Book Review: Flygirl by Sherri L Smith

Book: Flygirl by Sherri L Smith

Published January 2009 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books For Young Readers|288 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots – and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.

I liked Flygirl!  It’s definitely worth checking out, and I really liked reading Ida Mae’s story.

So one thing I didn’t particularly like was how old Ida Mae was.  It’s mentioned in the book that she’s 20, which I thought was really strange.  I mean, it reads as YA, and I thought Ida Mae was a lot younger than she really was.  That didn’t particularly work for me, but it is what it is.

I did like the friendships she formed with some of her fellow WASP’s, and being a WASP really brought them together.  You really saw how Ida just wanted to be a pilot, like her dad was.  You see her struggle with her fellow WASP’s finding out she’s black, and you see what it’s like for her to be a pilot in a man’s world.  One scene that was really heartbreaking was when her mom came to Ida’s flight school, pretending to be the family maid so people wouldn’t know that Ida was passing as white.

There is some conflict with her family and friends back home about passing for white, but it’s not something that really comes up in her time as WASP.  I think I thought (based on the summary) that it would play more of a part than it really did.  I’m white, though, so I could be completely wrong about that.

The book ended with a lot of things being pretty open-ended.  You’re not sure if Ida Mae goes back home to her family, or if she tries to make it as a pilot once the WASP program ended.  I don’t mind it when books have an open ending, but in this case, I wanted to know more about Ida Mae’s future.

3 stars.  I liked Flygirl, and how Ida Mae was caught between two different worlds.  It’s a great book if you want World War II historical fiction about a part of history that doesn’t come up in your average history class.  I didn’t love it, but it was an interesting read.

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Book Review: Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Book: Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson

Published May 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books|439 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Mystery

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Monday wouldn’t just leave her to endure tests and bullies alone. Not after last year’s rumors and not with her grades on the line. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help.

As Claudia digs deeper into her friend’s disappearance, she discovers that no one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

I really liked Allegedly when I read it earlier this year, so I knew I wanted to read this one.  I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would, though.

I think my biggest issue was the timeline.  It jumps around a lot, so you’re getting before, after and 1-2 years before the before.  I had a hard time distinguishing between the time lines, and the twist didn’t really help.  It is sad that Monday’s disappearance is brushed off, and that Claudia is the only one who seems to care.  I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Monday had been white- a very different story than what happened to Monday.  It’s heartbreaking that no one really follows up with what happened to her, because things appear to be okay, and that she seemed to get lost in the shuffle.

It just really got lost in the three different timelines, and while Claudia had her own memories of Monday, it clearly was a different picture from what was actually going on with Monday.  It seemed like there were some people who seemed to care, and tried to follow up, but things didn’t go anywhere.  I felt for Monday and Claudia, and I wish I was more into the story, because I think Monday’s story is an important one.  I think the confusing timelines took away from what actually happened.  I know it did for me.

There’s another reason why Monday’s Not Coming was just okay: I’m tired of the “I only have one friend and I’ve somehow lost them” story line.  Look, I know some people have a hard time making friends, and Monday made things a lot better for Claudia, especially at school.  But I’m just not a big fan of something happening to the only friend they’ve ever had plot point.  It was hard to get into it knowing something bad happened.

Also, mystery isn’t my thing (especially this type of mystery), so that didn’t really help either.

I’d definitely read Allegedly, though.  It’s a great book, though I know Monday’s Not Coming is going to be a book some people are probably going to like.  It’s obviously not my cup of tea, but I know it’s someone’s cup of tea.

2 stars.  This one turned out to be okay, but I’m still interested to see what Jackson writes about next.

Book Review: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Book: Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

Published March 2018 by Little Brown Books For Young Readers|304 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

When Marvin Johnson’s twin, Tyler, goes to a party, Marvin decides to tag along to keep an eye on his brother. But what starts as harmless fun turns into a shooting, followed by a police raid.

