Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Books with Positive Female Relationship

Something I've become aware of within the last year or so is how many books have female characters pitted against one another.  Aren't there any books for young people that show great, positive friendships in which there isn't bickering or rivalry?  Yes, I know that this type of rivalry is real for many of our young girls in every day life.  Mean girls are a real problem, but where are the books that show it doesn't have to be that way?  Where are the books that show an alternative to the cliques?

I am a firm believer that books can change your life.  They can change your outlook and the way you interact with the real world around you.

So I've been paying attention and here are a few that I've read over the past few years that I think do a great job.  I've divided it up into middle grade books and YA books if you're looking for certain readers in your life.

Middle Grade Books

 Peppi doesn't always  make the best choices, but she's going to make it right.  There's definitely conflict within this book, but Peppi has found some solid friends who give her great advice.  And she helps out one of her friends when she really needs it.  There are cliques, but they are not focused around cool girls.

Check out my review here.
How could I have a post on female friendships without The Baby-Sitters Club?  The reason it made this list of books I've read in the past two years is because Raina Telgemeier has come out with the graphic novel versions of Ann M. Martin's stories.  And if you can get a kid interested in the graphic novels, that might lead to the rest of the series by Ann M. Martin.

Check out my review here.
Raymie meets three new friends the summer she decides to run for a beauty pageant.  You'd think that three very different girls, all entering the same contest would end up in some not so great relationships, but these girls rally together to help one another.

Check out my review here.

I chose this because it's a positive sister relationship.  Even though Catrina is sometimes annoyed by her little sister, Maya, she cares deeply for her.  They bond a lot throughout this books as well.

Check out my review here.

This book will be for your older middle grade reader.  6th, 7th, 8th grade.  It deals with the topic of sexting, in a more "innocent" way if that's possible (the pictures in question are of a girl in her underwear and no more than that).  It does have a trio of girls entering middle school and they are each finding themselves drifting in different directions, but still manage to maintain their solid friendship.  They also support one another in making positive choices, but are supportive when their friend makes a mistake and don't turn their back on her.

Check out my review here.

YA Books

Although Cath's relationship with her sister, Wren, is strained, and her mother is out of the picture, there are great examples of positive female relationships.  Her roommate, Raegan is the best.  At first you think it's going to be terrible, but Reagan is mature and understanding and doesn't really get sucked into the drama--so she doesn't allow Cath to sink into it with her.  Her relationship with Wren is where most of the drama comes from, but there are many reasons and it stems more from the fact that they're family and are struggling with some real issues than this being a mean girl situation.

This one is a romance, though.  So it's not all about the friendships.  But positive all around.  There are also some issues I had with Raegan and Cath judging other girls they see.  It's not a perfect book or a perfect representation of positive female relationships, but I did think they Rainbow Rowell gave Cath some positivity in her life to equal out the negative situations.

 This story takes place in an asylum (well two really).  Some of the women kept in the asylum were only there because their families put them there so they didn't have to deal with them. That was accepted during the time period because women were not valued.  But in the second asylum (the good one), Grace finds solid friendships with two other women who have been committed, a nurse, and the sister of a doctor.  Although this book isn't about friendships--it's very much about women's rights and the treatment of individuals with mental illness (all entwined with a murder mystery, of course)--these relationships are solid foundations for Grace.

Check out my review here.

 Amanda is new.  She had to leave her old life behind when someone found out that she is transgender.  Now she's living with her father, who doesn't quite accept her as she is now.  She finds some solid friendships within this book--and some not so solid.  But the friends she make stand by her, even when her worst nightmares come true and everyone finds out the truth.

This might a bit out of range, but I really love Vivian and Harp.  Vivian and her best friend Harp set out across the country in the wake of a "Rapture" that supposedly happened.  But Vivian is sure that she can find her parents because something just doesn't seem right to her.  Harp isn't so sure and is surly, drinks a lot, and isn't always the most dependable when it comes to making choices.  She is, though, always there.  With Harp on her side, I know she'll be okay.  Just as I know Harp will be okay because she has Vivian.

Check out my review here.

What about you?  Any good examples of strong, positive female friendships within MG or YA books?  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review: House Arrest by K.A. Holt

House ArrestHouse Arrest by K.A. Holt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*spoilers at end*

Timothy has been put on house arrest for a year and has to keep a journal to prove to a judge that he has learned from his mistake. What was his mistake? Stealing a wallet and using someone’s credit card to pay for his little brother’s monthly medication. Levi isn't even a year old and he has a trach to help him breathe, but it also means constant care. Nurses, medical supplies, dr visits—they all cost a lot. And ever since Timothy’s dad left, it's been up to his mom to do it all, so Timothy wanted to help. Now he's stuck in his house for twelve months and he's angry.

