The Wednesday Wars

I read The Wednesday Wars for the PopSugar Reading Challenge (read a book with a month or day of the week in the title), and it just so happened to also fit in the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge as well (Newbery Award or Honor book). The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt snuck by me in that awkward time between when I was still reading Newbery Award Winners and going to grad school, so I totally missed it. Until now. While the blurb did not interest me at all (see below), the book ended up totally engrossing me.

Blurb from Goodreads:

In this Newbery Honor-winning novel, Gary D. Schmidt offers an unforgettable antihero. The Wednesday Wars is a wonderfully witty and compelling story about a teenage boy’s mishaps and adventures over the course of the 1967–68 school year in Long Island, New York. 

Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself.

There seems to be a lot of mixed reactions on Goodreads as to whether or not the intended audience enjoys this book, or will enjoy it, or if it’s a book adults think kids should like and read. I go back and forth on this one, as I tended to really enjoy award winners when I was at the intended age. However, a lot of my peers felt they were automatically boring books.
In the case of The Wednesday Wars, I don’t see most kids picking it up off the shelves loving it, but I do see it as a very meaningful and enjoyable read aloud and discussion in the classroom. Much of the context surrounding the Vietnam War and Shakespeare plots are foreign to 4th graders, but could lead to some excellent discussion perhaps an early appreciation for Shakespeare.

The Marvels

I started reading The Marvels by Brian Selznick back in March, and tore through the pictures. Then I got to the text and read maybe 20 pages and got bored. The book lived in my car for almost a month. I even changed my Goodreads to mark it DNF (did not finish). For some reason, however, I was drawn back to the book on Thursday.

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I stayed up way too late reading. Since it had been almost a month since I began the book I had forgotten who was who, so I kept having to flip back. In the end, I really liked it! I like the construction of The Invention of Hugo Cabret more than The Marvels (I still haven’t read Wonderstruck) since the text was interspersed with the pictures, and the pictures are really Selznick’s strength.

I don’t want to summarize too much, because I’m afraid I’m going to give away the twists. Check out the blurbs on Goodreads, but for goodness sake, don’t read the 1 star reviews. Makes me sad for humanity. So many close minded people out there.

PopSugar Reading Challenge: Book with pictures

Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge: Book over 600 pages

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: A YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ

Heartwood Hotel: A True Home

A friend of mine from grad school posted on Instagram that she was approved for a NetGalley copy of Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan and I decided I had to try as well. I am so pumped about the third installment of Crazy Rich Asians! Anyway, once I got into NetGalley (it had been a while) I poked around and found a few more books that might fit into my goals of 1) reading more juvenile books this year and 2) could fit the PopSugar Reading Challenge checklist. One of which is Heartwood Hotel: A True Home by Kallie George.

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The story centers around orphaned mouse Mona who finds herself carried away in a storm and finds refuge in a fantastical hotel called Heartwood Hotel. Readers meet sweet woodland creatures (like Mrs. Prickles the cook, Tilly the squirrel maid and owner Mr. Heartwood the badger), go on brave adventures with Mona, and learn about Mona’s family and past.


One Goodreads reviewer compared Heartwood Hotel to The Wind in the Willows, and while I see his point, I disagree. Mostly because the writing and characterizations are lacking. While Heartwood Hotel is no The Wind in the Willows it is a sweet and enjoyable read. I foresee those who like Critter Club and Puppy Place and The Saddle Club snapping these up. The fact that the book is an ARC and already a “book one” tells me publishers are also seeing the connections.

Upcoming 2017 Releases

Now that we’ve gone through all (or most of) the Best of 2016 books, it’s on to 2017! Forever Young Adult released their “Most Anticipated Books of 2017: Sequels and Follow-ups” list.

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Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

I have to admit, I have no interest in the majority of these titles. However, I am all about Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You) and I need to know what happens! Stephanie from Forever Young Adult pretty much sums up my feelings on the third book in the series: “Why I’m Excited: More Lara Jean, what the what?! But I’m so torn, y’all! On the one hand, I love Lara Jean and her family, and I will absolutely jump at the chance to see more of them. But on the other hand, she and [REDACTED] ended the last book in a good place, and if there’s anything we know about telling a story, is that there must be some kind of conflict to keep it interesting. And, guys, I don’t want there to be any more dramalama for Lara Jean and [REDACTED]. Why do you do this to me, Jenny Han?”

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The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

I LOVED Code Name Verity so I’m super pumped about the prequel, The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein. It has a lot to live up to, and I don’t think it will pack quite the same punch as Code Name Verity (for obvious reasons), but Wein created such wonderful characters I’m excited to spend time with them again.

I also checked out Forever Young Adult’s list of upcoming YA standalones, in addition to various Goodreads lists, and found myself a few more intriguing titles.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee

This is an incredibly niche genre, but I find I enjoy fantasy most when it’s set in historical time periods. Think The Night Circus. The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue seems to fit this niche nicely. And there’s a boy-boy love story, which I still (unfortunately) do not see a lot of in literature.

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Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

New Sarah Dessen! Hooray! I love her. Once and for All promises to be just as delightful as all the rest of Dessen’s novels. I can’t believe she’s written 13!

