Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.”

Synopsis from GoodreadsThirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle’s mother has disappeared. While tracing her steps on a car trip from Ohio to Idaho with her grandparents, Salamanca tells a story to pass the time about a friend named Phoebe Winterbottom whose mother vanished and who received secret messages after her disappearance. One of them read, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” Despite her father’s warning that she is “fishing in the air,” Salamanca hopes to bring her home. By drawing strength from her Native American ancestry, she is able to face the truth about her mother.

Feelings: I remember reading this book when I was in 8th grade. It was an assigned text and while I couldn’t really recall what it was about exactly – I remember loving it. Recently, I’ve been reconsidering what books I teach in my 8th grade class and thought I’d see about this one, so it was time for a re-read. I’m SO glad I picked this book up again!

Something that really jumped off the pages to me is the way Creech writes. There’s something really poetic and magical about the words and phrases she uses. I felt myself getting swept away in her language and that’s something I really love about reading.

There are a lot of things going on in this story – a lot of really well woven together elements. In the “present”, we’re traveling with Sal and her wild grandparents and she tells us a story of the past, introducing us to Phoebe Winterbottom and Mrs. Cadaver. As she relays this story, we learn more about her as a person than we could if we were just in the present. Within this tapestry, there’s mystery and sweet young love and heartbreak and layers and layers more.

Issues: At the very beginning, I got a little confused about whether or not Sal’s mom was alive. She told us her mom was “resting peacefully”, but then talked about how the trip with her grandparents was so they could “bring her home.” I don’t know if this was something the author used to make us question intentionally, but it’s probably the closest thing I have to an issue in this book.

Characters: Making this journey with Sal made her more relatable to me. I haven’t experienced everything that she has, but because she was telling her story to us herself, I felt what she was going through. There were moments where I could tell that Sal had hardened her emotions, which is understandable, but we got to see her let people in and let herself feel. This is so powerful, especially to young readers who may see themselves in her situation.

Phoebe is a PILL. Sometimes I wanted to tell her to shut up, but I never got so annoyed by her that I skimmed over her dialogue or hoped for her life to fall to pieces. I certainly wanted her to appreciate her mother more and I think she was well on her way there by the end.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this story was spending time with Sal’s grandparents. I’ve lost beloved grandparents and reading about her travels made me imagine laughing with my family, too, and that’s a precious thing to me. Their love for each other and for Sal was really sweet and a dynamic that I think YA literature is missing the mark on more and more.

Final thoughts: This is still one of my favorite books even after all these years. I’ve been reading so much modern YA lit lately that it was nice to pick up a book that was written more than 10 years ago and see how different stories were. (Because they may have had a lot of similarities, but there are for sure a lot of differences!) I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little bit different.

 

Goodreads rating: 3.95/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4.5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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Startled by His Furry Shorts by Louise Rennison

“Oh Goddygodgod, am I never to be free from my own bonkerosity?”

Synopsis from GoodreadsGeorgia is in quite a predicament. Dave the Laugh has declared his love for her (at least she thinks he was talking about her), leaving her in a state of confusiosity. And then when she finally decides to give Masimo an ultimatum — to be her one and only — he tells her he needs to think about it. To distract herself from her romantic woes, Georgia throws herself into Mac-Useless play rehearsals and planning a Viking wedding, and tries to avoid all thoughts of boy decoys, Italian-American dreamboats . . . and let’s not forget guitar-plucking Sex Gods!

Feelings: This particular book didn’t have an Audible.com option, so I went to the Kindle book. I have to say, this may be my favorite book in the series so far. It just finally felt like things were happening! Georgia has multiple love interests and real, tangible things are developing with each one, which probably means the next book is going to be really cram-jam full and I am HERE for it.

Issues: If you’ve been following me as I journey through these books, you’ll know that I’m really not a big fan of Robbie (aka The Sex God). Their relationship always seemed empty and bland to me. However, in this book he wrote her a letter and it showed very real interest in her. I don’t know how to feel about him coming back into her life, so it’s under “issues” because I’m worried he’ll throw a big wrench in her life…again.

One of the downfalls of listening to audiobooks (for me) is that I can miss details. I’m not an auditory learner so I can tend to zone out and then totally not know what’s actually going on. For example: Who the devil is Mabs? Where did she come from and how did I miss her? This may not be an actual “issue” of the author throwing in a new character without fanfare and just be me missing something because I listened to the last two books. So take this “issue” with a grain of salt.

