It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 12/11/17

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It’s December 11th, and that means one thing: Finals Week is upon us.

*cue the horror movie music.*

Finals week always feels stressful and intimidating. This year, though, there’s an added twist. Not only are we trying to tie up loose ends and finish out our obligations to classes, but we are also trying to find ways to see everyone before leaving and say our goodbyes. As I sit at home writing this, I can’t help but think about how hard returning to Chadron tomorrow and saying goodbye to some of my best friends on Wednesday will be.

Man, college has turned me into a sappy person.

I digress. This blog is about wrapping up my semester of reading, and I have to say that I saved some of the best and most interesting choices for the last week.

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My Friend Dahmer was book talked in class last Thursday by the fabulous Timmi. She described it as having a creepy vibe yet being really interesting at the same time. I decided that this semester for me had lacked some of the spookier things, and if I’m being serious about reading outside of my comfort zone, I need to really dive in headfirst. So, I stole this book right after her talk and dove into it at home.

As you might guess, My Friend Dahmer chronicles the earlier life of renowned serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Der Backderf, the author/illustrator of this novel, takes readers back into Dahmer’s childhood and adolescent years. We see him as both a normal high school kid and also see him arc into a different person as an adult. Backderf takes readers into Dahmer’s personal life through his own recollections of Dahmer as a student in his class as well as thorough research done well after Dahmer’s death. This novel takes us through the years as it attempts to shed light on the signs of what was to come and the help Dahmer didn’t receive. It’s haunting and incredibly creepy. I think the most weirded out person about it all was my dad:

Woah. My Friend Dahmer? Never thought I’d see you reading something like that.

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My second book of the week was an equally surprising read. Pregnant Butch by A.K. Summers was hilarious and, well, graphic. Summers holds nothing back in this intensely personal memoir detailing her experiences as a pregnant butch lesbian in the early 2000s. As she embarks down the path of motherhood, Summers has the same anxieties and experiences as every first time mom; from morning sickness to worries about the baby’s health and her own age, Teek feels a bit lost. Add on the fact that she and her partner, Vee’s, experience is unlike other’s and you have an interesting 9 months laid out before you. Is pregnancy only for the ultra-feminine as society leads us to believe? A.K. Summers will make you life (and say TMI) time and time again in this novel.

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When I first started my journey into graphic novels, everyone told me that the Maus books were a must-read. I shared this with my mom, and she ordered The Complete Maus for one of her graphic novel-loving students to read. Since I came home for the weekend, I was able to steal this and read through the first part. Wow – what a powerful story. Sometimes I feel as though we don’t talk about certain pieces of history enough to shed light on the hard topics and questions they ask. The Holocaust is one of these topics. I absolutely love that graphic novels like these bring the true, first-hand stories back to the light for our generation and those after us to read and remember.

The first part of Maus, My Father Bleeds History, walks readers through the backstory of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor, and his son, Art’s, relationship with him. We learn how Art’s parents met and married as well as how the war took a toll on their relationship. That is one of the strengths of this story. Not only do readers see the horrors of war, but they also see the direct effects and are able to see the massive changes from pre-war to post. Spiegelman spares no details, barring the true story for all to read. From being a POW to being captured and taken to Auschwitz, readers watch the horror unravel before their own eyes while also seeing the fractured relationship between father and son today.

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Jason. Reynolds. Do I even need to say anything further??

Ugh – my love for Jason Reynolds is great. He is a magnificent speaker, advocated, writer, and much more. Long Way Down, Jason Reynold’s newest book, tells the story of Will as he grapples with the death of Shawn, his brother. In Will’s neighborhood, there are rules that must be followed, and one of these rules is revenge; you do revenge, no matter what. Can Will handle taking an innocent life? Can he avenge the death of his brother? As Will rides the elevator down, he must grapple with his conscious and the rules; what will win? This verse novel is one that will grab attention and keep readers at the edge of their seat. Long Way Down is a novel that will raise your blood pressure and keep you turning pages until you get your answers.

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 12/4/17

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Week 16 is upon us.

I feel the tension and post-semester sickness starting to creep in. Between finals, packing, and trying to fit all of my last minute visits with friends into my schedule, I am feeling run down. Moving is hard, and leaving behind a special place is even worse (I can’t believe I just called Chadron “special” – woah.). I know that the end is creeping closer every day, and I have been actively avoiding it.

So, naturally, I’ve turned to reading.

