My Never Ending List

I am an outside person who loves to read and cook. Venturing into most genres my favorites are YA and fiction.

Tomboy

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir - Liz Prince

So, what is a Tomboy? Liz’s dictionary describes it as a noun, a girl of boyish behavior but Liz believes it goes way beyond that. Being a tomboy herself, thirteen-year-old Liz feels it goes beyond clothing, hair, and sports because being a tomboy is a lifestyle that she has chosen on her own. From a young age, she has struggled with being a tomboy and inside this graphic novel, she addresses being a tomboy and what it was like. This is Liz Prince’s graphic novel memoir. I really enjoyed this book and I wish I would throw it into the hands of every teen I come in contact with because I feel it has some great messages inside it and the author’s tone and language is direct, engaging and entertaining. The drawback I see with this novel is throughout the novel, there are instances where swear words are used and the author also touches on some issues of puberty that some readers might not feel comfortable reading. For mature YA readers though, this material shouldn’t be an issue.

 

I found myself relating to Liz a lot while I read this novel. At a young age, she began to feel she was a tomboy. She preferred hanging out with the boys, she liked playing with guy toys, she like play-fighting with the boys and wearing boy’s clothing over anything to do with the girls. It seemed that the girls had only one mode, they liked to look pretty and stay clean. As a child, I remember playing with the neighbor boys, we’d play cowboys and Indians, I used to buy the Johnny West action figures (oh, I loved that Cherokee Indian doll and the horse!) and we’d load them up in the Barbie van and send them down the crashing down the street. I hated dresses (only wearing them to church) and I’d ditch them to wear culottes, shorts or even jeans. Such a rebel.

 

Liz is bullied repeatedly for such trivial things being a tomboy and it really surprised me. Even as she moves to different states and schools, the taunting continues and becomes harsh. Liz wants to belong to both worlds, male and female yet her peers have such a closed view of the world, they cannot let her in. Throughout her school years, she finally finds a few individuals who are accepting of who she is, just when I was beginning to lose hope. I knew these friendships might not last as friendships come and friendships go, as she makes her way through school. Thankfully with Liz’s sarcasm, I found myself laughing numerous times as I read this novel too. Her dry humor, the way she finds herself in different situations and how she desperately doesn’t want to become a girl, had me laughing over and over again. Liz acted like a girl yet she wanted to do boy things too but no one would accept her like this. I thought this novel had great flow and I thought the black and white illustrations were great. Again, this novel has great messages throughout its pages dealing with friendships, tolerance and acceptance just to name a few. I highly recommend it.

 

I need to quote this, it’s perfect and it’s Liz, “…..I was mortified by how this new burden of womanhood further set me back from my goal of being “one of the boys.” 1. Boys don’t have to carry around embarrassing feminine hygiene products. 2. Boys don’t have to buy embarrassing feminine hygiene products (Liz is staring at Super Long, Heavy Flow, Banana Boats, Fresh Ones, Plug It! with Tampons,) 3. Boys don’t have to worry about changing embarrassing feminine hygiene products in public restroom. 4. Boys don’t have to worry about bleeding through their pants.” Just one of the stages of womanhood that Liz embarks upon. (sorry it was so long)

Cinnamon

Cinnamon - Divya Srinivasan, Neil Gaiman

Cinnamon does not talk, she is a princess whose parents offer great riches to any man who can get her to talk. She is blind, she has pearls for eyes. One day, a talking tiger comes to the palace and claims that he can get “the girl-cub to talk” but the people in the palace are afraid of the tiger. The tiger is allowed to stay and Cinnamon goes to the tiger room to see him. I love how Cinnamon approaches tiger and pushes “her fingers into its fur and felt its hot breath on her face.” The tiger has Cinnamon experience things in this room with him, and by the morning, the two of them face Cinnamon’s parents. Her parents are told what occurred in the room overnight and Cinnamon’s future is addressed.

 

A child’s book by Neil Gaiman, yes, I think I will have to read this one. This is a unique story and I really enjoyed the illustrations in this picture book. I thought the facial illustrations were fantastic and I liked the crisp bright colors used on the pages. I think this novel would be good for middle elementary students or older.

T-Rex vs Raptor - Who Would Win?

