader but its appeal will stretch farther than that.  It was great to see how most (if not all the main characters) stuck to what they knew and felt was right and fought for them.  The antagonists were realistic (although Joseph's dad was a tad cliche) and developed enough to feel disgusted by their behavior.  I also liked that this was set in Maine farmland in the fall and winter.  That setting just amplified the desperateness of Joseph's situation.  Unfortunately, I really did not like the ending.  It just seemed to go a little too far, and little too much reaching for that kind of conclusion.

I should probably mention that yes, the 14 year old kid is a father.  It is a tragedy.  And while you do find out how it happens, it is treated with zero graphical description.  It is all implied, and done so with a modesty that helps support Joseph as an innocent person who felt love for the first time ever.

Orbiting Jupiter
by Gary D. Schmidt
Clarion Books, 2015
192 pages
Source:  Gift


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dewey's #Readathon Master Post

It's Readathon Day!!

Here is a day where I do my very best to devote 24 hours to reading, and I'll do it in the company of over 2,000 other people around the world!

So this is what I'll be doing here -

This is my master post.  I will update this every 4 hours or so with how I'm doing and what not.  I'll probably check in on Twitter too.

So here we go!  (If you're looking for more info on the Readathon, or to sign up - click HERE)

8 am:  Let's Go!!

12 noon:  I just finished my first book - A Wrinkle in Time which was my absolute favorite book when I was in elementary school.  I'm so glad I finally gave it a good reread!  I've already dug into my snacks a little bit (they are the best excuse to get myself up and moving a little every so often) and now it is time to make lunch and throw dinner in the crock pot.  As for social media, I have mostly been checking in on Litsy (I'm Sarahreadstoomuch over there) and Twitter (@SarahReads2Much).  I'm loving the Facebook group too...  but it is a little overwhelming for me right now.  Hope you are having a great readathon too!

4 pm:  So just after I posted that previous update, no less than 3 family members called me in succession.  So I lost a little reading time to that, but I am glad to have chatted with all of them.  Dinner is smelling great in the crockpot, that will be ready in a couple hours.  I am about halfway into my second book and having a lot of fun with it.  I'm reading Lick by Kylie Scott - the first in the Stage Dive series.  It is a fun new adult about a wild night in Vegas that has some lasting implications.  Not everything stays in Vegas when a rock star, a ring, and Elvis is involved!

8 pm: Halfway Mark  - Woo hoo!  Halfway there!  It's actually almost halfway there.  I just finished book 2 and am about to start book 3!  I'm going to stay with the Stage Dive series and start reading Play now.  I really liked Mal in the first book, even as a supporting character, so I'm looking forward to reading his own story instead of switch to something else.  I did have to relocate though - my family is watching the last Harry Potter movie in the living room, so I'm moved to my bedroom to keep reading.  I really have to give my husband a shout out for keeping the kids busy all day today for me to enjoy the readathon.  It has even been a crazy rainy day so he couldn't even just send them out to play!  He's the best :)  Hope you're still going strong!

12 midnight:  Starting to get pretty tired over here.  My whole family has now gone to bed.  I am 3/4 of the way through book 3, and I'm going to finish it before I nod off.  I'd like to try and pick up a 4th book, at least get started...  but I don't know if it is going to happen for me or not.  No matter what, this has been an incredibly successful readathon for me.  No complaints at all!

4 am:  Well, I finished Play and went to sleep just after 1:30am.  I feel like maybe I could have stayed up and read more, but I was in zombie mode and I'm not sure that anything I read at that point would have stuck.

8 am:  The Big Finish  Yeah, I was still in bed.  I woke up around 7:40 but couldn't get myself awake enough to read for the last few minutes.  No worries - I feel that with 3 books (818 pages) read in 17.5 hours, this was a very successful readathon for me.  Looking forward to the next one, set for April 29, 2017.  See you there!

