Tag Archives: #hubchallenge

The Hub – May

May was my burn out month for reading challenges. This wouldn’t necessarily appear to be the case because of the number of books I read, but I had a run of books that were either unimpressive or DNFs. It feels like there was a better book selection last year, or I at least had a better connection with the selection. That being said, some of the best books I’ve read so far this year were Hub books – The Truth About Forever, Along For the Ride, and The Female of the Species.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst
This book was enjoyable enough, and the concept was unique and well-thought out. My problem was with the main character. I had a hard time with her bull-headed devotion to her special snowflake status – the dream that she could be the queen even though she failed miserably at all of the requirements necessary to even be considered as a candidate. Adapt and overcome, and sure enough she becomes a dark horse. I dislike the current belief that anyone can be anything, and to see it so bluntly in this book detracted from the imagination of the spirits and how humans co-existed with them.

 

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
I liked this book. It was a fast read, and I liked the story, but it didn’t particularly grab me. It was lyrical, though the language was at times felt inauthentic for teens (more how adults daydreamed they would have talked when they were teens). I did like how positive and open it was for LGBT teens learning and accepting who they were.

 

 

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner
Another fast read that was a basic overview of Minamoto Yoshitsune. It didn’t really go into a lot of details, feeling like it skimmed over a lot of the violence and destruction involved with toppling a regime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen
I ended up liking the Sarah Dessen books more than I expected to. They all have similarities – parents who are absent (physically or emotionally), young teenage girls who are a little bit on the outside of things, still slightly awkward with themselves, and the journey from that awkwardness into self-confidence. They felt innocent and hopeful and it made me wistful for my high school days, learning about love for the first time. Of the four books, The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride were my favorites. I felt a connection with Macy and Auden in regard to how their families disfunctioned. Keeping the Moon was alright, but I didn’t like how Colie was told she was a shallow person for not being attracted to Norman. It felt like she talked herself into liking him because of other people’s opinions. This Lullaby was my least favorite. I liked that Remy had some edges to her, but Dexter was annoying, and I didn’t care for how the story unfolded.

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis
Unfortunately, this book was only somewhat interesting, and only somewhat focused on what the title said the book was about. I was expecting, and hoping, for more information about the five people enslaved by four presidents, but instead of taking what we know of their lives and expanding on what we know of slavery in general from that era, he put the focus on the presidents. I would have liked to learn more about the hidden history of slavery, how it affected those who were enslaved, and the culture they created.

 

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Another book I’d heard about but wasn’t on my reading radar. I’m glad it was on the Hub list because it was wonderful. Both Theodore and Violet were interesting relatively well-fleshed out characters. I liked how they connected, even if the use of Virginia Woolf was a bit pretentious. I do have several complaints with the book. Theodore’s mental illness was  glossed over to the the point I had no clue what it was. A school guidance councilor mentioned that he thought Theodore might be bipolar, but it was speculation on the part of that character. The adults in the book were awful, ranging from ambivalent to neglectful to abusive – and none of them were called out for it. Their behaviors were treated as par for the course. And finally, it felt like suicide was treated in such a way as to make it appear tragically beautiful. Which it is most definitely not.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
This is a fairly brutal tragedy of a book. It deals with some nasty topics, but at the same time is darkly funny. The humor is a good counterpoint to what happens, and keeps the story from being overwhelming. I like that the main characters, and even some of the secondary characters are complex while staying away from special snowflake-cliche end of the spectrum. I adore Alex, and even though some of her actions are outside of the law, she is still a relateable character who is aware of her flaws (and the flaws of society).

