30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2

I fell a bit behind this week, but I hope to catch up next week. Here’s what I read


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2Asking for It by Kate Harding
Release Date: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Pages: 272
Source: Library

Every seven minutes, someone in America commits a rape. And whether that's a football star, beloved celebrity, elected official, member of the clergy, or just an average Joe (or Joanna), there's probably a community eager to make excuses for that person.

In Asking for It, Kate Harding combines in-depth research with an in-your-face voice to make the case that twenty-first-century America supports rapists more effectively than it supports victims. Drawing on real-world examples of what feminists call "rape culture"—from politicos' revealing gaffes to institutional failures in higher education and the military—Harding offers ideas and suggestions for how we, as a society, can take sexual violence much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.

Whew, this was a doozy of a book, but in a good way. This is a book that everyone needs to read no matter the gender. It’s fitting that I read it right before that horrid Bloomingdale’s ad appeared. Rape culture is far from being conquered and the only way we’re going to do so is if we continue to talk about it and correct our behavior.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2Don't Fail Me Now by Una LaMarche
Release Date: September 13th 2016
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 304
Source: Library

Michelle and her little siblings Cass and Denny are African-American and living on the poverty line in urban Baltimore, struggling to keep it together with their mom in jail and only Michelle’s part-time job at the Taco Bell to sustain them. Leah and her stepbrother Tim are white and middle class from suburban Maryland, with few worries beyond winning lacrosse games and getting college applications in on time.   Michelle and Leah only have one thing in common: Buck Devereaux, the biological father who abandoned them when they were little.   After news trickles back to them that Buck is dying, they make the uneasy decision to drive across country to his hospice in California. Leah hopes for closure; Michelle just wants to give him a piece of her mind.   Five people in a failing, old station wagon, living off free samples at food courts across America, and the most pressing question on Michelle’s mind is: Who will break down first--herself or the car? All the signs tell her they won’t make it. But Michelle has heard that her whole life, and it’s never stopped her before....   Una LaMarche triumphs once again with this rare and compassionate look at how racial and social privilege affects one family in crisis in both subtle and astonishing ways.

I enjoyed this one. There were a couple of little things that were problematic, but overall I loved the road trip aspect and the economic differences. Not to mention there were a lot of heartstrings pulled involving absent parents and what it means to be a family. This one easily was added to me booktalk list.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2How to Be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras
Release Date: November 3rd 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 288
Source: Library

Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

I have a larger review for this one, which will go up on Wednesday. I liked the book, but it did have some things that made me raise my eyebrows. However, some of the scenes and quotes were amazing. It’ll be one I will still tell the teens about, but wasn’t good enough to be one I booktalk.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2Non Non Biyori by Atto
Series: Non Non Biyori #1
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Publisher: Seven Seas
Pages: 180
Source: Library

Welcome to the countryside village of Asahigaoka, a quaint town far-removed from the hustle-and-bustle of the big city. You couldn’t imagine a more isolated setting in all of Japan. So when Tokyo-raised elementary school student Hotaru Ichijo transfers to the tiny Asahigaoka Branch School due to her father’s job, she’s in the for the culture shock of her life!
Join Hotaru and her new friends, the eccentric Renge, and the mischevious sisters Natsumi and Komari, as they share daily adventures in the idyllic Japanese countryside.

This one was a cute and silly manga. Easily one that is good for my younger manga-readers. It is rated Teen, but judging from the first volume it’s going to be a mild one that can be handed to 5th grade and up with no issues.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 2Rose Guns Days Season 1 Series: Rose Guns Days #1
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 195
Source: Library

After suffering unprecedented disasters in World War II, Japan accepts the American and Allied Forces' terms of unconditional surrender. Now the citizens of a ruined nation, the people of Japan come together amid an influx of influences and immigrants and--cunningly, carefully--survive...This is the unrecognizable Japan to which the sharpshooting, sweet-talking womanizer Leo Shishigami returns three years after the war. Against this backdrop, in the spring of 1947, everything is set into motion when Leo meets Rose Haibara, the madam of Club Primavera...

Ahh, this manga totally reminds me of old school type stuff. It has this total Trigun feel to it that I love. It is definitely older teen though. While there has not been any nudity, there are women of the night and the main villain is a complete sexual predator who has made it known he has no problem taking what he wants. However, everything is implied but not shown, which makes me okay leaving it on my teen shelves.

