The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (audiobook)
by Mackenzi Lee
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is about a young man named Henry “Monty” Montague who was raised to be a gentleman, but he isn’t what his parents expect. He is bisexual and in love with gambling, over drinking, and risky behavior with women and men. He is in love with his best friend Percy, but he is unwilling to admit it to himself or anyone else. When his abusive father sends him on tour (a trip around Europe before settling into his position as a wealthy heir), he, Percy, and his sister Felicity find themselves in a predicament that takes them to parts of Europe they didn’t expect to see. In this story, you will fall in love with Monty, despite his behavior and bad choices.
What I liked about this book… there were a few things. First, I liked learning about a period of time I am familiar with, but learned more about from different perspectives. I know that being gay or bisexual was not only frowned upon, but considered unacceptable. I did enjoy reading about the clothing style, “modern” technology, and ideas of the time. Second, Monty is a character you are rooting for. He’s got a wicked sense of humor, and I feel like the author was watching a lot of Hugh Grant romantic comedies while writing this book. Third, the narrator was spot on.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it ran a little long for me. I had to stop part way through, listen to another audiobook, and then come back. It was good, but I got a little bored and lost interest in the middle, which I feel bad about, because I really did enjoy the book.
Book 71 of 40
(Book 37 of 2018)
Emmy & Oliver (audiobook)
by Robin Benway
I picked up this book, because I loved Far From the Tree so much, and I appreciated that Benway wrote an engaging, award-winning young adult novel that was NOT a romance. Emme & Oliver has romance, but it is much more than that. Emmy and Oliver have been friends since babies, and are even neighbors with parents who are close friends. When Oliver is kidnapped by his dad after school when they’re in second grade, Emmy is left empty, devastated, and incomplete. The novel begins with Emmy 10 years later, when she hears that Oliver has been found and is returning home. She is wary that they won’t have the same connection she has felt in their missing 10 years, but she isn’t disappointed when they renew their friendship. Emme helps him adjust to life back home, while he helps her struggle for freedom from her over protective and oppressive parents.
What I liked about this book was that it was so much more than a love story. Perhaps the real story was Emmy’s struggle with her parents, which is way more relatable than being kidnapped for 10 years or being soul mates. I did, however, love the love part of it, and found myself smiling and giggling like a teenager while I listened to it on my run. Sometimes I need a story that I can escape in, that isn’t too deep, and this idea of having a connection with someone that goes beyond physical connection is romantic in itself.
What I didn’t like about the story was that I wanted to know more about where their future was headed. I really enjoyed the story, so I can’t say anything but I wanted more of it!
Book 70 of 40
(Book 36 of 2018)
For Everyone (hardcover)
by Jason Reynolds
For Everyone is not a story, but a speech that Jason Reynolds wrote for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. It is not necessarily a motivational speech (written in verse), but a calling to the idea that success isn’t necessarily achieving your dream, but having a dream. He wrote about his own experience with fear and distress when he was struggling to reach his dream.
What I liked about this book is that it is short and I can easily read it in 20 minutes or less if I need a reminder, if I want to motivate my students to reach for their dreams, or if I want to imagine Jason Reynolds reading them himself.
What I didn’t like about this book is… nothing. I have nothing negative to say about my favorite author.
By the way, I actually got to listen to this weekend at the LA Times Festival of Books, AND I got to meet him! So… dream achieved!
Book 69 of 40
(Book 35 of 2018)
Ghost Boys (hardcover)
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
This brand new book is an important read for our children. I’ve talked a lot about The Hate U Give and Dear Martin and other books that discuss gun violence and black kids being shot by police, but those are young adult novels. We need something for those in between kids that aren’t quite ready for these, but still need exposure to this growing epidemic. Ghost Boys is perfect for that, and it gives students a history lesson, as well. Jerome is a seventh grade black boy in a poor, dangerous part of Chicago. He is also bullied by three boys at school. He makes a new friend named Carlos, who is Mexican but from San Antonio. Carlos gives Jerome a toy gun to play with, and Jerome finds himself shot by a white cop because of it. He reappears as a ghost, guided by the ghost of Emmett Till. Jerome sees his family mourning, stands in court when the judge decides not to press charges against the police officer who killed him, and is surprised when the officer’s daughter can see him. He forms a relationship with the daughter, and helps her sort through her own feelings.
