TTT: Summer Freebie

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is a Summer freebie, and i have chosen to focus on the Top 5 book I recommend for your summer reading list, and the Top 5 books I have on my summer reading list!

However, before I get into my TTT, I want to take a moment to show my respect and profound sadness over last night’s bombing at the Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena. I had a highly unusual evening last night; I was at my local Target when a fire started inside the store. I was among the hundreds of people safely evacuated; the inside of the store has sustained major water, fire and smoke damage and will be closed for the foreseeable future. I came home slightly shaky, feeling like I missed a close call, only to look down at my phone and see a Washington Post alert about the Manchester bombing. That quickly put things in perspective.

I have a 9-year-old who loves Ariana Grande, and to hear one of the first two named victims was an 8 year-old child separated from her family is heartbreaking. My thoughts are with all those affected by the tragedy.

There was some good news hiding amongst the headlines this morning, which I would also like to highlight. A group of 82 girls who were kidnapped from their school by Boko Haram in the town of Chibok , Nigeria back in 2014, have recently been freed. This is only a small number of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram, but it is heartening to see some of the girls reunited with their families. I can’t imagine their ordeal, and I hope they are on the path towards healing and recovery.

Top 5 Books For YOUR Summer

Reading List

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Young Adult: I like quick reads in the summer, but they don’t necessarily have to be light and fluffy. The Hate U Give is a thought-provoking story that I can’t help but continue to mention on my blog! It is THAT good! And I am definitely not alone, THUG has spent the past 11 weeks at the top of the NY Times YA Hardcover Bestseller List.

Mystery: Maisie Dobbs has been my summer go-to for fun mysteries over the past two years, and I typically read two or three of them each summer. This is an easy series to binge-read, but I have enjoyed taking my time with it. The series starts in post-WWI England, with flashbacks to Maisie’s life before and during the war.

Psychological Thriller:  If you haven’t read All The Missing Girls yet, this was my favorite book from Summer 2016. If you are already an established Megan Miranda fan, The Perfect Stranger is a great choice for your beach or pool tote.

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Award Winner: Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has been getting a lot of renewed attention recently, which is extremely well-deserved! If you enjoyed that book or the Hulu series, I highly recommend checking out some of her other novels! The Blind Assassin won the Man Booker Prize in 2000 and is a fascinating novel that also contains a “story within a story” called…The Blind Assassin.

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Dysfunctional families: I’m currently in the middle of reading Commonwealth right now, but I am far enough along to definitely recommend this as a fun summer read! The summer scenes with both the Cousins and Keating kids hanging out in Virginia are quite unforgettable!

Top 5 Books on MY Summer Reading List

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

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The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

What reading plans do you have for this summer?

 

Book Review – Every Day by David Levithan

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Book: Every Day
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary YA

Book Blurb: 

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

I truly enjoyed Levithan’s writing in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and went into Every Day with high expectations. The potential was there for greatness, and I loved the concept. A contemporary/science fiction hybrid; to imagine a person without a gender, without a family, without a body, whose only consistency in life is that each day, they will wake up in the body of someone new.

Like I said, the concept is intriguing. But I just couldn’t get into this book.

Every Day is told from the perspective of A, a person who wakes up each morning in someone else’s body. The bodies are always the same age as A; when they were 3 they would always wake up as a 3-year-old; during the novel A was 16. A has never had their own body, the body shifting has been happening since birth. Therefore, A does not have a real name, and never forms attachments. To anyone. A can access the memories of the body they inhabit, but not the person’s feelings. The days have always blurred together for A, as time marches on.

Until A meets Rhiannon after waking up in the body of Justin. Justin is Rhiannon’s callous boyfriend, and A falls instantly in love with her during his brief tenure in Justin’s body. Which leads both to the biggest detraction and the most interesting question Levithan presents: Can love find its way around a seemingly impossible situation?