Characters: One thing I’ve been watching for with Georgia is her ability to have an actual relationship with her parents. She has a lot of love for her little sister Libby, but talks crap about her parents and ignores them most of the time. In the last book or two, that started to shift just a smidge. In this book, though, we finally see something real. Part of it is probably because Georgia is getting older and maturing a tiny, minuscule bit, but it’s also partly because Georgia finally has something that she values her mom’s input on.

Jas and Georgia are back with their weird friendship. They ignore each other, love each other, then repeat. It’s classic teenage girl, really, but it gets old. Georgia hasn’t been as rude to Jas as she has in the past, though, so RESULT! Rosie is probably the weirdest friend character I’ve ever read. And her relationship with Svan is truly baffling. And poor Ellen. She’s like the sad little puppy of the ace gang. I’m curious as to how Georgia will fill Ellen in on her past with Dave the Laugh, considering Ellen is like obsessed with him. Then there’s Jools, who, like Mabs, seemed to come out of nowhere. All I know about Jools is that she’s with Rollo…but don’t ask me anything concrete about Rollo. So many friends, so little details.

Final thoughts: While things finally were developing in our storyline, it’s all still the same old Georgia: parents, boys, friends, and self-image. These books are silly and hilarious with this particular book at the top.

Goodreads rating: 4.13/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.3/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers (audiobook) by Louise Rennison

“What in the name of Beelzebub’s stamp collection are you on about?”

Synopsis from GoodreadsHilariously funny author Louise Rennison’s fabby sixth book of the confessions of crazy but lovable teenager Georgia Nicolson. Guaranteed to have the nation laughing their knickers off! Laugh your socks off at Georgia’s tales from her trip to Hamburger-a-gogo land, and her attempts to entice Masimo, the Italian stallion. Can Georgia become the composed sex-kitten she aspires to be!? Surely not!

Feelings: Once again, I chose the audiobook. I’m just finding it to be more enjoyable! 

I have to say…I’m getting “over” wanting Georgia to mature. She’s experiencing some very real realities of growing up (as well as some really extreme and weird situations.) When I decided to stop analyzing these books like they’re classic literature, I found myself really…finally enjoying the story. It’s like I’m really starting to get it: the appeal and draw of Georgia. And I’m a fan. 

Issues: I think the only part of this story that I had an issue with was when Robbie showed back up again. It seemed like we were headed towards two other love interests, but then the Sex God poked his head back in and reminded Georgia he existed. So now she’s got 3 guys in her life and a lot of feelings to navigate through. I don’t know…I guess this is a stretch for “issue”…it’s more like a personal annoyance. 

Characters: In both this book and the one before it, I found myself enjoying Georgia much more. I thought it was really funny how while planning out her trip to America, she thinks it should be simple to get from Memphis to Manhattan so she can track down Massimo. There are multiple problems there, but her teenage girl mind doesn’t see them. I was also really happy to see her having a very real moment with her mom and actually enjoying herself! Hoping mom’s advice plays out in Georgia’s favor!

We started to see a different side to Jas when she and Tom decided to take a break, but she was almost unrecognizable in this book. She was so down in the dumps! But then she started to come out of it, but I’m glad she experienced this. It’s good for her. 

Narrator: If you missed my review of book five in this series, I talked about how the audio books are narrated by the author, Louise Rennison, and it makes ALL the difference. Obviously, nobody understands her characters the way she does so she hits everything on the head. In this book, she does some American accents and it’s pretty hilarious.

Final thoughts: Again, I’d recommend the audio versions of these books. They’re just really fun and enjoyable. However, the print copies of these books are still good reads. The style it’s written in makes it easy to read. As for Georgia herself, I’m enjoying her more and more and I’m ready to continue on with her adventures…which is good because we’re only halfway through!

 

Goodreads rating: 4.09/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.1/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Top 5 Books from the Year this Blog Began

The year was 2015… Okay, I’m not going to actually start this post THAT dramatically. Lately, it’s been hard to meet my self-imposed blog schedule. Life has happened, reading slumps have been all the rage, and I just haven’t wanted any kind of schedule going on in my life. You know?