The next day, Tyler has gone missing, and it’s up to Marvin to find him. But when Tyler is found dead, a video leaked online tells an even more chilling story: Tyler has been shot and killed by a police officer. Terrified as his mother unravels and mourning a brother who is now a hashtag, Marvin must learn what justice and freedom really mean.

I liked Tyler Johnson was here.  I’ve picked up a few books about teens dealing with police brutality, and I think this one is one to read.

I loved Marvin, and you really felt what he was going through.  I’m an only child, so I can’t imagine losing a sibling, much less a sibling who’s my twin.  I liked seeing how much he grow over the course of the book, and how important it was for him to speak up about what was going and what had happened.

I didn’t care for the romance we see in the book- it was unexpected, and while it didn’t take away from everything we see in the book, I also would have been fine without it.  Maybe it’s there to show that love can be found in unexpected places, or for some other reason.  Whatever that reason is, it didn’t work for me.  Still, I’m glad he seemed to find some sort of happiness after everything that happened.

The one thing that stood out to me was how there didn’t seem to be a big search party for Tyler when he went missing.  Something that did come up was race and how it plays into missing kids and media attention, and it’s sad that no one seemed to care about Tyler until he was found dead.

I felt devastated for Marvin and his friends, and the everyday racism they face.  I will never know what it’s like to almost be shot for potential shoplifting, and the assumptions made because of his race makes me horrified that people have to deal with this on an everyday basis.

There is a lot of hope in Tyler Johnson Was Here, and I like that there’s hope.  Hope that they’ll find Tyler, hope that Tyler gets Justice, and that hope that things will get better for Marvin.  I hate that he lost his brother, but I love that Marvin finally realized what he wanted to, and why he did some of the things he did.

4 stars.  I know there are a lot of books out there about police brutality, but this is one to pick up.

Book Review: Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson

Book: Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson

Published January 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books|400 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

I’m not sure what to think about Allegedly.  Part of me is angry, for how Mary was treated, and everything she had to go through.  But part of me is also wondering what really happened.

I felt angry that people would actually threaten a 9 year-old.  I felt so angry (and now that I think about it, sad) that people actually wanted the such strong punishment for a 9 year-old.  She was 9.  And I do wonder, what if it had been a white 9 year-old who was accused of murdering an infant.  Would it have been a completely different outcome?  Probably, and that makes me even more angry.

Not only that, but the people running the group home she lived in were horrible.  She wasn’t in a good situation, even after she left prison.  She was stuck, and as much as she wanted to try to get herself out, she had to jump through so many different hoops.  She was surrounded by people who told her that employers and colleges wouldn’t want her because she’s a murderer.  It makes you wonder how people are supposed to better themselves if that’s what our society really thinks of them, and won’t give them a chance to move on.  Now that I’m thinking about it, it doesn’t seem like there’s an easy answer, and one that I probably can’t answer.  Partly because I don’t know enough about it, but also, this is a book review, not a post on answering life’s questions.

This book definitely has its twists and turns, but by the end of the book, I was wondering if Mary really did it or not. She is a pretty sympathetic character, but I also felt like, by the end of the book, I wasn’t sure what to believe.  She did seem like an unreliable narrator by the end of the book, and while I was convinced that she didn’t do it, I wasn’t too sure by the end of the book.  You’re questioning everything, though I’m not sure about the ending.

I’m not sure if Mary’s a better liar than everyone thought or if she really didn’t do it, but deciding to be honest about what really happened, and then changing her mind….I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Maybe you’re supposed to be so angry, and then question everything.  Maybe things aren’t what they seem, and that in some cases, we’ll never know for sure what happened.  That not everyone is reliable.

It didn’t take away from the dark grittiness we see in the book.  It didn’t take away what the justice system is like, and there’s a lot I don’t know, like what happens to the children who are born to a mother in prison.  We see other issues, like mental health, how our environment affects us, and how the media sees certain cases.

Speaking of the media, throughout the book, we see excerpts from interview transcripts and from books about both Mary and her trial.  They really showed how people see Mary, and they are an insight into what people think of her trial.