Tyrannosaurus Rex Vs. Velociraptor - Jerry Pallotta, Rob Bolster

This was not as good as the other Who Would Win children’s books I have been reading. There were not that many comparing and contrasting pages which were the features I enjoyed. I found the Why Did the Dinosaurs Die Out? Pages silly and they did not really tie in to the other scientific information that was found in this book. The fight at the end, really? That was totally unfair and deceitful, I think. I really expected more from this book. I can’t wait to share this one with my students and see how they feel about it.

Jabari Jumps

Jabari Jumps - Gaia Cornwall

When Jabari, his baby sister and his father arrive at the public swimming pool, Jabari really wants to jump off the diving board. He’s passed his swimming test, he finished his swimming lessons and he’s NOT scared but he will wait until
 all the other kids go before him,
 he rests a bit,
 he stretches a bit,

Then Jabari thinks tomorrow might be better for jumping until his father tells him that it is okay to be a little scared. His father tells Jabari what he does when he is scared and Jabari decides that perhaps he will climb up all the steps of the diving board. While climbing, Jabari thinks about what his father said. The ending of the novel is cute and will bring a smile to your face. The illustrations are bright and colorful and when added to the sharp black text, this book brings smiles and enjoyment to its readers.

Orphan Island

Orphan Island - Laurel Snyder

The boat would come view, the horn would blow and the children would line up on the beach just waiting for the boat to come ashore. It happened every year, or so they thought. They didn’t know it if was exactly a year, they didn’t count the days but they figured it was a year. A male or female child would be the sole occupant on the boat and they would gently lift them out and the child would join the others on the island while the Elder from the island would take the spot in the boat. After saying good-bye to everyone on shore, then they would quickly be pulled out to sea, never to be seen again. Why? Because this was the rules and they obeyed the rules. The Elder of the children who was now left on the island would be charge of the new child who had just arrived. They would teach this new child the way of the island. Why? Because this was the rules and they obeyed the rules. The island is made up of rules, rules that the children follow and have been following for years. So, what would happen if one of them decides not to follow one of the rules? Could not following one rule really do any harm? No one had really explained the rules to these children, they have just been following them because that was the way they had been taught so they knew of no consequences. So, what could happen if Jinny says no and doesn’t follow one of the rules?

 

What a great novel. I loved the island characters and their relationships with each other. I liked how they relied on one another and accepted one another. Trust, values and honesty played a big role in this novel. I felt there was a lot of unanswered questions in this novel, which I didn’t feel take away from the novel but could be used as conversation tools for children as they read this.

The Gypsy Moth Summer

The Gypsy Moth Summer: A Novel - Julia Fierro

It all changed the day that Leslie Marshall and her family marched into town. The tranquility that had settled over this community, the staleness of its citizens, had this town lost in time, when Leslie decided to move back home with her family. Her husband Jules became the only black man in town and suddenly, the town’s citizens didn’t know how to accept this man into their circle. It proved to be even more difficult when their children, 16-year-old son Brook and 4-year-old daughter Eva, were added into the picture.

 

Trying to make a go at it, the family lives in the cottage next to the castle while Leslie renovates the castle. Jules has his own career but the citizens of this town have a hard time seeing past their racial views and their treatment of Jules is irritating. As the caterpillars start to become a nuisance, many of the citizens claim that the Marshalls brought the bugs with them when they arrived. Anything to blame this bi-racial family with a wrong doing. I liked how Jules tries to keep his head up, for it becomes hard as the voices around him don’t care that they are loud and everyone can hear them. Leslie is trying to find her way back into this community while her husband Jules is trying to find his place in this community and trying to combat the caterpillars. They are off into their own separate worlds each fighting different battles, coming together occasionally to enjoy each other inside their new home.

 

Meanwhile, their son Brook is off trying to make friends in a white community. His mother has granted him assess to the ballroom in the castle which the teens in the community are more than thrilled to party in. Each party becomes more eccentric and I get nervous just thinking about what might occur as these parties take place. Before Brook knows it, underage drinking, a multitude of drugs, lavish and dangerous activities are all occurring. I’m not sure these are parties he wanted to have but people definitely know who he is now. Never in my wildest dreams would I think that these activities would be taking place in this castle and never would I allow these activities to occur, if it was me.