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Again – Not the right cover. Sorry!

This week, I tackled my ARC copy of The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. I have one word: wow. Holy cow you guys, this book covers SO many topics and does so artfully. Readers enter into a neighborhood full of kids who take ordinary boxes and create colorful, fun costumes over the summer. The kingdom is filled with dragons, a sorceress, robots, and, perhaps greatest of all, acceptance. This kingdom is one that is open to everyone. I absolutely loved the beautiful graphics and colors within this novel. It’s separated to tell each child’s story individually which allows readers to create background knowledge on each character and how they chose their alternate identity. I think this is a must-read; be looking for it on the shelves in June of 2018!

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Book recommendations from my friend, Carlie, have always been great, so when she plopped this book down on my table, I knew I was in for another wonderful story. Piper tells the story of Maggie, a young deaf woman who dreams of finding her perfect match. As the rat population increases in Hameln, extra measures must be brought in. Maggie meets the mysterious Piper, and suddenly it seems like maybe she can have it all. However, as she grows closer, she notices a more sinister side to his demeanor. Can true love conquer all? Or can vindictive motives ruin everything they built? Readers of this story will get a fresh look at the tale of The Pied Piper situated into a historical perspective. This novel serves as Jay Asher’s (author of Thirteen Reasons Why) debut into the world of graphic novels.

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I dipped back into the March series this week with book two, and I was not disappointed. There’s just something about reading these truths that gives me the chills and makes me think about how not long ago this all happened. Book two centers on the Freedom Riders and the march on Washington, D.C. Readers don’t have to look hard to find the brutality and inhuman treatment of people throughout the novel as Lewis details his time spent in prison and the treatment of those around him. From attacks on children to igniting a bus on fire, this novel packs a punch that no reader can soon forget. It ends with the speeches from the Big 6 and the march on Washington, one of the most significant historical events to come from the Civil Rights movement. I cannot stress this enough: everyone NEEDS to read the March series. This is a group of books that needs to be in ever school across the nation.

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My love for John Green is thinly (if ever) veiled. So, when Mary Anne offered to let me read her $1 Black Friday find, I jumped at the chance. Let it Snow is a collection of 3 short holiday stories that center around a single snowstorm that leads to chance interactions and love. From the train getting stuck in the snow to cheerleaders at the local Waffle House creating a competition, these three intertwined stories left me smiling and gooey. Who doesn’t love a happy, mushy story every once in a while?! This book was just the escape I needed this week.

1493853294187.jpeg I also happen to love Rainbow Rowell. I was handed Carry On last week, and even though I’m not very far into it, I can already tell that I am going to enter the reading flow with little to no problem. I’ve been dying to read this novel ever since Fangirl was published and Simon and Baz were brought to the scene. Hopefully I will have more information on this next week!

Happy reading!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/27/17

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I am currently immersed in a book flood, and I am LOVING IT.

I spent my Thanksgiving Break week doing a lot of travel, which in Regan’s world means a lot of reading. I traveled hundreds of miles between grandparent’s houses and my school visitation. This extra time allowed me to crack open some new finds from the fabulous NCTE conference and also get into some books that had eluded me over the past few weeks.

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One of my goals at NCTE was to snag Matt de la Pena’s new picture book, Love, and I’m proud to announce that I did it; yay! I stood in line and made awkward small talk while he signed this gorgeous, moving picture book. If anyone ever tries to tell you that picture books aren’t for adults, they haven’t had the chance to experience this one. Love reminds readers of the many ways we experience the true, precious feeling that unites us all. It was beautiful and moving. As I rated it on Goodreads, I noticed another user said that her daughter loved it as well and thought it deserved “twenty hundred stars.” I have to say that I agree. I can’t wait to use this in my classroom (and brag that I got it months before the rest of the world).

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I feel like a failure of an English major for admitting this, but I hadn’t read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 prior to diving into this graphic novel adaptation. I bought this novel at NCTE because I am a firm believer that the “classics” as they stand just don’t suit every kid (I mean, do they really suit any kid?). However, I do believe that there are ways around reading the classics, well, classically. Graphic novels are a great way to work the system when novels such as this are required and inaccessible for many. The heart of this novel – censorship – really spoke to me as I read. The depictions of the firemen burning books that are seen as central to our recollection of history was jarring. This is something that we need to continue to reflect on today, and I am lucky to have this particular novel in a different format because, to be honest, there is no way I have the time or energy to sit down and read the entirety of Fahrenheit 451 and neither do my students. This reading definitely has me convinced that any required reading in my classroom will be accompanied by graphic novel adaptations and Cliff Notes.