While Jackson tackles a lot of different topics, she also did it well.  Everything felt equally important, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by everything we see.  It came together to paint a picture of a girl who needs a lot of help, but isn’t necessarily getting it.

4 stars.  I don’t know that you can necessarily like a book like Allegedly, and I wasn’t sure about the ending, which is why it gets a rating of 4 stars.  But Jackson has set a very high standard for her future books, and I hope they’re as good as this one.

Book Review: Midnight Without A Moon by Linda Williams Jackson And Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Book: Midnight With A Moon by Linda Williams Jackson

Published January 2017 by HMH Books For Young Readers|320 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: Rose Lee Carter #1

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

Rose Lee Carter, a 13-year-old African-American girl, dreams of life beyond the Mississippi cotton fields during the summer of 1955. Her world is rocked when a 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, is killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman. A powerful middle-grade debut perfect for readers who enjoyed The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Brown Girl Dreaming.

I liked Midnight Without A Moon, though I think I was expecting something that was more YA than middle grade when I first started reading it.  I still liked, and I definitely recommend it.

Something I was surprised by was how Rose Lee and her family lived.  It was hard to believe that the book took place in the 1950’s, because the conditions that they lived seemed so horrible and old.  It’s hard to imagine a time when voting as a minority could get you killed.  And that at 13, she was expected to not finish school to help out at home.  I can’t picture that either, especially since she seemed so smart.  It made me sad to see that because she was smart, and would find her own way, she couldn’t do the one thing she wanted more than anything.

Williams Jackson really paints a picture of what it was like to live in 1950’s rural Mississippi.  It was particularly interesting to see what her grandparents thought of things like the NAACP and race relations and the civil rights movement.  I was surprised to see that they didn’t want to rock the boat, and prior to this book, I would have assumed they wanted things to change.  They did seem okay with how things were, or maybe they just made their peace with how things were.  Maybe they just didn’t want something to happen to the people that they care about, which I can understand.

It definitely makes the book an important read, and while I only know the gist of what happened to Emmett Till, I do want to know more about what happened to him.  Does anyone have recommendations for books to read?  I’m definitely open to suggestions!

I did like her grandfather, and her grandmother was…really horrible actually.  Hopefully, we’ll see her grandmother open up a little bit, but it’s also possible her grandmother is just set in her ways and won’t change.  This is the first book in a series, and while I’m not sure if I want to continue on with the series, I might pick up the 2nd book one day. Maybe her grandma just needs some time.

It’s definitely an important book, and it’s so hard to believe that the history in it so recent.  And the book is still relevant, and I think it could be an interesting jumping point for a history class.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I liked it, and I especially liked Rose, but I think I was expecting something slightly older, particularly where Rose is concerned.

Book: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Published October 2017 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dloughy Books

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

A cannon. A strap.
A piece. A biscuit.
A burner. A heater.
A chopper. A gat.
A hammer
A tool
for RULE

Or, you can call it a gun. That’s what fifteen-year-old Will has shoved in the back waistband of his jeans. See, his brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? 

As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually used his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?

Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

And so it goes, the whole long way down, as the elevator stops on each floor, and at each stop someone connected to his brother gets on to give Will a piece to a bigger story than the one he thinks he knows. A story that might never know an END…if WILL gets off that elevator.

This is one of those books that a lot of people love and think very highly of.  Unfortunately, I wanted to like it more than I did, and it would seem like I am in the minority.

The story itself was amazing.  I mean, you see why there’s a never-ending cycle of revenge-killing – someone dies, and then someone else kills to get revenge, and it just never ends.  I was sad to see how many people Will lost to guns, and I want a life for him where he doesn’t lose anyone else he knows and loves to guns.

