Tag: YA Literature


Books I’ve Recently Read | Magic Edition

Posted 26 May, 2016 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 19 Comments

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Books I've Recently Read

Way back in March (I swear that was like a week ago), Kristen from We Be Reading hosted a little party called March Magics. Every year she dedicates March to Diana Wynne Jones, and with Terry Pratchett’s passing she decided to add him to the month.

I’ve had Mort on my shelf for years, and I heard quite a bit about Fire and Hemlock from other bloggers during Book Blogger Appreciation Week, so I knew I needed to participate. Both books were good fun and I enjoyed them both–though they were very different from each other. If you’re a fantasy fan and haven’t read these yet or you’re looking to expand your reading horizon a bit, go ahead and add both to your list to read (but if you’re going to choose one, I’d vote for Mort).

 

Fire and Hemlock

TitleFire and HemlockAuthor: Diana Wynne Jones
Published: 1984 | Pages: 341 | Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Young Adult
Rating: Curious and Curiouser (in a good way)

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads

In Short: As a child, Polly wanders into a a funeral in an old mansion near her grandmother’s house. Although it is clear she does not belong, she befriends a young man, Thomas Lynn, with whom she forms a strange friendship. As Polly looks back on her childhood, she is not always sure how true some of her hidden fantastical memories really are. Could it really be that she and Thomas Lynn had the ability to imagine something and have it become part of reality?

Bottom Line and Recommendation: I read Fire and Hemlock for Kristen’s March Magics after seeing it mentioned several times during Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I’ve only read one other DWJ book (Howl’s Moving Castle), so I assumed this book would be about witches and warlocks and all kinds of different hocus pocus magic. What I received instead was an intriguing little story for which I didn’t quite understand what was going on but I was compelled to continue.

Fire and Hemlock was a curious and fun ride, and one that made me think and ponder quite a bit. I was especially struck by two thoughts as I read: the fascinating way in which a child’s mind works to make connections between fantasy and reality and the way that we remember our past in tandem with how our past actually occurred. Memory is an amazing thing–even if it isn’t always reliable. Recommendation? I’m not sure that I can recommend Fire and Hemlock widely–it is often a very strange read, but it’s a great way to dip your toes into fantasyland.

 

Mort by Terry Pratchett

Title: Mort | Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 1987 | Pages: 316 | Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Rating: Death is always good fun!

On Amazon | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: Young Mort is offered an apprenticeship with Death–yes, the grim reaper who ushers individuals into their next life after they die. While Mort is given more and more responsibility, Death decides to take a little vacation from his duties to see what this “living” thing is all about. Meanwhile Mort decides to play with the fates when he decides a certain princess might not be quite ready for the next world. Pandemonium ensues. Because of course!

Bottom Line and Recommendation: Are you like me and find the Discworld series to be a bit overwhelming? So many books! So many threads! This is my third Discworld book (after having read and enjoyed the first two in the series), and even though a few years have passed since I read those I was able to dive into this one without any problems. Well, except that I find Pratchett sometimes difficult to read. He doesn’t use chapter breaks, his writing is sometimes colloquial, and the paragraphs are metaphor rich that sometimes make my head spin.

But but but, Pratchett is also a delight to read (despite the head spinning) and I find myself chuckling quite a bit at the nonsense or astuteness of his social commentary. Mort was an enjoyable read, even if I have trouble wrapping my brain around fantasy plots sometimes–there was a lot of talk about alternate time and space and woooooo my brain is tired from newborning and a lot of the book went over my head. If you’re a fan of fantasy, satire, or just general fun, Mort is definitely a book to pick up.

A (nonspoilery) taste:

History unravels gently, like an old sweater. It has been patched and darned many times, reknitted to suit different people, shoved into a box under the sink of censorship to be cut up for the dusters of propaganda, yet it always – eventually – manages to spring back into its old familiar shape. History has a habit of changing the people who think they are changing it. History always has a few tricks up its frayed sleeve. It’s been around a long time (150).

There should be a word for the microscopic spark of hope that you dare not entertain in case the mere act of acknowledging it will cause it to vanish, like trying to look at a photon. You can only sidle up to it, looking past it, walking past it, waiting for it to get big enough to face the world (280).

*Amazon and Indiebound links are affiliate. If you purchase anything through those links, I will receive a small commission which will help support this blog. Thank you!

Have you read either of these books? What did you think? Are you a fantasy fan? Any go to authors I should add to my list?

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Posted 8 October, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 11 Comments

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brown girl dreamingTitle: Brown Girl Dreaming
Author/Narrator: Jacqueline Woodson
Audio Duration: 3 hr, 55 min
Published: 2014 | Pages: 352
Genre: Memoir/Free Verse/Young Adult
Rating: Go! Read it!