 

I loved the struggles this family faced from the beginning of the novel till the end. Nothing is ever easy and Julia shows us in this novel the battles and strives this family makes as they try to become a part of this community. As the caterpillars started to attack the beautiful garden that Jules is trying to revive at the castle, I became obsessed like Jules and I didn’t just want to pluck them off the tree but I wanted to search the internet for solutions for him. I wanted to help him kill the suckers. Night and day as he worked on them, I could feel his pain and his frustration. When Brook and Maddie met up, I wondered how far this relationship would last. I like how it grew and enjoyed the honesty of it. I loved how the author weaved some of the relationships together, it made the novel more complex and tied some things together. I was nervous though when I first started this novel, as I couldn’t get into it and I was tempted to put it aside for a while. I was glad that I stuck with it as I enjoyed it for the relationships, the struggles and the small town aspect that it provided.

This Savage Song

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity) - Victoria Schwab

So much hype on this novel, I had to see what I had been missing. And now after reading it, I am sitting on the fence deciding whether I should continue reading this series or not. This novel was long, I didn’t feel that much occurred for all the pages that I read. It seems that I just got the story figured out and the characters were beginning to take a stand for themselves when it was over and now I need to decide it I want to continue this series or not. I liked the concept of the story, the issue of the city, how it was divided up into sections and divided further into colored segments. I liked how the citizens chose their allegiance to their ruler. I hadn’t chosen my side yet, I hadn’t gotten that attached/committed into the novel yet. I was drawn into the characters of Kate and August, the two individuals who were trying to outsmart the world that they are living in. Kate, she’s full of spunk and it seems that she is afraid of nothing. I think her father is her handicap and she feels he will be there to pick her up, if she ever falls to deep. I was glad what happened at the end of the book with Kate, her future should be interesting. August, I feel he’s been looking in the mirror too long, a mirror that is not a reflection of himself and he needs to find his own two feet and use them. What the future hold for him should be positive, if he can smash the mirror and move on.

 

The second book in the series just came out this month and it is getting better reviews this first novel. I guess I’ll let this novel settle and perhaps I’ll pick it up the second novel, Our Dark Duet next month and give it a go. If you’ve read the second novel, let me know what you think of it, I’d appreciate it.

Ararat

Ararat: A Novel - Christopher Golden

I’m sure glad that I walk alone, for I listened to this audio as I walked each morning and I began to talk to myself as this story played itself out. As the story became more involved, my conversations became more frequent and I tried to keep my distance from other walkers as I didn’t want them thinking I was talking to them or talking to my imaginary friend. There were times I couldn’t find the off button and I found myself listening to this Playaway on the drive home, it’s funny but I don’t care who sees me talking to myself on the way home. As Meryam’s group claimed the mountain for their own, excitement mounted in me, I wasn’t even there but I wanted a panoramic view of the site and the author gave that to me. Even if this was not Noah’s ark, what they had found was amazing and I wanted to be a part of discovering what it was.

 

As others started to arrive to assist in the expedition, I wondered just how many of them would walk down from that mountain. The extreme elements that they were working in, had even chilled me. Whether it was Noah’s Ark or not, was not the main concern as they examined the massive wooden structure in front of them, it was the artifacts and the history that each item contained. They had discovered a door, a door that contained deep cuts which the team contemplated over. The size, the position and the depth of these marks mystified the team. As they searched the site, they discovered a coffin, in the lower level. I was excited as they discussed this coffin, the possibilities were endless but I was not expecting what they discovered. They didn’t even expect to find what they discovered inside the coffin and now, what were they to do with this discovery?

 

I enjoyed the drama of this novel, there were a great variety of characters who added wonderful color to the novel and the author did an excellent job placing me there on the mountain right amongst all the action. As I have said before, I found myself not being able to tear myself away while reading this novel as I found that I needed, “just a few more minutes” before finding the off button but the last quarter of the novel, I did not find the off button. I couldn’t believe the ending, seriously……..I couldn’t believe it.

