May 2020 Reading Tracker

Books I Read:

  1. When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton (audio)
  2. Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life by Marie Kondo and Scott Soneshein
  3. Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee
  4. A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth (audio)
  5. Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhatena
  6. Take Me With You by Tara Altebrando
  7. The Insomniacs by Marit Weisenberg
  8. Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (audio)
  9. To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers (audio)
  10. Beyond the Black Door by A. M. Strickland
  11. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (audio)
  12. A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry
  13. King Lear by William Shakespeare (audio)
  14. Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (audio)
  15. Race the Sands by Sarah Beth Durst
  16. The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (audio)
  17. If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio (audio)
  18. Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less – and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined by Scott Soneshein (audio)

Books I Had Planned to Read:

Books Bought:

  1. Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman (trying Once Upon a Bookclub!)

ARCs Received:

  1. Beauty Mark: A Verse Novel of Marilyn Monroe by Carole Boston Weatherford (requested)
  2. 1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change edited by Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti (requested)
  3. The Great Gatsby: A Graphic Novel Adaptationby Katharine Woodman-Maynard (requested)

You can also see what I read in April.

Week in Review: May 30: Quarantine Week 11

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Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

This week started okay but then I stopped sleeping well and that made the end of it hard. I did a lot though–got several work things off my list, did some errands, paid off some quarantine purchases, made some others. This week always feels really long–that weird nether time between Memorial Day and June. This year it seems even longer with the absence of BookExpo and, you know, the entire global health crisis. Everything is still on fire but I feel like if I focus on the current moment I can manage. We’ll  see how long that lasts.

Activism Starts With You: Novels to Inspire Empathy

It’s been a wild and sometimes scary ride lately with the political climate changing in the wake of the 2016 United States Presidential election, the current health crisis and, unfortunately, racism and hatred spreading wildly. Two of the best ways to combat this negativity are to get informed and to nurture your empathy. That’s where this booklist comes in with titles about young activists.

You can also find the list at Bookshop.

  • The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah: Michael agrees with everything he hears at the anti-immigrant rallies he’s dragged to with his parents. Until he meets Mina who is clever, funny, and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. As Mina and Michael grow closer they’ll have to decide where they stand and who they want to be in the face of rising tensions and issues that are anything but simple.
  • Saints and Misfits by S. K. Ali: Janna Yusuf is the daughter of the only divorced mother at her mosque. She loves Flannery O’Connor. And she has no idea what to think when her best friend’s cousin–one of the so-called “saints” in the Muslim community–tries to assault her.
  • The Secret Side of Empty by Maria E. Andreu: M. T. gets good grades. She has a best friend and the promise of romance on the horizon. What M. T. doesn’t have is any plans for college. Because M. T. has been hiding something since she was a child. She’s an undocumented immigrant.
  • The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg: Jane feels like her life is over when her family moves to suburbia. Then she meets three other girls, all named Jane, and they form a secret gang to deploy art attacks throughout their town.
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: Set in post-9/11 San Francisco, Marcus is on a quest to hack his city from the sinister clutches of Homeland Security.
  • Refugee by Alan Gratz: Separated by miles and decades, the stories of three refugees–Josef, a Jewish boy fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s; Isabel, a girl hoping to escape the riots and unrest that plague Cuba in 1994; and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy in 2015, whose homeland is being destroyed by violence and destruction–come together in surprising ways during the course of their harrowing journeys.
  • How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson is shot to death, his community is thrown into chaos. Tariq was black and the shooter is white. In the aftermath of the shooting Tariq’s friends, family, and larger community struggle to make sense of the tragedy. But when everyone has something to say, and no two accounts seem to agree, no one is sure how they can ever agree on how it really went down.
  • Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu: In the pages of her new zine “Moxie” Vivian calls out sexist jokes, harassment, and unfair dress codes in her Texas high school and asks girls to join her in protests that quickly gain momentum and help the Moxie movement take on a life of its own. As the stakes rise for what the zine and the Moxie girls are fighting for, Vivian has to decide how far she’s willing to go for what she believes.
  • The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed: The Nowhere Girls are everygirl. But they start with three outsiders–Grace, Rosina, and Erin–as they band together to resist the sexist culture at their high school and to get justice for Lucy, a girl run out of town after accusing the popular guys at school of gang rape.
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely: Rashad is accused  of stealing and brutally beaten by a police officer. Quinn witnesses the beating and recognizes the cop as his best friend’s older brother. The entire thing was caught on camera, but even with that footage, it becomes clear that no one agrees on what happened and Quinn is going to have to choose a side.
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone: Justyce McAllister is at the top of his class and bound for the Ivy League. None of which matters to the police officer who handcuffs him only to release Justyce hours later without charges or remorse. Haunted by the incident and the pressures he faces both from his old neighborhood and his prep school, Justyce starts writing a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King. But even Dr. King’s teachings are put to the test when Justyce and his best friend end up at the center of a night that ends with shots fired and a media firestorm.
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley: Virginia, 1959. Sarah is one of the first black students to attend her newly integrated high school. Meeting Sarah and working with her on a school project forces Linda–a white girl–to confront hard truths about her family’s anti-integration beliefs.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Starr Carter watches her friend Kahlil die at the hands of a police officer and faces intimidation from both the police and a local drug lord as they try to find out what happened that night.
  • The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne: Daisy’s efforts to support her best friend, Hannah, when she comes out as a lesbian spiral out of control as Daisy challenges the school’s ban on same-sex dates at school events. When the local story goes national Daisy is the accidental face of a movement.
  • Seeking Refuge: A Graphic Novel by Irene N. Watts and Kathryn Shoemaker: Marianne is eleven-years-old in 1938. She is one of the first two hundred children rescued during Kindertransport and evacuated to England in December. In 1939 her journey continues as she is evacuated to Wales. Shuffled from home to home, Marianne will need courage and resilience to reach the end of her journey.
  • The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew: The previously untold origin story of the Green Turtle–a heroic crime fighter who first hit the scenes in the 1940s–the first Asian American superhero.