The ending was pretty open-ended, but also a little confusing.  It had a “it was all a dream” feel to it, and you’re left wondering if it really happened, or if it was a dream or even if he wasn’t even alive.  I think it’s open to interpretation, which is good if you like that sort of thing.  If not, then keep that in mind if you pick this book up.  It does make you question what you know and what you thought you knew,

I have mixed feelings about the book being told in verse.  It did make the book a pretty quick read, and I feel like verse was a great way to tell this story because it somehow makes the book more powerful.  But I’m also not the biggest fan of books told in verse, and something about it didn’t quite work for me.  Jason Reynolds is very good with putting words together, and while I think I might have enjoyed this book a little more had I listened to it, I also would have missed out on some of the formatting.  It’s a trade-off, I suppose, though novels told in verse usually seem to work better for me when I listen versus reading.

Anyway, this seemed like a very long elevator ride, but I did like the concept of a different person getting on at every floor.  Now that I think about it, something about that makes me think of that one book, The 5 People You Meet In Heaven, and I’m not sure why.

Still, I think meeting each and every one of these people really affected Will, and got him to remember things and think about things and question things.  It’s really up to him what happens next, though you find yourself questioning what that is.  Given how quickly this book goes, you don’t really get a chance to completely digest what just happened.  Multiple readings might be a good thing for this book, and I feel like the more you re-read it, the more you pick up on.  I just don’t know that I want to re-read it.

I love that he writes books so all teens can be heard and seen.  Isn’t that why we all read, to see ourselves reflected in the pages?  It’s sad that this is the reality for some teens, but authors like Jason Reynolds are so amazing at making teens feel seen and heard and more visible, even if the book isn’t one I personally loved.  Just because the book didn’t quite work for me doesn’t mean it’s any less important.

Long Way Down is a book that clearly speaks to a lot of people, and I really, really wish I were one of them.  I would still recommend this book to everyone, because I think Will’s story is one that should be read.

My Rating: 3 stars.  I hate giving this book 3 stars, I really do.  In fact, I almost gave it 2 stars, but couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Like I said, Will’s story is an important one, and while a lot of things didn’t work for me, there were some others things I did like.

Book Review: When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Book: When I Was The Greatest by Jason Reynolds

Published January 2014 by Atheneum Books For Young Readers|240 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

In Bed Stuy, New York, a small misunderstanding can escalate into having a price on your head—even if you’re totally clean. This gritty, triumphant debut that Publishers Weekly calls “a funny and rewarding read” captures the heart and the hardship of life for an urban teen.

A lot of the stuff that gives my neighborhood a bad name, I don’t really mess with. The guns and drugs and all that, not really my thing.

Nah, not his thing. Ali’s got enough going on, between school and boxing and helping out at home. His best friend Noodles, though. Now there’s a dude looking for trouble—and, somehow, it’s always Ali around to pick up the pieces. But, hey, a guy’s gotta look out for his boys, right? Besides, it’s all small potatoes; it’s not like anyone’s getting hurt.

And then there’s Needles. Needles is Noodles’s brother. He’s got a syndrome, and gets these ticks and blurts out the wildest, craziest things. It’s cool, though: everyone on their street knows he doesn’t mean anything by it.

Yeah, it’s cool…until Ali and Noodles and Needles find themselves somewhere they never expected to be…somewhere they never should’ve been—where the people aren’t so friendly, and even less forgiving.

When I read All-American Boys a few years ago, I really liked it.  Enough to want to read his other books, but unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.

One of the biggest reasons why it was just okay was the writing.  The writing style is perfect for middle grade, and I really did think I was reading a middle grade novel, but the writing style itself didn’t match up with what happened in the story.  I was surprised that Ali was in high school because I (wrongly) assumed he was 12/13, and not the 15/16 that is actually mentioned in the book.

It’s also pretty short, and you could easily read it in a couple of hours.  I did want it to be longer, because it felt like things weren’t developed enough.  In particular, the big moment of the book really felt like a let down.  I expected something bigger, and something that wasn’t so easily resolved.  It was resolved a lot faster than I thought, and even then, it felt like Ali got very lucky that his father was there to take care of it.

