Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of The Universe

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This book was published in Feb 2012, and it flew under my radar, but not the radar of the award committees. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has won numerous awards, including the Lambda Literary Award and Stonewall Book Award for LGBT fiction, an Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award honor, Pura Belpré Narrative Medal for Latino fiction, and Michael L. Printz Award honor for Young Adult fiction. (information taken from wikipedia)

I cannot say this with any more sincerity, if you are struggling to discover who you are, you need to give this book a try.

Named after two great philosophers, Aristotle and Dante are two loners who, like their namesakes, find themselves thinking about pretty much anything and everything. What they aren’t so great at is talking. Aristotle, or Ari as he calls himself, has a gift of silence. A trait he learned from his father, a Vietnam veteran.  Ari has so many word inside of him, but no way to get them out.

During the summer between his sophomore and junior year of high school Ari meets Dante at the pool. Dante is nothing like Ari, he is caring, open, naturally friendly, and never shuts up. Dante isn’t afraid of all of the feelings he encounters. He isn’t even afraid of his parents, in fact he is crazy about his parents, and his biggest fear is having them be disappointed in him.

Ari and Dante become fast friends. they spend the summer swimming in the El Paso heat, and playing in the summer rain storms. Dante is always looking for ways to destroy his shoes, he hates shoes.

Over the course of two summers, we get the distinct opportunity to watch Ari learn to deal with his family issues, his brother is in prison and he doesn’t know why, and his heritage, Mexican-american. Dante isn’t sure he likes being Mexican, and he pushes back on the expectations of a Mexican son. His parents though, are not the stereotypical Mexican’s they aren’t farm workers or maids. Dante’s father is a professor is in fact a professor who gives him a love of poetry.

Dante then passes that love of poetry to Ari, and shows are that he has the heart of a poet, the heart of a writer.

Ari is a perpetually angry teen. He tells himself he likes to fight, and maybe he does. He is fiercely loyal to Dante, even when Dante tells him that he enjoys kissing boys, Ari does’t change his opinion of his best friend. His loyalty is so strong that he puts those fighting skills to use on behalf of his best friend.

This book is not a quick read, nor is it fast paced. What will get you through this novel is the amazing writing. Benjamin Alire Sáenz has more heart wrenching quotes in this novel than a normal YA novel.

I want to make posters of quotes from this book for the library. He truly portrays the voice of the Mexican-American teen. The struggles of growing up, and not knowing who you are or how to become who you will be. Those in between moments are so vital to Ari and Dante. The moments when you are not who you once were, but not yet who you are becoming. That is the sweet spot where this novel lives.

This book was recently acquired for the library, so any students reading this, please consider picking it up the next time you visit the library.

On a side note, this was one book that I started and finished this book in audio book format. Mainly because it was voiced by Lin Manuel Miranda. Who wouldn’t want the Broadway star reading them this touching story?

Which ever format you decide this book is definitely worth your time.

If you are still unsure if this is book is for you, click the excerpt link below and read a part of this book and see what you think for yourself!

Excerpt

If you are interested in an interview with the author, NPR has a really good one about discovering sexuality through YA lit. Check it out here.

Happy Reading,

Katie

 

No New titles in the Library, so you should read this!

Since becoming a Teacher Librarian, I think my favorite part is giving book reviews. I didn’t realize that for years all of my reading was actually research for a future job I didn’t know I was going to get. I have always had a love for young adult fiction, and now I get to put that to good use everyday. Plus I think I am getting a reputation for giving good book recommendations, because I get kids standing in line to get help picking a good book! I call that a success.

Now, the biggest problem with this is that my library doesn’t get new books very often. So many books that are coming out that would be beneficial to my students, aren’t available to them on my shelves. Books like Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, or even Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

This predicament is making me think outside the box, and recommend books that I DO have. Don’t worry, we have the essentials, like John Green, and Harry Potter. But the books that are really going to make a difference are definitely on my wish list, because I want to add them to my shelves as soon as I can. (if anyone has any ideas on how I can do that, please share!)

What I want to do today, is start a review series on books that I actually have on my shelves, in hopes that some of my students may actually start reading this blog to help them choose a book.

I’m calling it No New Titles, so you should read this!

And I am going to start with one of the most popular books of my students right now, easily on the top ten most checked out. The book I want to review for this purpose is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

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I wont be going too in depth about this one, because I really don’t want to give anything away, but I think a teaser review would be good for everyone to get interested in this book.