Book Review: If You Wrong Us


Book Review: If You Wrong UsIf You Wrong Us by Dawn Klehr
Release Date: October 8th 2015
Publisher: Flux
Pages: 240
Source: Library

"An intricate psychological page-turner that explores the darker side of vengeance and reads like Gone Girl through a teen lens." - Kirkus Reviews
Becca and Johnny become entangled after a car crash steals the lives of two people they love. Officially, the crash is an accident. But Becca and Johnny are convinced: someone did this.
As they plot revenge against the person responsible, a bond—intense, unyielding, and manic—takes hold of them. And in an unexpected turn of events, they fall for each other.
Or so they think.
In an upside-down world where decay is beautiful and love and hate become one, Becca and Johnny find themselves grappling with reality. Nothing is exactly what it seems, including what they've come to believe about the crash. Question is: will they learn the truth before it's too late?
No. The question is: when they learn the truth, will they care?

 

This is one of those books that I wanted to like so much, and tried to, but ultimately just couldn’t. The story itself isn’t bad. It’s a weird and twisted revenge plot where nothing is quite as it seems. The whole Gone Girl for teens is pretty accurate. Becca herself is a highly unreliable narrator and by the end it’s quite obvious that she’s mentally ill.  The ending is a bit rushed and it kind of falls apart as well. There were some “suspension of disbelief” moments , but none of that truly bothered me. In fact, it’s a quick fast read that I could have easily sold to reluctant readers had it not been for some highly problematic lines/issues that start popping up.

These issues started showing up pretty fast. In fact, on only page four we get this

I shift around in my seat, trying to get comfortable. It’s impossible because I’m stuffed into this desk-and-chair combo – much like Rosie is, sitting next to me jammed into her two-sizes-too-small bedazzled jeans.

There are so many other analogies that could have used. Why, why, why does it have to be this one? All it really serves is demeaning a female classmate. Sure, it forms an image, but does it have to be at the expense of a girl? Girls already have so many people yelling at them about their body, this does not need to added to their list.

 

The commentary on women’s body doesn’t end there. Less that 20 pages later, we’re given these lines:

Becca has no idea how hot she is, and that only makes her more appealing. pg 19

“Here, take this,” I add, shoving a granola bar into the chest pocket of her button-down shirt. I like my women with a little meat on their bones.” pg 20

No, no, no. A woman who lacks self-confidence is not sexy, and we do not need to be teaching our girls this. It’s okay, even good, to have self-confidence and know you’re beautiful. Also, can we please stop the commentary on what women should look like. I know this line was in a larger reference to her losing weight because of their revenge plot, but we need to express those words and not comments like “needing more meat on their bones”.

 

Speaking of weight, there are a couple of problematic lines on that as well. The worse offender is:

My brain is like a fat guy at an all-you-can-eat rib joint. Things are going along just fine, I consume, take things in just as I’m supposed to. But then, without warning, I reach out and grab something – a word, a phrase, a number – and it slips out of my greasy hands. pg 30

Again, I get what she is going at, but does it have to be at the expense of someone else. Why can’t it simply be “someone at an all-you-can-eat rib joint”? Why does it have to be someone that’s fat? It’s a stereotype that fat people eat/consume more than anyone else. It’s false and highly insulting.

 

The other line that deals with weight/unflattering description is

Mom checked in with an overweight blonde who smelled like perspiration and rubbing alcohol. pg. 49

This one seems not so bad compared to the other, but it still really bothered me. She’s overweight so she sweats more? I tried to find an angle that maybe she’s just moving around a lot, but she’s a hospital check-in desk person. Most likely, she is only manning the desk and maybe doing other light office jobs. Nothing that should make her reek of sweat.

 

There are other things that bothered me, like calling a psychiatric ward the Nut Hut, but the final nail in the coffin for me was the following passage

Call me sick, but I liked Travis’s dark side and the cloud of mystery and danger than hung over him. Brit didn’t understand this because she always got the attention. For me, it was new and exciting the way he fussed over me. I liked his possessiveness. It made me feel precious or something. pg 76

This passage comes a short time after we find out it’s rumored that he beat up his ex-girlfriend. Perhaps that’s not the dark side Becca  is referring to, but it’s the connection that I made. However, even if it isn’t, a relationship where someone is possessive is never good. This is an emotionally abusive relationship and it should not be spun as something good. Yes, I know there’s a twist to this passage that we learn later, but it still doesn’t make this passage okay. Her sister does try to use this fact to force Becca to break up with him, but it’s spun in a way that Brit just doesn’t want to be linked to the “talk” not that she’s worried he may be abusing her as well.

I know these passages seem small in comparison to the whole book, but I do think it’s still worth highlighting problematic things. It’s by no means an attack on anything, but something I believe we should be talking about.