I can’t stand instalove books, and I rarely read them. I made an exception for this one because it was on my TBR for the 2017 Diversity Bingo Challenge, and Levithan was an author I wanted to further explore. Rhiannon is, I hate to say it, a fairly bland character, which makes A’s obsession with her even more confusing, especially considering the lengths he takes. The friendship between the two is sweet at first, and I give Rhiannon credit for being fairly accepting of what seems like an impossible situation. But, there are so many aspects of their relationship that really bothered me. The stalking, which started to become incredibly creepy. The idea that only A can see Rhiannon’s hidden sadness, and they are the only one who can see Rhiannon as she her true self. The obsession. It is disturbing behavior, which is barely addressed in the novel.

All my sympathy and fondness for A went right out the window when they became obsessed and started stalking Rhiannon. I liked A at the beginning of the story, and I was very sympathetic to their plight. For much of A’s life, they are extremely selfless and careful with the body they inhabit. I can’t imagine how tough that would be day in and day out. Yet I just could not get past all the lengths A went to after falling in love with Rhiannon.

The part of the story I enjoyed the most was the diverse cast of people we meet when A inhabits their bodies for a day. These small stories were quite touching.

I wish Levithan would have gone more in-depth into the paranormal aspect, although I can understand why he did not. What I don’t get, however, is why there wasn’t a further examination of what it means to be male, female, or neither. I really liked having a protagonist that has no gender or ethnicity. Yet I found the writing lacking in terms of how Rhiannon responded once she knew the truth of A’s life. Rhiannon definitely had some prejudices and ignorance on her side lurking beneath the surface, but this was barely addressed.

I know there is a companion book to Every Day, written from Rhiannon’s perspective, called Another Day. I’m highly doubtful I will read it any time soon.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Tough Mama’s

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is a Mother’s Day freebie. I chose to focus on my favorite strong and tough mothers in literature. These mother’s can be fierce, tough on the surface but sacrificing everything for their child underneath. Or they are the sweet and kind mother that exudes happiness and warmth, but without her, the family would fall apart. There is more than one way to be a tough mother.

Top Ten Tuesday: Tough Mothers

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Marmee is the glue that holds the March family together.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne – Despite her community’s condemnation, Hester shows strength throughout her punishment in the story.

Dreaming in Cuban – Follows three generations of del Pino women: grandmother, mother, daughter, in the shadow of the Cuban Revolution.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan – Esperanza’a Mama is emotionally and physically tough. After losing her husband, her home, and all of her money, she manages to escape with Esperanza to evade marrying the baddy in the story, Tío Luis.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – You can’t help but love Fantine, the single mother who does everything in her power to try to provide for her daughter, Cosette.

Stuart Little by E.B. White – Mrs. Little treats her son just like any other member of the family, despite the fact that he was born a mouse. She is quite protective of her smallest child.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery – Behind the tough exterior of Marilla Cuthbert is a hidden warmth and heart of gold. Taking in orphan Anne Shirley, she definitely deserves a place of her own on the list of awesome fictional momma’s. Foster mothers are mom’s, too.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – coming from a family of strong women “made out of thin invisible steel”, Katie is hardworking and loves her children fiercely. Life has given her a tough, hard exterior that doesn’t change much throughout the novel, but she makes any sacrifice she can to give both her kids an education.

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien – I love Mrs. Frisby. She’s kind, sweet, and tough and brave as can be.

What fictional mother would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review – Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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Title: milk and honey
Author: Rupi Kaur
Publisher: Createspace
Genre: Poetry, Feminism

These days, I don’t read poetry very often. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I read a book of poems. It has been years, other than a handful of Emily Dickinson or Maya Angelou scattered throughout the last decade. Then, last month, I discovered my birth mother’s poetry. And it felt invigorating, soul-crushing, and uplifting…yes…all of that, all rolled in to one, when I read her words.

And it came back to me in a rush, how much I used to love poetry. Once upon a time, I wrote poetry. I wrote about being adopted, about boys and love, about sitting beneath a tree on a warm, sunny day. I waxed poetic, and my poems were never anything special….but I enjoyed the process. It was one of my college boyfriends, a guy who also wrote poetry, and who turned out to be a horrible person, that turned me off of the genre.