Hannah Baker kills herself. She is gone, but she left something behind. Well, 14 somethings, in a box. Hannah has left 14 tapes telling the story of her life, and she wants the 13 people who are the reason she decided to do what she did to know it. They all play their part, and we get to relive that story. Why did Hannah kill herself? Who is on the tapes? Who is going to get them next, and who got them first. What did these 13 people do or not do to take Hannah Baker for granted?

This book will change the way you see the world, your interactions with your peers, and how your actions or non actions can make a person feel. Bullies have more power than they realize. And Hannah is going to show them exactly what they have done.

You can check out the recordings of Hannah’s tapes here! (this is a huge spoiler, so click on it at your own risk)

If you want to search for this book in our library its under FIC Ash.

Check it out 😉

Happy Reading,

Katie

If you are feeling generous and wish to donate books to my school’s library please contact me. 🙂

Being a Teacher Librarian

The last couple of months has been a huge change for me, as far as my career. I went from teaching, to being a librarian. I wish I had considered this job when I first went to school! I can not think of another job that is truly better suited for me.

I feel like I have been training for this position my entire life. Every day I make new connections with students based on books we have both read, or on recommendations I am giving them now. I used to think that I needed to make more of an effort to read adult fiction, but now I realize that I was ALWAYS meant to keep reading Young Adult! What a relief that is!

Some things on this blog with probably start changing a bit. I want to write more reviews for books that are actually in my library currently. So that way, if students actually ARE reading this, they will be able to come check out whatever books I mention here. Don’t worry, I will still tell you all about the current reads I have, and as soon as I get some fundraisers going, I hope to fill these shelves with new books that are current and relate-able in today’s book world! But that is going to take some time, and I hope you all bear with me.

If you have any suggestions for book reviews that you want to see, any classics that I should be recommending to students, please share! I would love to hear it. I will get down to writing soon! So hopefully you will be seeing more of me.

Happy Reading,

Katie

2,000 + pages later

The Harry Potter Series was 4,224 pages of amazing, magical wonderment.

The Hunger Games was 1,153 pages of sheer excitement and suspense.

In the past two weeks I have hunkered down and read 2,112 pages of the most fascinating and engaging pages since Harry Potter, and it is only half way done.

The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas currently have 4 books published, the most recent being published earlier this month. The hype surrounding the newly published book, made me more interested in picking up this series. I have to admit, the covers were a sort of turn off for me, they made me think it would be a book leaning towards the childish, and held off picking them up, but when I got an email from bookbub.com telling me that the first book was only $0.99 I decided to give them a chance. I did like A Court of Thorns and Roses, so hopefully I would like this series that all the blogs are talking about.

I not only devoured these books, they devoured me. How many times, in the last few weeks has someone been calling my name, but I didn’t respond because my mind was in the book? Sarah Maas is an amazing storyteller, and it was simple to get lost in the world she weaves for you in these books.

My fiance is fabulous at making connections early on in books like this, and I will be pushing these books under his nose as soon as I possibly can, but for me, I was gasping and shocked at every turn. Ms. Maas gives you just enough information to link together the plot as she wants you to, no sooner, no later. Her characters are developing and growing as each new blow hits them.

I want to cheer from the rooftops about this series! SO good. It is soooo good.

I would love to give each book its own review, but if I am being completely honest with you, the books are blurring together because I read them so close together.

So instead of going through the plot of each book, which might create spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read this series before I will instead give you some basic descriptions, and hope that you all trust me enough to take my advice and go get started this series. Be warned though, there are three more books in this series, and the most recent book came out this month, so you are looking at at least a year before you can get your hand on the next installment. I would say try and stretch these books out, but I don’t know if it will be physically possible, after seeing how I devoured them.

These books are a mix of Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, mixed in with assassins, witches, and wyverns. Celaena Sardothien is to be the kings champion, she was dragged out of the slave camps and brought to the glass castle for that one purpose alone, but she must prove herself and beat 23 other hand picked challengers to gain the title, and with it her eventual freedom. But that isn’t the only thing going on in the castle, something dark and mysterious is murdering champions, leaving their corpses strewn across the stone hallways, missing organs, and strange symbols painted in blood the only clues. Some say magic, but magic has been struck from the land for ten years, and no one knows why or where magic has gone.

