Review: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Esperanza thought she'd always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico--she'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home,...

Review: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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Esperanza thought she'd always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico--she'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances--Mama's life, and her own, depend on it. 

I read this book a long time ago... actually I did the audiobook which I really suggest, but I think this book is too important to forget about.

LIKED:
Can we talk about how this book is so under rated. Esperanza Rising is about a girl (conveniently named Esperanza) who grew up... basically rich in Mexico. Can you think of a time when you've heard of rick people (specifically Mexicans) living in Mexico? I haven't. Not once.

The book is so fascinating because Esperanza has to go from a life of privilege (and we hardly ever seen minorities in a position of privilege except in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and she's has to live the life of a migrant work in California.

This is an interesting coming of age story like no other.

NOT SO MUCH:
It's been a while since I've read this book but I can't remember anything that I didn't like. Esperanza was hard to like. She was spoiled, entitled, bratty, and annoying. But she was suppose to be. So it's fine. :)

IN CONCLUSION:
I know this review is shorter than most, but read this book.

4 Stars
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Review: The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

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Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn't been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.

When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child's life... but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?
 

 
Full disclosure, I listed to this book via Hoopla, and I tend to like the audio book version of something, that I KNOW I wouldn't have liked if I'd only read it.

LIKED:
Normally, I would never have picked up this book but I'm darn glad I did. Matthew has severe OCD. He only eats pre-packaged food, he keeps a box of gloves hidden under his bed and refuses to go without them, he refuses to let anyone into his room, and he talks to a section of the wall paper that looks like a lion. I was most impressed by how Thompson chose to keep readers in the dark about what triggered Matthews OCD without beating us over the head. There are so many book where the main character spends more time reminding us that they're keeping a secrete, than doing anything else, Saving Red is full of it. In Goldfish Boy, we knew that there was an inciting incident, we might even have been able to guess that it involved Matthews baby brother, and although Matthew mentioned "what he did", he wasn't overwhelming about it.

I liked the email exchanges between Matthew and the kids in the neighborhood and the way Thompson peppered past interactions with them throughout the book. (P.S. The little girl next door was pure evil. I'm sure of it.)

At then end of the book when Matthew finally explained what triggered his OCD, my heart broke. It wasn't what I expected AT ALL. I have never been so sad for a little boy in my life.

NOT SO MUCH:
I struggled with the parents, particularly the dad. I have very... specific parents. so I can spend a lot of my time thinking "do people have parents who really do that?" I'm not sure if was the audio book reader, or the actual character, but I struggled, and I'm not even sure why. Matthews mom tried to act as if everything was normal. She'd attempt to pull him into conversation and invite him out to family events that she knew darn good and well he wasn't going to go to. Matthew's dad, kind of did that as well, but there was a scene (SMALL SPOILER) where he went into Matthews room and pulled down, the wall paper, repainted, cleaned, and basically destroyed Matthew's life. It didn't sit well with me. As i'm typing this, I think my issue with the book was that Matthew's parents acted as if they had no idea was OCD was, like they had never heard of it, and couldn't recognize it in their own son. It would be one thing if they knew he had OCD and we upset and overwhelmed by it, but it was almost as if their internal dialogue was something along the lines of, "my son scrubs down everything with bleach, he wont let us touch him, he wont go outside, he's terrified of germs and everything that breads them, and I have no idea what's wrong with him. Whatever could it be." This book seemed to take place in the modern day. Don't they have Google. The parents did ultimately get him to therapy but... I don't know, they just didn't read right.

That being said, they parents didn't bother me enough to not like the book. 

IN CONCLUSION:
I can't say if this is a proper representation of a person who suffers from OCD because I don't have it. I also can't say if this book is Own Voices or what insight the author might have into the life of a person with OCD because there were no authors notes, but I can say that I think this book can go a long way toward helping children understand life might be like for someone who's different from them, and give them some insight on how to act accordingly. These types of books are important because it teaches kids that there are people in the world who are different from them, but at the end of the day, they're still people.
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2018 Discussion Challenge- Reading Slump

Friday, March 16, 2018




The 2018 Blog Discussion Challenge is run by Nicole at Feed You Fiction Addiction and Shannon at It's Starts at Midnight.