Garvey's Choice

Garvey's Choice - Nikki Grimes

He wanted his son to be a jock but Garvey had other plans. Garvey would rather learn and study than play catch or shoot a basket. As his classmates taunted him for his weight, I had to wonder if his father even knew what happened at school and if this would even effect how he talked to his son. While at school one day he notices the choir room, his best friends suggest that he should check it out since he is always humming. Garvey wonders if perhaps that might be just what he needed yet he hesitates, what if he fails? Days later, Garvey takes a chance and opens the chorus room door and finds that what lies inside this room is more than just music. It’s a lesson in acceptance and empowerment as Garvey learns to embrace his individuality.

 

This is another novel that should not be listened to, the narrator shows no emotion as he reads the novel and he sounded like. A. Robot. When. He. Reads. The. Text. Which. Drove. Me. Crazy. There was no rhythm or perk in his voice and after the novel was finished, the author explained that her novel was written in Tanka, a type of Japanese poetry like a haiku but the author changed the number or syllables in her novel. That being said, I still think there should have been some type of rhythm in the narrator’s voice as he read. I normally love it when an author plays with their words in a novel and this is the first time I have ever listened to a novel being read using this technique and I think it will be my last time I ever do it. Listening to the audio, I thought the story lacked the emotions and the dramatics that it really deserves. It’s amazing how much a narrator can affect your reading experience. If you do read this novel, don’t listen to the audio, read the text yourself so you can put your own dramatics, your own pauses, and your vocals to the text.

Beyond the Bright Sea

Beyond the Bright Sea - Lauren Wolk

She was only a few hours old when she was placed in an old boat and pushed out to sea. Osh rescued the small castaway when she washed ashore on the tiny island he inhabited. Their island provided what she needed until curiosity got the best of her and her questions needed answers. Osh was honest with Crow and I liked that about him, he told her the truth when she questioned him. Attempting to go to school, Crow is harassed by her classmates. Osh informs Crow that her classmates, along with other individuals are afraid of Crow as they believe that she came from island of Penikese. Penikese, the island that used to house the hospital that contained the patients with leprosy. As Crow learns about leprosy, she realizes that she must go to Penikese to see if she has any history on this island. This inquiry has mixed emotion for Osh but Crow is set on this possibility.

I enjoyed how Crow is determined to find any connection she has with the island and that should have been her mission in this novel. The love she has for Osh will never fade but the possibility that she might find other individual(s) to share her heart with should have been her mission. This mission should have been the focus of this novel but along the way, the author decides to add a mysterious sub story to the mix which was okay but I thought it took away to the jaunt and the highlight of this novel. This mysterious element just didn’t do it for me, I thought it was a bit silly for this novel. The author does an excellent job wrapping this novel up, helping the reader realize the lessons that Crow learned while learning about her past. I really loved Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk and I look forward to reading other novels by this author.

Who Would Win? Hammerhead vs. Bull Shark

By Jerry Pallotta - Hammerhead Vs. Bull Shark (Who Would Win?) (1905-07-18) [Perfect Paperback] - Jerry Pallotta
I have almost read all the Who Would Win? series books that our library has on their shelves. I am at awe at the information that is contained in them and the I really enjoy the comparing/contrasting that the author does with the two mammals that are highlighted in each of the books. The illustrations are fantastic, the text pops out you and colors are bright and colorful. I have been sharing my love of these non-fiction books with everyone I run into and hope to take a few of them with me next year when I sub teach in the classroom.

In this selection, we are comparing and contrasting the hammerhead shark with the bull shark. My youngest son was fascinated with sharks when he was growing up so I recalled that although the bull shark had a boring name but he was quite a beast. I preferred the hammerhead shark though. I thought this strange-looking shark looked fierce with its eyes so removed from its body and there was also his horizonal snout to consider. Inside this novel, I learned a great deal about these sharks. Did you know that because of their funny-shaped heads, the hammerhead sharks have more sensors than other sharks, allowing them to sense fish and even smell fish better than other sharks? Did you know that bull sharks prefer shallow water making them more dangerous than great whites and tiger sharks to humans? When these sharks confront one another in a fight, which comprises the last couple pages of the book, these excellent fighters use their strength and their teeth to win the battle.