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When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is billed as a “laugh out loud, heartfelt, YA romantic comedy about two Indian American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.” I think that pretty much sums up why I want to read it. Also #weneeddiversebooks and #ownvoices

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Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

First, amazing cover! Second, I really enjoy middle grade novels in verse. Add that to our main character having Tourettes Syndrome and changing schools, and I’m officially intrigued.

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Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King

I really enjoyed A.S. King’s Ask the Passengers (side note, interesting that the YA novels are under A.S. King and this MG novel is Amy Sarig) and I’m interested to see how she writes for Middle Grade. Me and Marvin Gardens is about a lonely boy who befriends a secret creature who eats plastic, and only plastic. The Goodreads blurb describes it as “her most personal novel yet, Printz Honor Award winner Amy Sarig King tells the story of a friendship that could actually save the world.”

Brightly also has a list of 2017 Picture Books. I’m very excited about the Jim Henson biography and Anna Dewdney’s latest. I was so sad to hear of her passing!

Holiday Reading

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I’m running a bit behind on this year’s Christmas-y listens, and haven’t quite finished The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, but since it’s about the 12 Days of Christmas and those go beyond Christmas Day, I figure I’m good. The Twelve Clues of Christmas is the 6th installment of Her Royal Spyness series, and one of the most grisly. Our fearless gang finds themselves in a quaint English village for Christmas were a death a day occurs in the order of the 12 Days of Christmas song. Doesn’t sound very Christmas-y, nor very quaint, but I love it. Probably because Georgie and Darcy finally make some headway in their “relationship.”

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I started with my annual re-listen of Lauren Willig’s Mischief of the Mistletoe. I believe I’ve mentioned my love of Willig’s Secret History of the Pink Carnation series before, and I think this is one of my favorites! It’s so hard to decide sometimes… Mischief of the Mistletoe is the only one in the series not to include Eloise and Colin, our modern day frame story couple. When I first started reading the series I really enjoyed the Eloise storyline. I was also a student in England and could appreciate several of the dilemmas Eloise found herself experiencing. However, as the series went on, I found myself skipping the Eloise and Colin chapters (much harder to do in audio), so I really appreciate not having to deal with them in this version. Also, I love Turnip. He certainly isn’t a swashbuckling hero, but a nice, loyal, (if goofy one), which is a nice change of pace.

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Since my parents moved up north we have a 4 (ish) hour drive each way. To pass the time I checked out The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, which is my husband’s favorite Christmas book. Maybe it was lack of sleep (we hosted my high school friend’s annual holiday party the night before), or maybe it’s the cultural/political climate today, but I almost cried at the end. I don’t remember having that kind of reaction in the past.

*updated for pictures and links*

Ghosts

When I worked at the school library in Louisiana I could not keep Raina Telgemeier’s books on the shelf. The books are just as popular here in Minnesota. I love her books Smile and Sisters and I enjoyed Drama. I had high hopes for Ghosts and I’m not sure they were filled.

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Firstly, I find Telgemeier’s best books are those based off her life (Smile and Sisters), and Ghosts is a completely fictionalized story of a girl who moves to a new town for her sister’s health. This particular town, Bahia de la Luna, takes ghosts seriously and loves celebrating Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

I don’t know if it’s because I read this book too quickly (wanted to get it back into circulation), or if it is actually a fault of the book, but the connection between the two sisters (Cat and Maya) felt limp. We see Cat’s struggle with the move and her struggles with Maya’s Cystic Fibrosis, and how that affects her family.  However, it all seems very surface level.

Secondly, the way Telgemeier represents Dia de los Muertos feels very off to me. I don’t celebrate the holiday myself and my  knowledge stems from middle and high school Spanish class, so by no means do I claim to be an expert. In my opinion it seems like Telgemeier borrowed the celebration of Dia de los Muertos as a vehicle for her story about sisters and sickness and death. As far as I recall, ghosts don’t love orange soda and Dia de los Muertos isn’t about finding a 17th century dead boyfriend, like Cat’s new friend does, nor is it a Halloween type of celebration.

Other, better writers, discuss the issue in their blog posts. Let me know what you think!

Maud Hart Lovelace Roundup Round 2

Voting ended last Friday (8th) but the winner isn’t announced until April 23rd, so I still have time! Since my last post I crossed two more off the list.

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

I kind of wish I’d read it instead of listening, since I missed out on all the awesome illustrations. However, the audio is read aloud by Neil Gaiman himself, so that makes up for a lot. It’s a great story about time travel and imagination, as told by the father who went out to get milk for his children’s cereal.

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

The Fourth Stall certainly kept me on the edge of my seat! I’m torn because I want to like Mac, and sometimes I did, but mostly I didn’t. He makes for a great narrator however, and I really liked the gangster/noir vibe the audio book had. I didn’t notice the noir feeling as much when reading as opposed to listening, but that’s probably because the narrator did such a great job with the stereotypical inflections and stylizing when speaking. However, the narrator gave Vince a very NYC/New Jersey accent which doesn’t fit with the Illinois location.

Not my personal vote for the Maud Hart Lovelace winner, but I can see the appeal.