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Pride of Baghdad was given to me a couple weeks ago in Special Methods, and I finally got to it this week. If I remember correctly, it made the rounds around the class until it finally found itself in my hands with the message that this was a must-read novel. This graphic novel – and I do mean graphic – depicts life on the war torn streets of Baghdad. When 4 lions escape the city zoo following a bombing, can they survive? Or will the environment they wanted to be reunited with so desperately be their ultimate end? This novel follows the pride of lions and their struggle to survive. Through the vivid pictures and text,  readers will fly through the novel to find out the fate of the pride.

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Honor Girl was a step straight back to the early 2000’s. In this graphic novel memoir, Maggie Thrash reminds us all what it felt like to be 15 and straddling the edge of being a kid and trying to find yourself as an adult. Maggie spends summers at an all-girls camp far from her Atlanta home. Camp Bellflower has always been the place where Maggie goes to participate in a peaceful summer, and at the onset of this summer, it appeared that this year would be no different; with her love of all things Backstreet Boys and aiming at getting her DE in shooting, Maggie’s summer seems to be shaping up like it always does. That is until it suddenly becomes much more than ever before. Suddenly Maggie finds herself falling for Erin, the older camp counselor. As she tries to navigate newfound feelings and friendships within the camp, Maggie begins the process of peeling back the layers of who she is told she needed to be and finding the person she wants to be. When I first started reading Honor Girl, I was a bit nervous. The reviews I received from others were that it kept you reading and then dumped you off at the end with no real answers. I must say that I felt the same way, like there was a piece missing at the end. However, the angst and heartbreak are certainly palpable. Also, if you enjoy the Backstreet Boys, give this novel a read; it had me listening to some throwback tunes all night.

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I have one word for Angie Thomas’s debut novel: stunning.

The Hate U Give is truly a modern classic. This is a novel that had me staying up until 3 a.m. because I had to know what was happening next. It follows Starr, a 16-year-old who finds herself stuck between two worlds: Garden Heights, her home, and Williamson, the fancy prep school she attends. The thin partition between these worlds comes crashing down after Starr is the witness to an act of violence involving a cop that ends in the death of her unarmed best friend, Khalil. Soon, Khalil’s name is plastered everywhere, but no one is telling the story in the same way. Was it murder or was it self defense? As tensions escalate, Starr’s home becomes a war zone and school becomes less of a neutral ground. She feels compelled to share her story, but she knows that it could destroy her home and put her in danger as well.

In today’s world, The Hate U Give serves, as Jason Reynolds puts it, “as a much-needed literary ramrod.” This novel approaches the topics of systemic racism and police brutality with complete honesty and heart. This is a must read for everyone.

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P.S. – This is not the same cover as my novel, but my phone camera is doing weird things.

One of the coolest things about NCTE was the fact that so many awesome ARC copies were available to take for free; yes, for free! I managed to snag quite a few and left most of them at home over break, but I brought back The Cardboard Kingdom with me because it’s a graphic novel and I am very curious. I’m not far enough in to give you all a quality review, but I will say that the graphics are fabulous and full of color. Check back next week for a full review of this ARC graphic novel set to hit shelves in June of 2018!

 

RG

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/13/17

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Today has been the most Monday-est Monday ever.

That might seem a tad dramatic, but today has been insane. We had some security issues involving the house I live in, so it’s been a stressful, draining day trying to sort everything out and take care of what needed to be done to get ready for the busy week ahead of me. I’m so excited to head out to the 2017 NCTE Conference for the first time! On a day like today, keeping my eye on the positives is important.

And the books… all the books!

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First up this week was Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry. I have to say, this was one of the cutest graphic novels involving the undead and an evil plan to take the lives of teens. This graphic novel follows two sisters, Katia and Victoria, on scholarship at a private boarding school. One desperate to fit in and the other happy to be herself, the sisters get into an argument and head out to cool off. The girls find themselves stuck in the underworld of a graveyard nearby, one foot in the real world while the other is conversing with some not-so-friendly ghosts who serve a master in need of a child’s soul. Can Victoria find Katia before its too late? Can Nikola be stopped by an unlikely team? Full of beautiful graphics, this is a lighthearted story that will be a hit with anyone.