Here and Gone

Here and Gone: A Novel - Haylen Beck

She’s headed to California with her two young kids in the backseat, taking the backroads so she doesn’t get stopped. She’s almost there but she promised Sean a stop in the next town and like the good mother she is, she pulls in and shuts the car off even though she spots a police car nearby. Back on the road, Audra feels luck is on her side until she sees the blue and red lights flash behind her. He claims Audra’s car is overloaded, something about it being a hazard on the road. He offers to help Audra and begins to unload some of her boxes into his patrol car when he claims he found an illegal substance and now Audra’s nightmare begins. Audra claims what he found is not hers but now he must arrest her, he has to call a tow truck for her car and he needs to call someone to come take care of her children. His deputy arrives for the children. A tow truck arrives for the car. The sheriff takes Audra into the station. Audra asks countless times where her children are but she is ignored. Paperwork is completed on Audra and she is locked up, again she confronts the sheriff about her children but this time the Sheriff exclaims, “What children?” Her children! Shiver me timbers, what the heck is going on with this police department? The sheriff is acting like Audra has no children and now Audra is thinking her husband, whom she is separated from has something to do with this. Audra starts pacing in her cell and having a fit.

The police call in a special unit to help find the children as they think Audra had something to do with their disappearance. It’s like a circus, if you were an individual watching from home. Audra is telling her side of the story, the Sheriff is telling his side of the story, we have the special units called in to try to get their unbiased opinion, we also have the husband/mother-in-law thoughts. The story flashes back and forth to what is actually happening to the children and the story surrounding why they were taken. The older child Sean is resourceful in this story and you know where he gets his strength. There is also a character named Danny who makes an appearance and how he plays into the story does not become apparent until all the pieces are being laid out.

This is an intense, gripping story that I had a hard time putting down. With no lull, this book kept the momentum going until the very end. I liked how the author made one of the characters weak and I kept waiting for him to crack, just waiting for the moment when he would lose it and all would be lost. I thought Audra was smart and she had a lot of vigor and determination to get her children back. When Audra met up with Danny, the two of them together were dangerous. I could see how some of the pieces were coming together as I read but I enjoyed how everything came together in the end. I really enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it if you enjoy a good suspense.
I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and Crown Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

Hear the Wolves

Hear the Wolves - Victoria Scott

She didn’t want to be left home alone yet her father thought she was ready, had the village knew what was to transpire, other arrangements would have been made. The problem started a while back when the townsfolk thought that they were helping the community by clearing out the trees but this only lead to more serious complications as it affected the wildlife that surrounded Rustic. Rustic had altered the animal food-chain and they would feel it’s effects.

 

Sloan realizes a snowstorm is making its way into Rustic and she trudges off to the chapel to get more fuel for the generator. Sloan is not happy that her father and sister left her home by herself, but she knows how to survive in Alaska. Her father taught her how to be an excellent hunter, now if only she could get some help with her classwork she knows that with the letter that she has been carrying around in her pocket, she might have a great future. At the chapel, others arrive and the storm picks up, it is not just a snowstorm anymore. There’s been an accident, many of the townsfolk are gone but the ones that are there join together to assist and decide on the course of action. As they make their way through the forest to get help, this group of individuals must confront a large pack of hungry wolves whose food-chain has been altered. It’s interesting who is all assembled in this group and the lessons that are learned as they try to navigate through the woods. This is an intense, difficult journey that becomes intense at times and it makes up a great chunk of this novel. There were times I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and times I swear, I saw the glistening eyes of the wolves looking right at me. These wolves were hungry, their food supply is in short supply and it didn’t help that the humans only have two guns between them and a handful of bullets for these guns. I didn’t expect this novel to hold me like it did. I felt a loss for each side. The wolves, for they were battling for territory, they were only doing what comes natural for them and then the human, they didn’t expect what they were getting. The ending was not what I expected, it really surprised me as it seemed a bit harsh to me and I really wanted a different outcome. Upon finishing reading this novel, I had to check to see what age level this novel was geared to as I really wasn’t sure. I thought at times that the story wasn’t complex enough to be YA but some of the scene details were definitely YA and not children’s. The cover is just beautiful.

