Call # 650.1 PEN
OK, the 2016-2017 school year is going to be my year! I’m going to be all about reading and my goal is to spread my love of reading and great writing. Instead of being lazy after I read a book I’m going to immediately add it to my blog, whether I loved it or not (although the books I love I will talk about at length!) A book I just finished that I absolutely loved is You Got This! by Maya S. Penn. The first thing that drew me to the book was the subtitle: “Unleash your awesomeness, find your path, and change your world.” Mr. Vallee and I are all about the awesome, so of course I had to read it. The second thing I noticed is the cover; the author is wearing a crocheted scarf/necklace combination, a scarflace, I thought that this girl has style! I was doubly intrigued! Well, when I opened the book I was not disappointed. At the age of fifteen Maya has already accomplished tons of things. She began her own Etsy business when she was eight, making and selling headbands and hats. Her store has since expanded to include hats, t-shirts and jewelry and she started a nonprofit to help kids all over the world. Maya is also the youngest female to do back-to-back TED talks.
You Got This! is all about finding what inspires you and following your dreams. The book is broken down into three parts: “Unleash Your Awesomeness,” “Find Your Path,” and “Change Your World.” In the first part Maya talks about figuring out what makes you you; she talks about making a dream board to discover what inspires you and finding what interests you may want to pursue in the future. Then in the second section Maya talks about how to implement an idea you may have. The third part consists of interviews with young people ranging in age from nine to 24 who have done really cool things to help people, from starting recycling programs in their school districts to founding nonprofits.
I read this book the week before school started and it turned out to be the perfect inspiration for the new year. I was so excited to make the library the coolest place ever that I was on Pinterest every day finding tons of amazing ideas for displays, books clubs and various projects; I got so overwhelmed that I never actually did anything. In the book Maya talks about different kinds of thinkers and according to her I’m a “flip-flopper,” meaning I keep discovering new things I want to do, but I never settle down enough to actually accomplish anything. Thanks to Maya’s advice I’ve narrowed down the things that I want to focus on this year and I’m really excited about the year ahead!
Call #FIC GRA
Great writers amaze me. Sometimes I finish a book like Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, which was my favorite book of last year, and I’m just speechless because I can’t imagine how anyone can come up with such amazing, lyrical language. I didn’t even write a blog post about Bone Gap because I knew I couldn’t do the novel justice. I’ve decided, however, that from now on I’m not going to let being intimidated by an awesome book stop me from writing about it. I think the way I have to look at it is that there have to be people like me to appreciate others’ work.
Anyway, on to the book that is currently amazing me: The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff. A couple of years ago I read their short story compilation, The Curiosities (see my review here), and while I don’t usually care for short stories, I really enjoyed this collection. What I liked even more than the fiction, though, was the fact that the writers spent a lot of time explaining their craft and commenting on their own stories, as well as each others’. This time out the trio presents three novellas, one by each of them. I liked Anatomy even more than their last outing. I absolutely adored Tessa Gratton’s story, “Desert Canticle”; it is beautifully written and manages to combine the themes of gender roles and equality with a story about a team of soldiers diffusing magical flower land mines in the desert. I also enjoyed Yovanoff’s selection, “Drowning Variations,” because she writes a story, is incredibly dissatisfied with it, and then reworks it. I think aspiring writers would really appreciate seeing Yovanoff take the bare bones of her story and rework it until it makes for a compelling read. I think my very favorite part of the book, though, is that the authors make notes in the margins of their novellas, which are really fun to read.
Call # FIC BLA
I always scold people for starting with the second book in a series; I just think that is so wrong! However, I just did it myself and I’m glad I did! I usually refuse to read anything about World War II or the Holocaust, but a book that Mr. Vallee ordered just caught my eye and I just started it. The book is called Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke and the author is Anne Blankman. I think the book caught my eye because the cover photo reminds me of a gothic novel and in November I’m drawn to atmospheric books like that. Well, as soon as I opened the book I realized that it was not in fact a gothic novel. Instead, it’s about Gretchen Whitestone, who is living and going to school in Oxford, England in the 1930s; she lives with a family who loves her and has an adoring boyfriend named Daniel. Whitestone is not Gretchen’s last name; she and Daniel have escaped Germany, where Adolf Hitler was a close friend of Gretchen’s father and his mistress Eva Braun was her best friend. This is when I realized that this is a sequel. The first book is called Prisoner of Night and Fog and I think it’s about Gretchen’s original escape from Germany.
