Monthly Archives: March 2018

2018.28 – The Belles

I finally go to listen to The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton! I don’t often say this, but I wish I read it rather than listen to it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the audiobook narrator. I appreciate she had different voices for each character; however, her voice for Princess Sophia was whiny and a bit obnoxious. It perfectly fits the character, but it started to really annoy me and made it a bit difficult to finish.

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

Other than that, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The middle was a bit slow, and I kept waiting for something interesting to happen. But the end. I couldn’t get enough! I am so thankful this is a series, because the end left me hanging! There were so many twists and turns at the end…

Here’s the first part of the summary on Amazon: “Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful.”

The idea of Beauty is a commodity is very interesting, and highlights how much society will do just about anything to be beautiful. And, the pursuit of Beauty blinds us to the rest of reality. I loved that Camellia is a strong character, makes mistakes, and also is headstrong and stands behind what she believes in.

Can I have a pet teacup penguin? Please, and thank you.

I can’t wait for the sequel to this book!

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2018.27 – Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is another fantastic read! I listened to the audiobook, and adored it

Simon vs the Homo Sapeins Agenda by Becky Albertalli.

I don’t usually want to see a book to movie, but I’m seriously considering going to see Love, Simon…in theaters. For perspective, the last movie I saw in theaters was Finding Dory. So, this has to be a big deal.

I think my favorite part of this book is the emails between Blue and Jacques. They’re just so real. And, it leaves me wondering Blue’s true identity for the entire book, I kept guessing, second guessing, worrying, and changing my mind.

And, to make it even better, Simon totally gets me. As evidenced by this exchange in the book:

“What’s a dementor?”
I mean, I can’t even. “Nora, you are no longer my sister.”
“So it’s some Harry Potter thing,” she says.

On a more serious note, this book is a wonderful account of a kid growing up, wrestling with and accepting his own identity, coming out, and navigating a budding first love. I love how it approaches the whole idea of “coming out” — I don’t have any experience with that, except how ridiculous it is that I never had to come out as straight, because that’s not a thing. Another favorite quote, “Straight people really should have to come out, and the more awkward it is, the better. Awkwardness should be a requirement.” Yes, awkwardness must be the norm! There are so many moments when it felt like I was a high school kid, sitting at their lunch table hanging out with friends.

PS. If you liked this book, you may also like Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg. And anything by David Levithan. Or Rainbow Rowell. Or Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

2018.24 – Dear Martin

Dear Martin, by Nic Stone, is not only a book I loved, but also a book I needed to read. I don’t think I have the right words to do this book justice.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

I appreciate the influx of YA books that deal with racial injustice, police brutality, and institutional racism. I didn’t know we needed these books, which clearly illustrates why they are essential.

As I read The Hate U Give last summer, I vividly remember Starr reminding herself what to do when she gets pulled over by the police. I thought to myself, “my parents never taught me what to do if I got pulled over.” Then a few seconds later, “oh…” realizing why it was never a necessity.

This moment haunts me still, knowing just how much I don’t know. Whose fault is it that I grew up in privileged naiveté, thinking our society was doing just fine? Mine? My friends? My parents? My teachers? All of the above? That all doesn’t matter now. The important thing is that it’s my responsibility to continue to educate myself, empower my students to look at the world through a critical lens, and seek out ways to promote equality. I’m grateful for books to lead these conversations, make me question the way I and others see the world, and challenge me to ask more questions.

On to Dear Martin. Justyce is from a rough neighborhood, but attends a prominent prep school outside of Atlanta. After he is put into handcuffs by a white police officer for doing nothing, Justyce begins a quest to follow the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. One particular thing I loved about the book is that it is told in the 3rd person, yet the “Dear Martin” letters are in 1st person. This dynamic made the letters even more powerful, as it was a window into how Justyce was feeling and thinking.

And, I seriously love Doc, who teaches the Social Evolution class. I don’t usually vote for book to movie, but I’d support this one just to see the classroom scenes! The discussions are rich and powerful. I had to reread them multiple times, just to process all the viewpoints. Jared’s white-centric lens is what perpetuates institutional racism, as he has incredible trouble hearing anything that doesn’t fit into this box. We can’t let the Jareds of this world block us from having these conversations!

I’m grateful for the We Need Diverse Books and #ownvoices for pointing my reading journey in a more inclusive and diverse direction. I’ve added so many books to my to-reads list, and pre-ordered quite a few on Amazon. Definitely check out both of these communities!

I highly recommend this book! And, it’s going on my all-time favorite books list!

2018.23 – Wires and Nerves, Volume 1

That was fun! I read a graphic novel! I think the last graphic novel I read was Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi) back in 2014.

Wires and Nerves, by Marissa Meyer

I don’t usually gravitate toward graphic novels, but I picked this one up because I loved The Lunar Chronicles series so much. I’ve seen a lot of my students reading graphic novels lately, especially manga, and I can see why it is appealing–it was fun to see a lot of the action illustrated instead of written.