What I liked about this book is that it is a story that will stick with me. Jerome could be almost any of my students, several who live in a questionable neighborhood with possible gang violence nearby. Many are afraid of the police. When I’ve heard about these situations in the news, the victims are often portrayed as being older, dangerous, threatening, etc. but in reality, they’re young men, boys even. Jerome was very young at heart and not a threat at all, but this still happened to him. I hope this causes my students to question the way “black and brown” kids are viewed, and be aware and proactive when they find themselves faced with a situation.
What I didn’t like about this book was that the cop was let off. But honestly? How many times has this happened in our country? Seriously… it’s frustrating in a book, and it should be more frustrating and obscene that it is happening today in 2018.
Book 68 of 40
(Book 34 of 2018)
by Kwame Alexander
I was so excited for Rebound, the prequel to The Crossover, Alexander’s Newbery-winning book. I was not disappointed, either. Rebound isn’t just prequel to the story. It takes us way back to Josh and JB’s father’s childhood. Chuck “Da Man” Bell is devastated over the loss of his father to a heart attack. After a few poor choices, his mother decides to send him to his grandparents’ for the summer, despite his protests. His grandparents help him to cope with his father’s (their son’s) death, and make peace with his mom. In the meantime, he spends some time with his cousin, who teaches him to play basketball and do something besides mope and read comic books. Chuck is faced with some tough decisions and chooses poorly, but luckily, he rediscovers the importance of family.
What I liked about this book was that I got to spend more time with a family I enjoyed before. Although they’re two completely different books and not even really a sequel/prequel to each other, it was interesting to read the history of the boys’ father, and see how certain characteristics carried on to the next generation.
What I didn’t like about this book was that I wanted more of it. I wanted more of the relationship between Chuck and Crystal. I think I will be truly happy if there’s a book between Rebound and The Crossover. Are you listening, Kwame?
Book 67 of 40
(Book 33 of 2018)
by Jason Reynolds
Sunny is the third book in Jason Reynold’s Track Series, preceded by Ghost and Patina. Sunny is one of the four newbies on the track team, and I’m hoping Reynolds continues with the series so we can learn about the fourth, Lu. I’d also love a backstory on Coach. (Hint hint Jason Reynolds… your readers are asking!)
Sunny is a little nutty, and writes in his diary. He lives with his dad, and we learn he feels the blame for his mother’s death since she died of an amniotic embolism the day he was born, and his dad hasn’t come out of his depression yet. His mom’s best friend Aurelia takes care of him and teaches him since he does not attend school. Sunny feels very alone, isolated, depressed, and in need of change, so he quits running, which is what his mother did- run. He decides since he likes dancing, he will throw the discus instead, so he can remain on the track team. This third story in the series is different, and shorter than the other two, but Sunny is a fun character, and the ending left me the way most of Reynolds’ novels have left me… not sure whether to cry or cheer him on.
What I liked about this book was that I got to be with my friends again. The thing about these characters is that their characters are all so well-written, it’s like you know them and how they will react. For readers who aren’t familiar with them, the writing makes it easy to get to know them. I love a good backstory.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it was a little hard to get into. I think I wasn’t so attached to his character before (like Ghost and Patina), but I liked getting to know more about him. The story definitely picked up as I got into it.
Book 66 of 40
(Book 32 of 2018)
The Wild Robot Escapes (hardcover)
by Peter Brown
When I first read The Wild Robot, I had high expectations for it. I’d heard a lot about it, and there was a lot of talk on Twitter and the reading communities I follow. I was disappointed. That’s why it took me awhile to buy it for my classroom, and I almost didn’t buy the sequel, except that a few of my students read it and enjoyed it, so I figured I’d buy it and read it, anyway. I loved the sequel!
In The Wild Robot Escapes, Roz finds herself refurbished on a farm. She is the new helper to a widower and his children. They’re mourning the loss of a wife and mother, and Roz is mourning the loss (or separation) of her son, Brightbill, who is now the leader of his flock of geese. Roz builds a relationship with the animals on the farm and the two children, and they help her escape by removing her tracking device. Roz is then free to escape and try to return home to their island, but not before facing danger and an important mystery person in her life.
What I liked about this book was that Roz gained a bigger sense of the world in her role as a mother. She also learned her purpose, which is to help. She stands firm in not causing harm to others, while still protecting those she loves. I think this is a great message for our children, that you can make change and stand up and protect others without resorting to violence or hurting others.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it had me hooked! It’s usually the first book that is awesome and the second one that is harder to enjoy, but this was engaging and filled with emotion from beginning to end. If you’re like me and you didn’t care for the first book so much, definitely give the second one a try. I even missed lunch with friends, because I had to read in my classroom alone.
Book 65 of 40
(Book 31 of 2018)