I found this book really intriguing; I love it when an author thinks about what it might be like for an average teenager during a particular time in history. Of course, Gretchen isn’t really an average teenager since she used to call Hitler “Uncle Dolf.” I get the feeling from Conspiracy that the first book shows how Gretchen comes to see how evil Hitler is; she also falls in love with Daniel, who is Jewish. In Conspiracy Gretchen follows Daniel back to Germany when he receives word that his cousin has been attacked. Gretchen must help Daniel find out what happened to his cousin and then escape Germany again. In the meantime she must face Uncle Dolf one more time. That is the most powerful scene in a book filled with them. There is a lot to think about in Conspiracy, most notably what happens when your childhood beliefs have been turned upside-down. Now I can’t wait to read Prisoner of Night and Fog.
Call # FIC AHD
Welcome back to Miss Pickel’s Picks! It’s been a really long time since I’ve written. I came back to school last month determined to turn over a leaf and keep my blog updated, but somehow we’ve been back at school for six weeks and I’m just now writing my first post. I read a lot of really good books this summer, like Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers series, which somehow managed to be funny, dramatic, thrilling and chilling all at the same time. I’m so excited because Noah is reading the first book right now – I hope he likes it as much as I did! The other book I loved was The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds; I just read a book co-written by Reynolds and I promise I’ll blog about that next!
I just finished a wonderful book based on the Arabian story collection One Thousand and One Nights; I loved it so much that I had to write about it. The novel is called The Wrath and the Dawn; the author is Renee Ahdieh and I think she’s so amazing that I will read everything she ever writes! The book opens when 16-year-old Shahrzad’s best friend has been killed by the new king. For months the 18-year-old Caliph has married a new woman every night and had her killed the next morning. When Shahrzad hears the news about her best friend she is determined to put a stop to the king once and for all, so she volunteers to be the Caliph’s next bride. Her family is terrified and her childhood sweetheart follows her. However, Shahrzad has a plan and she will not be stopped. When the Caliph comes to her room that night Shahrzad begins a story about Agib, the “thief of Baghdad.” The Caliph is mesmerized by the story and as the sun begins to rise Shahrzad leaves off on a cliffhanger. Of course, the king can’t have her killed now; he has to find out how the story ends! The next night Shahrzad wraps up the story about Agib, but starts another tale and the king must again spare her life. This pattern follows night after night as Shahrzad and the Caliph begin to talk about their lives and she learns that there is much more to the young king than meets the eye.
I adore this book for so many reasons. First of all, the language is so lyrical that I found myself reading passages out loud. I also love the way Ahdieh writes her characters; I was drawn to the supporting characters even more than the main ones, especially Despina, Shahrzad’s servant and confidante. I think my favorite thing about the book, though, is how the author takes an ancient story and updates it. I’ve always been interested in mythology, fairy tales and folklore with a twist and The Wrath and the Dawn has become one of my favorites in that genre!
Call # FIC HAG
Finally I found a futuristic book that I actually like! I picked up Landry Park by Bethany Hagen because I liked the cover – a girl in a gorgeous gown in front of a huge estate. It reminded me of Downton Abbey, a show I am absolutely obsessed with. It’s actually a lot more like Downton than I expected. On Downton Robert, the Earl of Grantham, expects his oldest daughter, Mary, to follow in his footsteps by presiding over their estate and the surrounding lands. Madeline Landry’s father expects her to carry on their family’s great name as well. Like the world of Downton Abbey Madeline’s society, set 200 years in the future, is also based on the class system. In Madeline’s society, however, there is a grave danger to belonging to the Rootless, the lowest in their caste system. The upper class estates are powered by nuclear energy and the Rootless have the jobs of changing the chargers and disposing of them, exposing them to harmful and eventually fatal levels of radiation. Madeline knows that the Rootless exist, but she is sheltered from actually seeing them until she accompanies her friend Jamie to his job at the hospital and sees how the Rootless are actually treated. After Madeline strikes up a conversation with Ewan, the Rootless are no longer a faceless group of subhuman people like her father would have her believe. Not only is Madeline’s family gentry, they are part of the Uprisen; their ancestor, Jacob Landry, is responsible for the nuclear energy that powers their society as well as the extremely oppressive class structure. Once Madeline’s eyes are opened to the world around her she must decide whether to stick with her comfortable lifestyle or fight for what she believes is right.
I don’t usually enjoy books set in the future or any type of science fiction, for that matter. However, this book was interesting because there was a lot more dialogue than action and I liked Hagen’s world-building, especially when Madeline reads the journals of her ancestor Jacob and finds out how much destruction her family has been responsible for. There was a romantic element that I felt was overdone and I didn’t think the ending was concrete enough, but on the whole I think Landry Park is definitely worth a read!