This piece originally appeared at Teen Services Underground in 2017.

Tunnel of Bones: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Maybe is a match in the dark.

“Maybe is a rope in a hole, or the key to a door.

“Maybe is how you find the way out.”

Tunnel of Bones by Victoria SchwabCassidy Blake’s best friend Jacob is a ghost. This wasn’t as big of an issue until Cassidy and her parents (and Jacob) traveled to Scotland to film a TV about the world’s most haunted places. There Cassidy learned that she isn’t just a girl who can talk to ghosts. She is a ghost hunter tasked with putting ghosts to rest.

This has, understandably, created some tension between the two friends.

But understanding her role as a ghost hunter will have to wait when the Blakes travel to Paris and Cassidy accidentally awakens a dangerously strong ghost.

As the new ghost and Jacob both grow stronger Cassidy will have to rely on old friends and new to put this new menace to rest before it’s too late in Tunnel of Bones (2019) by Victoria Schwab.

Find it on Bookshop

Tunnel of Bones is the second book in Schwab’s middle grade series following Cassidy Blake. The story starts in City of Ghosts but thanks to sufficient recaps the books can be read independently or even out of order.

I love this series. There is nothing more comforting to me than reading about Cassidy’s growing pains as a friend to Jacob and as a fledgling ghost hunter. Readers can expect to see the usual spooky suspects in Paris including the Catacombs and a poignant visit to Notre Dame before the fire in April 2019 left the historic cathedral in ruins.

New locations and new reveals add dimension to Cassidy’s understanding of her ghost hunting abilities as well as Jacob’s backstory. Schwab expertly balances scares and laughs in this fast-paced read that is sure to entertain readers both young and old. A surprise ending will leave readers especially eager to see what awaits Cassidy and Jacob in the next installment.

Tunnel of Bones is as entertaining as it is evocative. Come for the ghosts and stay for the friendships–just be sure to have a snack on hand because the descriptions of all of the French cuisine Cassidy discovers will leave you hungry.

Possible Pairings: The Jumbies by Tracy Baptiste, Doll Bones by Holly Black, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West: A Non-Fiction Review

Presenting Buffalo Bill by Candace FlemingNowadays Buffalo Bill is a legend, part of the story of the westward expansion of the United States and the “Wild West” as it has been romanticized for white audiences in popular culture.

In fact, Buffalo Bill was part of that romanticizing with the creation of his traveling Wild West show.

But before William Cody became the showman better known as Buffalo Bill, he was a boy raised on the frontier–the son of a man who would become a prominent abolitionist, he may have ridden with the Pony Express (or not), among other exploits.