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Marqui loaned me Trickster a few weeks ago, and I am finally getting to it (sorry, Marqui!). Trickster is a compilation of Native American tales revolving around the trickster, a creature who uses his cunning wit to disrupt the order of things. This anthology holds over 20 tales that have been adapted into a graphic novel form. Many storytellers from all over the nation came together to reproduce the stories and were then joined by artists to morph them into comic form. I loved the different tales and the completely different colors/graphics that came with each story. It was so clear that different artists had worked on every story, personalizing it to the tale itself. At the end of the novel, Dembicki, the editor, provides background on each writer, which culture they come from, and also credits the illustrators.

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I’m not sure what I expected this book to be, but it wasn’t that; it was more. Blue Is the Warmest Color took me on a rollercoaster ride I didn’t see coming. At the beginning of the novel, Clementine is a 16 year old student just trying to make it. She fits in, has a group of friends, and gets along with her family as well as any teen can. She meets Thomas who then becomes her boyfriend, but after catching a glimpse of the girl with blue hair, Clementine feels distracted and distant, unsure of whether or not she is with Thomas because she wants to be or because she has to be. Her life is flipped upside down when her best friend takes her to a gay bar where Emma, the girl with the blue hair, steps back into her life. It’s this event that leads Clem to question past notions she had about herself and leads her into a love that is both passionate and heartbreaking. Blue Is the Warmest Color is gorgeous with the pops of blue throughout the book. The story is gorgeous and bittersweet, a tale of love found and lost.

Happy reading and traveling this week!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/6/17

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Welcome back, fellow book lovers!

Monday.. Week 11.. Yikes! I am feeling the downward slope of the semester a lot lately, which is both exciting and terrifying. Despite this, we will continue to plow through!

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With the return of fall, Sunny heads home to begin middle school. This obstacle is huge, but it doesn’t even begin to compare to the turmoil of Sunny’s home life. Dale is gone, Grandpa is still in Florida, and even when they return it doesn’t feel right. Instead, it feels like the world as Sunny knows it has been flipped upside down. Luckily, Sunny has good friends and a new neighbor willing to let Sunny in on the fun of her activity. Can she remain Sunny-side up? Or will life drag her down? I came into this story expecting a lot, and, to be honest, it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. This graphic novel by Jennifer and Matthew Holm was good, but I loved the first installment so much that its sequel didn’t match the hype I created. Nevertheless, it was a great story with beautiful pictures. I can’t wait to read more about Sunny’s adventures in the future!

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This graphic novel was loaned to me by my wonderful friend, Carlie. It depicts the silent agreement between the Kurbs and the humans that gives the humans power and a place to live. Each year in June, the Kurbs hide their power inside of a token. The people then have until December 21st to place the power back in its safe space before the Kurbs retake control and freeze out the human race. For years the ritual has remained a secret, buried within a family of women and passed down as a daughter’s duty. However, all that changes when a power hungry man discovers the secret and wants to harness the power for himself. Suddenly, a young girl questions everything her father has told her; is her mother truly dead? What is her destiny? And why is it that she can see things that aren’t before her? Soon she and her friend, Carlos, find themselves on a journey to save loved ones and rescue the city that they both call home. The only question left is will they make it in time.

Okay. I LOVED this graphic novel! I had my doubts at the beginning, but the story is so wonderful and the pictures depict the events beautifully. I found myself being sucked into the story of good vs. evil. By the end of the novel, I was hanging on every last word.

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As a person who knows nothing about ice skating except for the bits and pieces of knowledge gleaned from obsessively viewing Ice Princess, this novel was completely new to me. Tillie Walden’s graphic novel memoir, Spinning, chronicles her life as a competitive figure skater. For over 10 years, Tillie’s entire life was dedicated to the sport. She woke at 4 a.m. to head to private practice at the rink, go to school, and go back to the ice rink to skate more. But what happens when you outgrow the identity you created for yourself? What do you do when you no longer fit with the person other people perceive to be you? This graphic novel explores what it means to find that place while also passing difficult milestones of a teenage girl. From near death experiences to coming out to her parents and friends, Tillie Walden spills her life out for readers to see. The pictures were beautiful with an ice-like tint, but I also felt that the story was a bit unresolved at the end. This long graphic novel (almost 400 pages!) held a beautiful message, but I still have so many questions (like what her deal was with her mom.. angry face).