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: A memoir written in free verse, Woodson looks back on her childhood growing up in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York during the 60s and 70s.

Why I Read/Listened: Brown Girl Dreaming has received so much praise since it’s initial release. I opted for a combination of audio and ebook and was glad to take in both methods. I pushed up my reading of Brown Girl Dreaming for Aarti’s #Diversiverse event.

Thoughts in General: I can’t remember the last time I read a book written in verse, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Brown Girl Dreaming. Don’t worry–while the writing itself is lyrical, this verse is anything but stuffy or difficult to get into. Which I guess makes sense given the target audience of young adults/middle grade.

What will you find in Brown Girl Dreaming? A little bit of everything–Woodson writes a lot about her family, about her experiences growing up in the north and the south–the differences between the two, her faith and childhood involvement as a Jehovah’s Witness, the other kids on her block, her desire to find the words to become a writer.

There are serious chapters–many involving the Civil Rights movement, but there are also chapters that highlight that Woodson was simply a girl–who wanted her hair done a certain way or wanted to listen to fun(ky) music on the radio. There were bits that made me smile and reminisce over my own childhood antics, and there were other bits that made me fume at the way that race is treated (still) in our nation.

Some Bits I Liked: (the / symbolize line breaks, though some might be off due to my ebook)

On being chided for not wanting to share with the other neighborhood children:  “But our hearts aren’t bigger than that. / Our hearts are tiny and mad. / If our hearts were hands, they’d hit. / If our hearts were feet, they’d surely kick somebody!”

On finding a library book with brown people: “If someone had taken / that book out of my hand / said, You’re too old for this / maybe / I’d never have believed / that someone who looked like me / could be in the pages of the book / that someone who looked like me / had a story.”

On writing her name: “Love the sound of the letter and the promise / that one day this will be connected to a full name, / my own / that I will be able to write / by myself. / Without my sister’s hand over mine, / making it do what I cannot yet do. / How amazing these words are that slowly come to me. / How wonderfully on and on they go. Will the words end, I ask / whenever I remember to. / Nope, my sister says, all of five years old now, / and promising me / infinity.”

Bottom Line: Read it! Listen to it! Share it! It will make you think back to your own childhood but at the same time allow you to envision some of the experiences of a young African American girl growing up in such a volatile moment in history.

Notes on the Audio: While I didn’t love Woodson’s voice as I might other narrators, there was a certain impact that listening to her read her own poems provided to the experience. Normally I can either recommend listening to or reading a book, but in this instance I recommend doing both. It’s short, so why not?

Have you read Brown Girl Dreaming? Have you read other books written in verse that you’d recommend?

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Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret

Posted 2 July, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 22 Comments

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Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret

TitleAre You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Author: Judy Blume
Published: 1970 | Pages:
Genre: Fiction (Young Adult)
Rating: Can’t believe I waited until 33 to read this one

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short: Margaret is almost 12, entering the sixth grade, wants a more robust bust, and isn’t always sure God is listening.

Why I Read Are You There God: More appropriately, why didn’t I read this sooner? More on that later. I read this for Kerry’s Summer of #BlumeALong.

Thoughts in General: I don’t read a lot of Young Adult fiction–there have been a few books that I’ve enjoyed, but for the most part it takes me back to a time in my life that I didn’t love experiencing the first time and don’t really care to experience a second time, even vicariously. However, I noticed as soon as I started Are You There God that I was reading more through a lens of a future mother to preteen girls rather than when I was a preteen.

Ok, my reading did make me reflect back to when I was 11 and 12 and making all sorts of discoveries about my body and self, but it made me think more about how I want my daughters’ discoveries and experiences to be different from mine.

I want my daughters to feel that they have an open door conversational policy with me. I want them to know that they can ask me anything and I’ll give them as straight of an answer as I can. As the oldest child, I felt uncomfortable asking my parents about taboo topics. This meant that before the digital age I was rarely in the know and often embarrassed about my lack of knowledge or my misunderstanding of it.

I want my daughters to embrace their bodies. While I am never 100% satisfied by my size and shape, I am very careful how I talk about beauty and weight in front of my girls. We talk about healthy eating, but never dieting (which I don’t do anyway). We talk about exercise to make our bodies strong, never to make us slimmer. Make-up is a tough one for me–while I do wear a bit (usually only on my eyes/brows as I have very light natural coloring), I don’t want my girls to think they need to wear make-up to look or feel beautiful.

