Update on Book Riot Challenge

*1. Read a book about sports. Done! Psmith in the City, cricket. by P G Wodehouse.

*2. Read a debut novel. Done! Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

*3. Read a book about books. Done! End of Chapter, mystery about publishing company.

4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. – still looking!

5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. A Hope More Powerful than the Sea

*6. Read an all-ages comic. Done! American Born Chinese

*7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. Done! Cakes and Ale, published 1930

*8. Read a travel memoir. Done! Three Singles to Adventure, to Guyana.

*9. Read a book you’ve read before. Done! Murder Over Easy, read first in 2007

10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. – Desert Solitaire, Utah

*11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. Done! The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds, Malaysia/China

*12. Read a fantasy novel. Done! The Spirit Thief by Rachel Bach

*13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. – currently reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, about medicine and cell therapy

*14. Read a book about war. Done! Valiant Ambition, about American Revolution

*15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. Done! Last Seen Leaving, by Caleb Roehrig

*16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.  Done! Animal Farm, by George Orwell

17. Read a classic by an author of color. – Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley or Native Son by Richard Wright

18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. – either Spider Woman or Daughters of the Dragon

*19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey Done! The House of the Scorpion

*20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean) Done! Also Last Seen Leaving

*21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay) Done! Future Worlds, A Science Fiction Anthology, published by Future World Publishing

*22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng)  Done! Miss Marple by Agatha Christie

23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan) Beowulf

*24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi) Done! Black Panther, Number 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

How about you folks? Is anyone else doing this challenge? If you are, what books have you read for the challenge? What do you have left?

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Book Riot Challenge – Read Harder

rhc_cover_pinterestIt’s been a while since I updated my Book Riot Challenge, so I decided it was time to let you all know how I’m doing. It looks like I’m about on schedule for the year, since we’re in May and I’ve completed 17/24 so far.

*1. Read a book about sports. Done! Psmith in the City, cricket. by P G Wodehouse.

*2. Read a debut novel. Done! Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

*3. Read a book about books. Done! End of Chapter, mystery about publishing company.

4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. – still looking!

5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. A Hope More Powerful than the Sea

*6. Read an all-ages comic. Done! American Born Chinese

*7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. Done! Cakes and Ale, published 1930

*8. Read a travel memoir. Done! Three Singles to Adventure, to Guyana.

*9. Read a book you’ve read before. Done! Murder Over Easy, read first in 2007

10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. – Desert Solitaire, Utah

*11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. Done! The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds, Malaysia/China

*12. Read a fantasy novel. Done! The Spirit Thief by Rachel Bach

13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. Unstoppable by Bill Nye

*14. Read a book about war. Done! Valiant Ambition, about American Revolution

*15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. Done! Last Seen Leaving, by Caleb Roehrig

*16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.  Done! Animal Farm, by George Orwell

17. Read a classic by an author of color. – Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley or Native Son by Richard Wright

18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. – either Spider Woman or Daughters of the Dragon

*19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey (From Daniel José Older)

*20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean) Done! Also Last Seen Leaving

*21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay) Done! Future Worlds, A Science Fiction Anthology, published by Future World Publishing

*22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng)  Done! Miss Marple by Agatha Christie

23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan) Beowulf

*24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi) Done! Black Panther, Number 1 by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Book Review: Ashes

Title: Ashes (Book 3, Seeds of America) 

Author: Laurie Halse Andersen

Setting: Virginia 1780-1781, including the Battle of Yorktown

Escaped slaves Isabel and Curzon have been looking for Isabel’s sister for years, and they finally have an idea where she is. Unfortunately, Ruth isn’t as excited to see them, and they’re stuck in the path of a battle. They could ask the Americans for help, but Isabel is still bitter about the way the so-called Patriots have been treating escaped slaves. Curzon doesn’t like it either, but he doesn’t trust the English even less than the Americans.

And that is the central point of this book – for a war of independence, people of color were never treated with equality or fairness. Huge numbers of Blacks fought in the war, and many of them were former and current slaves. But you never hear the story of these soldiers.

Washington, Jefferson, and other American heroes were all slave owners. Both chased down slaves who had escaped during the war and brought them back. At least Washington freed his slaves in his will and has never been accused of fathering any children with them, so I’d say he sort of tried to the right thing. But Jefferson is different story.