One fact remains: Buffalo Bill is an enduring part of American history–both good and bad–and helped define an era as much with his very real show as his tall tales. You can learn more about both (and separate one from the other) in Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West (2016) by Candace Fleming.

Find it on BookShop.

Fleming brings her usual thorough research and care to this biography filled with illustrations and primary sources including Cody’s own memoirs and those of his sister Julia. Fleming balances facts with Bill’s penchant for mythologizing his own life with tall tales and other embellishments in sidebars called “Panning for the Truth” where she works to parse the sometimes limited facts from first person accounts.

Each chapter also opens with a dramatic and, given the textual format, surprisingly cinematic account of various key acts in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West which truly transport readers to the show. Fleming also brings a modern lens to this moment in history highlighting the US government’s systemic campaign against Native Americans and also Cody’s own role therein.

Although a little melancholy, as many stories of the famous figures of the old west are, Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West is as fascinating as Buffalo Bill himself. This book does a lot to demonstrate how, often much to his own dismay, Cody was really first and foremost a showman with innovative ideas about showmanship, presentation, and (later on) employing both women and Native performers.

Possible Pairings: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown; An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States For Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza; My Calamity Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows; Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Week in Review: May 23: Quarantine Week 10

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Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

It’s definitely getting harder to be cooped up with the weather getting warmer. Also I keep seeing cardinals outside on my terrace but they fly away before I can take pictures.

Activism Starts With You: Nonfiction Books to Inspire and Instruct

It’s been a wild and sometimes scary ride lately with the political climate changing in the wake of the 2016 United States Presidential election, the current health crisis and, unfortunately, racism and hatred spreading wildly. It’s hard to know where to start when you can’t vote and may not be old enough to work. The best first step: Getting information. These books can help teens do just that as you get informed and inspired.

You can also find the list at Bookshop.

  • Strike! The Farm Workers’ Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner: A carefully researched account of the 1965 strike and the ones that followed as migrant Filipino American workers fought to negotiate a better way and set off one of the longest and most successful strikes in American history.
  • Yes You Can! Your Guide to Becoming An Activist by Jane Drake and Ann Love: This book includes accounts of the founding of organizations like Amnesty International and Greenpeace along with practical steps for social change including how to run meetings, write petitions, and lobby the government.
  • It’s Getting Hot in Here: The Past, Present, and Future of Climate Change by Bridget Heos: With so many people denying its impacts, it’s more important now than ever to know the full story about climate change. This book features real talk about global warming and ways we can all help by taking action.
  • The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip M. Hoose: The true story of the teenage boys whose acts of sabotage (and eventual arrests) helped spark the Danish resistance during WWII.
  • Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen: An essay and art-filled guide to what it means to be a feminist from forty-four unique voices.
  • We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson: In May 1963 4,000 African American children and teenagers marched in Birmingham, Alabama where they were willingly arrested to help fill the city’s jails. These young marchers were crucial to the desegregation of Birmingham–one of the most racially violent cities in America at the time.
  • The March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell: These graphic novels share Lewis’ firsthand account of his lifelong involvement in the fight for human rights including his key role in the Civil Rights movement from his early years in a segregated classroom through the 1963 March on Washington.
  • Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks: The true story of three of the most important scientists of the twentieth century–women who risked their lives pursuing their research and protecting the primates they studied.
  • Queer There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager: Queer author and activist Prager delves into the world’s queer history and heritage through the lens of these twenty-three trailblazers.
  • This Land Is Our Land: The History of American Immigration by Linda Barrett Osborne: This book follows the changing reception immigrants to the United States have faced from both the government and the public from 1800 through the present.
  • You Got This! Unleash your Awesomeness, Find your Path, and Change your World by Maya Penn: Everything you need to know to find your passions, reach your potential, and speak up from teen entrepreneur, animator, eco-designer, and girls rights activist Maya Penn.
  • Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz: This book highlights forty women from around the world and from all walks of life along with their varied accomplishments and contributions to world history.
  • The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin: In 1944 hundreds of African American servicemen in the Navy refused to work in unsafe conditions after Port Chicago explosion. Fifty of those men were charged with mutiny. This is their story.
  • Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson: A step-by-step guide to identifying social issues, getting informed, and taking action.
  • How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of A War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana: In her memoir Uwiringiyimana discusses her survival of the Gatumba massacre and her move to America where she began to recover through healing and activism.
  • I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb: Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Her story started when the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley and she fought for her right to an education but that’s only the beginning.

