Tag Archives: yalsa hub reading challenge 2017

The Hub – June

June was the final month for 2017 Hub Reading Challenge. I only had five books left that I wanted to read. I managed to finish three, DNF’d one, and the fifth on – Burn Baby Burn – was set aside because I had library books that were due and couldn’t be renewed. I do plan on reading it at some point in the near future.

Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why by Sady Doyle
My sister has been after to me to read this book since it came out last fall. I was surprised at how much I connected with this book. In part because of the realization that I am guilty of the negative perceptions Doyle points out. She does a good job conveying the hypercritical expectations set for women, not only by men, but by women themselves. We’re all guilty of the schadenfreude surrounding “trainwrecks”. It is so easy to look down upon women who don’t follow the stringent rules they’re expected to obey. When they step out of line, their worth and legitimacy vanishes. It is an exacting double standard. A man and woman can follow the same path, but the man will recover being seen as a survivor. The woman, however, will be forever tarnished and less than. People will glory over where she went wrong.

The Wasp that Brainwashed the Caterpillar: Evolution’s Most Unbelievable Solutions to Life’s Biggest Problems by Matt Simon
A book that makes evolution interesting by focusing on some of the weird and grotesque adaptations that have allowed various species to succeed. The tone is tongue in cheek, and does not take itself seriously. The chapters are also short, so it’s an easy book to read a bit, put it down, and come back to it later. Some of the adaptations I knew about (the wasps and fungus that turn other creatures into their zombie nursemaids), but others were unknown (such as the snot-ejecting hagfish and sea cucumber-anus inhabiting pearlfish) and I am now slightly traumatized with knowledge that will never leave my brain.

Asking For It by Louise O’Neill
This is a hard book to read. It’s a pulls-no-punches look at rape culture, dealing with sexual assault and its aftermath. Part of what makes it a hard read is because the main character, Emma Donovan, is not a likeable character. She is vain, selfish, entitled, and jealous of her friends. She is exactly the kind of girl whom everyone would say she was “asking for it” if she were raped or assaulted, and no one would offer any sympathy. I’m glad O’Neill wrote about someone like Emma because (as written about in Trainwreck) some women are more valued than others based upon how well they toe the line of appropriate feminine behavior, as deemed by society. Even with concrete evidence of the boys’ disgusting behavior, the town still considers them the victims of a “drunk and regretful” girl. Readers watch as Emma spirals downward in her own despair, as her family becomes pariahs, even as the town rallies behind the boys. One of the hardest things for me, was how her parents, especially her father, treated Emma – before she was raped, after she spoke with the police and became and international news sensation, and after she made the decision to drop the charges. A happy ending, it is not…but it is definitely a realistic one.

DNF – Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics
I cannot convey how boring and unegaging this book was. It felt like a contrived mash up of Little House on the Prairie and demons/psychotic episodes. There was absolutely no dramatic tension. Allusions to Amanda’s psychotic episode during the previous winter ended up being more annoying than intriguing. I ended up skipping around in the story to see if it got any better, but it didn’t.

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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.

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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.