Books Finished:  

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (232pgs)  
  • Lick by Kylie Scott (292 pages)
  • Play by Kylie Scott (294 pages)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Review: "Crafting with Feminism" by Bonnie Burton

When I got the email from Quirk Books describing this book and would I like to check it out, I got super excited.  I mean, the title is a major hook, right?  Who doesn't want to smash the patriarchy with crafts?  I was all in.

I forgot to think about how I'm not an especially crafty person.  Or maybe I thought about it, but pushed it aside because feminism!  It turns out that it is really okay that I'm not super-crafty.  These are very simple to do and you don't need sewing machines and such to do them.  You will need crafty supplies of course, but nothing crazy that you can't get at any regular craft store (or honestly, the craft section at Target might have some of what you need).

The crafts themselves are mostly fun and kitchy (am I spelling that right?).  There are a couple that are pretty or unusual - like the teacup candles were really cute and the high heel planter was eye catchingly cool looking.  But you could also make "badges" out of felt with Feminist sayings that I'd like to try and include with my pin collection on my tote bag.  (Confession - I had intended on making some to show you in this post but I ran out of time.  And they don't even look like they'd take long to make - life just got crazy.  I'm sorry.)  There is also instructions on making a "Nope" necklace with Scrabble pieces which I'm just going to have to make.

The book itself is laced with humor, get feminist quotes, and other handy dandy lists - like a feminist playlist or tips on hosting a crafting party.  I am not interested in making everything in this book - I just don't feel the need to have vagina tree ornaments or a huggable uterus body pillow.  But you might!  Check it out for yourself!

Crafting with Feminism:  25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy
by Bonnie Burton
Quirk, 2016
112 pages
Source:  Publisher provided copy for honest review


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book Review: "Dirty" by Kylie Scott

Lydia has just run away from her wedding, and finds herself without money, clothes (besides the dress she's wearing), or anywhere to go.  She crawls into the first open window she sees...  and arrives in Vaughan's house.  Lydia certainly has to some soul searching and life rebuilding to do, and she's not alone.  Vaughan has just returned back to this house, and in his hometown after not quite reaching his ultimate dream as a guitarist in L.A.  He's also trying to regroup and figure out his next steps.  But for right now, let's just say that Lydia and Vaughan enjoy each other's attention.

This book is not my typical read.  No real reason, I guess, I just really haven't read much romance or new adult.  So I thought I'd try to change that - I mean, I certainly like YA romance - and I thought I'd try this one.  I knew a few of my friends liked it, and that's all it really takes some times.  And you know what?  This was FUN.  I laughed out loud at some of the dialogue between Lydia and Vaughan (or really anyone) and really just enjoyed this quick little book.  And they really make a fantastic couple with some great sexy times.  The secondary characters added plenty to the overall book too, and I hope future books take a closer look at some of them.

The only thing I didn't like completely was the ending.  It felt rushed.  But not enough that I won't go and read more by this author.  In fact, my friends recommended her previous series.  So I requested the entire "Stage Dive" series, and will probably read at least some during the upcoming 24-hour Readathon.

by Kylie Scott
St. Martin's Griffin, 2016
288 pages
Series:  Dive Bar #1
Source:  Library


Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review: "Mr. Splitfoot" by Samantha Hunt

Ruth and Nat are orphans cared for by the leader of a religious sect.  As they get older, they start talking with the dead... and make a lot of money doing so, especially when they take on a partner.  Cora is Ruth's niece, newly pregnant by her married boyfriend (who, honestly, she doesn't even like that much).  Ruth, long estranged from her sister (Cora's mother), shows up unexpectedly in Cora's room one night.  Ruth wants Cora to come with her, and Cora goes - even though Ruth is now mute for some reason.  Cora doesn't know where she's going or why, but she trusts Ruth.  This haunting novel brings together the different stories of Ruth and Nat and Cora into a magnificent conclusion.