I have been in one of the worst reading slumps on and off for the last six months or so. I have no idea why, and I honestly hate it. I just started a new job as the Head of a Youth Services department at the end of January, but before that, I worked an hour and a half away from my house for about a year. Driving was a nightmare because it was all traffic both ways. During that time I was able to listen to a lot of podcasts, audio books, and show tunes, but by the time I made it home after a full day of work and three hours in the car, all I wanted to do was eat my feelings and watch Criminal Minds. It became a horrible cycle and I was honestly too tired to hold a book and process words, oh and did I mention it was also my last year of grad school so I was basically useless. But since I've started this new job I'm an 8 minute drive from work, so what's wrong with me!!??

Anyway, I feel like I can't break that pattern. There was a time when I read three books a week and the reviews were pouring out, but now all I can seem to do is sit under my electric blanket and watch hoarders, and hair videos on YouTube. When I do pick up a book to read, I feel like I'm forcing myself to do it. Does anyone else ever feel like that? Has that feeling ever lasted like six months? At this point I don't know if I should force myself to read books I know I'll like to get myself back into it, or hope this feeling runs it's course.

My library is finally beginning to catalog some of my "most anticipated reads of 2018" and I hope I can muster up the energy to actually read them.

Do you feel my pain internet friends???
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Review: The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

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Boy meets girl. Girl changes everything.

Michael likes to hang out with his friends and play with the latest graphic design software. His parents drag him to rallies held by their anti-immigrant group, which rails against the tide of refugees flooding the country. And it all makes sense to Michael.

Until Mina, a beautiful girl from the other side of the protest lines, shows up at his school, and turns out to be funny, smart—and a Muslim refugee from Afghanistan. Suddenly, his parents’ politics seem much more complicated.

Mina has had a long and dangerous journey fleeing her besieged home in Afghanistan, and now faces a frigid reception at her new prep school, where she is on scholarship. As tensions rise, lines are drawn. Michael has to decide where he stands. Mina has to protect herself and her family. Both have to choose what they want their world to look like.


This book wasn't on my radar... at all... and I'm so mad about this. As you know internet friends, this is a diversity blog, and when I talk about diversity and diverse books, I try not to preach or get super angry, or make people feel bad about themselves. People who don't understand or appreciate the importance of diversity in books aren't inherently evil, and be race and religion can cause such emotion, that can be easy to forget. I started this blog because as someone said to me (and a room full of people) yesterday, "diverse books can either be a mirror, or a window." Best quote ever! The Lines We Cross is both a mirror (well if you're a refugee, or a Muslim, or you can relate to their story from a racial or religious point of view), or a window. And here's why...

LIKED:
By far my favorite aspect of this book was the "window" aspect, so I'll be talking more about Michael. Michael was a normal kid, at a normal (although affluent) school, and jerk-ish friends but I guess that happens sometimes. He seems like a perfectly normal guy until you realize that his father is the creator of a group called Aussie Values, a group protest against certain types of refugees. Michael did that thing that a lot of children do, they take their parents words at face value. Michael's parents weren't evil KKK members. They didn't burn crosses on poeple's lawn, or spit on them, or physically attack them. They just had thoughts and feelings and spoke out about them. That being said, there were members of Aussie Values who did cross the line. For a nice chunk of the book, Michael parrots his parents, but... it's almost like he's mimicking them just for the sake of mimicking them, not because he actually cares one way or another. The more he and Mina debate in class about refugees and politics, the more Michael starts to think about Aussie Values, his parents values, and his personal values. When Michael sits down to do some research about refugees and Afganistan himself, an amazing thing happens... he's still confused. This stuff isn't always easy to understand, everything isn't always black and white, it's confusing and hard and heart breaking and ... a mess. However, Michael did know, that he could no longer support his parents and  Aussie Values.

This book is so well done. It shows just how hard to understand the topics of race, religion, and refugees are. It shows two "villains", Michael's parents, who aren't the typical villains. They're average people. They're the type of people who say "I'm not racist, but Hermione isn't suppose to be black." (Talking about The Cursed Child stage play.) Those people GENUINELY don't see that as a racist and upsetting comment. They don't understand why someone would feel taken aback hearing it. I lived with a person for 3 years who had that mindset. She isn't a horrible person. She isn't evil. She's a product of her upbringing and it's sad. When you can look at your black friend and say that you don't date black people because you just don't find them attractive, that's it's just not your preference, it's just sad.