I want my daughters to be able to question the world and faith without any shame. I don’t use this word often because it makes people uncomfortable, but I am an atheist (why even pretend at this point that I’m agnostic because it sounds nicer). This was one of the parts of Are You There God that hit me the hardest as Margaret is trying to decide if she wants to follow her Jewish or Christian heritage. She attends temple and church and at one point becomes so confused and lost that she calls quits on all of it. While I want my girls to have a strong moral upbringing (one does not need church for this!), I also want them to be able to talk and question beliefs openly.

I want my daughters to form healthy friendships that do not hinge on Queen Bees. This one is just wishful thinking. Some days I try to figure out what horrible thing I did in a past life to have to live through girl drama with three little girls when I lived through girl drama hell for so many years. I want my daughters to be Confident. Strong. Wise. Independent. Loving and Kind.

Has this post turned into a true confessions post? Perhaps. While the book itself was kind of a ho-hum read in my mid-thirties, it did give me a lot of pause for the events my daughters will be experiencing in the next 10 years. Amazing how when you’re in the moment these little life changes are so incredibly huge–it’s too bad there are some things we can’t experience through hindsight. I know it would have made my life so much easier.

“If you ask me, being a teenager is pretty rotten–between pimples and worrying about how you smell!”

Oh Margaret…if only that was the worst of it!

Bottom Line: If you are an 11-12 year old tween, now is the time to read this one! (Do I have any 11 year old girls in my audience–heaven help me!!). It’s a timeless classic for a reason…though what you get out of the book might depend on the time you choose to read it.

Have you read Are You There God? Did you have a favorite coming of age story when you were younger (or as an adult?)

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The Bell Jar v. Belzhar

Posted 7 May, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 21 Comments

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Bell Jar vs Belzhar

Title: The Bell Jar | Author: Sylvia Plath
Published: 1963; Pages: 288
Genre: Fiction (semi-autobiographical)

Title: Belzhar | Author: Meg Wolitzer | Narrator: Jorjeana Marie
Published: 2014; Pages: 272 | Audio Duration: 8 hours
Genre: Fiction (YA)

I first discovered Sylvia Plath as a college freshman when I was required to read her poem “Daddy.” Since then she popped up here and there in various college courses and I was so enamored by her poetry that I bought a volume of her collected poems.

Sadly reading poetry on my own isn’t quite as fun as digging in with a class, so this book has gone mostly unread except for a few indulgent moments here and there. Her only published novel, The Bell Jar, escaped my reading attention, though.

I don’t remember when I first added The Bell Jar to my shelf, but it was within the last couple of years and was promptly forgotten. I saw the Sylvia Plath biopic with Gwyneth Paltrow, but it wasn’t until I listened to Pain, Parties, Work two years ago that I knew I needed to bump The Bell Jar up on my list.

So in typical Trish fashion, two years went by before I finally picked it up. And now I’m wondering why I waited so long! Because as people will tell you, The Bell Jar might be best read while you are in your twenties. Or possibly even before then.

The Bell Jar is a story of Esther Greenwood who spends a summer in New York on scholarship working for a woman’s magazine. Near the end of the summer, her world cracks open and after an attempt on her life she is institutionalized. I knew going into this book that the story was autobiographical, but after Pain, Parties, Work (which focuses on that summer in New York), I realized just how parallel Esther and Plath’s stories are.

While I wasn’t blown away by The Bell Jar (again, I think it would have been more impacting if I had read it a decade ago), I appreciated the candid look into the mind of a young woman who struggles with reality. I’ve had many of the thoughts that she has and have had periods of my own depression. It also struck me that Plath was 30 when she took her life…three years younger than I am now.

How impossibly young she was. How devastating. I cannot imagine the pain and torment she must have been experiencing. Depression is a deep dark hole and it’s hard to dig out of once you are within its hold. On the other hand, it is impossible to understand the depths of depression when not in the midst of it.

After I finished The Bell Jar, I decided to listen to Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer as a companion. I didn’t realize the two were connected until someone mentioned it (get it? Bell JarBelzhar) and I was curious how the two fit together. When compared the two together, I can’t help but be incredibly let down by Belzhar.

Belzhar is also the story of a young woman, Jam, who is institutionalized in a sense—during a period of deep depression after the death of her boyfriend, she is enrolled at The Wooden Barn, a boarding school where she can hopefully heal. During her time here she is selected for a class based on the works of Sylvia Plath.

I’m going to break my own rules and get a little spoilery from here on out. As I was just beginning Belzhar, another reader noted that this book might have some paranormal aspects. Seemed unfitting at the time of my reading, but sure enough the members of this special topics class were all about to visit their past through the process of journaling. Like actually physically be in the past.