I put this book down as a book club option for this year, and I was truly thrilled when the members voted it onto the reading list.  I thought it would be perfect to read for October, and it really is.  This is wildly different than what we typically read though, and I can't wait to see what they thought!

It starts out really strangely, honestly.  I read the first chapter and had to talk to my co-worker who runs the book group with me.  It was almost unsettling and hard to follow - like a stream of consciousness piece, but the rest of the book isn't like that.  I found that the opening chapter put me on an edge that made me grasp onto whatever came next, as it was more cohesive.  It didn't matter that what came next didn't make complete sense, I wanted to believe in it because I could.  And that right there, was brilliant.

This is a superb gothic tale full of mystery, scary stories, unusual people, ghosts and a couple of religious cults.  I figured out some of it, but I couldn't get a handle on the why.  And I certainly didn't expect that ending, not fully.  I've never read anything quite like this before, and I loved it.

Mr. Splitfoot
by Samantha Hunt
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
322 pages
Source:  Library


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review: "Lady Midnight" by Cassandra Clare

It is 5 years after the Dark Wars.  Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs are parabatai, living at the Los Angeles Institute when a series of murders in the area catches their attention.  Someone is killing Downworlders & mundanes alike, but no one knows who.  This is of particular interest to Emma, as the bodies all bear the same markings as her parent's bodies when they were killed.  The Faeries come and ask Julian and Emma to investigate and deliver the killer to them (as faerie blood has been spilled as well) and in return, they will give them back Mark Blackthorn, Julian's older half brother.  There is a lot riding on this investigation...  one that they willing take on, even though The Clave has expressly forbidden doing anything with Faeries.

Alright.  I have to start by saying that I have loved this Shadowhunter world ever since I first discovered it, some years ago.  This is a start of a brand new trilogy, but touches briefly on some favorite characters from The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices.  In fact, finish those series before you read this one.  But if it has been awhile, don't fear as Clare will fill in all the details from those books as you need them here.  Repeatedly.  As in, everytime Jace and Clary are mentioned in the first 250 pages, you will get their full names just in case you forgot.

This brings me to my first complaint - I feel like this book could have easily been about 200 pages shorter.  Does Clare's editor even edit for her anymore?  Or is this the end result of a lot of editing?  ((shudder))  SO MUCH could have been cut.  I think there were three or four separate occasions in which we were describe, in many of the same details, that Julian's younger brother Ty is "different" somewhat like being on the autism spectrum, but without ever actually giving it a name or diagnosis.  So many things were described repeatedly that it got pretty annoying.  Then all of a sudden, a visiting Shadowhunter, Cristina, just starts referring to her home Institute as D.F. and I don't thing that was ever actually defined.  Or if it was, it was buried and I missed it and I found myself no longer caring.

I was talking with a co-worker about this little editing/continuity issue as well:  Julian is a painter.  At one point, there is about a page and a half of descriptions of the tarot-card like paintings he did of each member of his family.  Then it says that he very rarely paints people, and goes on about everything he paints besides people (except all the preceding paintings).  Further on in the book, we find that he has an entire secret room filled with paintings of Emma.

Oh yeah, Emma and Julian are in love with each other, but it is forbidden to be "in love" with your parabatai.  If you love your parabatai because he or she is a family member, that's okay.  But just not romantic love.  That is just too powerful I guess.  ((Me not buying it)).

So, yeah, I was told to stick it out, that the ending would make it worth it...  and all I can say to that is , sure, I guess, sorta.  I didn't love this book.  I don't believe in the "twists" thrown in at the end, and I really don't think I'll continue with this series.  I think I have reached the end of my involvement with Shadowhunters.

Edit to add:  I really like the cover I'm showing above.  It is the first edition, and it is gorgeous.  I just went to add it to the post for an Amazon link, and all I can get is the one below - which is some sort of special edition hardcover bullshit whatever.  Can they just not rerelease all of her books seventy bajillion times?  Honestly.  The money grab is embarrassing.