However, it really did feel like I was sitting next to Ali on the stoop as he told me this story.  There is something about his voice that’s very honest and raw, and I did want to hear more of Ali’s story.  It felt really personal, like we were there with Ali, instead of feeling distanced from what was going on.

I also liked seeing the relationship Ali had with his family, his friends, and his neighbors.  In particular, I liked seeing how Needles dealt with Tourette’s.  While I don’t knit, I do crochet, and crafting as therapy is pretty accurate.  It’s different, but I also thought it was really cool.

2 stars.  I thought it could have been longer, in order to develop the characters and flesh out some of the events a little more.  But I also thought that Ali was pretty easy to relate to, and I think a lot of readers will really like him.

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published February 2017 by Balzer + Bray|464 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give was easily one of my most anticipated books of the year, and there was a lot of buzz surrounding the book.  I was really hesitant to read it- as much as I wanted to read it- because I was terrified it wouldn’t live up to all of the hype and my really high expectations.

Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.

Because I loved this book, and it completely gutted me.  If you read one book this year, please make it this book.

I felt so much for Starr and Khalil and her neighborhood.  What Starr and Khalil went through…I will never experience, and I am grateful I don’t have to worry about getting shot at if I get pulled over by a cop.  The conversation her dad has with her about what to do if she gets pulled over?  That’s a conversation my mom and grandparents never needed to have with me, nor is it a conversation I will never need to have with my non-existent children.  However, I vaguely remember hearing that the police would help me, and that they’d protect me and keep me safe.

That is not the reality for Starr at all, and it makes me so unbelievably sad that not everyone is able to trust that the police will keep them safe.  That Khalil- and many others like him- are guilty until proven innocent, that Khalil, who was doing NOTHING wrong, is seen as trouble because of where he’s from.

It was such a hard book to put down, and even thinking about this book, I’m getting emotional.  The entire time I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of everything that’s going on in America right now.  It very much reflects real life, and it felt very honest.

Yes, it reflects real life, but it is unforgettable and powerful, and an amazing story with amazing, nuanced characters. No one is stereotypical or one-dimensional, and each character is unforgettable.

I did want to talk about Hailey, one of Starr’s best friends.  I hated Hailey with a passion, and how she took part in a protest just to get out of class.  In general, I hated her classmates for using Khalil’s death to get out of class, and yet, it’s something I would expect from Starr’s classmates.  But most of all, the things Hailey said, and how she didn’t see anything wrong with making comments about fried chicken to Starr, or comments about eating cats to their other best friend Maya.  Hailey…she didn’t understand why Starr had such a problem with everything Hailey herself said about Khalil, and completely dismissed Starr’s feelings about it.  Yes, she’s 16 or 17, but that doesn’t dismiss it at all. She, very clearly, didn’t want to understand, and it was frustrating to see Hailey want to stay in her own little bubble of people like her.  It makes me wonder why they were all friends to begin with.

No words will describe how I feel about this book.  Just trust me when I say that if you haven’t read The Hate U Give, you really need to.

5 stars.  I loved this book so much, and it’s easily my favorite book of the year.

Book Review: March, Books One, Two And Three by John Lewis

I’ve heard a lot about March, and I figured it was time to read all three books!  All three books are written by John Lewis and and Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell, and I borrowed all three from the library.

March: Book One

What It’s About: Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

What I Thought:

  • I really liked it!  I kind of wanted to start reading the 2nd book right away, but I also knew I wanted this one to sink in a little bit.
  • I liked seeing how he got involved in the civil rights movement.  Meeting Martin Luther King, Jr really changed his life
  • I really loved that the inauguration of President Obama was tied-in to his story.  It’s such a great parallel to how hard John Lewis fought for equal rights
  • I am still amazed that this was something that happened 50+ years ago…and how hard people are still fighting for equal rights and protections.
  • I thought a graphic novel was a really cool way to tell the story- it certainly would have been easier for Lewis to go the more traditional route as far as memoirs go, but a graphic novel worked really, really well
    • I think it’s because you can see everything that’s happening
  • There’s not a lot to this volume, but it does set up everything pretty well for the next two volumes

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and I wish this volume were longer.