Through his journal, Timothy talks to his probation officer, James, and psychologist, Mrs. B. He relates, through verse, what he and his mom deal with on a daily basis. As a twelve year old, Timothy is often left in charge because his mom has to work and they don't have a nurse that day. So Timothy does things like suction Levi’s tube, change ties, teach his brother sign language, and generally keep him happy and alive.

Timothy works so hard to grow and learn and keep himself in control, and does an amazing job, despite the odds. Despite being a twelve year old boy who feels like it is his responsibility to make sure his brother has the medical care he needs. Despite seeing because his mother give every little part of herself to keep it all together as she breaks apart at the seams. Despite his father leaving their family without a word. Despite being responsible for his brother when there is no nurse that day and his mom HAS to go to work. The world is against this kid—that’s what it feels like.

Then things start to go up. His probation officer and his psychologist are amazing and helpful and caring. His neighbors jump in and help with food and clothing and comfort. They all help carry his family when they need it. So you start to believe that it's all going to be okay and things truly are looking great.

But when Timothy makes a choice between violating his parole and keeping his baby brother alive, he makes the right choice and gets Levi to the hospital—and also lands himself in juvie. No one evaluates the situation and sees that this kid was doing right and he had grown so much in the previous almost year. No one who is capable of making a decision sees this or tries to change it. And although he does save his brother, and his brother goes to get help, all the work Timothy did to make it happen doesn't even seem to count.

I'm angry at this book. I am so incredibly upset. Which is good because books should make you feel. And three days after finishing it, I’m still seething. I liked this book more than I expected and I felt cheated —not so much for myself, but for Timothy. He was cheated. And it's not fair. Which I realize is life. Usually I am okay with endings that aren't happily-ever-after. But this one rubbed me the wrong way. I had thought things would get better, not perfect, but improved. And they did, right before it was completely ripped away from him. And that was it.

I still recommend this book. I will share it with my book club this year because I think we’ll have a lot to discuss. It's completely appropriate in all ways, but still deals with heavy themes: divorce, very sick relatives, asking for help, growth, ideas of what is morally right vs what is technically right in the eyes of the law, family. There is a lot to discuss.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Review: Awkward

Awkward (Awkward, #1)Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Awkward has been a favorite in my classroom all year and I'm just getting to it in preparation for book club next year. I'm so glad I read it. It has a cast of diverse characters as two clubs, Art Club and Science Club, battle it out for a spot at the school's club fair. Penelope (Peppi) is in Art Club and on her first day at school, she did the most terrible thing to this kid who tried to help her and she's trying to say she's sorry--still trying. As she finally begins to be friends with the boy, Jaime, she realizes he's in Science Club. How can they be friends if their friends hate one another?

Peppi isn't a flawless character, which I appreciate. She makes a lot of mistakes and her friends make a lot of mistakes. Luckily, they learn a lot from their mistakes and also how to save their club.

The teachers are also lovely. I loved the Science teacher. She's very strict, orderly, and possibly a ninja in a previous career? There are many rumors surrounding her and how terrifying she is--even though she isn't and helps out our main character multiple times.

A second book recently came out about another student in Art Club and it looks fabulous. I'd love to hear about all these characters eventually and hope this becomes a longer series.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't express how much I love Perry T. Cook! In All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook, Perry is an eleven year old boy who has spent his entire life living in a prison. He was born there, and through the help of a progressive warden, has been allowed to stay with his mother who was incarcerated shortly before his birth. Perry goes to a regular school, has rules, completes chores, and has a family within the prison walls. When the DA discovers the set up at Blue River Prison, he doesn't like it and takes Perry out of there immediately--to live with him and his family. Although the DA, Tom, has promised to help Perry in any way he can, it doesn't take Perry long to figure out that if he wants to be back with his mom, he'll have to rely on himself.

The characters in this book are amazingly well written. Not only is Perry a thoughtful, inquisitive kid, but he's learning how to stand up for himself. He has many people who are on his side and willing to help. But he needs to learn how to speak out now, speak up for what is right.

We also get hear from his mother's perspective throughout. Her chapters are short and spread out. They allow us to see Blue River Prison from the inside, even when Perry isn't there anymore. We see the loving mother of a boy. A mother who does everything she possibly can to protect and fight for her boy.

One character who really intrigued me was the DA, Tom. Although he is painted as the villain, he's not truly one. He's a man who really believes that he is doing the right thing and trying to correct a wrong. Only he is very misguided in his attempts.