These books follow Celaena on a path no one would assume, as she faces her own personal demons, the fears and mistakes she has made, and the person she became through all of the dangers she faced. She must choose who she wants to be, and how she will get there. She makes friends, loses them, find power and strengths within herself beyond her wildest dreams.

Every character is searching for something, and I hope in the end they will all find it.

My favorite aspect of these books is that each book has its own story arch, and each novel has a sort of conclusion that satisfies you. The overall plot still have things that remain unknown or events to happen, but overall, you feel complete at the end of a book, no left hanging with no literary satisfaction. That is the worst! Especially with  multiple books left to be written/published. (who knows how many books she has written, waiting to be published!)

I am going to leave this picture here, so you can find the order of the series, and I hope that at least some of you pick up the books if you haven’t already!

throne of glass seriesbook 4 pic

I have a feeling I will be jumping back in to the life of Harry Desden soon, so if you are a fan of magic detectives, do I have a super long series for you! Ill tell you all about that one next!

Happy Reading!

Katie

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

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The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

How had I never heard of this book before? I feel like I must have been living under a rock or something. Or maybe the title/cover art wasn’t supremely appealing, and I judged it too harshly based on its cover. What a fool I was!

A friend from college recommended this book to me on goodreads, and she had never done that for me yet, so I was intrigued about a novel that had her so excited she would HAVE to share it with me.

Also in Mr. Fikry’s favor was that it was available on kindle unlimited 😛

This book can only be explained as a book lovers dream. I wish I had counted how many different times the author name dropped or references a book or author, but it was like sharing a secret every time I caught a reference. It makes a person feel good when they can understand an inside joke or nuance mentioned by the author.

A.J. Fikry is a bookstore owner who lost his wife in a car accident 2 years ago, and ever since he has been slowly drinking himself into a stupor. He even has his retirement all planned out, he is going to take his rare copy of Edgar Allen Poe poems to auction, and live off the sale. Since it is worth about $400,000, it would be quite a comfortable life indeed. Too bad someone steals it.

The next thing he knows a baby is left in his bookstore, and her mother is found washed up on the shore day later. What is he going to do? Does this sweet little smarty pants girl go in to the system? Or does he take the opportunity presented to him, and keep her?

From that day on, his life is different. Slowly, he begins to live again. The small town of Alice rally’s around him, and even his business begins to become steady again.

There is a love interest, but to call this book merely a romance is putting too big of a label. This is the story of A.J.’s life, and what it took for him to learn to appreciate it again.

His daughter Maya grows up to be, in his words, the most fantastic nerd. She is raised in and among books. She wants to become a writer, and enters competitions starting early, and she loves to learn. When she doesn’t know what to do, or how to approach a situation, her Dad gives her book recommendation that may help her figure it all out. When she is stuck writing, he tells her that the best way to get unstuck is to read, learn, explore, but there is one thing that she never truly seems all that interested in learning about, and what she doesn’t want to know is anything about her mother. Why did her mother leave her in a bookstore? It doesn’t matter, and since she had been there, her life and A.J.’s have been better for it.

A novel like this has innumerable quotes that I loved, but here are just a few that really stuck with me.

storied life quote

paragraph quote

ajfikry quote

I greatly enjoyed reading about the world that A.J. Fikry lived in. I fell in love with his little family, and the townspeople that graced his store. His life was not one without great tragedy, but he also had great joy. After reading this book, I am grateful that his story was shared.

Hope some of you decide to pick this one up someday soon.

Happy Reading,

Katie

When a Series Ends

The ending of a series can be a painful one. After becoming invested in the characters lives, you hope for the bad guys to meet their bad ends, and the good guys to find their happily ever after.

I much prefer when it is a happy ending. I won’t hate on a sad ending.. but I have to find some justification in it. I don’t want to feel sad just for the sake of tears. Make me sad, because that is what had been foreshadowed earlier in the novels, or because one can’t live if the other survives. Make the emotion worthwhile. It all depends of what kind of games the author decides to play on their readers.

We all have had those experiences where the last book of a series simply tears our heart out. Sometimes I can justify it in my head, but most of the time, I just find it upsetting, when I live in a world where happy endings are the American dream. I want all these characters to live happy and wonderful lives. They go through struggle, so I want them to end up in a happy life that they have earned.

No lie, I love me a happy ending.

I recently finished The Paper Magician series, just last night.

Here is another series where I hoped for the happy ending. I wanted everyone to be happy, guy gets the girl, no one dies, yada yada yada.

And I got it. For the first time, I wasn’t satisfied with it.

