Saturday, January 15, 2022

Best of YA and elementary fiction

It’s a very snowy day here and I’m sorting boxes and putting my holiday decorations away. We walked in the snow with the dogs, one of my favorite winter activities. Dogs are like small children; the snow brings out their pure JOY! 

I’ve had an amazing amount of work to do for school recently and just haven’t had a spare moment to write. I am participating with Adriene Mishler’s January 30-day yoga journey which has gently pushed me back into daily practice, something I’ve missed through November & December. She has a way of pulling you in and making it personal. 

Completing my best of list for last year’s reading I was lucky to read or finish quite a few great young adult books. 

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland -The sequel to Dread Nation where Jane McKeene travels to the Wild West and connects with some old friends. This two-part series is so much fun with underlying serious truth telling.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi - the second in the Legend of Orisha series that brings the magic back but Zelie and Amari have also unleashed other unknown powers in this fantastical world of legends and fairy tale. The author offers writing classes on her website.

Shadow and Bone- series by Leigh Bardugo - Reading friends that are former students brought this author to my attention and I spent a good portion of quarantine reading through this amazingly fun series. I am slowly watching the Netflix series but it is always difficult to pair up what was in my head with what is now on screen. (2) Siege and Storm (3) Ruin and Rising And this year I'm launching into the King of Scars series. Wow, she is a prolific and creative writer!

Six of Crows series - This is a different cast of characters with a little intermingling. This is probably my favorite book out of the whole series just because I find Kaz Brekker such an original character. (2) Crooked Kingdom

Nonfiction:

Neither Wolf nor Dog by Kent Nerburn - My friend Sue loaned me this one, asking me to be careful because it is a signed copy! I was careful as I turned the pages, never read it in the bathtub, and got it back to her in one piece. I felt such a connection to his writing and how he shared his time with Dan. This won the MN Book Award for 1996. 

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson-I liked her writing style which made this book read faster than expected for a long nonfiction book. Her shared stories made it personal and within reach. Yes, I did the book club rounds on this one during the pandemic. 


Elementary Fiction:

Becoming Muhammad Ali by Kwame Alexander and James Patterson - told through alternating chapters of prose and poetry we learn about the early life of Cassius Clay and how he began his boxing career. 

The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm - Bell lives on a Mars space station, that's all his ever known and he enjoys all of it until some odd things begin to happen and the adults get sick. 

A Whale of the Wild by Rosanne Parry- This was a surprise win for me, told through a young Orca whale in a very emotional way of their family pod traveling together and how our world affects their underwater lives. 

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson - ZJ's relationship with his star football father has always been good but suddenly his dad is different and no one knows why yet...

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley -realistic fiction about two young sisters fending for themselves after their mother's arrest.  They find themselves adopted by a woman who lives by her own set of rules. Tough love mixed with tears.

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller - magical realism mixed with Korean Grandmother lore mixed in with a really good family story.

Ground Zero by Alan Gratz - 9-11 story, well told from two different perspectives. The end will amaze you

Our Friend Hedghog by Lauren Castillo - a new Winnie-the-Pooh style story, perfect to read with little ones.

Honorable Mentions:

Sweetest sexy book: Dear Pink by Michelle Angelle

Sad (yet profound) story: Okay, Mr. Field by Katherine Kilalea

Scariest story: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia


Sunday, January 2, 2022

Best of the Best Fiction 2021

It's been a year, pretty similar to last year. Weird, crazy, shaking my head that this is the world we are living in right now. The pandemic is one thing but we have book bans and so much negative energy floating around out there. It takes all our effort to keep it cool, keep moving forward, making the meals, reading the books, and taking care of our people. 

I've read an amazing amount of good books this year. Here are my five star books according to my Goodreads page:

Adult Fiction: 

Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley - technically under the young adult category I don't want that to steer people away. I loved this story of Daunis Fontaine as she works to solve a mystery on the nearby Ojibwa Reservation. 

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich- Based on Erdrich's grandfather as he worked as a night watchman and fought for Native rights in a letter writing campaign that takes him and other Elders all the way to Washington DC.  *Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2021 

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett- Tells the history of the Vignes sisters as they venture outside their all-black community and how their decisions influence their families to come. 

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid- Debut author struts a fabulous story about family and racism embedded into everyday lives when Emira, the young Black babysitter for a somewhat famous white family is accosted at a nearby grocery store. 

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig- This story hung with me for months as I thought about the choices we make that lead our lives down different paths just as Nora Seed is plummeted back and forth between alternative endings that ultimately lead her back to where she started. 

When All is Said by Anne Griffin- Simple yet profound story of Maurice Hannigan as he sits in a pub reflecting on his life and the five people that made a difference to him.

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak- I just finished this book and loved it very much. It could have had the top spot but I wanted to honor the books I'd loved earlier in the year as well. Ada and her father navigate life after her mother's death, alternatingly we learn their love story of a Turkish man and a Greek woman who save a fig tree. Another new author for me.

A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet- This was such a mind-blowing short read that runs parallel stories about a vacation gone awry, teenagers in charge, and adults letting the world go to hell. Hmmm.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz- Jacob Finch Bonner wrote one sort of good book years ago and now he teaches at a sub par school and at local writer's workshops when one of his students leaves him with a book idea that later in life sends him on a life-altering journey. Korelitz is a new author for me and one I will read again. 

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave- Mystery that kept me reading as Hannah Hall and her stepdaughter try to figure out what happened to Hannah's husband and why it is so important to keep Bailey safe. 

The Heart Principal by Helen Hoang-I've read all three of her sexy romance books and love them! All three have an interesting perspective from characters with autism, Asperger's, grief, burn-out and other life variances. She writes from her heart. 

Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman-This is an author I love and this book, while confusing at first, did not disappoint. Life is hard but also lovely. 

I have so many favorite reads this post will have to be continued...

Young Adult, Elementary Fiction, and Nonfiction to follow.

Keep reading!