Final Verdict: A fast-paced read with some problematic passages. It’ll be one that teens can still find on the library selves, but not one I promote/handsell.

30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1

Okay, I’ve challenged myself to read a book-a-day this month. Each week I’ll do a post on what I’ve read. I figured it’s a way to keep me honest and share my thoughts in a quick style.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton
Release Date: July 28th 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 256
Source: Library

A spine-tingling collection of ghost stories! When a boy finds himself drawn into an empty house one cold night, he enters a room in which twelve unusual-looking people sit around a table. And the thirteenth chair is pulled out for him. One by one, each of those assembled tells their own ghost story: tales of doom and death; of ghostly creatures and malevolent spirits; of revenge and reward. It is only at the end of the night that the boy starts to understand what story he must tell . . .

None of the short stories are super creepy, but most of them are a fun read. This is a great one for those in 5th – 8th grade, especially if they love Goosebumps. The end is a bit open ended and it would be an interesting discussion to see what teens thought happened to Jack at the end.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1FLAWD by Emily-Anne Rigal Jeanne Demers
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher

When you look in the mirror and only see your flaws, it can be hard to be your best self.   FLAWD is your new cheerleader—an energetic guide to seeing your flaws as the doorway to something more.

Through dynamic stories and advice from teens and celebrities around the world, FLAWD will help you to: ·       SEE yourself as perfectly imperfect. ·       TREAT life as playfully as possible. ·       THINK about what really matters. ·       EMBRACE all that makes you, YOU. ·       UNDERSTAND influence and how to use it. ·       KNOW you can be part of a flawd and powerful transformation.   Even though we exist in a culture that thrives on bullying us into believing we're never good enough as we are, FLAWD affirms that you are good enough, ready enough and important enough to be a flawd light in the world.   Are you ready to become fearless with your flaws and change the world by being yourself? Then FLAWD is the book for you.

“Not only does Emily-Anne have strong convictions and a beautiful soul, but she has taken action against bullying. Her actions have had such an immediate and enormous impact on the world already.” —Lady Gaga

From the Trade Paperback edition.

This one was so-so for me. It had some fundamentally good advice, but none of it really clicked for me. I like my advice/self-help/esteem booster books to be one where I’m constantly marking pages. I have a few spots I marked, but not a lot. I’m not sure if this is one of those miss the marks because I’m an adult or one that just really missed the mark period.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1If You Wrong Us by Dawn Klehr
Release Date: October 8th 2015
Pages: 240
Source: Library

After a car crash steals the lives of two people they love, Becca and Johnny become obsessed with a common cause. Officially, the crash is an accident. But Becca and Johnny are convinced: someone did this. As they plot revenge against the person responsible, a bond—intense, unyielding, and manic—takes hold of them. And in an unexpected turn of events, they fall for each other. Or so they think. In an upside-down world where decay is beautiful and love and hate become one, Becca and Johnny find themselves grappling with reality. Nothing is exactly what it seems, including what they’ve come to believe about the crash. The question is: will they learn the truth before it’s too late? No, the question is: when they learn the truth, will they care?

I wanted to love this book so much, but couldn’t. I’m going to do a longer review on this later this week, but the amount of passages I marked for being problematic bothered me. It was a fast-paced read that I would have easily given to reluctant readers had it not caused me to be so grumbly.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: The Scorpion Rules #1
Release Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 384
Source: Library

Greta is a duchess and crown princess—and a hostage to peace. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Go to war and your hostage dies.
Greta will be free if she can survive until her eighteenth birthday. Until then she lives in the Precepture school with the daughters and sons of the world’s leaders. Like them, she is taught to obey the machines that control their lives. Like them, she is prepared to die with dignity, if she must. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives. Elián is a boy who refuses to play by the rules, a boy who defies everything Greta has ever been taught. And he opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system they live under—and to her own power.
As Greta and Elián watch their nations tip closer to war, Greta becomes a target in a new kind of game. A game that will end up killing them both—unless she can find a way to break all the rules.

I love, love, LOVE the concept of this book. I’ve noticed this one is a hit or miss for most people. I’m still not sure where I stand on it yet. The plot I loved, but there’s something about the relationships that is nagging me. I want to do a longer of this one, but I’m waiting for one of my friends to read it first and hash out what I’m feeling with her. I also want to go back and read some of the passages to see if I can get a firmer grip on why they bother me. It’s still one I recommend checking out, even with the possible problematic bits.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1The Devil Is a Part-Timer, Vol. 2 (manga) by Satoshi Wagahara
Series: The Devil is a Part-Timer #2
Release Date: April 26th 2016
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 176
Source: Library

Old Friends, new enemies! In the Sasazuka neighborhood of the Shibuya district of Tokyo, newly minted part-time burger-flipper and former Devil King Satan (now known as Sadao Maou) clashes with Lucifer, a fallen angel who used to serve him! But how will the onetime king deal with his rival now that his magic power's run dry? Now that the devil is one of us, he's going to have to get creative!