 

 

DNF – Every Sun a Star by Nicola Yoon
I like the concept of this book, but I couldn’t stand it. The writing style and instalove got on my nerves, but what kept me from making myself overlook those for the sake of an interesting story was how the immigration office was portrayed. I have first-hand experience working for the benefits side of immigration, and it is most definitely NOT like how it is written in the book. We’ll start with the fact that USCIS has absolutely nothing to do with removals/deportations. That’s all ICE. USCIS deals with benefits (green cards, becoming a citizen, etc…). It is not law enforcement. If you went to a USCIS office to talk about removal proceedings, you would be told that we can’t help you, please go talk to ICE. Also, if you’ve scheduled a walk-in appointment, you won’t know the name of the officer ahead of time. You will get whoever happens to be working the information counter on that day. The same goes for interview appointments. On top of that, an immigration officer isn’t going to give someone the name of a potentially skeezy lawyer/fixer who might be able to help a person stay in the US. Maybe it was different “back in the day”, but it was never my experience.

DNF – The Reader by Traci Chee
A book with an interesting concept, but it was just. so. freaking. boring. And highly implausible once I started to get into it – how was there no system of writing or some sort of equivalent? I had to force myself to get to page 50. Then I read the last few pages. And I realized I had no interesting in learning what happened in between.

DNF – Dryland by Sarah Jaffe
My third DNF for May was Dryland. Another book that seemed interesting, and one that would be a good fit because I lived through the flannel-wearing-teen-angst of the 90’s. But it was another boring book. I didn’t connect with Julie, and wasn’t able to push myself past around page 30.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Hub – April

Signs of fatigue showed up during month number three of Hub reading. Not so much from this challenge as all reading challenges in general. Because of course, I’m being forced into participating and aren’t allowed to read other books. That being said, I read a good mix of books this month, with Every Heart a Doorway being my favorite (can’t wait to read the sequels as they come out). I did not have any DNF books in April, so that was also a plus.

March: Book Three by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
I had this book sitting on my shelf for more than a month before I sat down to read it. I knew it would be amazing (and it was), but I also knew it would be painful. It is unfathomable to me how people can be so cruel, and how we really haven’t progressed much. The graphic format makes it so much more powerful than words would alone.

 

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
This was a well-written and intriguing book, but it was not for me. I am not a fan of horror or the grotesque, and have a low threshold for both – the monsters were proper monsters. It was creepy, and at times, gory, but never gratuitously. The narrative was solid – as seen through the traumatized eyes of a young boy, who was the apprentice of the titular monstrumologist. Aspects of the plot brought up interesting philosophical questions regarding humanity and science.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
McLemore is a fantastic storyteller, with aspects of her style reminding me of Neil Gaiman. Moon was lyrical with a dreamy cadence, and a dash magical realism. The focus was more on the characters and their individual struggles as opposed to a cohesive plot, so at times it could be hard to follow exactly what was going on. However, it was a beautiful story about both self-acceptance and loving others unconditionally.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
I think I would have liked this book more if I hadn’t skipped to the ending to see what happened. What I thought would be the plot trajectory turned out to be only a subplot. And I know I would have enjoyed the book more if Faith Sunderly’s father hadn’t been such a raving, abusive asshole. His behavior put such a pall on the rest of the book, that it was hard to appreciate the clash between changing scientific views and societal struggles, and the small dip into the magical.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
I love fairy tales, and I love Alice in Wonderland, and both are mashed up in Every Heart, looking at what happens when the children who stepped through the portal or went down the rabbit hole return to the normal world. It’s weird and painful because of the crushed dreams and unlikely hopes of such children, and the lengths some of them will go to in order to regain their alternate lives.

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper and Raul the Third
I will start with the fact that I am not the demographic this graphic novel is geared towards. If I review it based purely on my connection to it, then my response would be negative. If I review it based upon the fact that if the right child/teen read this and found a connection to lowriders and tricking out cars, then it would be a great choice. From that standpoint, it’s accessible with a subculture that isn’t often represented in books.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I made the mistake of not writing my thoughts down when I finished Scythe,  so about all I remember is that I liked it enough that I will read the sequel when it comes out. I enjoy books that take the prevalent system in the story and then have the main character learn about and try to expose the rot and corruption of that system. Of Citra and Rowan, I prefer Rowan. He is more firmly placed in the moral gray zone than Citra, which makes him more interesting.

