Posted in 2021 Books, Book Reviews, ProjectLitBookClub

Dear Justyce Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Check out the summary from Goodreads here.

When I first read Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, I was blown away. Her style of writing drew me in from the first sentence. Dear Martin is still one of my most favorite books, and when students are searching for a book to read during SSR, it’s one of the first I grab. When I found out that Dear Justyce was coming out, I did something I have never done before. I pre-ordered it…twice.

When we first went home for the pandemic, I started searching for new people to follow on social media. Finding Nic Stone on social media was probably the best little gem I found. Through her, I have been introduced to a host of other authors as well as Project Lit. If you aren’t following her, you should. She is full of wisdom, inspiration, and just realness.

Dear Justyce is just another example of the wisdom that Stone has for us all. We follow the main character Quan throughout most of his life. In the present, Quan is in holding at a detention center awaiting trial. I think the blurbs out there give it away at to what sentence he is facing, but (as I’ve mentioned many times) I try to stay away from any sort of information about a book before I read it, and by doing that, it was a real mystery to me as to why Quan was in the detention center. It does come out, but not before the reader has a true sense of who Quan is.

I feel like this novel really opened my eyes to the way our justice system works. I’m not naïve enough to think the the system is flawless, but I had no idea how many people are in prison simply because they are awaiting trial. Have not even been convicted, yet they’re locked up, sometimes for years.

Another thing that really stood out to me (probably because I’m a teacher) was how Quan’s downward spiral happened after an incident with a teacher. He had a teacher that believed in him, supported him, encouraged him, but when she went out on maternity leave, the substitute didn’t have the same thoughts. This lack of faith, support, encouragement, and downright belief that Quan was a bad kid had a direct impact on the choices he makes.

Reading this book has made me really examine what I am doing with my students. Where do I need to be more encouraging, supportive? Where do I need to push them a little more?

I HIGHLY recommend this book to all educators. It will definitely be another Nic Stone books I shelf in my classroom and recommend to students.

Posted in Book Reviews

Losing Brave Review

Summary from Goodreads

From award-winning actress Bailee Madison and Reader’s Choice Award Finalist Stefne Miller, comes Losing Brave. More than a year has passed since seventeen-year-old Payton Brave’s twin sister went missing; and Payton, in her desperate attempt to hold on to what’s left of Dylan’s memory, is starting to crack.

Lost in the mystery and turmoil of her sister’s disappearance, Payton must overcome the aftermath of being the one left behind. She’s unable to remember even the smallest piece of what happened the day Dylan vanished. When sudden and reckless outbursts throw her from the graces of popularity to the outskirts of high school society, her new status attracts a crowd of friends she never anticipated—including a troubling romance with her sister’s boyfriend, Cole.

New clues unearth about the circumstances of her disappearance when another missing girl’s body is recovered from a nearby lake, the victim’s features eerily similar to Dylan’s. The more Payton pries open the clenches of her blocked memories, yielding to her need to know what happened, the further down the path of danger she goes. The darkness around her sister’s disappearance grows and the truth becomes more and more unbearable. And what she finds might just cost her her life. 

My Thoughts

Yet another audio book for me, this one was a little confusing to listen to because at the beginning of each chapter it says the day, year, and time of when that chapter took place. AND if you happen to be in the middle of a workout, you may miss the year and then you’d be confused. I did end up reading the last few chapters from an ebook to help with my confusion.

This book is set in the South in a small town where everyone knows everyone, so when one of the Brave (that’s the last name of the main character’s family) girls goes missing, everyone knows.

The idea behind this story is really good. The writing, on the other hand, needed some help. Perhaps it was done on purpose to make the reader more in tune with Payton who is basically having a mental breakdown as she tries to remember what happened the day her sister went missing. But as a reader, I found myself confused a lot and having to reread (or relisten) to sections to figure out what I was missing.