This trilogy gave each bad guy the spot light. Each book’s conflict is based on the enemy that is chasing Ceony. The Master Magician’s conflict felt very forced. Almost like the author didn’t know how to write a story where the conflict was any different from the previous in the trilogy. She had a happy life, everything was going well, and Ceony is a few weeks away from taking her Magicians test. That right there could have been enough of a conflict, but instead, they gave her one last bad guy that had escaped from prison.

This was the weirdest part for me. I felt like these interactions were brushed over, and hurried along. Because of that I didn’t feel that they were very necessary to make the story interesting. Ceony has a lot going on in her life, she has learned how to unbind herself from her paper magic, and become bound to another. THAT IS A HUGE PLOT POINT, but it felt like it was secondary, when it should have been more of a focus.

This book was a super quick read, and while I liked its ending, I wish I had had more.

When I read the last book in the Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, I was shocked and moved and angry while reading it. During Allegiant, the last book in the Divergent series, I was crying and yelling at the book. The 7th book in the Harry Potter Series had me bawling my eyes out. Unfortunately or fortunately this trilogy ender didn’t have the sadness that could be associated with the previous books I’ve mentioned, but it also didn’t feel like it had any heart. This book felt like an epilogue or a short story to wrap up a few loose ends, and oh yeah, this is supposed to be a whole novel, let  me add a couple conflicts, ta-da! A book.

Anyone who is reading The Paper Magician Series, you need to finish it, but I hope you didn’t get your hopes up too high, mine were let down for a book that is supposed to wrap up such an exciting trilogy.

Have you read it yet? What are your thoughts?

Happy Reading,

Katie

The top 5 books I am excited to read this summer

Caveat- I am planing on reading a whole lot more than 5 books this summer, but these are the 5 that I am most excited for right now! Some aren’t out yet, and some have been living in my kindle for ages! If you want to read some of the same books let me know! I would love someone to talk to about these!

1. The Master Magician- June 2

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Throughout her studies, Ceony Twill has harbored a secret, one she’s kept from even her mentor, Emery Thane. She’s discovered how to practice forms of magic other than her own—an ability long thought impossible.

While all seems set for Ceony to complete her apprenticeship and pass her upcoming final magician’s exam, life quickly becomes complicated. To avoid favoritism, Emery sends her to another paper magician for testing, a Folder who despises Emery and cares even less for his apprentice. To make matters worse, a murderous criminal from Ceony’s past escapes imprisonment. Now she must track the power-hungry convict across England before he can take his revenge. With her life and loved ones hanging in the balance, Ceony must face a criminal who wields the one magic that she does not, and it may prove more powerful than all her skills combined.

I have loved the first two books of this series, and I can’t wait for the last novel! Ceony keeps getting better and better as a character, growing and developing her magic and herself, I hope this last book is everything I want for her!

2. An Ember in the Ashes

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Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

This book was referred to my by a very credible source, so I know it must be amazing. I bought it on amazon a couple days ago, and it is on my list of books to read my first few weeks off from work! I am sure I will be giving this book a review soon!

3. Like Water for Chocolate

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Like Water For Chocolate, a poignant love story told from a woman’s point of view, takes place on the De la Garza ranch in turn-of-the-century Mexico. Cooking and eating play a central role in the tale. The heroine, Tita, a master chef, was literally born in the kitchen. Following tradition, her tyrannical mother decrees that Tita as the youngest must not marry but must instead care for her mother in old age. Unable to communicate freely, Tita concocts recipes so magically potent as to convey her emotions to all who eat her creations- even the chickens-with often hilarious results.

I can’t believe I haven’t started this one yet. I need to take away my friend card! I will get to it soon, I promise… Hopefully tonight!?

4. The Goldfinch

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Theo Decker, a 13-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his longing for his mother, he clings to the one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love–and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch is a mesmerizing, stay-up-all-night and tell-all-your-friends triumph, an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate.

A book that so many people have already read, I thought this one would be good for a book club, or something I could share with my mom. If this book interests you for as a book club read too, let me know!

5. Go Set a Watchman -July 14th

go set a watchman

An historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.

Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.

Who isn’t excited for Harper Lee’s newest “old” novel? She wrote this book first, but it was never published. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, and this book is going to have a lot of the same characters. I have high hopes for this book, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

What are you guys excited to read this summer? Any new releases that you can’t wait for?

Happy Reading,

Katie