Call # FIC ROW
OK, it’s been almost six months since I’ve written a blog post and it’s finally time for me to get back in the game! There are so many books I want to read and write about I can’t even count them. I’ve decided to start with this year’s Flume nominees, which are chosen by New Hampshire teens. Monsieur has read almost all of them and my goal is to read all of them before we vote for our favorites in April. So far I have read Winger by Andrew Smith and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys. I read Winger a year ago and I really liked it, but I never blogged about it, so all I remember now is that it’s about guys in boarding school. This is why I always have to write a blog post when I like a book. From now on I always will, even if it’s really short. I did read Out of the Easy and loved it; you can read my review here. I decided that the next contender I wanted to read was Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl because it looked like my kind of book: a contemporary novel with a touch of romance and a focus on writing. I ended up loving Fangirl in so many ways. I might vote for it to win the Flume award; I can’t imagine liking any of the other nominees more.
Fangirl is about Cath, who has always had an extremely close bond with her twin sister Wren. The girls’ mother left when they were young and their father raised them by himself. Cath and Wren have always shared a room; when the girls decide to go to the same college Cath just assumes that they’ll continue to be roommates. She’s shocked when Wren announces that she wants to room with someone else. Cath is devastated that Wren has decided that the beloved fan fiction the two of them have written for years is babyish and that she is too mature for it now that she is in college. Cath has never felt more alone after her father drops her off in her dorm room. To make matters worse, Cath’s terrified of her roommate, Reagan, and irritated by the fact that Reagan’s amiable, ultra-laid-back boyfriend Levi is always around. The only place Cath finds solace is in her fan fiction, which is based on a blockbuster Harry Potter-ish series. Cath’s fanfic has a huge online following, yet she subsists on granola bars for a week because she’s afraid to ask anyone where the dining hall is.
Reagan and Levi soon catch on to Cath’s diet and decide to make it their mission to drag her to the dining hall and beyond. Cath realizes that Reagan, who turns out not be nearly as scary as Cath thought, and Levi are no longer an item; Cath might just think he’s a little cute. Meanwhile, Cath is dealing with a suddenly odd relationship with her sister, a writing professor who doesn’t understand the merits of fanfic, and finishing the online story her thousands of fans are clamoring for. Cath has a crazy, amazing year and I absolutely loved following her every step of the way. I hope Rowell makes a series out of Cath’s adventures; I’d love to accompany her through every year of college!
Call # 306.874 ROD
As part of my renewed commitment to my blog I have decided to concentrate on nonfiction for real this year; I am going to try to read one nonfiction book a month. I decided to start with The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer. Maddy had picked it up off the shelf while waiting for an IMovie project to finalize and liked it so much she brought it home to finish. She brought it back the next day, saying she loved it. After reading it cover to cover in one day I can see why. Rodriguez’s book chronicles her senior project in high school, in which she pretended to be pregnant to see how people would react.
Gaby’s mother had her first child at age 15 and subsequently had seven more children, including Gaby, the youngest by several years. Many of Gaby’s brothers and sisters also became teen parents. As she grew up many people, including her siblings, warned her incessantly about becoming a teen mother. At the same time Gaby saw the way people talked about girls who did become pregnant at her school. When it came time to think about what she might want to do for her senior project she thought about all of the stereotypes that she continuously heard, not only about teen mothers, but about people who had teen mothers in their family. She decided that she wanted to find out firsthand what it felt like to hear whispered gossip and feel people staring at her. Gaby came to the conclusion that for her senior project she would pretend to be pregnant and record the reactions of the people in her life. This took a great deal of courage, not just on Gaby’s part, but her boyfriend Jorge’s as well. Gaby and Jorge decided to not even tell Jorge’s parents that the pregnancy was fake. Gaby got special permission from the principal to embark on this project and except for some healthcare professionals with whom she consulted the only other people who knew the truth were Jorge, Gaby’s mother, and her best friend, Saida. Saida was enlisted in the project to overhear the comments made about Gaby and report them back to her. The project culminated with Gaby doing a presentation in front of the entire school, where she explained that she wasn’t really pregnant and why she felt strongly about the project.
I flew through The Pregnancy Project. I loved learning about Gaby’s family, especially her strong, loving mother. As I was reading I felt that the main focus of Gaby’s senior project was to expose stereotypes; she wanted to show her classmates and teachers how easy it is to fall into the habit of stereotyping and how limiting and hurtful it can be to judge people. Gaby’s presentation opened a lot of eyes and I think her book does the same.