I didn’t love this vol as much as vol 1. There’s a lot of new characters and it’s a little hard to keep track of them all. However, I still love the premise of the Devil King Satan becoming a good guy basically because he lost his powers and feel in love with the human world. This whole questioning what is evil and what is not and if there can be a grey area is fun. So, while this one wasn’t as fun as the first one, I’m still highly interested to see where the series goes.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida
Series: Tokyo Ghoul #2
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Pages: 208
Source: Library

Ghouls live among us, the same as normal people in every way—except their craving for human flesh. Ken Kaneki is an ordinary college student until a violent encounter turns him into the first half-human half-ghoul hybrid. Trapped between two worlds, he must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn more about Ghoul society and master his new powers.

Unable to discard his humanity but equally unable to suppress his Ghoul hunger, Ken finds salvation in the kindness of friendly Ghouls who teach him how to pass as human and eat flesh humanely. But recent upheavals in Ghoul society attract the police like wolves to prey, and they don’t discriminate between conscientious and monstrous Ghouls.

This is easily becoming one of my favorite mangas. I know vol 2 may be a little early to say that, but man, I am loving it so far. This was was less gory by far than the first one. To me this is neither good nor bad, but I know some people had a bit of trouble with the goriness of the first one. This is another manga that is pushing what is good/what is bad lines. With Keneki being both ghoul and human now, he doesn’t know quite where to put his alliance. It’ll be interesting to see how he changes as the series continues.


30 Day Reading Challenge: Week 1First Love Monster by Akira Hiyoshimaru
Series: First Love Monster #2
Release Date: October 27th 2015
Publisher: Yen Press
Pages: 176
Source: Library

Kaho isn't a thing. You can't treat girls like objects. Although high schooler Kaho and fifth grader Kanade have started dating, Kaho is constantly at the mercy of Kanade's childish whims. And when a mysterious hottie with a Kansai accent--whom Kanade happens to call "Aniki"--arrives, will unimaginable trials await the couple's blossoming love?! A fast-paced super-love comedy filled with madcap heart-throbbing mayhem!

This manga is just….weird. I just don’t know how to feel about it. I mean, it’s a high schooler dating a 5th grader, which just ew. However, I love the innocent sweetness  of exploring your first love time thing. There’s absolutely nothing “more” happening (even though she thinks it’s coming at some points), but it’s still just a bit creepy. I’ll give this one a vol or two more before I abandon it completely.

 

Book Review: Boy Most Likely To


Book Review: Boy Most Likely ToThe Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Release Date: August 18th 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 416
Source: NetGalley, Publisher

Tim Mason was The Boy Most Likely To:
- find the liquor cabinet blindfolded
- need a liver transplant
- drive his car into a house

Alice Garrett was The Girl Most Likely To:
- well, not date her little brother’s baggage-burdened best friend, for starters.

For Tim, it wouldn’t be smart to fall for Alice. For Alice, nothing could be scarier than falling for Tim. But Tim has never been known for making the smart choice, and Alice is starting to wonder if the “smart” choice is always the right one. When these two crash into each other, they crash hard.

Then the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days come back to shock him. He finds himself in a situation that isn’t all it appears to be, that he never could have predicted . . . but maybe should have.

And Alice is caught in the middle.

Told in Tim’s and Alice’s distinctive, disarming, entirely compelling voices, this return to the world of My Life Next Door is a story about failing first, trying again, and having to decide whether to risk it all once more

This book is like chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth; the kind you wish would never end. It’s no secret that I loved and adored My Life Next Door and was excited to walk back into that universe. And while I didn’t quite get what I expected, Fitzpatrick delivered a fantastic book and reminded me all over again why I love her writing and these characters.

Before I get much further, let me say that this book does kind of push the YA envelope. Not so much in that it’s inappropriate, because it’s truly not, but the tone and the way it’s written made it feel more like an upper YA pushing into the New Adult region. Tim falls in that definite grey area of life; not really a kid, but not quite an adult yet either. He should be attending his last year of high school, but instead finds himself kicked out of school (yet again), kicked out of his house, and then hit with another big surprise. I often had to remind myself that he was still under 18 due to situation, but there is still plenty that the “typical” teenager will be able to relate to. And while we get dual POV, this is without a doubt Tim’s story.

