Monday, September 14, 2015

Currently Reading 9/13/15

Check out Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for the roundups!


 Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz
It's a YA novel about regret.  Guilt, grief, shattered dreams, and sadness too, but mostly regret, dealt with in the most poignant and heartrending fashion.  A LOT happens, probably too much for one novel, but with characters as vivid and real as these, it's hard to file any serious complaints.  Probably the only novel I've ever read that has a twist BEGINNING instead of a twist ENDING, with one of the biggest shocks I've ever read in a book coming in the first 50 pages. The voice is fantastic, with a stylistic repetition I've never seen used before. It's sad, it's very VERY sad, with the tiniest faint glimmers of hope.  Emotionally brutal and tragic, yes, but maybe the best novel I've ever read about coming to terms with change, growing up, and the transient nature of life.  And I haven't even mentioned its piercing treatment of race and prejudice.  Between this and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, I am a die-hard Saenz fan for life.****1/2

The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley
It's not BAD writing, it's very readable, never awkward, and has a striking protagonist, but the plot is so hackneyed: teen girl from problematic family encounters tragedy.  Goes on reckless, ill-advised, spur-of-the-moment road trip to meaningful location with cute boy (*instalove!) to work her way through said tragedy and finds herself in the process.  There are problems along the way, but they are solved quickly and conveniently, there are sort of consequences for their actions, but not anything permanent.  The only thing really different here is the European settings, which don't seem particularly vivid or memorable, are occasionally stereotyped, and always banal (picture how an American who doesn't travel much thinks of Europe).  The 90's music scene was unique, but not terribly interesting to me, and I didn't feel the "power of music" theme as strongly as most people who have read it.  The imagery was vague and confusing (The Book of Kells? A closed carnival?) The relationships would have been great if a little more time had been spent developing them.  Maggie's mom is very nearly the best part of the book, a working-class woman with too many unrealistic dreams - a good person but not necessarily a good mother - but I felt she was written with a little too much condescension to be as moving as she could have been.  It's fine, it was just an all-around shallow read. **1/2

Attack on Titan volume 1 by Hajime Isayama
I think I like the anime a bit better, just because it's both cooler and less confusing to see the 3D maneuvering gear in action, but this is still a wildly entertaining and imaginative story with a great cliffhanger ending for the first volume!. ****

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton
A perfectly fine coming-of-age story about a gay teen, but a little too tidy, cut-and-dried, and convenient for my taste.  It's as if everything that happens, every plot point, every interaction, every description and reference, is very obviously manipulated to make the story as nice and moving as possible. Yes, it's definitely both nice and moving, but not remotely realistic and has little depth.  Not that bad stuff doesn't happen, it's just solved with the bare minimum of trouble.  Reads like a first novel, which it is, but of a very talented writer. ***

I read 46 picture books this week, these were my favorites:
 Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley
Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat

The Princess and the Pony by Kate Beaton


The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
The Devil You Know by Trish Doller
Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr

Railsea by China Mieville
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma


Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz
17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn


  1. I'll have to check out Ninja Red Riding Hood. I like fractured fairy tales. Been wanting to read The Real Boy for awhile.

    1. NRRH is so delightful. And I don't usually like fractured fairy tales or picture books in rhyme! I've heard the other book by this team (Ninja Three Little Pigs, I think) is even better!

  2. I loved Saenz's Aristotle and Dante, so I look forward to reading this one.
    46 picture books?!?!?! So jealous! aThank you for sharing your favorites :)

    Happy reading this week!

    1. I go to the book store every week or two and just sit and read a huge stack of picture books!

  3. Holy Crow! 46 picture books! I fell in love with Benjamin Alire Saenz when I read Aristotle and Dante. He is such a beautiful writer that I've collected a few of his other books, but haven't read them yet. Sometimes I get caught up in reading more for my elementary readers than for myself. Hope you enjoy Goodbye Stranger.

    1. I hope to start Goodbye Stranger any day now! Aristotle and Dante is one of my very favorite YA books. And I don't think I would have ever read it if it hadn't won a Printz Honor!

  4. Hi!

    Ahhh, I actually liked The Carnival at Bray. I was inspired to read it when it was a Morris Honor book. It's funny that I am now reflecting on the book, and I do see the hackneyed parts. I guess I saw it more as an archetype. I found the relationships to be very interesting, and I particularly liked the descriptions of the settings (e.g. the carnival). I guess this is what happens when two readers approach a book! I am thoroughly enjoying O'Brien, as you saw on my blog, so at least we have some books in common! I hope you have a great week!

    1. Yay for different perspectives! I actually liked the descriptions of settings too, especially the carnival, but I guess I didn't really understand what it added to the book? Not everything has to represent something in a novel, of course, but I felt like this was supposed to and I was just too dense to understand it!

  5. Ha! I need to check out Ninja Red Riding Hood. That looks super cute. You have a lot of great books you are currently reading.

  6. Oh how I love me some Attack on Titan, but I agree, I think I prefer the anime too, if only because it really captures the maneuvers so well.

  7. Boats for Papa has been receiving a lot of love recently, so I will definitely have to find that one. Great to read your candid thoughts about the YA novels you've been reading. :)


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