March: Volume Two

What It’s About: The #1 New York Times bestselling series continues! Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, continues his award-winning graphic novel trilogy with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell, inspired by a 1950s comic book that helped prepare his own generation to join the struggle. Now, March brings the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.

After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, John Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence – but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before.

Faced with beatings, police brutality, imprisonment, arson, and even murder, the young activists of the movement struggle with internal conflicts as well. But their courage will attract the notice of powerful allies, from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy… and once Lewis is elected chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, this 23-year-old will be thrust into the national spotlight, becoming one of the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement and a central figure in the landmark 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

What I Thought:

  • I’m glad we get to see more of his story and his involvement in the civil rights movement
  • I really felt for Lewis and all of the Freedom Riders.  I don’t understand how people can be so hateful just because they wanted the same rights as everyone else
  • That they would arrest children…children!  I honestly didn’t know that, and I have such a hard time wrapping my head around that
  • I still can’t believe it was 50+ years ago that this happened, and yet…it’s still important to remember the people who fought for equal rights
  • I liked seeing why the non-violent approach was so important to him, and how he stayed true to that, even when it would have been easier for him to take a more aggressive approach
  • I also really like seeing some of the behind-the-scenes stuff in terms of organizing everything.  I never really thought about it before, but someone had to organize all of the protests and marches and get people working together
  • Even though I’m not the biggest fan of the illustrations, it worked really well for the story
  • I really liked the tie-in to Obama’s inaugaration.  I’m glad we get to see that alongside everything John Lewis worked for
  • This one is much more powerful than the first book.  I think it’s because the first book felt like it was setting up the rest of the story, and we were able to get much more into the rest of the story in this book.

My Rating: 4 stars.  I really liked it, and while some of it might not make sense if you don’t read the first one, I think you can pick up on everything that’s going on if you’re pretty familiar with the Civil Right Movement.

March: Book Three

What It’s About: Welcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.

What I Thought:

  • I think Book Three is my favorite of the three.  I had to wipe away tears a few times when I was reading it
  • Book Three focuses on the Selma to Montgomery march, and I was surprised that he was one of the people who led the march.  I don’t think we learned that in history class, but if we did, then I obviously don’t remember it, and that makes me feel sad because he, and many others, fought so hard for equal voting rights and equal rights
  • This book was much more heart-breaking than the previous two books put together- and they heart-breaking, don’t get me wrong- but I felt much more emotional reading this book than I did the previous ones
  • I loved seeing how what he wanted for SNCC and how that was different than some of the organizations he worked with.  And how what he wanted for SNCC was different than what some of the others in SNCC wanted
  • Telling this story as a graphic novel really was the best way to tell this story, because of the illustrations- the peaceful and non-violent protesters and what they had to endure, up against people who would do everything in their power to make them stop
  • Honestly, this book is so deserving of all of the awards it has won.  The whole trilogy should be required reading for EVERYONE, but in particular, this volume is worth reading
  • I finished this book feeling like I needed to do something…what, I’m not sure, but…I feel like just reading about it isn’t enough
  • I am in awe that they took a non-violent approach, when it would have been easier to do the complete opposite- and that they never gave up, even when it would be easier to give up, and not try to change things for the better
  • Page 190.  Just thinking about it makes me want to cry

My Rating: 5 stars.  For me, this book is the best one out of the three.  It’s a must-read for everyone, especially for those who think this story isn’t relevant anymore, that the civil rights movement is over and done with.  Words cannot express how grateful I am that they fought so hard for everyone to have equal rights and that they never gave up on trying to change things.

What I’ve Been Reading: Part One!

I’m back…sort of!  I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post, and I’m trying to get back into reviewing and blogging again.  I’ve been reading, but not up to reviewing.  But I still wanted to talk about the books I’ve been reading, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the books I haven’t talked about yet.  I’m a bit fuzzy on some of them, since it’s been a while…but that’s not going to stop me from talking about them!