ANYWAY, this book showed us a different kind of "villain", and I think we needed to see it.

NOT SO MUCH:
Small spoiler
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I wish Michael and Mina hadn't started dating. I honestly have a hard time imagining two people who butt heads over Mina's life and over her existence entering into a romantic relationship. If they had become closer friends as Michael's opinions began to change, that would have been cool and acceptable, but I really struggled with the romantic aspect.

IN CONCLUSION:
I give them 4 stars. Read the darn book.






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Review: Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting--working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she's asexual). Alice is done with dating--no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.
 


I. Love. This. Book. As the description said, Let's Talk About Love is a book about an asexual, black, teenage girl. On the surface this is just another love story. The writing isn't super complex. I would have read this book in one sitting if I didn't have to stop for my book club. There are even some (I'm looking at you Kirkus) who think this is just another generic love story with a small twist.

YOU'RE WRONG.

Alice was not only asexual, she was black. Alice spent her entire life explaining and defending her right to exist in the world exactly as she was. There's a section in the book where someone mentions her new hairstyle, and she's immediately defensive because she's had so many people make back handed comments about her hair and touch it like it's a lost dog on the street (my words not hers fyi. lol). She had a "friend" who claimed that she wouldn't win a contest (a dumb contest at that) for attracting the most online dating messages because she was black and black women and Asian men are the least desired. She was also cornered by a guy who had "never been with a black girl before" and she was "Cute for a black girl". She had spent and will continue to spend the rest of her life existing as "the black girl" why in the world should she want to exist as the asexual girl too. A branch of sexuality that people don't really understand. So, for most of this book, to many people in her life, Alice is very deep in the closet.

Claire Kann has managed to write a book (and her first one at that) where the characters "blackness" doesn't completely engulf them. As a black girl, Alice has to deal with certain crap that other girl don't. Kann didn't ignore those things, as other authors might, but they didn't overshadow the story, because Alice's issue wasn't that she was black, it was that she was asexual, and her parents wanted her to be a lawyer but she didn't want to, and her best friend started to act like a jerk, and she felt abandoned and misunderstood, and her body was doing new and unusual things that she wasn't prepared for. Alice was a simply written, yet well rounded character.

I don't know Claire Kann's sexual orientation, and I don't want to know, it's none of my business. But she did a great job of showing that Alice was loving and able to love without wanting to make love. She did a great job of showing (she didn't have to tell, she showed us) readers that even though a person doesn't want to have sex, doesn't mean they aren't physically affectionate. Alice loved hugs, and snuggles, and kisses, and spooning (I don't think they spooned but I'm sure she would have), and holding hands, and  literally EVERY THING ELSE. The problem is, when you cuddle, and kiss, and hold hand, and hug, that always leads to sex. Ugh.

Clearly there are a lot of my own feeling mixed up with this review. Alice and I are the same human.

I think if I had to pick one gripe, it would be the bff, Feenie. I can't even go into it. She was so wrong. I think the way Feenie treated Alice was wrong. I almost wish Alice hadn't let Feenie get away with it, but...

(SMALL SPOILER)

 
Also, I seriously don't know if it's possible for an sexual person to date anyone who isn't asexual. But who wants a book to end in sadness. 




I really like this book. It's not perfect, but it's very good. This was the first book I've read with a black asexual woman. For all I know, it's the only one in the world. Honestly I don't think I've ever read any books with asexual characters. No matter what their race. I'm so glad this book exists.
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#LetsDiscuss2018 : Is it wrong to judge books that we haven't read?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Is it wrong of us to judge (judge is the key word here) books that we haven't read? I go through a lot of books, both for my own enjoyment and also as a Youth Librarian. In addition to talking to librarians about book, non-librarian readers about books, and following bloggers, publishers, authors, and readers on Twitter... things can get a little out of control. It's like, we spend half of our time screaming about the perils of judging people, and at the same time, people hear the words YA Books and you see them rolling their eyes before you've finished your sentence.