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Here is a weird thing I do: when I get into a reading frenzy, I really get into a reading frenzy. I got this overwhelming feeling last week that I just have not been reading enough. So, naturally, I picked up more books and have been devouring them. I’m currently working my way through When I Was the Greatest, The Hate U Give, and Readicide. So far all are amazing, but wow – The Hate U Give is truly stunning and powerful. I can’t wait to book talk it once I’m finished!

Stay tuned for next week’s update when I have (hopefully!) finished these. Until then, happy reading!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/30/17

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Another Monday in the books… How do the weeks continue to zip by? It is crazy that we’re already on week 11 of the semester. Before I know it, I’ll be packing up and heading home to branch out into the world of teaching.

Yikes. That’s a scary thought, and it’s one that is recurring. My one solace against these anxiety-ridden nightmares (literally, I’m having nightmares) has been reading. Can I again just say how lucky I am to be majoring in something that brings me such peace and happiness. Ahh…

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I began my week with Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl. After hearing so much talk about it from my classmates and fellow English majors, I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. Could a book possibly be so good that every single person loved it?

Short answer: YES. Oh my word – you guys, Roller Girl is a must read. Between the graphics and the story line, this novel is one that will leave you sprinting to the nearest person to recommend it. Astrid is practically attached at the hip with her friend, Nicole. They do everything together; from nights of “cultural enlightenment” to sleepovers, Nicole and Astrid have never been apart. After a trip to watch the local roller derby, Astrid is psyched to participate in the summer camp dedicated to the sport. Nicole, however, has different plans and decides to enlist in dance camp with Astrid’s nemesis. Can their friendship survive a summer apart? Can Astrid find the strength to get up every time she is knocked down? Or will she give up on her dream to be a jammer? Roller Girl is a funny, heartwarming graphic novel about friendship, perseverance, and, you guessed it, roller derby.  If you haven’t read it yet, go find a copy right now.

Real-Friends-Cover.jpgIn her new graphic novel memoir, Shannon Hale gives readers an eye into her life. As a middle child, Hale often felt ignored and invisible. Starting school was difficult until she met Adrienne, who became her best friend. Shannon’s mother always said that all you needed was one best friend, so when more girls start to show interest in Adrienne, Shannon immediately feels threatened. How can she fit in with The Group, the friend circle that everyone desperately wants to be a part of? When her friendships start to become based on a rating scale, can Shannon stand up for herself? And, if she does, what happens to the friendships she so desperately needs?

Real Friends doesn’t try to sugarcoat the life of a preteen, and for that, I am grateful. Friendships are never easy; as humans, I think that would be impossible. It’s a messy road to finding friendships that are worth the struggles and occasional squabbles, but it is also so rewarding to have friends that love you.

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Deemed unworthy of a name, Four-Girl’s life began under unfortunate circumstances. Nothing she does is ever good enough for Grandfather who dismisses her as family and calls her a devil. This is nothing new for her, though, with the talk of devils spreading throughout the land. After a trip to the acupuncturist, Four-Girl’s interest is piqued; on his wall hangs the very symbol of the devil that those in the village are talking about. As she returns and listens to the stories, Four-Girl finds a home, belief, and a name – Vibiana – within Christianity. But China is not a safe place for Christians, especially at this point in time. Can she find her true calling, or will she ever hear the Lord’s calling for her? And, if she answers, can she handle the consequences?

Saints was unlike any graphic novel I’ve ever read. It’s roots wound tightly around the Boxer Rebellion in China, this novel explores what it means to believe in something. The visions of Joan of Arc (and the ending) added so much to this novel. I’m looking forward to reading the companion, Boxers, this upcoming week!

Happy reading!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/23/17

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Hello, fellow book lovers!

Can you believe we are half way through this semester? It seems like the first 8 weeks flew by, and I can feel reality setting in that I will be teaching in just a few short weeks. Craziness. I returned back from Midterm Break feeling not quite as refreshed as I had hoped, but still excited and ready to read. Going home was great; between family time and catching up on my DVR recordings, my 5 days away from school was just what I needed.