Book #1: Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

Here’s what I thought:

  • It’s a middle grade contemporary about a kid who runs track, which I thought was cool.  I feel like track doesn’t come up a lot, as far as sports novels go.  Cross country, yes.  Track, not so much.
  • I don’t know that I remember enough to say anything else, but I remember thinking it was okay.  Then again, All-American Boys was such a great book that I had really high expectations.
  • I did like the parallels between running and what was going on in his life.  Especially with how running turned out to be a really good thing for him.
  • I don’t know that I’d read the rest of the books in the series- it looks like this is the first one of…I’m not sure how many.
  • It’s definitely a must read if you like stories about sports.  And also how to move on and deal with your past.
  • I think my rating would be 2 stars.  It’s okay, and not a lot stuck with me.

Book #2: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I borrowed the hardcover from the library.

My thoughts:

  • I really liked this book!  It’s a YA contemporary about Amanda, who transferred schools.  I felt for Amanda, who tried so hard to fit in, and who had to deal with a lot- bullying and transphobia are the first things that come to mind.
  • I really like that it’s not a coming out story- both are important, but I really liked seeing Amanda move to a new town and transition to a new phase in her life.
  • I liked the friendships she had too- people can be horrible, but I’m glad Amanda found some amazing people.
  • I can’t remember anything about the romance, other than I liked it…but that’s about it!
  • I loved the author’s note at the end of the book.  Don’t skip over it, because it really does add to an already awesome book.
  • I feel like I’m not doing this book any justice.  At all.  Mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve read it, and I remember next to nothing.  But it’s such a great book and really important and I doubt I’d do it much justice regardless.  But waiting months to do some sort of half-hearted attempt isn’t helping.
  • Part of why it’s important is because of what the book is about, but it is worth mentioning that the author is also trans.
  • And I’m not sure if it’s true, but the cover model is trans as well.  For some reason, that feels really important as well.
  • I know I got really emotional and starting crying at one point.
  • My Rating: 4 stars.  Had I reviewed it right after finishing it, my rating probably would have been 5 stars.
    • But I may re-read it at some point so I can properly talk about it.
    • I still really liked it though.

Book #3: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This is another hardcover from the library.

What I Thought:

  • I liked seeing how much Strayed changed during the hike.
  • She did seem ill-prepared for the hike, and I can see why some reviewers think she’s whiny and self-absorbed
    • and also why some people thought she made poor life decisions
    • There’s no judgement from me, though, because she did have a lot of things she had to work through, especially with the death of her mother
  • Hiking- especially since she was by herself for most of the hike- seemed to help her
    • there was a lot of opportunity for her to reflect on her life
    • she did randomly meet up with other people along the way, though
  • I think my favorite part was seeing her not give up, even when it would have been easy for her to do so
  • I can’t imagine doing such a big hike, especially with no hiking/backpacking experience whatsoever
  • It really felt like I was hiking with her, and it never felt boring or repetitive
    • I can’t imagine being alone with my thoughts for that long, but props to her for sticking with it
  • It’s a memoir of her experience hiking the Pacific Coast Trail, so if you’re looking for more information or history about the trail itself, this is not the book for you
  • I’ve heard of it before- because it was adapted into a movie, but I mostly picked it up because it was mentioned in one of the Gilmore Girls revival episodes
    • I’m glad I picked it up, though, because I really liked it
  • I think my rating would be 4 stars.  I didn’t love it, but it was an easy read, and there is something about the way she writes

Book #4: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad is a hardcover from the library.