Tim, under all his bad boy, messed-up exterior, is truly a good guy. He’s been handed a crap sandwich in life and up until this point he hasn’t handled it so well. He lost his himself in drugs and alcohol and no one truly thinks he’ll amount to anything. After all, he is the boy likely to do something stupid. When the book starts, we find that Tim has been clean for several months already, but still has a lot of stuff to straighten out. His father has just given him an ultimatum to get his life back on track in the next 6 months or he’ll find himself cut off completely. Tim has lived so long without anyone thinking positively of him that it’s hard for him to see it either. His “Boy Most Likely To” list broke my heart and just made me want to hug him and tell him it wasn’t true.

Of course, that’s kind of what Alice does. While she is used to seeing him as her younger brother’s screwed up friend, she slowly gets to see another side. She takes the risk allowing him to be “more” and offers him the support he’s been missing in his life. Alice isn’t the one to fix him–only Tim can do that–but she starts to show him all his positives. While their romance is a bit hidden among the other storyline, it’s still an enjoyable one. They work well together and I do wish there had been more of them falling in love/going on dates. I do hope that Fitzpatrick writes another book in this universe because I would love to see them more relaxed and without the heavy burdens they had to handle.  And, of course, it would allow me to see all the Garrett’s again; a family I love and adore maybe a little too much!

Warning: If you don’t want to be spoiled please don’t read on.

View Spoiler »

Final Verdict: Not quite the love story I was expecting, but a great read anyway. I highly recommend it, even if you haven’t read My Life Next Door.

Book Review: Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave


Book Review: Survival Strategies of the Almost BraveSurvival Strategies of the Almost Brave by Jen White
Release Date: June 9th 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Pages: 320
Source: NetGalley

Survival Strategy #50: If You Can, Be Brave.

After their mother's recent death, twelve-year-old Liberty and her eight-year-old sister, Billie, are sent to live with their father, who they haven't seen since they were very young. Things are great at first; the girls are so excited to get to know their father – a traveling photographer who rides around in an RV. But soon, the pressure becomes too much for him, and he abandons them at the Jiffy Company Gas Station.

Instead of moping around and being scared, Liberty takes matters into her own hands. On their journey to get home, they encounter a shady, bald-headed gas station attendant, a full-body tattooed trucker, free Continental breakfast, a kid obsessed with Star Wars, a woman who lives with rats, and a host of other situations.

When all seems lost, they get some help from an unlikely source, and end up learning that sometimes you have to get a little bit lost to be found.

There is nothing “almost” brave about Liberty. Without a doubt, she is one brave twelve year old. While internally she is freaking out about being abandoned at a gas station, she mainly keeps it together as she tries to get her and her sister back to the only home they’ve known. Her strategies, while dubious, keep both her and her sister alive and mostly out of harm’s way on their adventure.

As they make their way across the states, you can’t help but cheer them on. Every turn of the page, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the time they’d finally get caught. Maybe they’d finally reach their mother’s friend, Julie, back home. Liberty’s quick thinking gets her and Billie out of many sticky situations. Just as often, though, they find themselves in equally dire circumstances.  Not everything can go according to plan.

I love how the story used flashbacks to fill you in on the missing pieces. It was done in a way that wasn’t confusing and only enhanced the story. I’ll admit that my heart broke several times learning what had landed them in their current predicament. Both Liberty and Billie were so desperate for their father’s love, but he just wasn’t capable of giving it. His mental illness/obsession took over, and he could barely perceive that the girls were there most days. There are glimmers that make it obvious that he wants to be the father they deserve, but he falls short time and time again. I appreciate how White shows how mental illness can take over and entrap a person even as they fight it, and how everyday things quickly become all-consuming and overwhelming.. Mental illnesses are rarely easy for the person or loved ones to deal with, something that White shows with grace.

The only thing that made me hesitate a little was the girls’ fear of the authorities. I could understand avoiding the creepy gas station man, but I never fully understood why they were so scared of the police catching them. Liberty’s fear kept them running and lead to stealing, lying, and many other questionable acts. I got a sense that Liberty was scared they’d be separated, but there was nothing in their past that would cause that nagging fear. If they had been placed in foster care after their mother’s death it would have worked, but it seems like Julie took over care right away. The only other explanation is that her mom said she was responsible for Billie now, but I don’t think that should have driven her to avoid all adult help. Of course, it was a necessity for the plot, but I wish there had been more explanation/backstory to it. I doubt the intended audience will be bugged by this, but it was something that annoyed me a little as an adult.

Final Verdict: A nice, fast-paced middle grade story that has humor, adventure, and a lot of heart.