Back to the story – Isabel has no interest in getting involved in the war, so she is trying to find a safe place to wait it out. She hopes to go back to Rhode Island and buy her own farm there, one where she can live with her sister in peace. But her sister won’t even speak to her and the only way to get to Rhode Island is to survive the fighting right now. Curzon’s loyalty to the American cause drives a wedge between the friends and Isabel has no one to rely on but herself.

This is a great series. With the popularity of Hamilton, books set in the 18th century are really hot right now. I won’t say that I liked it as well as Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, but it is really good. Recommended for any teen.

Book Review: Allegedly

Title: Allegedly

Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Challenge: Read Diverse Books

Setting: Modern day, not sure about place

Themes: Race, family, criminal justice system, mental illness – just wow, so much going on in here, it’s hard to wrap my mind around it.

Story:

Mary is fresh out of prison, what she calls “baby jail.” She’s been stashed there since she was convicted of murder at 9 years old. Which makes no sense, because that’s not at all what would have happened, but this is a book about how messed up things can get. As soon as she’s out, she gets stuck in a group home and given a job working at a nursing home. That’s where she meets Ted, who’s also living in a group home. Now Mary’s pregnant, and if she doesn’t do something, the state will take her baby.

Because Mary was convicted not just of murder, but of murdering a baby. A white baby. And Mary is black.

My Reactions:

This is one messed up book. It’s also really good, so I was torn between wanting, needing to know what happened and having to take break from the horror of it all and where I thought it was going. Everything in this story is so messed up. Her mother is horrible. The workers at the group home don’t care about anyone. The other girls, wow, there’s some seriously bad stuff going on there. But what really made this book good was Mary. Just when you think you have her figured out, the author changes things up and you don’t know what to believe. By the time you get to the ending, you think nothing will surprise you. But you would be wrong.

Would I recommend it? It depends. I admit that I found it so tough to read that I skipped a big chunk in the middle. Then when I got to the ending, I had to go back and read more. But I know that a lot of my friends are not going to be interested in something so dark and grim. I tried to tell my kid about the book (they’re 21), and they found it very upsetting to even hear about it. What hooked me was the mystery aspect of the story – did she or didn’t she? But this is a murder of a BABY, and I should have been more prepared for the emotional impact of that.

Book Review: Last Seen Leaving

Title: Last Seen Leaving

Author: Caleb Roehrig

Genre: YA mystery

Challenge: 2017 Read Diverse Books – LGBT YA romance

Themes: coming out story, missing person

Story:

Flynn is kind of coasting through high school, putting in just enough effort, hanging out with his best friend, skating, occasionally seeing his girlfriend. One night in October, he comes home to find a police car in the driveway. His girlfriend, January, has gone missing. Flynn got into an argument with her and she broke things off with him. That was the last he heard from her, and he’s not about to share the  circumstances with the cops.

That’s because January accused him of being gay. And Flynn kind of suspects that she’s right. He’s not ready to admit that though, not to the cops, not to her, not to his parents, but most importantly, not to himself. And in the meantime, no one has seen January. It seems she was keeping secrets too. Is anyone telling the truth in this story?

I don’t have a lot of experience with LGBT teen fiction, and I don’t read much contemporary YA either. I mainly picked this one up because of the missing person angle. I love a good mystery, and I couldn’t help but feel for this young guy caught in the middle of a dangerous situation and tagged as the number one suspect.

But there’s two mysteries in this one – the missing girl, and Flynn’s own feelings. I thought the author did a good, but maybe not great job of handling both storylines. I think the mystery got a little predictable, with the stepdad and his political career, the selfish mom, the two sets of friends – maybe too cliched.

As for Flynn, he was a very appealing character and I wanted him to figure things out. He reminded me of someone I love. It’s not easy to come out while in high school. It’s not easy to stay in the closet either. And to have to figure it all out in the middle of being a murder suspect – that’s really rough.

Recommended for readers of YA. New author for me too.

Book Review: Cat Daddy

20150602_154823Title: Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Life, Love, and Coming Clean

Author: Jackson Galaxy, the guy on My Cat From Hell

Genre: Memoir, animal behavior

This is not Jackson Galaxy’s cat pictured above. It’s my cat, Tina, who adopted us one Valentine’s Day. I stick to my story that I thought she was a present from my husband who knew how much I wanted a cat. By the time he came home from work, we had cat food, a little box, and three little kids who were in love with the pretty kitty.