The Hub – March

Month number two of Hub reading complete! Once again, my reading was split between the graphic format and audiobooks. None of the books have been outside my reading comfort zone, so I need to try to work on that. Both Salt to the Sea and Kill the Boy Band stand out as favorites, and I’m itching to listen to KBB again (I’ll probably force my step-mother to listen to it during her next visit. Just like I’m going to force her to watch Moana). The one drag for this month was Beast. It has been on my TBR list for a while, but it was utterly disappointing to listen to. I had to DNF it.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Persepolis was powerful. I couldn’t imagine going from a relatively free, westernized life to a strict Islamic life. Watching Marjane have to reconcile her free spirit with the restrictions and punishments of the new regime was crushing. There were enough details to get the horror of it across, but not so many as to be overly graphic. The last panel was the hardest to read.

 

We Stand On Guard by Brian K. Vaughan
This was one of Brian K. Vaughan’s weaker graphic novels, if only because it was so short and felt rushed toward the end. There wasn’t a lot of room for character development. It packed a powerful punch in terms of geopolitics and an imagined US invasion of Canada, but there should have been more. It offered a glimpse of the resistance, with most of it focused on bringing about the end of the conflict. The story would have been awesome if it had been stretched out into several volumes.

Orange: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1 by Ichigo Takano
A bittersweet story about a group of friends who send letters to their past selves in order to change the fate of their newest friend, Kakeru. I liked the sci-fi, romance, and the characters interactions felt believable, but it did not sweep me off my feet. The timeline jumps could be hard to follow, and I didn’t feel any real connection with any of the characters. It is possible that I was not in the right mindset to fall in love with the story.

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
I loved this book. A black satire for sure, and its humor is definitely not for everyone. KBB poked fun at the obsessive side of fandom (not fandom in general). It was awesome and horrible in an “I can’t believe they just did that” kind of way. The plot was ridiculous, and all four main characters were on the wrong side of sane, to varying degrees. I liked that the narrator wasn’t entirely reliable – how much of what she presented was the truth or was inside her own head? She would never give her actual name to people, only characters from ‘80’s teen movies, which I thought was a fun detail. The audiobook narrator did a fantastic job nailing the vocal nuances of this character.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
This book was absolutely beautiful; horrible, but beautiful. Not for the younger set, given the content and brutality. I always think of the Titanic as being the worst maritime disaster, and that is what I’ve always been taught. I didn’t know about the Wilhelm Gustloff, or about how absolutely horrific its sinking was. The characters were well-developed, and all of them existed on a scale of moral ambiguity, though Emilia was towards the good end of the spectrum, as she lied for the purpose of keeping her sanity.

The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1) by Rick Riordan
I’ve read the Percy Jackson series and the Kane Chronicles, and while I enjoyed them, none of them stood out as being funny (of course it’s been years since I’ve read them, so it’s possible I don’t remember the funny). Magnus Chase however, was very cheeky. I listened to it while doing housework, and my kids kept asking why I was snorting so much. I liked that Norse mythology was finally getting some page-time with a younger audience. The only negative was the narrator. He was absolutely awful.

Ada Lovelace: The Poet of Science by Diane Stanley
I’m not exactly sure why a picture book geared towards younger children would be included in YALSA’s reading challenge, but nominees for the Amelia Bloomer Project Project don’t have to be YA books, so I assume it was included by default. That being said, it was a good book about Ada Lovelace. It was informative, and the illustrations were engaging. My 7-year old liked it, my almost 11-year did not (she felt it was too babyish).

DNF – Beast by Brie Spangler
Beast was one of the books I was excited to read. Then I started listening to it, and I just couldn’t. The mother was so obtusely positive that she essentially invalidated any negative emotions or feelings Dylan had. When he tried to talk her, she didn’t listen. Instead, she would shut him down and jump to her own conclusions. She wouldn’t allow him to express any negative feelings towards himself or how he was perceived by others because it didn’t fit into her perception of him. Dylan also bothered me. When he described his interactions with girls, he came off as a fedora-wearing Nice Guy. It seemed like he expected girls to be there for him, and when they rejected him, he assumed it was because of how he looked and not how he behaved.