Through-the-Woods-Emily-Carroll.jpgOne of my favorite parts of break happened while I visited my old high school. My mom is a teacher at our local high school, so while I was home, I dropped by to see her and Kellan at school. She had chatted with me over the weekend about one of her student’s reading habits, asking what books I would recommend. I got to meet her student while at MV, and we got to talking about books (particularly graphic novels), which then led to me voracious recommending numerous titles that were must reads to both him and my mom. I told them that next up on my TBR list for graphic novels was Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. This graphic novels takes place in and around – you guessed it – the woods. With creepy images, beautiful colors, and spine-tingling stories, it’s a sure hit with any reader. I devoured this book containing 5 separate stories in one day. My mom’s student (who just so happens to love creepy stories, too) read it last week after a quick Amazon Prime order, and we are FaceTiming tomorrow to discuss our thoughts and book club together. Guys, I love my future job already. 🙂

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I snatched this graphic novel the second Dr. E set it down after her book talk, and I am so happy I did. All’s Faire in Middle School is a fantastic peek into what it is like to walk the halls of a middle school today and feel the pressures they experience daily. This story follows Imogene (Impy) as she bravely embarks on a new quest – middle school. After being homeschooled her entire life, Impy tries to figure out how to navigate her way through school, friendships, home life, and so much more. Can she be the valiant, honorable knight she has always wanted to be? Or will she end up unleashing her innermost dragon? Filled with beautiful graphics and amazing renaissance fair scenes, this story is a must-read for anyone who loves seeing good conquer evil. Huzzah!

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When magic is no longer believed to be real, Grunhilda finds herself out of a job. She isn’t scary enough to be a fake witch and there are no job titles open for a hag or battle-axe, so she takes the next best opportunity – a position as a lunch lady at the local school. The position puts her in contact with Madison, a girl who desperately wants to be smarter, and a principal who takes every opportunity possible to foil plans. When Madison uncovers Grunhilda’s secret, chaos unfolds and the ancestors are not happy. How will Grunhilda fix the mess she has gotten herself into?

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When life gets tough, Taylor Edwards loves to run. It’s easier to escape than it is to face any issue head on, and with a family that doesn’t like to talk about feelings, leaving has always been the answer. But when Taylor’s dad is given life-altering news that rattles the entire family, Taylor has no choice but to stay and spend the summer at her family’s lake house in the Poconos. Suddenly, Taylor’s history comes rushing back to haunt her; can those she left behind 5 years ago forgive her for what happened? Can she survive the summer without leaving and causing more heartache?

As always, happy reading!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/16/17

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Man, I am loving fall break. Being home for the first time in months is refreshing and relaxing for me. I’ve spent break eating food I didn’t have to buy/make, catching up with family, agreeing to be my sister’s maid of honor, watching the shows I recorded on my DVR, seeing friends, and (of course) reading. What more could I ask for?

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Lighter Than My Shadow is the type of graphic novel memoir that will take your breath away and make your heart ache. This story follows the life of Katie Green as she struggles with eating disorders, fitting in, negative thoughts, and sexual abuse. Green takes traditionally taboo topics and brings them to life on the page, bravely telling her story of struggle and recovery. She is not afraid to take readers into the depths of pain and her innermost thoughts. From her train of thought during a binge to opening up old wounds caused by those she trusted, Katie Green bears it all and shows readers that strength is within even when it seems the bleakest. Lighter Than My Shadow was an emotionally tough read, but it was eye-opening to say the least.

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What does it mean to be a girl in society today? Does it mean pink dresses and dollhouses, or is there something more? Liz Prince explores the topic of gender conformity and norms in her graphic novel memoir Tomboy. In it, readers follow Prince as she grows up. From refusing to wear a dress to being mistaken for a boy at all ages, this read is both entertaining (Prince is hilarious) and important. People tend to see what is on the outside, but Prince challenges us to look deeper as she tells her story about finding out who she truly is. Tomboy takes readers through friend drama, bullies, cooties, gender, and the all-important ball cap. Does she hate girls, or does she hate the societal expectations placed on them? Join Prince as she wrestles with these questions and, as one review puts it, “tells gender norms to eat dirt.”

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American Born Chinese has to be one of the most thought provoking graphic novels I’ve read so far this semester. The novel focuses on three distinct stories: Jin Wang, a boy desperate to fit in when it seems like all he can do is stand out; the monkey king, master of kung fu who is never satisfied with what he has; and Chin-Kee, the stereotypical Chinese character in any 80’s sitcom (Sixteen Candles, anyone?) who is the comic relief while visiting his cousin, Danny. As the novel progresses, the stories weave together in an unexpected but brilliant twist that shocked me. As the characters struggle to find their footing and be treated fairly, readers are exposed to racial stereotypes that are present in society. Pieces of this story reminded me of Kip Fulbeck’s Paper Bullets, which discusses what it’s like to live in a place that ignores multiracial (in his case, Hapa) identity.