So, I started to reflect on how consistent my posts have been for the last two years and I have to say, I’m proud of myself! There have only been a few times in two years that I’ve missed scheduling a post. Only a few times! I decided that for this week’s Thursday list, I would go back to the year I started and struggled to establish a routine, looking back at the books I loved most that year. I started writing during June, so I’m going to look at that first full year, from June to June.

For each book, I’ve linked my written to review to the word “reviewed”, as well as the Goodreads page to the book’s title.

On June 14, 2015, I reviewed A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

I gave this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars and I stand by that even today. I’m a big fan of Maas. Granted, I haven’t read the third book in this series yet. Mostly because I’ve heard mixed reviews and I’m scared to throw off how much I love this series! This first book really set up the world they live in and established the magic system. The second book took both those foundations and blew them up (in a good way). One thing I remember about reading this book is how I read it: I was completely engrossed. Pulled in by Maas’ world building and characters and I didn’t want to leave. Those are my favorite kinds of stories, especially with fantasy.

On October 13, 2015, I reviewed Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery.

I gave this book a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. You guys, I’d never read this book until October 2015! My mother is probably ashamed because Anne Shirley is her favorite. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate these kinds of stories. Since 2015, I’ve not only read this book but I’ve also listened to the audiobook…twice. One was narrated by Mary Sarah, the “classic” audiobook, and the second was the one narrated by Rachel McAdams. I love everything about this story, from Anne to Gilbert to Marilla to Matthew and everyone in between.

On February 16, 2016, I reviewed Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys.

I gave this book a rating of 5 stars. Even today, it’s one of my favorites and the author is a “go to” writer for me. She writes something, I’m reading it. Sepetys does historical fiction brilliantly. You can tell on every page that she has researched the time period, the people, and the events she’s writing about. I even read her author’s notes at the ends of her books because they’re so fascinating. Salt to the Sea taught me about the Lithuanian experience during WWII, as well as the tragedy that was the ship Wilhelm Gustloff. This is a story that I recommend to my students every year, as well.

On March 1, 2016, I reviewed Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.

I gave this book a rating of 4.75 out of 5 stars. What a thrilling ride this book took me on! The way the story was written is really fascinating and, I think, groundbreaking. As you flip through the pages, you see diary entries, IM chats, ship logs, security camera footage, and much more. The story comes to life and it’s totally gripping. It can be hard to figure out what’s going on at first because page 1 just jumps right into a lot of action, but I PROMISE it’s worth it. Even if you aren’t typically a science fiction fan, you’ll enjoy it.

On May 10, 2016, I reviewed Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.

I gave this book 4.75 out of 5 stars. This is another book that has a bit of a different writing style. The very beginning gives us a new fairy tale, setting a stage that we’re not sure about. Then we get three shorter novels, essentially, with different settings, characters, and conflicts. (I say “shorter novels” because they’re longer than short stories, but shorter than novels. They’re fully developed stories…weird to categorize.) The stories are all connected by a magical harmonica. (Don’t let me lose you there. It’s not like a flying, talking, juggling musical instrument kind of situation.) I found this novel to be really beautiful and full of historical implications and human realities.

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Keep the Home Fires Burning, Part One by S. Block

Synopsis from Goodreads1940, Great Paxford, Cheshire. In Britain’s darkest hour, an extraordinary community of women strive to protect the Home Front. When a plane crashes in the village, every one of their lives will change forever . . . The women of Great Paxford are no strangers to hardship and the extraordinary power of what women can achieve when they work together. But the most testing moment of their lives so far is hurtling toward them. Can Frances, Sarah, Pat, Steph and the women of the WI survive their greatest challenge yet?

Feelings: I am SO EXCITED about this, friends. This is part one in a new four part series of ebooks that will be published one per month from July-October. In October, you’ll be able to purchase the four parts together as one novel. This series picks up after the TV series Home Fires ended. If you’re unfamiliar with this series, you need to stop reading this blog and go binge watch it. Go now! I’m obsessed with it. Unfortunately, the final season was left on a HUGE cliffhanger because they were anticipating another season…but then they got canceled. So our story gets to continue in written form – yes!

This particular book starts literally at where the show left off and relays to us the scene we remember. Then we backtrack, setting it up, which is good if you haven’t seen the episode in a while or if you’ve never seen it at all. In fact, I’d say that more than a third of this book is spent giving us back story. I didn’t mind it that much because it was helpful to remember who everyone was, but I also knew that this was just the beginning of this four part story. So there’s plenty of upcoming pages for new things to happen!