This piece originally appeared at the YALSA Hub Blog in 2017.

Sorcery of Thorns: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“Knowledge always has the potential to be dangerous. It is a more powerful weapon than any sword or spell.”

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret RogersonBooks are always dangerous things, but especially so in Austermeer’s Great Libraries where magical grimoires whisper beneath iron chains that prevent them from ensorcelling any who stray too near. Releasing a grimoire could lead to disaster if it has time to run unchecked and transform into a monstrous creature of ink and leather.

Elisabeth grew up among these creatures and more as a foundling in one of the Great Libraries. Her dreams of remaining there and earning her status as a librarian are dashed when a grimoire is unleashed and she is blamed.

Desperate to clear her name and discover the true culprit, Elisabeth forms a risky alliance with the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn. Together they uncover a far-reaching conspiracy to destroy the Great Libraries and possibly the rest of the world.

Elisabeth has always known that sorcerers are evil. Who else would be able to use magical grimoires to summon demons and perform magic? But as Elisabeth realizes Nathaniel might be the only person she can trust, she will have to question everything she thought she knew about sorcerers, demons, and herself if she hopes to save all that she holds dear in Sorcery of Thorns (2019) by Margaret Rogerson.

Find it on Bookshop.

Rogerson’s sophomore novel is a delightful standalone fantasy filled with all of my favorite things. While the story is often plot driven as Eilsabeth tries to discover the culprit behind attacks on the Great Libraries and clear her name, this story really shines when focusing on the characters.

Elisabeth’s world is very small at the start of this novel. The Great Library is all she has ever known and, for the most part, all she thinks she needs. It is only as she begins to work with Nathaniel that she realizes some of her deepest held beliefs might be fundamentally flawed. This kind of character development could feel heavy-handed or leave readers with a small-minded protagonist in the hands of a lesser author but Rogerson pulls it off expertly.

Nathaniel is the sarcastic, brooding, bisexual male lead of your dreams complete with his undying loyalty to servant Silas who is one of the best friends found in fantasy literature (and also canonically asexual).

Throughout the course of the novel, all three main characters struggle to transcend what is expected of them and their chosen identities to become something better and, in doing so, try to save each other and their world. Sorcery of Thorns is a charming adventure with a carefully managed plot filled with twists and turns as well as thoroughly enjoyable world building and powerful friendships. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow, Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix, Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor, The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, A Treason of Thorns by Laura E. Weymouth, Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

Chosen Ones: A Review

Chosen Ones by Veronica RothTen years ago a prophecy predicted that one of five teenagers would become the Chosen One–the only person capable of defeating the Dark One and ending his reign of death and destruction.

Sloane was one of the five and together with Matt, Albie, Ines, and Esther they defeated the Dark One near Chicago.

Now everyone is supposed to move on and mourn and watch life return to normal.

Sloane can’t do that.

Haunted by memories and traumas from fighting the Dark One, Sloane feels adrift even with her friends to anchor her. When one of them turns up dead the day before the Ten Years Celebration of Peace, Sloane begins to realize she may not be the only one who hasn’t moved on in Chosen Ones (2020) by Veronica Roth.

Find it on Bookshop.

Chosen Ones is Roth’s adult debut and the start of a new duology.

While marketed as a story about young adults trying to move past their teenaged destinies, Chosen Ones is actually familiar dystopian fare for a slightly older audience. The scene is set for a story of acceptance and moving on only to shift rather abruptly to a new fight with a villain where the Earth’s fate is at stake.

Readers keen on high action and drama will appreciate this shift while others may be left wanting a book with a bit more focus on characters and a little less in the way of fantasy elements.

Chosen Ones is familiar fare aged up with sexier writing and edgier villainy. Recommended for readers looking to branch out beyond the familiar YA suspects in the genre, but not too far.

Possible Pairings: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst, Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman, The Magicians by Lev Grossman, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemison, Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

Week in Review: May 16: Quarantine Week 9: In Which Balance is Temporarily Achieved

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Blog Posts of The Week:

Tweet of the Week:

Instagram Post of the Week:

How My Week Went:

The biggest news is that I created a Bookshop page for myself and am updating affiliate links here on the blog. More details in that post. Also trying to be better about work balance instead of just being always available when working from home. It’s hard!