Magical Realism isn’t a deal breaker for me and I didn’t think this was so incredibly far-fetched for me to write it off. In fact, I liked the idea of these young adults being able to glimpse back at the event that had so shaped their future to hopefully gain closure. I was totally onboard.

And here I get really spoilery, so really, if you don’t want to know…jump ship now! Totally onboard, that is, until we found out that the reason why Jam is so emotionally tortured is that she deluded herself into thinking she was in a relationship with this boy who did not like her in return and so she mentally concocted his death. What?

For some reason this revelation made me feel cheated, though even as I type this I feel as though I’m being unfair and that Jam’s misery was her own…and maybe that’s the point. That it is tough for others to understand the depth of the way that we process emotional circumstances. That when we are in a bell jar, our world is so incredibly distorted. As Esther says, “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream” (237).

What causes us to crack up, for our world to come tumbling down? How can we make sense of our world when we are living inside of a bell jar?

While I’m not sure The Bell Jar and Belzhar make perfect companion pieces, it was an interesting experience reading them in such close proximity. And maybe Plath’s deep introspection (through Esther’s eyes) is what made Jam’s situation pale in comparison–Belzhar doesn’t quite dig as deep under the surface.

A small note on the Belzhar audio: Jorjeana Marie does a great job reading the first person narrative and it definitely enhanced my reading experience. As I often do, I listened on 1.25x speed.

The Bell Jar, Belhzar. Have you read either of these books? What’s a book you’ve read that effectively portrays mental health issues?

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American Born Chinese | Boxers and Saints – Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese | Boxers and Saints – Gene Luen Yang

Well, we’re officially halfway through February! I was making my two week meal plan yesterday and was shocked when I realized that two Saturdays from tomorrow will be March. How did this happen? This month my reading has been focused on Graphic Novels and it’s going swimmingly well. I’ve finished five so far and have at least half a dozen others sitting on my kitchen counter waiting patiently for me.  Title: American Born ChineseAuthor: Gene […]

Posted 14 February, 2014 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 17 Comments
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Half World – Hiromi Goto #Diversiverse

Half World – Hiromi Goto #Diversiverse

Title: Half WorldAuthor: Hiromi GotoIllustrator: Jillian TamakiPublished: 2010; Pages: 225Genre: Fiction/Fantasy (Young Adult) Half World in Short: Melanie doesn’t quite fit into her world but what she never realized was that she wasn’t really from her world–instead she was born into the Realm of Flesh from parents of the Half World. When her mother is taken back to Half World, Melanie learns that she is part of a prophesy to fix the chasm between Realm of […]

Posted 16 November, 2013 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 5 Comments
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky

Title: The Perks of Being a WallflowerAuthor: Stephen ChboskyPublished: 1999; Pages: 213Genre: Fiction (Young Adult)Rating: 4/5 In Short: As Charlie enters his freshman year of high school he writes to an anonymous friend his struggles and triumphs with trying to participate with others and in life. Why I Read It: I forgot all about this one until the movie was coming out late 2012 and so I sought out a copy. And then I forgot […]

Posted 4 April, 2013 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 24 Comments
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The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

Title: The Fault in Our Stars Author: John Green Published: 2012 Pages: 313 Genre: Fiction (young adult) Rating: 3/5 In Short: I can throw out the C word without it being a spoiler, right? One night at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel meets the handsome and curious and funny Augustus Waters. While Hazel is a terminal case, she begins to see how much she still has to experience. Why I read it: Because everyone else […]

Posted 3 July, 2012 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 34 Comments
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Looking for Alaska – John Green

Looking for Alaska – John Green

Title: Looking for AlaskaAuthor: John GreenPublished: 2005; Pages: 221Genre: Fiction (Young Adult)Rating: 4/5 Brief Summary: Halfway through his high school career, Miles Halter decides to leave his Florida home to attend Culver Creek, a boarding school in Alabama. Miles, or Pudge as he eventually becomes known at the new school, goes in search of the Great Perhaps. Though friendless in Florida, he is taken in by his roommate The Colonel and his friends Takumi and […]

Posted 6 April, 2011 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 14 Comments
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The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

Title: The Knife of Never Letting GoAuthor: Patrick NessPublished: 2008 Pages: 479Genre: Fiction (Young Adult); Sci-Fi?Rating: 2.5/5 The Knife of Never Letting Go follows twelve year old Todd Hewitt who is about to become a man within his society. Once a boy turns thirteen in Prentisstown–a town absent of women due to a germ that killed them all–something happens to push them over the brink of boyhood into manhood. Right before his birthday, Todd witnesses something […]

Posted 18 February, 2011 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 30 Comments
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