As you can tell, I am definitely a cat person. So I was prejudiced in favor of his show and his book. He’s got an amazing rapport with animals, especially cats. He just connects with them. I really admire the guy.

But I had no idea what a mess the dude was before he got clean. Back in the day, the only part of his life that made sense and did not revolve around substances of various kinds was the part he spend with animals. They worked magic. But it wasn’t until he adopted Buddy, an abandoned cat with a broken pelvis, that he began to feel the need to get clean.

It wasn’t easy. It was amazing that he survived. After his first bout of getting clean from drugs, he still had drinking, prescription abuse, and finally food to detox from. I could totally related to his abuse of Klonopin, as I have a close friend who does the same thing. She’s realized how deeply it has affected her, but she can’t seem to give it up entirely. Jackson was much more lucky that he should have been. He didn’t even wind up in the psych ward for any length of time (Although at one point, he wanted to be. He knew he needed help. But his doctor wouldn’t admit him.) After lots of serious work and a move he finally got clean.

This one is recommended reading, especially for anyone who doesn’t fit the mold and is having trouble visualizing a way to achieve their dreams. Jackson didn’t fit in, but he still created his own success. 4 stars

Year in Review: Audiobooks

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My last post gave you some of the low points of my reading year. This time, I’ll hit some of the high points. But I’m going to focus this time on books I listened to.

I have a friend in my book club who still hasn’t fallen in love with the audiobook. For those of you out there waiting to be convinced, here are a few that I think will do the trick.

Michael J. Sullivan’s Ryria

We all love a good buddy movie, and a good buddy book, or even better, a whole series, is a definite crowd pleaser. This fantasy series features a former soldier turned swordsman and a rogue/thief. But both of them have some secrets and they are more than they appear at first glance. In the first book, Theft of Swords, they’re hired to steal a sword, but they almost immediately wind up in the dungeon accused of regicide. There are three novels in this series plus a couple of short stories, and I went slightly crazy over them. The audio version is totally amazing – Hadrian and Royce both seem like real people. You’ve got to check this one out.

Terry Pratchett

I don’t think I’ll ever have a year when I don’t read something by this guy. He was a genius, and the world is much poorer without him. At least he left an amazing and varied body of work. This year my favorite book I listened to was Eric, but I also loved Wintersmith. If you’re feeling down or stressed out, Discworld is the perfect antidote. No matter how bad you’ve got it, someone over there has it worse.

Non-Fiction

One of my few 5 star reads this year was The Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. For some of you old enough to remember the Civil Rights Era and Jim Crow South, this case may already be familiar. But I missed all that, and I’d never heard of this case. It was all too timely, with the Black Lives Matter movement this year and the rise of a new and nasty racial hatred. This book won the Pulitzer Prize and should be required reading for all politicians and journalists. And it’s all true, which makes it even more shocking.

Grimdark

I am not a fan of the new gritty fantasy, which makes it surprising that I was completely won over by Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. There’s not a hero among the characters here, and yet I can’t help rooting for them to come out on top. It’s not a pretty story, not a bit of sweetness or light, but it feels real and it’s definitely compelling. The narration was fantastic. I got the second book as soon as it came out but I’m saving it for the new year.

Right, I hope I’ve inspired you to listen to one of these great books. The links take you to Audible, but you can also check with your library. Mine has ebook and digital audiobooks you can check out online for free. Happy reading!

Read Harder 2017!

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Hey fellow readers! Have you started planning your reading for next year? I have a few books in mind, and we’ve got our book club picks, but I don’t really  have anything organized. Fortunately for me, the folks at BookRiot have, and they’ve got some new challenges for this year’s list.

There are 24 challenges, each designed to help you branch out a little in your reading. You can count a book in more than one category if you want, so it really comes down to 2 challenges a month, and maybe as little as 12 books in all.

Some of the challenges have been suggested by authors, including Celeste Ng, Roxane Gay, and others. I’m going to be taking part, and if you decide to do it also, be sure to post a link to your list. I’m anxious to see what  others read. I might need a few suggestions too.