Overall, I enjoyed the story, and it wasn’t like anything I had read before, so I always appreciate that. I just wish the writing would have been better. This book was on the list for the 50 possible Trumans for 2020-2021, but it didn’t make the cut to the list of 22.

Posted in Book Reviews

City of Ghosts review

I only gave this one three stars on Goodreads. I will probably have my 6th grade daughter read it and give me her opinion before I’m completely firm in my 3 star rating. What I’m learning from reading all these young adult fiction books is that I am no longer a young adult. Ha!

I am finding myself being more and more critical of plot and character development, holes in the story, completely unbelievable plot twists.

What I need to remember as I read these books is to read them through the eyes of my students and my older daughter.

This book’s concept is pretty interesting. I can’t tell you if it’s a new concept or not because I tend not to read books about ghosts or horror books. The main character’s parents work together to write a book series about a ghost inspector. Cassidy, however, is the only one in the family that actually sees and interacts with ghosts.

Her parents’ book series gathers enough attention to get them a TV show, and the TV show is the reason that Cassidy, her parents, and their cat, Grim, have to go to Edinburgh, Scotland. There is one other guest on their journey, Jacob, a ghost who Cassidy has befriended, and whom she calls her best friend.

What I liked about this book:

  • It was different from what I normally read.
  • The parents and daughter have a nice relationship.
  • Jacob, the ghost, is funny.
  • All the Harry Potter references
  • Well-written
  • Interesting characters

What I didn’t like about the book:

  • ghosts – I’m just not the biggest fan of this type of literature.
  • Cassidy – there is just something about her that doesn’t sit well
  • It was different from what I normally read.

The book was the beginning of a series for Victoria Schwab, and I am curious enough to possibly read one more. There are some things said at the end that make it seem like one of the characters is not what s/he seems to be.

The book didn’t make me cry at all or really give me that much of a creepy feeling. I’d say this is a good book for the 6th graders, but I can’t see my 8th graders liking it all that much.

Posted in Book Reviews

Shout, shout, let it all out

(This Tears for Fears song played in my head every time I picked up this book.)

It’s Tuesday night, and I have just finished Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson. Many years ago, when I was still teaching high school, one of my administrators handed me the book Speak and said I had to read it. If you haven’t read Speak, you need to. Reading Shout the past couple weeks has made me want to re-read Speak and then find everything else Anderson has written and add them all to my must-read lists.

Shout is written in verse, and I thought, like all the other books I have read in verse, that I would finish this one within a day. However, this book was heavy and made me stop to think, and grieve. A lot of the book is autobiographical, reflective, and encouraging. There are some parts that are condemning to those who inflict pain. And then other parts that are more lessons or advice.

I love how Anderson uses words. There were many times when I stopped and paused after reading a particularly beautiful phrase. She was able to convey pretty much every emotion.

This was one of the first books that I’ve purchased since The Hate U Give, and I found myself having to underline numerous passages. I took pictures of pages and shared with my friends and husband. One of my co-teachers and I have decided to use one particular passage to help as we teach the writing process.

There is some language, some descriptive “adult” material, and some hard topics presented in this book. If you’re sensitive to things like that, beware. But as a mother to daughters and frankly, as a woman, I think it is important to know each others’ stories however colorful they are.

Some passages I enjoyed

untreated pain/is a cancer of the soul/that can kill you

But recessionals play in a minor key;/the princess pricked her finger on a spindle,/was shattered by mirrors, cursed by fairies,/banished from the kingdom, and hunted/down by dogs. Trolls hide under bridges/and that’s where she died.

Some people grow up knowing what they want/to do: they color inside the lines,/study at the right school,/check off the boxes, and/ in the end/ they are handed the grown-up life/they’ve dreamed of. That’s mostly bullshit, for the record.

too many grown-ups tell kids to follow/their dreams/like that’s going to get them somewhere/Auntie Laurie says follow your nightmares instead/cuz when you figure out what’s eating you alive/you can slay it

We should teach our girls/that snapping is OK,/instead of waiting/for someone else to break them.