Don't get me wrong, I'm guilty of this too. I wouldn't pick up a Sarah Dessen book if you paid me. I'm judging, I know I'm judging. I'm a little mad at myself for judging, but at the same time, I don't have to read a Sarah Dessen book to suggest it to a patron. I've also never said her book were bad, or poorly written, or racists, or anything else dramatic. Although I did make a comment about how all of her books are about sad blonds on the beach. Judgy, but at least not mean. lol.


via GIPHY

When someone says "Ugh Divergent is so dumb another girl convinced she's the only one who can save the world." You ask them, "Did you read it?" and they say "No, but I've seen enough to know." KILL ME. There are plenty of reasons not to like Divergent (personally I thought it was pretty okay until book 3), but to judge a book that you haven't read is so ignorant. Literally. Ignorant mean "lacking knowledge, information, or awareness about something in particular."

People who hate Dystopian books who've read less than 5 books in that genre statistically don't know what they're talking about. There are hundreds of Dystopian novels, just because you don't like the look of the ones that have been turned into movies, Divergent, Maze Runner (which is great btw), and Hunger Games, doesn't mean that the entire genre "sucks". The judgement drives me up the wall.


via GIPHY

Now don't get me wrong. A lot of people have genres that they gravitate toward. There are people who prefer contemporary books, those who prefer fantasy, those who prefer horror, and that's great. It means you know yourself and you know what you like, but to cast judgement on the integrity, or the "goodness" of a genre or age bracket of books, is unacceptable to me.

Listen. I have no desire to read Carve the mark by Veronica Roth, but the shear quantity of people who trashed that book before they'd read it was out of this world. Is it racist? Isn't it racist? I don't know. I'm not going to read it because there are a million more books that I'm interested in, but I'm certainly not going to trash talk it, bring it down, or criticize it on my blog or Twitter account. I just going to say "I don't want to read it."

I like to thing that I'm an eclectic reader. I'll read just about any genre, although I don't tend to pick up historical fiction, and I know that part of the reason I don't is because I always thought History was boring and confusing, and I'm working on that. Salt to the Sea and Hattie Big Sky were freaking awesome Historical Fiction books. I know that everyone isn't going to like everything, but I just get so tired of people mocking books they haven't read, saying they don't read Young Adult books when they haven't touched one since 2001, or anything else that fall into the "being a jerk for no reason" category, it makes me want to pull my hair out.


via GIPHY

Just because you "don't like YA" doesn't mean you wont really love I'll Give You the Sun, just because you don't like "problem books" doesn't mean you wont find a love and beauty in All the Bright Places,  and just because you think "all fairy tale retellings are the same", doesn't mean you wont like Ash.

I think people really should be more open to different kinds of books the same way we open ourselves to different cultures and understanding different sexual orientations. If we aren't doing that, what exactly are we doing??!!

I understand that reading is an escape for so many people, myself included, and you don't have to read anything you don't want to, just don't blindly judge it.

How do other people feel about this? I fully acknowledge that as a librarian, I read differently. I don't just read for myself, I read for my community. I'm sure that has a lot of do with my reading ideals.
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2018 Book Blog Discussion Challenge

Thursday, February 1, 2018


This year I have a lot of reading to do. The problem is, sometimes the books I have to read, don't correspond with the diversity message that I'm trying to promote through my blog. This is what happens when you turn your passion into your profession. You can lose control a little bit.

Oh well. This year, I have signed up for, and plan to actively participate in the 2018 Book Blog Discussion Challenge Hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight. 

I hope to discover some new blogs, chat about the importance of diversity in YA books (but I don't preach, preaching is exhausting to do and listen to. lol), and hopefully make some new friends. I'm actually pretty excited. Now that I've finally finished grad school I'm got A TON of time... which I usually use to sleep. lol. But I can also use to blog!

There are levels that we can strive to hit with this reading challenge.

The Levels:

1-10 – Discussion Dabbler
11-20 – Creative Conversationalist
21-30 – Chatty Kathy
31-40 – Terrifically Talkative
41+ – Gift of the Gab

Clearly my planner is going to be a very important part of this process. lol. I'm going to go for Creative Conversationalist... we'll see.

Wish me luck!!
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