Monday, October 10, 2016

My Secret "Reading Project": The Massachusetts Book Awards
So toward the end of summer, I took kind of an unexpected break from the blog.  In fact, it may have appeared that I took a break from reading completely.  I did mention that I was working on a secret reading project . . . and now I can finally talk about what that project entailed.

I was chosen to be a judge for the 2016 Massachusetts Book Award in the Middle Grade/Young Adult category.  I felt honored and so excited to be part of such an important program!  The Massachusetts Book Awards honor Massachusetts Authors or Books with strong Massachusetts connections each year in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Middle Grade/Young Adult and Picture Book/Early Reader categories.  I had the good fortune to be on a panel with another public librarian and a school librarian, each from other parts of the Commonwealth.

I still have a little bit of work to do before the award and honors are officially presented to the authors at the State House celebration, so I will not comment on these books just yet... but I can share them now:

The Winner:  The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Honor Books:

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson

 The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola

My congratulations to all of these authors!  For the full list of Winners and Honor Books, including the Long List, please click HERE.

Serving on this Judging Panel was quite an experience, and one I'd gladly do again.  It was a little stressful, reading on a deadline like that, but it was reading for a purpose and I really took that seriously.  I'm looking forward to going to the State House and not only meeting these great authors, but showing support for the MA Center for the Book and our state's long legacy in literature to our legislators.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: "Up From Slavery" by Booker T. Washington

There is so much I don't really know about the Civil War and Slavery and the Civil Rights Movement.  I know (some of) the facts as presented to me in high school American History classes...  many years ago.  So reading this book is part of my re-education if you will.

Booker T. Washington was born a slave and freed at the end of the Civil War when he was a boy.  His family, like so many Southern Black families at the time, were dirt poor.  But Washington saw the advantages of having an education, and so did everything he could to go to a good school that would teach him usable skills.  From there he saw that education would be the way to help raise up his entire race in the South.  Washington founded the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama which was a boarding school for Black Men and Women where they would study both "normal" subjects as well as an industry so as to have marketable skills at the time of graduation.  Washington's hope was that his newly educated graduates would spread through the South and raise their situation with their knowledge of the latest technology in agriculture or brick making or construction.  This would raise the status of the Black people.

To run the school, though, Washington had to continually raise funds and ask for donations, often from wealthy whites in the North.  In fact, a good portion of this book is name dropping those who donated and how much they gave and I wonder if that wasn't part of the transaction.  Combined with the fundraising was the speaking engagements (which he often did for money) which led to name dropping those in attendance.  I know I'm looking at this from my comfy home in 2016, so I needed to remind myself what a HUGE deal it was back then to have a black man address an audience of whites and blacks together.  Or for him to speak to such highly placed people in the government.

I started this book way back in June, but had to put it down for a bit and ended up reading Gone With The Wind before coming back to finish.  Putting these two books together by total accident was kind of a happy accident.  In thinking about how terribly black people were portrayed in GWTW, I almost expected something of the reverse in this book.  A few times early on, Washington does recount a couple instances  where he was the victim of racism and prejudice.  But he just seems to take it as 'this is just how it is sometimes' and doesn't express the anger that I would have expected (or felt in his situation).  He wants to raise his community, his race, using education to make them valuable to the whites and other blacks and in that way "solve" the issues.  He doesn't make issue with the white community being wrong in the first place.  And I'm afraid that he wasn't taking a harder stance against the racism that was prevalent at the time because he was afraid of offending his rich while donors from the North.  Of course, this is all conjecture, and I am probably saying this all wrong.  But I guess I'm just suspicious of this being a true account of everything he dealt with and of everything he felt.  But even so, he created a wonderful school that really did do much to educate and help Southern Blacks following the Civil War.

Up From Slavery
by Booker T. Washington
Modern Library, 1999.  First published 1900.
220 pages
Source:  Purchased used

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