The Hub – February

YALSA’s the 2017 Hub Reading Challenge has started! There are definitely some good books on the list this year, though not as many of them catch my attention as last year. This isn’t an issue as there are still many interesting books that will take me out of my reading comfort zone. My reading challenge focus is still on PopSugar and Read Harder, so I haven’t done lot of Hub reading yet. That being said, I did manage to read/listen to seven titles in January, but  six of those titles are graphic novels, which tend to be fast reads.

Some of the books on the list I’ve already read, and don’t plan on rereading for this challenge:

*In the Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero (just read it in January)
*The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel Gonzalez
*The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

Of the books listed below, I had Paper Girls (both volumes) and Giant Days (first three volumes) at home already, not knowing that they were going to be a part of this challenge. It was only because I was trying to plow through other books first that I hadn’t already read them. Gemina I’ve had downloaded on my phone for months, but put off reading it on the chance it would be included. Good guess on my part.

And last, but not least: what I read for the 2016 Hub Reading challenge. I read 36 books last year and will probably read a similar number this year.

paper girlsPaper Girls, Vol 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
I read this last year, and decided to read it again because the second volume came out recently. PG is very much a WTF is going on graphic novel. There are two groups of “others”, and the intentions of both are ambiguous enough that it’s hard to tell who’s good, who’s bad, and who’s in it only for themselves. The tree of knowledge imagery (apples, specifically) is worked in throughout the story, and I’m curious as to what those references are setting up.

giant-days-1 giant-days-2Giant Days, Vol 1 & 2 by John Allison & Lissa Treiman
Both volumes were fun and enjoyable. There were moments of snorting, but nothing really jumped out at me as being amazing. Possibly because it was completely different from my college experience? I didn’t go until I was in my 20’s, lived off-campus by myself in a crappy apartment, and balanced a full course load with working full-time.

geminaGemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
The sequel to Illuminae was very good, but not quiet as good, because how do you follow up the awesomeness that was HAL900 and reavers? You don’t, really, but you give it a good shot. The suspense wasn’t up to par, but the plot twists were satisfying. Hanna was also a surprisingly strong lead once she got past her spoiled, entitled existence.

 

mighty-jackMighty Jack by Ben Hatke
Mighty Jack is the opening volume of what looks to be an interesting reimagining of Jack and the Beanstalk. It is a bit slow in and of itself, but it is a strong set up for the adventure to follow. Jack and his sister, Maddie, buy seeds at a flea market and plant a garden once they get home. The garden seems to be the one thing that gets Maddie out of her non-verbal shell, so they spend most of their time caring for it. However, the garden starts to get out of control, and for the sake of protecting Maddie, Jack destroys the garden. Jack and Lilly (an awesome, intelligent, sword-wielding homeschooled neighbor) must rescue Maddie from the results of the final packet of seeds she planted after she realized what Jack did.

plutonaPlutona by Jeff Lemire & Emi Lenox
The positives: the kids weren’t cookie cutter. Each had their own definitive personality, and acted like real teenagers, warts and all. The concept was interesting, a nice twist on superheroes, looking at their fallibility and what happens if that fallibility is discovered. The ending also fit the mood of the story. It is somewhat abrupt and “this is it?”, but at the same time, it’s similar to what the characters are feeling. It works. The negative: because Plutona is one contained volume, there wasn’t enough character development or story depth. I would have been a much better story if spread out over several volumes. So much potential, not enough pages.

prez-1Prez, Vol 1: Corndog-in-Chief by Mark Russell & Ben Caldwell
A very good satire of current politics, and the way politics could potentially go (blatant corporate ownership versus the more behind the scenes wheeling and dealing of today). Beth is a fabulous dark horse who isn’t owned by any of the corporations or lobbyists. Once she’s elected, she starts cleaning house and trying to do what’s right regardless of how politicking is supposed to be done. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does in future volumes.