Issues: There’s one character, Annie, that I remember not really liking in the series and that feeling continues in this book. She’s fine on her own, I just don’t like how she’s starting to confuse Teresa and make her question her decision to marry Nick. Teresa has committed to him, so I need Annie to back off a little bit. T’s got her own issues and doubts without Annie adding more.

The way it was written makes sense to me, but nothing really actually happened since where the series ended. This book was just kind of setting the stage and leaning into the next book. I get it and I think it was necessary, but again…it made it where nothing new took place.

Characters: Because of the way Block backtracked in most of this book, we didn’t get any real character development just yet. However, there are some new changes that’ll impact the characters in the very near future. Most likely what I’ll do for each installment is focus on a few characters. This story has a large cast, so covering all of them would take a lot of space!

Joyce – Oh, Mrs. Cameron. I didn’t care for her when the TV series started, but she really grew on me. I loved how she went off with Miriam and the others when M started going into labor. She’s really taking on a new role in their community, really being part of their lives. I’m also really grateful that Pat and Bob are living with her for the time being. Pat needs someone to lean on other than her jerk husband. But Joyce’s fawning over Bob needs to stop. I’m hoping Pat will open up to her so that she sees Bob for who he really is.

Sarah – She was a character that I couldn’t quite figure out and the book has helped me. Being in her head and seeing what she’s thinking has shown me how afraid she is about where Adam could be and what her true feelings were during her time with Nick. I hope she gets closure about Adam’s whereabouts, whether he comes home or she gets reliable information.

Miriam – I was worried about Miriam when David went missing during his time at sea. She was so convinced that everything would be ok that she was almost delusional. Then when she got pregnant and David came home, all really was well, other than David’s war wounds. The plane crash and the traumatizing rescue are a new obstacle for Miriam, both mentally and emotionally, as well as physically. In this book, she started to seem again like the Miriam that worried me.

Final thoughts: I would definitely recommend watching the series before picking up the books, however it’s not completely necessary. Block does a good job of giving us background information and character histories, so you could pick up the story with these books and have a full understanding of what’s going on and who these people are.

Pick this up if you liked:

Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth (books or TV series)

Goodreads rating: 4.57/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Away Laughing on a Fast Camel (audiobook) by Louise Rennison

“Americans…they call knickers ‘panties’. That is not really speaking English, is it?”

Synopsis from GoodreadsThe Sex God has left the country, taking Georgia’s heart with him. So she decides to display glaciosity to all boys — a girl can only have her heart broken so many times. Until she meets Masimo, the new singer for the Stiff Dylans. The Sex God is gone, but here comes the Dreamboat, and Georgia’s away laughing on a fast camel (whatever that means).

Feelings: This is #5 in this series and I’m slowly, but surely, making my way through Georgia’s (mis)adventures. The last book or two was starting to feel repetitive and I was turning against Georgia a bit. So for book 5, I decided it was time to try out the audiobooks. Granted, not all 10 books have audio adaptations. I am SO glad I made the switch for this book. The narrator is Louise Rennison, the author, who adds so much life to her own written words. Actually, what’s funny is that after I started listening, I still didn’t realize somehow that the author was the narrator and I kept thinking, “Wow, this narrator really understands Georgia.” Well of COURSE she does.

This particular book had a large number of funny scenes. There’s one scene in particular where Georgina finds herself at a church. She sees a place with candles being lit and assumes it’s the Cosmic Request Shop and accidentally sets an old lady’s head scarf on fire. They get in a handbag fight and it’s greatness. To me, these are the quinticential Georgia kind of scenes and I love that we got more than a couple of these in this book.

Issues: I don’t think I actually had any issues with this one! (It could be because I’m not a auditory learner. I never get as much from audiobooks as I do from actually reading the words…so I always miss stuff. But it could also be that I’d have the same reaction if I’d read the physical book! Guess we’ll never know!)

Characters: In my last couple of reviews, I’ve talked about how Georgia is rude and becoming more and more so as the books go on. She didn’t come off nearly as mean in this book and I think that has a LOT to do with the way Rennison narrates her character. She took out a lot of the “bite” I was adding to Georgia’s words in my own head and I ended up liking her a good deal more. The way I was reading her had a different tone, so I’m glad to be getting the author’s perspective and intention. That doesn’t always happen!