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Colson Whitehead

Cora watched, she was silent but she took in everything and she knew it wouldn’t be long before she would have to leave. She had been a slave to Master James on his cotton plantation, living there with her mother until her mother decided one evening to escape, leaving Cora behind. Years later, it is now Cora’s turn to flee as someone has their eyes on her. Running off with Caesar, they take to the night using the Underground Railroad, where Caesar has set up the connection. They are trying to stay undetected in white man’s country using the rails. The author’s use of a railroad with cars and a conductor for the Underground Railroad was a creative and unique twist in this novel. As they became free, each time the train was to arrive in their current city of residency, Cora and Caesar had to decide whether to continue on in their journey for freedom or to stay where they were, it all depended on the train and how they felt at the time of that train’s arrival. They couldn’t just leave any time they wanted. When they arrived at their first free city, they had assumed their new identities but now they also had to learn how to be free.

 

I thought the writing style of this novel was different, I had a hard time grasping some of the sentences as they were strung together. Some of what Cora sees is horrific and hits a nerve with me. For Cora to watch this and not say anything or to have any type of visible reaction, I have to commend her, for she had to be deaden to see this type of abuse and not react. For Cora and Caesar, to be trying to live a life of freedom but to be constantly running/looking over their shoulders for the bounty hunters who have a price on their heads, I don’t know how long my nerves could handle it? I enjoyed following them, Cora wanted her freedom and she was determined not to go back to her previous life. I’m debating between a 3.5 and a 4 on this novel.

The Memory of Light

The Memory of Light - Francisco X. Stork

I knew when I started listening to this on audio, it was a mistake but I continued as I was already vested in it and I didn’t want to change to the novel knowing that I probably wouldn’t finish it.  This novel dealt with a serious subject and I felt the whole audio carried this theme and it felt a bit too heavy for me. With monotone voices, I grew tired of listening to this audio and I kept waiting for the part in the novel when things would turn around.  This is one novel where I highly recommend that you read it instead of listening to it as you can make a big difference in this novel. 

 

Vicky survived her suicide attempt but she’s still uncertain about her future.   Her father wants Vicky to get help from individuals he has contacts with and get back into the mainstream of life again but the doctor who took her case at the hospital wants Vicky to take control and tell them what she needs.  It becomes a battle as her father tries to control Vicky as Vicky tries to take control of her own life.  Surrounded by peers who are also hurting in the hospital, Vicky finds she is not alone in her thoughts and she finds comfort in this.  This comfort gives her strength and it allows her to slowly open up.  She needs them, just as much as they need her and the doctor who works at the hospital is helping them realize that what they are experiencing will not be cured overnight.  Vicky’s father kept trying to sweep his daughter’s illness under the rug and his straight-to-the-point, no nonsense talking turned me off immediately.  His wife, I didn’t care for her either.  It was the individuals in the hospital that won me over, it was their stories, the bonds that they had with each other and the pain that they were trying to overcome, these were the people that I came to care about.  There was some sunshine in this novel,  I finally saw the sun but it took a while for it to shine. 

When Breath Becomes Air

When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese

He was devoting his life to save others when suddenly he found out that his future could not be thought of in decades but only in months or years and soon his role would be switched, the doctor would soon become the patient. As I read this novel, I thought over and over again about the notion of enjoying life’s journey along the way instead of working continuously to achieve the goals that you set out to accomplish. I wondered how Paul felt about his journey to get his residency, did he enjoy his journey or was it all a blur? Reading this novel, Paul talked about all the education that he had obtained before being diagnosed, the long hours that he had put in during his medical training, and how he and his wife had mapped out how their life was going to be, once they had education behind them and their careers set in place but nowhere in this plan was the subject of cancer.

 

Paul knew what the road ahead was going to be like as he has been talking to his patience’s about it for years but now, Paul was on the receiving end yet he was playing the role of doctor and patient. I like the comment one of his doctors told him, he remarked that it was okay if Paul just wanted to be the patient as he knew what roles Paul was playing. That remark stayed in my mind as I read the rest of this novel and as Paul fought to be who he really wanted to be in life. It’s a struggle for Paul and I understood his frustration as he battles with his illness and his identity. He is, who he is and he is doctor who is battling an illness, a person who used to work countless hours and for him to stop working and let this illness take control of his life is asking a lot but on the other hand, the disease is draining him and Paul is in so much pain, it’s hard to even do basic tasks. It’s a fight and Paul puts up a great battle.

Professional ReaderReviews Published80%2015 Challenge Participant2016 NetGalley Challenge