Well, I’m ready to reclaim it. So, when I got home from my trip to meet my biological mother’s family, with a basket of her letters, and a journal of her poems, I felt inspired. To take up a new genre, and explore it anew. One week after returning home from that trip in April, I went out and bought Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

And that is how I found myself reading it during Dewey’s 24 hour readathon.

it is your blood
in my veins
tell me how i’m
supposed to forget

Milk and Honey is about survival, and is split into 4 sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing. The design of her poems are inspired by a Punjabi script called gurmukhi, in which words are written only using a period. There is no other punctuation; all letters are treated the same – no upper or lowercase. I loved this style, as it is often how I used to write my own poetry, only in my case, I was modeling e.e. cummings.

Rupi Kaur was born in Punjab, and moved to Canada with her parents at a young age, and through her poetry she provides a voice to other women of color who may be silenced in a patriarchal and/or colonizer culture. Before reading her poems, it helps to know where she is coming from, as she talks about in the preface:

my thoughts go to the sexual violence we endure as south asian women. we know it intimately. from thousands of years of shame and oppression. from the community and from colonizer after colonizer. by the time i am born i have already survived the first battle of my life. against female feticide. i am one of the lucky ones who has been allowed to live. we are taught our bodies are not our property. you will do with them as your parents wish until they pass the property onto your husband and his family. a good indian girl is quiet. does as she is told. sex does not belong to her. it is something that happens to her on her wedding night. our job is to lay obediently. not to enjoy. let him take.

our trauma escapes the confines of our own times. we’re not just healing from what’s been inflicted onto us as children. my experiences have happened to my mother and her mother and her mother before that. it is generations of pain embedded into our souls.

i read hundreds of books growing up. but none can explain this torment to me. i need access to words written by people who look like me writing about the things i am going through. at that moment i realize the importance of representation and know this must be different for my children. they must have access to their own literature.

Rupi Kaur’s writing is succinct; many of her poems are only a few lines. She is incredibly skilled in bringing her point across in a tiny amount of space.

our backs
tell stories
no books have
the spine to
carry
~ women of color

Some people describe her work as cliché, or simplistic. I disagree. Yes, there is a certain simplicity, a minimalism, but that does not make her words or message simple.

apparently it is ungraceful of me
to mention my period in public
cause the actual biology
of my body is too real

it is okay to sell what’s
between a woman’s legs
more than it is okay to
mention its inner workings

the recreational use of
this body is seen as
beautiful while
its nature is
seen as ugly

YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!!

I had that reaction quite a few times while reading her book. As a woman, as a feminist, as someone who has experienced trauma in my past, I could relate to many of her poems. And I found it a fascinating self-study to look back at all my post-it notes after finishing the book, and realize the poems I currently relate to the most were not in the sections about hurting or breaking, but in the chapter about healing.

This is a book about the human experience, and it is relatable on a wide variety of levels. It takes a lot of courage to write in such a personal manner, and I look forward to seeing what Rupi Kaur does next.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green

I’m finally getting a chance to write up some reviews for the books that I read during Dewey’s readathon! This one was one of my favorites.

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Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author: John Green & David Levithan
Publisher: Dutton Books
Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+

This is the story of two Will Grayson’s that meet about 1/3 of the way into the story. One Will Grayson, written by John Green, is the son of two doctors, loving parents that aren’t around very much. His family is fairly well off, and his best friend is Tiny Cooper. Tiny Cooper is a HUGE person, both in personality and size. He literally lights up the page. This Will lives by two life rules: 1) Don’t care too much, and 2) Shut up.

Caring doesn’t sometimes lead to misery. It always does.

~ Will Grayson

The other will grayson, written by David Levithan, sees himself as a lowercase person (and his chapters are written entirely in lowercase). He lives with his single mother, struggles with severe depression and at the beginning of the story, has not yet come out to his friends and family as gay.

“maybe tonight you’re scared of falling, and maybe there’s somebody here or somewhere else you’re thinking about, worrying over, fretting over, trying to figure out if you want to fall, or how and when you’re gonna land, and i gotta tell you, friends, to stop thinking about the landing, because it’s all about falling.”

~ will grayson

They randomly meet one night when their paths converge in downtown Chicago. Will Grayson is shy and struggles with whether or not he wants to be in a relationship. will grayson found love on the internet with Isaac, and is trying to meet him for the first time.