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Last, but certainly not least, comes John Green’s new novel Turtles All the Way Down, the novel I have been waiting months for. The story centers around Aza’s life and mental health along with the adventures she pursues with her friend, Daisy. When the pair hears about a $100,000 reward for finding Aza’s old friend, Davis’s, dad, they begin chasing answers to a mystery that might not want to be solved. Filled with Star Wars references and veiled One Direction mentions, TATWD is a must read. One of my favorite pieces of John Green’s writing is his refusal to water down characters. I always feel like he treats each character with the complexity deserved, refusing to use YA as an excuse to not give a full, adequate portrayal. In this novel, Green sticks to this trend more than ever. TATWD dives deep, placing readers directly into Aza’s mind to read her anxieties, inner turmoil, and to follow her spirals. I can’t stress enough how necessary this novel is. Be watching for a follow up post coming soon!

For now, I’ll be enjoying my final hours of break and family time. 🙂

-RG

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/9/17

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Monday Mantra: Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…

Midterm Break right around the corner has me humming this tune allllll week long. I don’t know about you, but I am SO ready for a much-needed break. I can almost feel the Kellan-hug waiting for me Friday night, and I can’t tell you guys how much I need that; it’s been too long since I went home.

But first, books!

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When I first saw this book at Walmart, I was so excited. I recently read Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novel Smile, which I absolutely loved. This novel follows Catrina (Cat) and her family as they move to Northern California due to her sister, Maya’s, medical concerns. Once there, Maya and Cat are clued in on the town secret: Bahia de la Luna is filled with ghosts. Maya is determined to go ghost hunting and meet them, but Cat is hesitant; why would she want to talk with the dead? Can Cat overcome her fear in time to celebrate Day of the Dead – a tradition in her new home? Can she experience this for herself and for Maya?

There were many things I enjoyed about this graphic novel, but there were also some problematic parts. I thought Telgemeier tried hard to include a variety of different topics in a book probably made for a middle school audience. Due to this, some items were glossed over. Attempting to cover mortality, life after death, illness, and a completely different culture is difficult, and I felt like maybe all of these weren’t addressed in a full enough way. Many resources outlined this book as dealing in cultural appropriation; when thinking through the subject, I found the blog post titled Ghosts: Swing and a Hard Miss as well as the post titled Not recommended: Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier to be helpful in understanding the term and what it means.

One of the pieces I loved in the novel was the inclusion of the G-tube within the narrative. Maya, Cat’s sister, has cystic fibrosis and struggles to get enough nourishment. This is the first novel I have ever seen a G-tube mentioned and pictured. My younger brother, Kellan, has Down syndrome and was born without his esophogus. He had one constructed but has had numerous difficulties with it over the years; because of this, he has had a feeding tube for his entire life. He struggles with understanding why he has one and no one else does (I often have to show him my stomach to prove I don’t have a “button” :)) and has also been teased about having one, so seeing this incorporated into the novel was refreshing.

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When Anya falls down a well, the last thing she expects to find is a friend. Growing up, Anya hasn’t always had the best luck at fitting in. From her accent to her clothing, most pieces of her life made her stand out. Finding Emily Reilly, the nearly century old ghost at the bottom of the well, could be Anya’s ticket to a “normal” high school life. Emily helps Anya with school, clothing choices, and boys – but what’s beneath the her facade? Is she as good of a friend as Anya once thought? As the story unravels, Anya must face the truth about her friend’s secret past as well as face the truth about her attitude. Anya’s Ghost is one of my favorite graphic novels from this semester. I love the setting and the real-life implications it asks readers to contemplate. Being a high schooler isn’t easy, and this book questions the need to fit in and conform. (5/5)

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When Sunny heads to Florida to visit her grandfather, she expects a summer full of beaches and Disney World. Instead, she finds herself living in a retirement home with a grandpa who thinks going to the grocery store is an exciting day trip. Her luck changes when she meets Buzz, the son of a maintenance worker who introduces Sunny to the world of comics. Their adventures keep the friends busy; from finding residents’ cats to running from Big Al, the pair never seem to have much of a dull moment. But why was Sunny sent to Florida in the first place? And why does she only name Teddy, her youngest brother, and not Dale when people ask? As the summer moves forward, dark family secrets come to light that Sunny must accept and learn from. Set in the 1970s, this book is full of beautiful images and color. I’m already looking forward to reading the next book. (4/5)

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 10/2/17

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Happy Monday, all!