And now, my thoughts:

  • This book deserves a lot more attention.  I feel like it didn’t get a lot of attention, despite the fact that it was an Oprah book club pick.  The publication date also got moved up because of it.  And I know it was recommended by Obama, so I had really high expectations.
    • It lived up to all of the hype…at least the hype that I heard.
    • It’s totally worth reading
  • I admit that I didn’t like it at first, and it took me a while to get into it.
    • I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because I really liked it
  • It is a hard read, because you see what it might have been like for slaves on the Underground Railroad
    • I’m not sure what to call them, but there are ads and wanted posters for runaway slaves, which really added to the journey Cora takes
  • The Underground Railroad is quite literal in this book but it was terrifying to see what it was like during that time period
    • so many people risked everything to be a part of it- whether they were a stop along the way, or the one trying to escape slavery
    • I know I said it already, but it really highlighted what it might have been like
  • It really is mind-blowing that people were willing to take a chance to have freedom than spend one more second as a slave
  • My rating: 4 stars.  It was hard to get into at first, but worth reading.

Audio Book Review: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Mighty Miss Malone CoverBook: The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis, narrated by Bahni Turpin

Published January 2012 by Listening Library|Run Time: 7 hours, 59 minutes

Where I Got It: I borrowed the audio C.D. from the library

Series: None

Genre: Children’s Historical Fiction

Blog Graphic-What It's About

“We are a family on a journey to a place called wonderful” is the motto of Deza Malone’s family. Deza is the smartest girl in her class in Gary, Indiana, singled out by teachers for a special path in life. But the Great Depression has hit Gary hard, and there are no jobs for black men. When her beloved father leaves to find work, Deza, Mother, and her older brother Jimmie go in search of him, and end up in a Hooverville outside Flint, Michigan. Jimmie’s beautiful voice inspires him to leave the camp to be a performer, while Deza and Mother find a new home, and cling to the hope that they will find Father. The twists and turns of their story reveal the devastation of the Depression and prove that Deza truly is the Mighty Miss Malone.

Blog Graphic-What It's About

I wasn’t sure what to think about The Mighty Miss Malone at first- I had a hard time getting into it, but as I listened, I did like it more than I thought I would.

I think part of why I had a hard time with it, particularly at the beginning, is that Deza is very much a special snowflake.  She seemed a little too precocious and comes across as condescending.  I think that Deza has been told she’s special so much that she has a hard time handling not doing well on something- like when her best friend does better on an assignment than she does, and she expected her friend to feel bad about it.  She does seem to handle it a little bit better when she’s at a different school, but the book seems to be more about the Great Depression than race or segregation, even though it’s touched on a little bit.

And there were a couple points, especially towards the end, where it seemed like Deza’s love of reading and learning was very much encouraged, but Jimmie’s singing wasn’t really nurtured.  I’m not sure if it’s because the book is about Deza (and not Jimmie), but I definitely got the impression that Deza being good at school was more important than Jimmie being good at singing.

Still, we do see how racism affects her grades, and, more than anything, the book shows what it was like to live during the Great Depression.  It does do a great job of showing that, and I think that’s where the book shines.  It does touch on how hard it was for African-Americans to find work, and how much everything going on affected them.  For that alone, I’d definitely recommend the book, because I think it is something that needs to be talked about.

One thing that sort of confused me was when Deza, her mother and her brother arrive in Flint.  They’re supposed to stay with her dad’s mother (her grandmother) but once they get to Flint, there is no mention of her grandmother for the rest of the book.  And if they’re supposed to be staying with relatives there, then why do they stay in the shanty-town, instead of going to find Deza’s grandmother?  Unless I missed something when I was listening to the book, which is possible.  But why have it be part of the book, when it doesn’t even go anywhere, and is never mentioned again?

I wasn’t sure about the narration at first- I definitely didn’t like it, and I think the narration is a big part of why I didn’t like Deza at first.  Deza sounded a lot older than 12, and something about her tone of voice really grated on me, to the point that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep listening.  It did get better over the course of the book, and I do feel bad, because a person has no control over what their voice sounds like.  I definitely won’t be seeking out anything else narrated by Turpin, but for me, I might think twice about an audio book if I know she’s narrating it.

Blog Graphic- My Rating

3 stars.  I did like the book, because it does a wonderful job at showing what it was like to be alive during The Great Depression.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of Deza, or the narrator, but it’s a really good look at the Great Depression, and that makes it worth checking out.