Green’s Will Grayson is kind of geeky and adorable, but it is Levithan’s will grayson I relate to the most. It is will grayson’s storyline that is the most moving. will grayson is dark, and angsty, a bit of a loner, and written extremely well. When will grayson and Tiny Cooper meet, it is everything a reader could want and more. Really, Tiny Cooper is everything a reader could want in a character. I wish I had a Tiny Cooper friend!

Because in reality, so much of this book isn’t about the two Will Grayson’s. It is about Tiny Cooper. For a while I worried that Tiny Cooper would stay flat and clichéd throughout the whole story, but we really got to see more depth to him by the end of the story.

Some people call this book a love story, and it is a love story. A love story about friendship that is both emotional and hilarious.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon – The Updates Post

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The April 2017 Readathon is here!!! This is where I will be posting sporadic updates throughout the day. Remember, for every comment on this post, I will donate $o.25 to the Ada Jenkins Center.

You can read my Readathon TBR post here.

Wish me luck for a wonderful day of reading!

Hour 24

We made it! After falling asleep at midnight, I woke up at 7am to complete the final hour. So my total hours spent reading = 17! I’m quite proud of that. I finished 5 books, and started a 6th.

Pages Read: 873
Books finished: 5
Local Time: 8am
Hours spent  reading: 17
Books finished: 5

Closing Survey:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Around Hour 15-16, when I was really tired but wanted to stay up just a bit longer to finish the graphic novel I was reading.
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year? Definitely graphic novels! A lot of people seemed to be reading Saga, including myself. Ms. Marvel was another good one. 
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? Nothing other than the website problems – which are likely out of the control of the organizers. I couldn’t see the updates and links to mini-challenges after Hour 12.
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I loved the Litsy and Twitter feeds! I didn’t spend that much time in the Goodreads group.
5. How many books did you read? 5, and started a 6th!
6. What were the names of the books you read? 1. Will Grayson, Will Grayson; 2. Ms. Marvel, Volume 6; 3. Milk and Honey; 4. A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room; 5. Saga, Volume 4. 
7. Which book did you enjoy most? Will Grayson, Will Grayson
8. Which did you enjoy least? Saga, Volume 4. Nothing to do with the content, by I was having problems using Hoopla, and it took about 20 minutes to fix it and be able to open the book to read it. At almost 11pm at night, that was a little frustrating.
9. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Definitely will participate as a reader again, and would definitely consider hosting a mini-challenge in the future.

Hour 15

This will be my last update of the evening, as I am heading to bed, to read myself to sleep! Finished The Reptile Room, and switched back to graphic novels. I am currently reading Saga, Volume 4. I am hoping to wake up at 7am EST, to finish out the last hour of the readathon. See you on the other side!

Pages Read: 766
Books finished: 4
Up Next: Reading Saga, Volume 4, and then will either pick up Vol. 5 or 13 Reasons Why. It depends on how awake I am!

Hour 12

Whose having a great time! This book nerd is! I’m definitely slowing down, but still plugging away on Book 4! I finished Milk and Honey, and have moved on to A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room! Took a break for dinner, and to play basketball with M for a bit before the sun goes down. The whole night is ahead of us, and I am still excited!

Mid-Event Survey

1. What are you reading right now? A Series of Unfortuante Events: The Reptile Room
2. How many books have you read so far? This is my 4th one.
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? I do actually plan on sleeping tonight, so my halfway point has come and gone, LOL. I may stick to graphic novels for the rest of the night, otherwise I’m looking forward to starting 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. If not for the readathon, then immediately after.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those? Only a few, but they were welcome interruptions! Mostly from my daughter and spouse.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far? That I made it this far without falling asleep, considering I haven’t slept well in the past few nights! It’s definitely catching up to me now, though.

Pages Read: 556
Books finished: 3
Up Next: Currently reading The Reptile Room, not sure what I’ll pick up after that.

Hour 9

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The last few hours have not been quite as productive. I am about 2/3 of the way through Milk and Honey. I just took a long walk to take a break and move around a bit. It is so humid outside, I think the walk made me sleepier than reading all day!