Save

Save

Save

Save

YALSA’s The Hub Challenge 2016

2016 Hub Reading Challenge Finisher Badge

YALSA’s The Hub Reading Challenge has crossed my radar in the past, but I never did anything more than note its existence. My foray into reading challenges last year with Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, brought The Hub’s challenge to the forefront when it scrolled across my Facebook page in January. Like Read Harder, it pushed my reading boundries, but The Hub pushed them further because there were specific books that needed to be read instead of categories. The vast majority of the books listed never even crossed my radar as potential reads.

There were two levels to this challenge: read 25 titles or read them all. I contented myself with reading 25 titles, earning the Finisher Badge. I ended up reading 36 books across 11 categories. I double-dipped several of those categories because some of the books were listed multiple times (e.g. Echo was listed in both Odyssey Award and Top Ten Audiobooks). I fell in love with several books, listed below under “favorites”. Others I had a hard time finishing – Six of Crows and Trashed. And yet others still I found oddly compelling even if I still don’t know exactly what I think of them – Bones & All and The Ghosts of Heaven.

Favorites
(Yes the descriptions are lifted from previous posts. There’s only so many times you can write a blurb about a book.)

lumberjanes 1 lumberjanes 2 echo illuminae

*Lumberjanes, Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy & Lumberjames, Vol 2: Friendship to the Max Lumberjanes is now one of my new favorite graphic novel series. It’s geeky and weird and has a skewed sense of humor. I want to be a Lumberjane. I want to go to camp and have Indiana Jones-like adventures.  I like Girl Scouts, but we don’t have awesome badges like Pungeon Master (“The best kind of punishment”) and Jail Break (“Run as fast as you can”), and we never had crazy camp adventures. Well…I never did at least. My daughter swears there is a 6 foot tall turkey wandering around her Girl Scout camp.

Riley is by far my favorite character. Her sanity is on the far side of left, which makes her great as comic relief. She reminds me of Betty from Rat Queens (another graphic novel series), but with a lot less drugs and candy.

*Echo – This is hands down one of my favorite books of the year. I have recommended it to anyone half willing to listen to my shill. The story is beautiful and haunting, with a bittersweet ending. I cried multiple times. It absolutely must be listened to as an audiobook. Each sub-story has a different narrator, all very good at creating their characters. And given that a harmonica is what ties everything together, music is incorporated, which enhances the magical/fairy tale-like aspects.

*Illuminae – I freaking LOVE Illuminae. Flaws are easily overlooked once the story gets rolling. And hoo boy, does it roll. Aden (the ship’s AI) is amazingly creepy as a riff on Hal9000, if Hal9000 started to develop emotional sentience. And had access to Reavers. This is definitely a book that needs to be listened to. There is a full cast along with sound effects, and both are used exceedingly well to enhance the tension. The “little birdy” scenes later in the book gave me the heebie-jeebies.

List of Read Books

  1. Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger
  2. Lumberjanes , Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson
  3. Lumberjanes, Vol 2: Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson
  4. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
  5. What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Monroe
  6. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  7. Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee
  8. Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown
  9. Ms. Marvel, Vol 2: Generation Why by Willow G. Wilson
  10. Ms. Marvel, Vol 3: Crushed by Willow G. Wilson
  11. Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  12. Trollhunters by Daniel Kraus and Guillermo del Toro
  13. Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
  14. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  15. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  16. Charm & Strange by Steaphanie Kuehn
  17. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
  18. SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jilliam Tamaki
  19. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  20. Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis
  21. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  22. Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
  23. Trashed by Derf Backderf
  24. The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
  25. March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
  26. A Silent Voice, Vol 1 by Yoshitoki Ooima
  27. A Silent Voice, Vol 2 by Yoshitoki Ooima
  28. A Silent Voice, Vol 3 by Yoshitoki Ooima
  29.  The Boy in the Black Suit by Jasyon Reynolds
  30. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong
  31. Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman
  32. The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  33. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
  34. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  35. Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
  36. The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save