When I read, I like making my own mental pictures of characters and scenes. I thought I would have more trouble matching my own pictures to the graphic novel, but because it was drawings and not real people, I didn’t find this too challenging.

Wires and Nerves, Volume 1 was an easy read, and played on all the best parts of The Lunar Chronicles series. Iko is the main character, and it’s especially exciting to see her personality shine more. There are spoilers for the 5 books in the series, so don’t read it unless you’ve read the entire series.

The story picks up right after the end of Winter and it’s all about some of Iko’s adventures, challenges, and facing her android-ness (and some discrimination that comes with being an android with a strong personality). I loved that it checked in on all the characters from the series, almost like an extended epilogue. I wont say too much more than that, because spoilers.

I read Wires and Nerves on my Kindle, and the text was teeny tiny! Each screen was a 2 page spread, rotated horizontally. Thankfully, my Kindle taught me that I can double tap on a frame, and it’ll open it up full screen. Then, I can swipe through the rest of the frames on the spread. This did make reading slightly challenging. Next time, I’ll probably pull it up on my iPad or check out the book from the library.

Wires and Nerves, Gone Rogue (vol 2) is in my holds right now, and I’m looking forward to reading it soon!

2018.17-21 – The Selection Series

One of my students recommended this series to me, so I had to give it a go. I got a copy of The Selection, by Kiera Cass, audiobook from the library and started it right away. I was beyond hooked right away. And, I ended up finishing the first book in less than a day.

The Selection series, by Kiera Cass

Confession: I may have found some extra cleaning to do around the house, just to keep listening!

Immediately after finishing The Selection (or maybe it was right before I finished it), I checked out The Elite and The One audiobooks. Thankfully, they were both available! I started The Elite right away, I just had to know what happened next! I may or may not have finished The Elite AND The One on the same day…then, I checked out The Heir, and The Crown (Prince Maxon’s daughter, Eadlyn, is the main character) along with the other spinoff stories. I finished both of these books yesterday and today, respectively. And, I’m planning to start the extra stories sometime soon.

To recap, I finished all 5 books in 8 days!

Most of the time, my audiobook time is just commute time. This time, I spent some of the time cleaning and putzing around the house, playing games on my phone, and doing some mindless tasks on my computer.

The story itself is fairly simple. Another dystopian society–in this one there is a caste system, and America is a lowly 5 (out of 8). She enters the selection, a lottery system to find an eligible bride for the prince. She is selected, and joins 34 other girls at the palace for a whirlwind adventure. But, secretly, she’s in love with her friend Aspen (even lower, as a 6), vastly complicating matters as she gets to know Prince Maxon and the other girls.

Honestly, the story is fairly predictable, and obstacles come at regular intervals. I could be critical of the seemingly formulaic and overdone dystopian theme, but this was exactly what I needed right now. I appreciated that this series drew me in, got my mind off of external stresses, and transported me into a magical and royal world.

2018.15 – Rebel Seoul

This book has been staring at me from my shelf since it arrived at my door last September. This one is a little extra special–it’s written by my friend Jennie’s cousin, I saw her post about it on Facebook, and instantly pre-ordered it. How can I resist?

Rebel Seoul, by Axie Oh

Starting it kept getting interrupted by library holds with deadlines. It kept yelling, “read me! Read me!” every time I walked past. I felt so guilty knowing awesomeness was waiting for me.

Last week, I got to read Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh. Finally!

It’s set in 2199 in Neo Seoul, part of the Neo State of Korea (NSK), a dystopian world that separates low tech Old Seoul from high tech New Seoul by the Dome. Lee Jaewon is from Old Seoul and attends a military academy in Neo Soul. After doing exceptionally well in his senior test, he receives a job placement at the Tower, the government’s center of military and operations. He is paired with a specially trained soldier named Tera, and must gain her trust. Their world is in an endless war, and Tera has been created to pilot a God Machine, a gigantic piloted weapon. Jaewon finds himself falling for Tera, as he must confront his troubled past, choose who to trust, and decide on his future.

This book is a phenomenal read. I felt like I was immersed in their world, hanging out with friends. Best book feeling ever! And, I appreciated something that’s not USA/Euro-centric. I’m especially grateful for the glossary at the end that defined Korean terms and customs. I love the added bonus of reading and learning, which turns into YouTubing to learn even more.

Coincidentally I started Rebel Seoul during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. I watched a brief news segment about soju & food customs (specifically how to receive food from others) and observed Jaewon taking food with two hands. Also, I heard/saw Korean athletes called by last name first name, something I’ve either never noticed or has not been done on big sports broadcasts before. It was interesting that the NSK-born characters were called by last first, while non-NSK-born (but still Korean) characters were called by first last.

Many of my students are obsessed with K-pop, and I know they’ll love this book too.

One thing that makes this book even better is that Axie Oh is also a UCSD graduate! Go Tritons!