I strongly urge you to read this book. It has made its way onto my Book Club list for next year and will also be book talked!

View all my reviews

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Musings: Prequels, Novellas and Side Stories

You know that feeling when you've finished a series and you want another book.  You NEED another book.  You must have more information about these people and you have to remind yourself that they don't really exist. It takes time, but you move on and come to terms with how things ended (or you've invented something to help you get through the ending so that you know in your heart where it led your characters in the end).

There you are, sitting at home, minding your own business and WHAM!  You find out that the author has written another book.  A prequel, or a series of novellas about some of the side characters.  Or a whole other line of stories about a side character or characters that never even existed in the first series but are now connected.

Now you must decide if you allow yourself to trek down that slippery slope.  Can you take your emotions that are wrapped around the original series and unwind them gently and allow new information into your understanding of that world?  Do you really need to know about that minor character who you kind of like, but enjoy not knowing everything about them?  Maybe.

I don't read most books that are added onto a series.  I've learned that I'm usually disappointed.  Not necessarily because they're bad, but because I've moved on.  I've come to terms with the way the series ended and I don't feel the need to bring all that out again.  I don't want it ruined.

How do you feel about stories published about the side characters or prequels?  Do you clamber over other readers to get your hands on them, or do you keep a respectful distance?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is told from multiple perspectives throughout the book. The omniscient quality of the narrator allows us to know the "secrets" right away--there isn't a whole lot to unravel. However there is still a question of how things will unfold and if the characters themselves will understand the truth and what that will mean for them--and if they'll figure it out in time.

Luna is our main character, sacrificed as the youngest baby in the Protectorate, and now being raised by Xan (a witch), Glerk (a swamp monster), and Fyrian (a tiny dragon, who is more of a sibling than a guardian). Every year Xan rescues a baby left in the bog and flies him or her to a town and a loving family. Only when she rescues Luna, she falls in love with her and accidently feeds her too much moon, enmagicking her. But Luna's magic is so intense that it becomes dangerous and Xan must encase the magic deep within her. And now, as she nears thirteen, Luna's magic is slowly returning.

During this time we also see both heroes and villains from the Protectorate as they try to make sense of all the terrible suffering that happens in their village. Over the course of thirteen years we witness the lives of the people of the Protectorate through Antain's eyes. Antain begins as an elder in training, but we can see right away that this won't go very well for him because he questions the decisions and traditions of the elders that lead to the misery surrounding his town.

One of the issues I had with The Girl Who Drank the Moon was the constant change of perspective. The omniscience meant that we knew a lot, but we knew a lot because we saw the same moments in time from different perspectives--and sometimes not just two. It made the story seem to stretch out instead of move forward. It also made it more difficult for me to really relate to Luna. We don't even really get anything from her perspective until we're a good ways into the book because it takes awhile for her to grow up.

And that's when the story really started. I felt like a lot of it was background building and it was long and arduous building. It could have been shorter.

I would only recommend this to middle grade readers who are already comfortable with fantasy books. I feel like even good readers who don't have much basis in fantasy might be thrown off by it. Overall, it was an okay book and once the story gets going, it's compelling--it just might take a while for that to kick in.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 30, 2017

Mid-Year Review 2017

It's halfway through 2017 already and I'm looking back at my reading goals and some of my favorites for this year.

I didn't get too ahead of myself this year with my book goals.  Sometimes I have three or four different types of reading challenges for myself.  I wasn't feeling that too much back in January.  I'm still not feeling it, so I'm glad I didn't do it.  I did however set myself a book total goal like I always did.

Book Total Goal for 2017: 70
This is more than my goal for last year, but I did surpass my goal last year.

Total for 2017 so far:  27
According to Goodreads, I'm six books behind schedule.  I am okay with this, though.

Diversity in Books:
I didn't really set a goal for this because I didn't really have any idea of where I was because I never kept track before.  So this year my goal is to keep track.  

I have a spreadsheet in which I'm checking off books as having either a main character or the author who is a POC, LGBTQ+, or a person with a disability (mental or physical). 

So far, I have 10 out of 27 books that count as diverse.  I'm setting the goal for myself to get to 20. 

A few of my favorite experiences this year have been re-reads.  So far, I have re-read the following titles:


I'm currently finishing up The Handmaid's Tale.  It's been years since I read it and although I remember it, I don't remember the details.  And I want to see the Hulu series, but need a refresher first.

Finally, my favorites so far!  I wanted to add The Dark Days Club and Red Queen, but I thought it was cheating because they were re-reads from just last year and they shouldn't be on my favorites list two years in a row--should they?

In no particular order:


How has your year gone so far?