M bailed a few hours ago to go play at a friend’s house, but she read 5 books this morning before heading out the door!

Don’t forget, for every person that comments on this post, I will be donating $0.25 each to a wonderful community nonprofit, The Ada Jenkins Center!

Pages Read: 438
Books finished: 2
Up Next: Still reading Milk & Honey

Hour 6

The Ms. Marvel volumes keep getting better and better! I just polished off Volume 6 over lunch.

Hour 5 Mini-Challenge

Hosted by Estella’s Revenge. Create a six-word celebration of Dewey’s Read-a-Thon.

Here is my entry:

There is always something to read.

Pages Read: 300
Books finished: 2
Up Next: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Hour 4

Just finished Will Grayson, Will Grayson! A few interruptions this morning: a hungry, needy cat, a few phone calls, and a breakfast break, but I am satisfied with my current pace. LOVED this book, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative effort is hilarious, powerful, and just plain fantastic. TINY COOPER!!! I love him so much.

Pages Read: 164
Books finished: 1
Up Next: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6

Opening Survey

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.
3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Chévre cheese with rosemary crackers, and my Chocolove Salted Almond Butter in Dark Chocolate bar.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I occasionally get insomnia, and have slept terribly the past two nights, so my readathon might not go as well as I had hoped!
5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? It’s my first readathon in a really long time! I’m looking forward to my daughter participating with me!

Book 1: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (starting at page 148).

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon TBR!!

I haven’t done Dewey’s 24 hour-readathon in years, and I am so excited to participate in the next one, which is coming up VERY soon on April 29, 2017! If you haven’t heard of Dewey’s Readathon, it is a book love fest where participants spend 24 hours reading books, talking about books, and posting about books on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Litsy, Instagram and more!

The first 24 Hour Readathon was hosted by Dewey at The Hidden Side of the Leaf in 2007. Sadly, she passed away in 2008 and the readathon was renamed in her honor. I last participated in the late 2010’s, and I am so excited to be back!

I live in the EST zone, so I will be starting at 8am in my time zone on Saturday, April 29.

My Readathon TBR Pile

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I like to have a lot to choose from during a readathon, so I have a large stack of books that will be on hand:

  • Ms. Marvel, Volume 6
  • Saga, Volumes 4 -6
  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (a re-read)
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
  • The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket (a re-read)

I am hoping to polish off at least two books for the #DiversityBingo2017 Challenge!

Oh, But there is more…

Additionally, I am setting myself a philanthropic goal as well, and for this one, I will need your participation!! The Dewey Readathon’s emphasis is on philanthropy in addition to the social aspect, and I embrace that whole heartedly!

I will be donating $1 to The Ada Jenkins Center for every page that I read during the 24-hour readathon, up to a maximum of $500! And for every comment that is cheering me on during the readathon, I will donate another $0.25 per comment, per person, up to a maximum of $100! That is a total of $600 that could potentially be contributed to an organization that promotes the importance of education and equal opportunity for all citizens, and helps those in poverty break the cycle and gain economic independence.

I will be setting up one master post on the day of the readathon where I will be updating as the day goes on. All you have to do is send out some happy cheerleading vibes throughout the day by commenting on the post, and sharing it with others.

The reason I chose The Ada Jenkins Center is due to my first-hand experience of all the wonderful things they do in my local community. The Center is a model for other community centers across the country, as a resource hub, a one-stop shop for a wide variety of social services and support programs.

I am especially impressed by the Ada Jenkins LEARN Works Program:

Linking
Everyone to
Achievement
Resources
Now

The purpose of LEARN Works is to partner with families, schools and volunteers to support the academic progress of students and advance family engagement. The after-school program they provide is AMAZING, and no child is ever turned away because of an inability to pay.

Let me know if you plan on participating in Dewey’s 24 hour readathon! I will be updating here on this blog, as well as at:

Twitter: @abergsmanNC I will have a threat that I will be updating quite often!
Litsy: 4thhouseontheleft – I’m just starting out on Litsy, but plan to use it frequently during the readathon!
Instagram: 4thhouseontheleft

Please link to your platforms in the comments! If you haven’t signed up for the readathon yet, you can do so here!