October has rolled in, and it seems like the weird half fall/half winter season has finally hit us here in Chadron. This past week brought some dreary, gray days and I LOVED IT. Seriously. I’m much more of a “lay in bed and read” type of person than a “go outside and hike” type. Rainy days mean I get to burrow under a blanket and lose myself in a book. Fall also means the best scented candles are back. Victories everywhere.

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I know I stated this last week, but Lucy Knisley is fantastic and I love her. I was beyond excited (and protective) of the new books Dr. Ellington brought me last week; I just love finding new, amazing authors. An Age of License: A Travelogue details Knisley’s experience on her trip abroad. Between the delicious food and attempts to mend her heart while experiencing anxiety about the future, Lucy (I like to think we’re on a first name basis these days) questions her right to an age of license. Is this the time in her life where she can experience and mess up before settling down? The honesty is, once again, unparalleled. Many of Lucy’s fears are ones I have felt bubbling up in my life lately, so this graphic novel really struck a chord. (5/5 – Did you expect anything else?)

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One Knisley book is never enough, so naturally I read Displacement: A Travelogue as well. This novel outlines Lucy’s travel experience as she accompanies her 90+ year old “Grands” on their cruise. As she comes to grip with the fears of aging and watching those she loves slip away, Lucy is still able to bond and grow close with her family while caring and sharing a milestone experience with her grandparents. Lucy walks away from the cruise 10 days later with a full, melancholy heart, which I felt myself agreeing with. Losing my grandparents is common fear among those my age, and I am not immune to this. Lucy took a front row seat to her grandmother’s dementia and her grandfather’s aging issues, but still bonded and found pieces of herself along the way. (5/5)

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If you asked my friends to describe me, I might be labeled as a fixer. One of my greatest joys in life is to see those around me happy, healthy, and loved. With that being said, this book ruined me. This memoir by David Small left me in a puddle of tears, unable to fully express my sympathy for this small boy who was never properly loved. Stitches tells the harrowing tale of David as he grew up with stoic, Midwestern parents. The harm he endures is woven into beautifully crafted graphics that depict the world from his eyes as it unfolds. Loss, health issues, and abuse take center stage in this aptly categorized tragi-comic, but all the hurt gives way to rebirth and love thanks to an individual who cares. Harrowing and dark, this novel is one I will remember for years to come. (5/5 – If you enjoyed [if you truly can enjoy] A Child Called It, you need to read this.)

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Thornhill was just as eerie to read as the cover looks. My fellow graphic novel lover, Marqui, bought this book recently and let me borrow it to read. The story of Thornhill, an orphanage, is told in two very different ways. Mary’s story is told in the form of letters to her diary while Ella’s story of discovery and exploration is told through graphics only. Though they span 35 years apart, the story of Mary and Ella becomes entangled and ultimately deadly. What is the light Ella sees in the abandoned Thornhill house? And who keeps leaving little clues and dolls for her to find? As the mystery of Thornhill unravels, readers will find themselves getting goosebumps and becoming paranoid of a “thump… thump… thump” on the door. Spooky and haunting, this was a novel I couldn’t put down. The 500+ pages seemed like nothing as I continued to unravel the mystery and put the puzzle pieces together. They say misery loves company, but how far can the dead reach? (5/5 – I highly recommend you don’t read this while alone like I did; yikes!)

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I rounded out the week with two YA novels. I finally finished The Great American Whatever, and I have to say that it was as amazing as originally promised. After tragedy hits, Quinn becomes a shell of his former self. No more cell phone, no more time for Geoff, and especially no more time for screenplays, an activity solely done with Annabeth. As Quinn begins to emerge from his shell, he must face a different world. Through the healing, old wounds are cracked open, first love blossoms, and Quinn finally finds a way to be truly himself.

It’s Not Summer Without You is a continuation of the YA trilogy by Jenny Han. Belly is more confused than ever. Cousins used to be her safe haven, but now it holds memories of hurt and loss. Can she ever truly pick what – or who – she wants without breaking anyone’s heart, including her own? Susannah may be gone, but the Fisher boys are still around. Susannah always told Belly she knew that one of her boys would marry Belly someday; but is it true?

Happy October, and happy reading!