We started out being obsessed (still) with Robbie the Sex God and wondering about Dave the Laugh…then we got a new boy! Finally we’re shaking things up! I’m also really glad to see Georgia and Dave having an actual friendship. Everything happened quickly between her and Robbie, so it’s nice to see her having conversations and really connecting with someone without too much snogging going on in between.

This book didn’t have as much about friendship as some of the others. Although I have to say, I’m ok with Tom and Jas not being cuddly duddly all the time now. It’s healthy for them to be separated and to figure things out, so I’m glad we’re getting to see them experience that. I think it’ll be good for Georgia and Jas’ friendship, too. Maybe. It’s Georgia, so…who knows?

Final thoughts: This may be my favorite book in this series so far. Maybe because Robbie wasn’t really in it – not a fan! I would highly recommend these audiobooks narrated by the author. They’re funny and quick – each are 4 or 5 hours only! (That’s pretty short for me, compared to the books I usually reach for.) Georgia is growing up a little bit more and I’m excited to continue this series to see what else she gets herself in to!

*See my review for book four, Dancing in my Nuddy-Pants, HERE!

Goodreads rating: 4.06/5

Audible.com rating: 4.4/5

My rating: 4.25/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

Top 5 Books of 2017 (so far)

July rolled around and I realized I hadn’t chosen my top books of the year! The summer is moving so quickly, friends. It’s hard to keep up! I’ve chosen 5 print books, 1 audiobook, as well as 1 graphic novel/comic book to represent the best I’ve read this year (so far).

Born a Crime audiobook by Trevor Noah (who also narrates it)

I love Trevor Noah’s humor and enjoy watching his show on Comedy Central from time to time. I was expecting this book to be funny, but I wasn’t expecting to learn as much as I did. Trevor accounts his life growing up in South Africa in the aftermath of apartheid as a mixed race boy. His stories are so enlightening and powerful. I really enjoyed listening to him read his own stories because of the voices and accents he used, as well as the emotion. Read my full review HERE.

March, Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

I’ve read the first two books in this graphic novel series and found book two to be full of information that I didn’t know. The first book is enlightening, but the events that took place were ones I knew about, so I just had the opportunity to see them from a different perspective. Book two, however, involved events I had heard about, but couldn’t explain to someone. It’s full of raw emotion, simple artwork, and poignant words. My full review is HERE.

Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Hands down, my favorite book of the year. This is the second book in The Dark Artifices trilogy and it’s some of Clare’s best work, in my opinion. The characters are so rich and tangible, the writing is insightful and whimsical, and the events are twisted but well done. Emotions ran high while reading this. It answered questions, set up the next book, and brought back old Shadowhunter favorites. Read my full review HERE.

The Royal Treatment by MJ Summers

I really enjoyed the way this book was written. Not only did the perspective go back and forth between our two main characters, but our narrators also “spoke” to the reader, which was really fun. The ending came together in a way that made sense, in my opinion. Sometimes prince and pauper love stories don’t track with me, but this one was seamless. My full review is HERE.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy by Jenny Han

This series was EXACTLY what I needed at the end of a reading slump. I wanted romance, but not stupid fluff. I wanted some drama, but not enough to make me feel stressed. I wanted friendship and family, but more romance than anything. Check, check, check. I loved the main character, I loved her love interest, I loved her family. Can I rave any more? Just read my review HERE to understand. HA!

Summerlost by Ally Condie

I had a student who recommended this book to me and I’m so glad that they did. It was both simple and complex. The writing was easy to track with, the verbage was engaging, and the characters lept off the page right at me. It’s a quick and easy read, but it’ll leave you with all the feels! Read my full review HERE.

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

If you’ve been around with me for at least a year, you know that I’m a big Sarah Dessen fan. I’ve read all 13 of her books, which I documented HERE. I think this particular storyline was well put together. Time flipped back and forth between chapters, lettng us learn more about our main character in the past and then showing us how that affected her in the present. It was slow to start, but worth it in the end! Plus, if you’ve read Dessen’s previous books, you’ll be able to see some parallels and make some connections! Love that. Read my full review HERE.

What are your top reads of the year so far? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn