My Reading Week #IMWAYR- January 24, 2022

New-2020-IMWAYR-Button
Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

I had a bonus post earlier this week where I shared my reviews of a Reading Challenge I’ve been doing since 2013. Check it out here.

I’ve moved over to The StoryGraph to avoid the Amazon-owned Goodreads. It’s still a learning curve and it doesn’t have some of the convenience Goodreads offers but, at least, I’ve been reviewing again. I’m trying this new format this week which saves me a bit of time but I wish they included the covers.

You can view all my reviews over on The StoryGraph.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

Everybody Reads Reading Challenge (Updated 2022)

Reading Challenges are a great way to introduce oneself to books one normally wouldn’t read. I decided to tackle Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads titles back in 2013 and have kept up with it since then. This is their community wide reading project similar to “One City, One Book” or “The Big Read.” Everybody Reads launched in 2003.

Here are my reviews starting from the most current selection.

Good Talk by Mira Jacob is Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads 2022 selection- their first graphic novel pick. It brought up a lot of thoughts and emotions from me which is  good for any book club type title. 

As someone who grew up in the Philippines, I saw the incessant brainwashing that having a darker skin tone was bad, ugly, and needed to be remedied. I hate how it still is very prevalent to this day practically anywhere in the world.

I cringed at the microaggressions that she went through because I know from experience how common that is.

As we all are just trying to get through this pandemic, I almost (sort of but not really) forgot how much stress and oppression I was under during the last presidency. It’s not something I wanted to be reminded of or cared to read about as a past event because we’re still dealing with it.

The illustrations was a very unique style and at first I wasn’t sure what to make of it but I eventually warmed to it. I also listened to a sample of the audiobook version just to see how that would be since this is a graphic novel.

I first read this last year and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review… 

This collection of essays was- for lack of a better word- delightful! I actually got to hear Ross Gay speak at a bookseller’s conference before this book came out and listening to it on audio book with him narrating it took me back to that time. Although subjective to his particular tastes and experiences, a lot of the readers can find themselves enjoying the things he writes about. Or thinking about why it may or may not be a delight in their lives. I enjoyed recommending this when it first came out (in 2019) as a balm for the dark and troubling times we were experiencing. Now, I can recommend it as a reminder to look for the light and for the delights in these difficult times and as a reminder also that better days are ahead if we just work together. 

I first read this back in 2020 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

I was worried that I may not have enjoyed this novel as much as I did since everyone I know who’s read it seemed to have liked it. It did take me awhile to get into it since there were lots of characters to keep track of and for the most part I was impressed by how he was able to differentiate his writing style to reflect it. I got angry at different parts of the book at the unfairness and injustice and there was also the sense of helplessness of wondering what can be done to change things. I wasn’t ready for what happened at the powwow and the way things ended but I really wouldn’t have had it any other way. Hopefully without spoiling it for anyone it was the ending reflective of how Native Americans have been mistreated.

I first read this back in 2019 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

While the writing was fine, I hated the structure of the novel. There would be a flashback and then another flashback so all the time jumping annoyed me. The characters weren’t that likable to me, either, which I understand stories don’t always need to have likable characters but I didn’t really care for what happened to them. Some of the cultural insights were relatable and interesting to think about that.

I first read this back in 2016 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

I’d been hearing a lot about this book recently. Adapted from her TEDx Talk, this is a call to action to change the way women are being treated and mistreated. By simply allowing things to continue as they are, we unknowingly promote outdated and harmful and disrespectful behavior. We should indeed all be feminists because it’s just an extension of fighting for human rights.

I first read this back in 2018 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review… 

I originally gave this a lower review because I thought it was rather depressing. But the more I thought about it and after attending a book club to discuss it, I changed my mind which just goes to show that sometimes you need to let the words sink in and not always go off your first reaction.

This wasn’t what I was expecting. The magical element caught me off guard and I think ultimately added something to it. It probably made the story more effective had it just been a straight out narrative tackling the topical issues of migration and refugees.

Although a short book, it’s the kind that makes you ponder after reading a few pages.

The mini stories within Saeed and Nadia’s were curious asides often through provoking. Lots of the book club members enjoyed them too. They found many passages to highlight and bookmark and wanted to share.

One of my favorite passages: “Perhaps they had grasped that the doors could not be closed, and new doors would continue to open, and they had understood that the denial of coexistence would have required one party to cease to exist, and the extinguishing party too would have been transformed in the process, and too many native parents would not after have been able to look their children in the eye, to speak with held high of what their generation had done.”

Originally, I thought the book to be too depressing but at the end I think it was ultimately hopeful. That despite everything- the inevitability of change and the good and bad that arises from it, the uncertainty of things- we can still hope for a better future, of happier days. 

 I was fortunate enough to see Mohsin Hamid speak at the culminating event for Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads program. The library once again partnered with the wonderful nonprofit organization Literary Arts to invite the author speak at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Not only was the beautiful space filled with book lovers and hundreds of high school students but also a Literary Arts volunteer of over 30 years and who was celebrating her 90th birthday that evening! 

Mohsin Hamid started out talking about himself and how Exit West was sort of an autobiographical memoir in terms of places he’s lived in and visited. I was able to relate to his story of moving from one country to another, exchanging one culture for another. 

He then talked about the significance of the black doors in the novel- and how our phones are similar to them- and the importance of names. 

Talking about the craft of writing, he mentioned how finding the right form was crucial to tell the story in the best way possible and he likened his approach in the story’s form of Exit West to children’s literature. (He would shout out children’s literature a couple times throughout the presentation with Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, and Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar as some of the books he mentioned. He would also say that each book is in their own way migration stories.) For language, he said he was inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s style- not just in the messages he was trying to convey but the way his words would take the person along for a ride to an ending that seemed inevitable even when it may have been in unexpected. 

He also the impermanence of first love- and life in general- and the otherness in all us. He said that transcendental love- a love that is not possessive but is for others- is what is needed to create an optimistic future. 

The Q&A portion elicited some great questions ranging from what weird food combinations he enjoyed to some of his favorite books. He ended by giving his advice to aspiring writers by saying, “You can find everything you need to know about writing at the library.” 

I first read this back in 2017 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

I was hesitant to read this at first, worried that it was going to be too textbook-sy, but I needn’t have worried. Matthew Desmond focused on a few people in various stages of eviction. This method made it more relatable. It was eye opening how much of a business this has become which I think makes it more difficult to find solutions.

I did go to a book club to discuss this. Most of the attendees were regulars so I didn’t really feel comfortable sharing my thoughts. Plus, I was definitely the youngest one there by far. It was cute though. The first five minutes was about how cold the room was.

It wasn’t an easy book to get through and it was a timely book. Poverty is practically everywhere. Thinking about the problem as a whole is overwhelming. It reminded me, just with everything else we want to change, we need to start small because we can’t change anyone other than ourselves. Hopefully, by doing so, we can set an example within the people we know, our circles of influence. It’s hard to think about changing the world when you’re trying to just get by on a day to day basis. By focusing on fixing your current problems- and helping others along the way if you’re able- you’re also creating solutions for the big picture.

I first read this back in 2016 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review… 


I was hesitant to read Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads selection because I was so underwhelmed by their last choice. But I enjoyed this novel and breezed through it. This is the story of immigrants from Latin America. In an apartment building in Delaware, you get glimpses of what they sacrificed to get to the US, their dreams, their disillusionment, their hardships, and their triumphs. The focus is on two families whose lives become intertwined when their children fall in love. Readers might get a sense of what’s going to happen but they’ll still be surprised. I would have liked more diversity in the voices of the characters. I think this was a good choice for a community reading project because the topic is timely. 

I first read this back in 2015 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. I was surprised by how much I disliked it. While I did enjoy all the Portland references, the ultra realistic depiction of life was a bit too much for me because I could have focused on my own problems rather reading other people’s.

I first read this back in 2014 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

My Beloved World offers snapshots of Sonia Sotomayor’s life from childhood to her becoming a federal judge. Hers is a story populated by people who shaped who she was, especially by the strong women in her life- her mother and grandmother. She is candid and honest which makes for a refreshing read. She stresses the importance of education and willingness to ask for help. She acknowledges that her go-getter attitude is not something everyone’s born with but can be implemented in their own lives. She also mentions luck playing a role but she was definitely prepared for when opportunities presented themselves to her!

Another theme is cultural identity. “I needed a history in which I could anchor my own sense of self.” I admire her being proud of her heritage but not letting it define herself, not letting one thing be the label she’s stuck with since not one of us is just one thing one hundred percent of the time. She helped those like her but made sure to include everyone. And, the fact that she and her peers were basically paving the way for future generations to be able to have the same opportunities in life, it was interesting to see one way of how their experiences are passed on.

“We are all limited, highly imperfect beings, worthy in some dimensions, deficient in others, and if we would understand how any of our connections survive, we would do well to look first to what is good in each of us.” 

I first read this back in 2013 as part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review… 

I was instantly hooked when I picked up Ten Little Indians. I just wanted to stay home and read through the whole thing but I also wanted to take the time to enjoy each of the stories before going on to the next one. I was impressed by how each story sounded different yet there were some things that were mentioned or touched upon repeatedly. Each one was better than the last. 

I can’t remember when I first read this but it was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

Sherman Alexie’s a writer who’s been recommended to me for the longest time. When I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian a few years ago, I liked how relatable the main character was. While this followed a similar arc to many coming of age stories out there, of the protagonist persevering through whatever challenges came their way and ended up being better for them, this was somehow different and refreshing. 

With its strong but honest language and a lot of the subjects covered, I can see why certain groups may be offended with the book and may want it banned. But I think that’s what a great story does. It makes us uncomfortable in its ability to mirror our lives and ourselves in its pages. 

I first read this back in 2012 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky was a book I hadn’t planned on reading. I thought it was going to be a heavy handed novel about being bi-racial- like an after-school special with a Very Important Lesson. Fortunately, I ended up getting a copy since this was Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads selection for 2012. And, I couldn’t put it down. It was just that good!

While the book does deal with race, this is ultimately a story about identity- and the color of Rachel’s skin is just one factor in discovering who she is.

Who is Rachel Morse? She’s the daughter of an African-American father and Danish mother. She’s the new girl with light brown skin and blue eyes in a mostly black community. She’s the girl who fell from the sky- and survived. This is her story of trying to figure out how she fits in in a world where people are summed up in one word.

Heidi Durrow created a wonderful supporting cast of characters, shifting between their points of views throughout the novel, parceling out just enough information to keep the readers turning the pages. This was craftily written. I would be reading the book and, in a seemingly throwaway line, the story steps it up even another notch.

The Girl Who Fell from the Sky is a great read on the most basic level- but does have important things to say as well. Highly recommended.

I first read this back in 2013 as part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

An eye-opening book about the choices we make in life. Although, admittedly, at times, we may not know what other choices we have. It’s easy to judge others and their situations but, unless we put ourselves in their shoes, we really can’t know why they did what they did.

I first read this back in 2013 as part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review… 

The writing’s good and the subject is fascinating but I just couldn’t get into it. This book took me forever to get through. Probably because I don’t usually like reading non-fiction. I did like how it read sort of like a mystery especially when the pieces started to come together. I appreciated all the research that went into this and the connections between the past and present day. The last chapter was kind of depressing, though, and unnecessary. 

I remember Multnomah County Library giving out cholera stuffies during this time!

I first read this back in 2013 as part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review… 

This is a fascinating read about “three generations of in the life of a Japanese American family.” We read of their hard work and dedication to make a name for themselves. But there’s also the cruel prejudice they endured over many years because they weren’t Americans. Those parts were so hard to read because of all the hate & racism that was prevalent not that long ago. It’s sad how we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes, finding other groups of people to do all those horrible things to. 

It’s interesting to read about their culture. The importance of family and fulfilling one’s roles. The drive that makes them successful. The pressure that can make them end it all. One minute you think they’re the most perfect human being but then you get another side of them that’s flawed. So they seemed very realistically portrayed. I even watched the documentary (made by one of the third-generation Yasui) that was mentioned in the book.

 Stubborn Twig
really gave me a lot to think about. 

I first read this back in 2012 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

I’ve been hesitant to read memoirs ever since the whole Three Cups of Tea controversy. There were definitely some parts where I questioned the possibility of events really happening. Aside from my cynical point of view about memoirs, the writing was good. The subject matter- of kids becoming soldiers because of horrific circumstances- is hard to comprehend that it’s a way of life in some places, even now. 

I first read this back in 2013 as part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

This was quite scandalous and thereby very hard to put down. It’s about secrets and sacrifices. It’s about figuring out who we are in terms of our families and friends, where we’re from and where we’re raised. It’s hard to imagine being put in a similar situation.

I first read this before I moved to Portland in 2008 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. It has since become one of My Favorite Favorites. Here’s the review mostly referring to the movie version and the graphic novel adaptation…

I finished watching The Kite Runner– a good enough movie but it just goes to show how much is lost between the book and the film. A positive thing that the movie had going for it was how it was able to skip the parts that dragged the book down especially the melodramatic incidents of the last chapters. It was also fascinating to learn through the bonus features how international the whole film project was from the cast and crew to the locale- Afghanistan was shot in China! 

The Kite Runner is such a story about friendship, redemption and forgiveness that it was easy to get emotional while watching the movie but not necessarily because of the scenes playing out. My mind was going off on all kinds of tangents. It’s sad that war and poverty is still so much a way of life. And, equally sad is how religion gets twisted to justify violence. And I thought of simpler times in general. Oh, nostalgia! The movie also made me wish I was more aware and in tune of my culture. 

I gave this book out for the first World Book Night in the US. I needed to refresh my memory so I read the graphic novel. While it’s great that this format can reach out to a new demographic, so much of what made it wonderful is lost. 

I first read this back in 2012 and was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

I know of The House on Mango Street as a book students buy because they have to as part of their required reading. That’s partly why I decided to give it a try. At the same time, though, that was also why I was hesitant to pick it up. It seems to me a lot of good books are ruined by being forced upon students. Of course, it’s great to be exposed to new and different things but too over analyze things will ruin the experience. But my issue with that is a whole other matter. 

I was surprised by how sparse the text was. The simple, lyrical and seemingly disparate prose reveals a much-larger story of a young Latin girl and the lessons she learns in and out of the house on Mango Street. This is a good book to see things through someone else’s eyes and to challenge oneself to go deeper than what’s on the written page. 

I can’t remember when I first read- or reread- this but it was part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

This is a book that most everybody has probably read. The issues of censorship and the media’s power and control over the population are still relevant. It’s scary to think that the dystopian future Bradbury envisioned sometimes play out in our time. I think I’m way overdue to reread this classic.

I first read this back in 2013 as part of my Everybody Reads Reading Challenge. Here’s the review…

I was hesitant to read this at first because of similarities with another book I’d just finished recently- The Other Wes Moore- but I was immediately hooked. Not particularly a tearjerker but moving nonetheless. I liked how it ended even though not everything was tied up nicely. There was still a sense of closure. 

Looking back, the books about identity and family were the books that resonated with me the most. Books can help find others like us, whether it be in non-fiction or fiction. They can help us best understand ourselves and others. I look forward to what the next Everybody Reads books will be in the upcoming years- and to see what kind of discussions they bring up!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- January 17, 2022 / #MustReadIn2022

New-2020-IMWAYR-Button
Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

Here’s my #MustReadIn2022 which includes multiple reading challenges like my Filipino Reads and a draft of my Grace Lin checklist who is the author I’m hoping to read all of their work of.

I’ve moved over to The StoryGraph to avoid the Amazon-owned Goodreads. It’s still a learning curve and it doesn’t have some of the convenience Goodreads offers but, at least, I’ve been reviewing again. I’m trying this new format this week which saves me a bit of time but I wish they included the covers.

You can view all my reviews over on The StoryGraph. Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- January 10, 2022

New-2020-IMWAYR-Button
Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

I’ve transferred over to The StoryGraph to avoid the Amazon-owned Goodreads. It’s still a learning curve and it doesn’t have some of the convenience Goodreads offers but, at least, I’ve been reviewing again. Of course, WordPress is still a horrible platform ever since their upgrade of a year or two ago. But, it’s not like I’m trying to win any blogging awards over here.

Just Like Beverly: A Biography of Beverly Cleary

by Vicki Conrad with illustrations by David Hohn

This seemed like the perfect book to kick off my reading year.

I’m surprised I hadn’t read this yet considering how much I adore Beverly Cleary and that we had both the author and the illustrator do a reading at the bookstore when this first came out. (Of course, I could have just forgotten to mark it as read on that other platform.)

Anyway, it was great to read about her life and her contributions to children’s literature. It reminded me of all the fun bookish things I’ve had with her books.

Some takeaways for aspiring writers: Write what you know about. Write what you want to read about. Don’t just think about writing, write!

Michael Jordan

by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara with illustrations by Lo Harris

Little People, Big Dreams is a wonderful picture book biography series. The books are informative enough with additional info and photos in the backmatter. Sometimes, though, especially when it’s about super popular- and living- people, the books don’t seem to have the same punch to them. It’s great they have different illustrators but can be hit-or-miss depending on if you enjoy their style.

Think Smart, Be Fearless: A Biography of Bill Gates

by Sharon Mentyka with illustrations by Vivien Mildenberger

Growing to Greatness is a new picture book biography series focused on Pacific Northwest trailblazers. This one focused on Bill Gates. I would have loved to read more about his philanthropy although the backmatter does delve into it further.

Something Happened in Our Park: Standing Together After Gun Violence

by Ann Hazzard, Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins with illustrations by Keith Henry Brown

A good companion book to own with Something Happened in Our Town, Something Happened in Our Park tackles the aftermath of gun violence in a community.

Very important issues tackled and very important emotions addressed.

Contains extensive backmatter material to help caregivers talk to young readers about gun violence. I really appreciated the samples of Adult-Child Dialogues.

Website includes even more information covering other topics addressed in this book.

Hokusai: He Saw the World in a Wave

by Susie Hodge with Kim Ekdahl

What the Artist Saw is a new picture book biography series that introduces readers to artists and includes activities they can do themselves. This one focuses on Japanese artist Hokusai. What I appreciated is that there were images of some of his work to help me better understand his art. I will definitely be checking out the other books in this series.

The Year We Learned to Fly

by Jacqueline Woodson with illustrations by Rafael López

From the team who brought The Day You Begin, Jacqueline Woodson crafts another hopeful and inspiring story that both looks back to acknowledge the struggles of those who’ve come before and looks towards a future full of possibilities perfectly showcased with Rafael López’s art.

The Life of the Buddha

by Heather Sanche with illustrations by Tara Di Gesu

A good introduction to Siddhartha Gautama’s life in becoming the Awakened One, Buddha. Not only that but it’s also an accessible way to learn about the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

Wonderful Babies

by Emily Winfield Martin

Another adorable addition to Emily Winfield Martin’s collection of board books babies will love.

Hello, World! Garden Time

by Jill McDonald

Hello World! is a board book series that introduces the youngest readers to nature and science concepts. Colorful images and question prompts are mixed in with the story text. For this book, kids learn about gardens.

After the Shot Drops

by Randy Ribay

Ultimately, I didn’t hate this book as much as I think I would especially when it had lots of things I don’t like in YA novels and that it’s about sports. There were definitely times that I was ready to chuck my phone (since I was listening to this on audiobook) because it felt like certain situations could have been avoided if they just talked it out. (Although, that’s easier said and done- in real life, as well, as in fiction- and where would the story be in that?

I did enjoy how thought-provoking it was about why certain people seem to have good things happen to them while others just fall through the cracks of a system that seems to work against them. Plus, it was interesting to see how things aren’t always as perfect as things might seem from the outside.

I’m glad I ended up reading Randy Ribay’s second novel first because I’m more likely to continue reading books he puts out.

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

by Mira Jacob

Good Talk by Mira Jacob is Multnomah County Library’s Everybody Reads 2022 selection- their first graphic novel pick. It brought up a lot of thoughts and emotions from me which is  good for any book club type title. 

As someone who grew up in the Philippines, I saw the incessant brainwashing that having a darker skin tone was bad, ugly, and needed to be remedied. I hate how it still is very prevalent to this day practically anywhere in the world.

I cringed at the microaggressions that she went through because I know from experience how common that is.

As we all are just trying to get through this pandemic, I almost (sort of but not really) forgot how much stress and oppression I was under during the last presidency. It’s not something I wanted to be reminded of or cared to read about as a past event because we’re still dealing with it.

The illustrations was a very unique style and at first I wasn’t sure what to make of it but I eventually warmed to it. I also listened to a sample of the audiobook version just to see how that would be since this is a graphic novel.

You can view all my reviews over on The StoryGraph.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- January 3, 2022 / December and Year-End Recap

New-2020-IMWAYR-Button
Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

My Word of the Year for 2021 was REVISE. With how the year turned out to be, it definitely seemed to be an appropriate word because I did have to constantly have to revise or change the way I would normally do things. Some of these pivots worked better than others.

Heading into 2021 was weird because of all the uncertainty yet there was a glimmer of hope for the second half of the year. When that didn’t really come to fruition, it was a hard pill to swallow. I remember planning goals for only the first half of the year with the intention of reevaluating and resetting for the second half. But I basically burned out after the first quarter and lost motivation for the rest of the year. Then I tried focusing on seasonal goals but when summer didn’t play out the way I intended, I gave up on that. I needed a “Salvage the Summer” week to do just that.

I guess I wasn’t able to focus on anything for a long time so I did two-week sprints of trying to instill new habits (but falling off immediately after they ended) and did seasonal bucket lists to take some of the pressure off.

In 2021, I’ve read 509 books. The breakdown is:

24- Adult novels

23- Adult non-fiction

32- Graphic novels

66- Middle Grade novels (Goal: 52)

350- Picture Books and Board Books

15- Young Adult novels

of which

109- Nonfiction Picture Books (Goal: 104)

47- Audio Books

From my Must Read list of 43 titles, I read 15 of them and decided not to read 4.

I was able to get my list of Favorite Favorites down to 52 over the summer which was quite the undertaking.

I also didn’t write as many reviews which made me blog less. I’m hoping that by switching from Goodreads to The StoryGraph, I will be more inspired to write more book reviews and keep up with my blogging. Follow me there!

Writing was pretty bleak this past year. But I did participate in StoryStorm and wrote a poem, “The Boy who Loved Birthdays”, as part of a little series I was doing.

I was able to find more Whimsy and Wonder, which you can read all about here. I also went on at least one Artist Day each month.

I visited lots of bookstores and libraries and reinstated my library hops, which you can read all about here.

As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t been writing reviews for the books I’ve read- even the ones I’ve enjoyed- so my lists of Favorite Books of 2021 will look a bit different. (These are books I read in 2021 and not necessarily books that were published that year. I’m also linking to Bookshop.org to continue to move away from Amazon-owned businesses.)

Picture Book

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho with illustrations by Dung Ho

Middle Grade

Pony by R. J. Palacio

Kids Nonfiction

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

Young Adult / Audiobook

Aristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Audiobook through Libro.fm)

Graphic Novel

Clash by Kayla Miller

Adult Fiction

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Adult Nonfiction

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

And, here are a couple of books that come out this year- 2022- that I managed to read last year that you should keep an eye out for:

Eyes That Speak to the Stars by Joanna Ho with illustrations by Dung Ho

Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds with illustrations by Jason Griffin

Hopefully, next week, we’ll get back to posting regular reviews!

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- December 27, 2021

New-2020-IMWAYR-Button
Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

This blog is turning 10 next year! While it’s not a big deal for anyone else, I’m quite pleased with the upcoming milestone.

Throughout the year, I’ve been reading the She Persisted chapter books. They’re great biographies to learn about some amazing women. I liked the section in the end of each book sharing ways the readers can emulate who they just read about. I enjoyed the ones about who I wasn’t aware of like Virginia Apgar and about who I wanted to learn more about like Nellie Bly. I’ll definitely continue reading the series.

As you probably know by now, I’m a completist when it comes to series. Another one I decided to complete was Storytelling Math. I was first introduced to them with Grace Lin’s board books. And like with the picture books that came after from other authors and illustrators, I loved that they incorporated math skills and concepts with engaging stories featuring diverse characters of different backgrounds. I’ll definitely continue reading the series as more books come out.

[FILIPINO READS]

 

The FarmThe Farm by Joanne Ramos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With its evocative cover, this debut novel wasn’t really on my reading radar until I came across it on some list. I was thinking it would be a mix of Crazy Rich Asians and The Handmaid’s Tale. While the story is largely motivated by money (what the people who have them can do with it just because they can and what the people who don’t have them will do for it just to survive) and the surrogates for the mysterious wealthy people they’re carrying life for discover the restrictive yet posh surrogacy center they’re staying in has secrets of its own, ultimately it’s an immigrant story- what is the American Dream and who can attain it and the lengths people will do to get through life. I wish it leaned more heavily in the psychological thriller aspect of it as the ending left me a bit wanting.

 

[ANTIRACIST READS] [FILIPINO READS]

 

Letters to a Young Brown GirlLetters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s a short but powerful collection of contradictions- being seen (for being different) and being invisible (for being different), being included (for being the token other) and being excluded (for being too much of the other)- that’s sadly too familiar. It’s also being fed up with how the system is rigged and deciding to not play by the unfair rules. It’s about finding your voice and learning to love yourself.

 

You can go to my Goodreads page to see other books I’ve read which I’ve been too busy to review. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7247248-earl

 

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- December 6, 2021 / November Review

New-2020-IMWAYR-Button
Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

November seemed to have gone by so quickly. On one hand, where did it go? On the other hand, hurry up and let’s be done with 2021 already.

The biggest thing that happened was that I got my booster shot and just recovered from a sore arm and slight fever the day of Thanksgiving.

I also added another volunteer shift to my weekly schedule and I’m glad to be able to help this other non-profit which I’ve been part of on and off for over a decade!

I did another one of my two-week challenges to instill good habits. For the most part, it worked but once it ended I kind of fell of the wagon- again!

I updated one of my other sites to keep up with all my Whimsy and Wonder posts. I love that I’ll have a record of a year of that to look at. You can read about them here: http://a-semi-blogged-life.blogspot.com/

I was trying hard to make progress on my Nonfiction Picture Book (or any Kids Book, really) Challenge and I’m pleased to say I’m only two titles away from reaching that goal.

So far this year, I’ve read 481 books. The breakdown is:
19- Adult novels
23- Adult non-fiction
31- Graphic novels
63- Middle Grade novels (Goal: 52)
331- Picture Books and Board Books
14- Young Adult novels
of which
102- Nonfiction Picture Books (Goal: 104)
45- Audio Books
And, now for some book reviews…

Sugar and SpiteSugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Jolina moves from the big city to a small island village, she doesn’t feel like she belongs. It doesn’t help there’s a girl not making things any easier for her. But because she comes from a family who knows how to create magical potions, she feels she can come up with a potion to make her bully her best friend. However, she realizes that she should have been careful what she wished for.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers EditionEverything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers Edition by Anton Treuer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a perfect book to read during National Native American Heritage Month. In a quick and accessible Q&A format, through the author’s lens, we get to see things in a historical perspective, learn about current issues that are being struggled with, and provides some things we can all do to create a better future.

It’s amazing all the things we were taught and not taught in school. Silence, distortion of facts, and erasure from the narrative seem to be some tactics to keep any minority groups oppressed. The more we learn about each other will only make us stronger.

And I do prefer a Young Readers Edition since I actually feel they’re better having had to be gone over again and only the important things are included. And they (the good ones, at least) aren’t dumbed down.

You can go to my Goodreads page to see other books I’ve read which I’ve been too busy to review. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7247248-earl

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- November 15, 2021

New-2020-IMWAYR-Button
Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!
Any Day with YouAny Day with You by Mae Respicio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Any Day with You is probably my favorite #Filipino middle grade novel I’ve read! It has everything that represents the Philippines to me- a large multi-generational family who love each other even if they’re oceans apart and, of course, delicious food to punctuate any event.

Kaia wants more than anything to stand out from her big sister’s shadow and she has the creative talent of using special effects make-up to help her. She and her friends enter a movie making contest. With the sudden news that her great-grandfather will be moving back to the Philippines, Kaia needs to win the contest to make him proud of her and stay. A tender tale about learning to say goodbye and being okay to new experiences.

It’s a shame it was released during the start of the pandemic and was not given the proper attention it deserved. But it’s available now in paperback (link below) so don’t miss out on it any longer. I know I’ll be reading her other books soon!

I’ve known about this series for awhile but I can’t remember what made me finally give it a go.

Originally written two decades ago, a part of me thought some parts were dated but really it seemed very ahead of its time. It had everything a YA romance novel had but with gay characters. So, what if things seemed formulaic? How many times have we witnessed (and continue to and will continue to witness) the same things over and over again with “cisgender straight white” characters? I mean, even with these books, the diversity within a minority group is lacking but that’s a whole other issue.

In Rainbow Boys, we meet the three main characters- Jason, Kyle, and Nelson. We alternate between their different viewpoints. It’s a coming to terms with one’s identity. Rainbow High is the aftermath and navigating the changes that lie before them. And, Rainbow Road has the three of them going on a cross country road trip that may forever alter their relationships.

(It would have been great if there was another follow up novel (or anything) called Rainbow Reunion seeing them now as adults.)

Nelson, the most flamboyant of the bunch, was my least favorite character which I think reveals more about myself as an out but somewhat repressed gay man if that makes sense. Is it jealousy that I can’t be as free as him or is it the socially ingrained assimilation tendency that has been programmed into me to not want others to stand out so we can blend in? Again that’s a whole other issue.

Anyway, I thought he had the toughest ordeals (dealing with an HIV scare, for one) which was sad. By the end of the third book, I found him totally insufferable.

I listened to the entire series very well narrated by Alston Brown. And I know he was just reading from the book but I’m glad I never have to hear the character of Jason saying “wazzup?” again. (I’m guessing that’s how it was written.) I would have read this quicker if I didn’t have to request that the second audiobook be purchased which took about two and a half months. Otherwise I probably would have binge-read the whole series.)

This reminded me of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City if it took place in high school. I would say the books are definitely worth a read bearing in mind it really is of it’s time if one wants to see how much things have changed (or not) over the years with and to the LGBTQ+ community in both literature and the real world.

You can go to my Goodreads page to see other books I’ve read which I’ve been too busy to review. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7247248-earl

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- November 1, 2021 / October Review

New-2020-IMWAYR-Button
Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

October was probably me trying to keep my expectations low, as I’ve mentioned in my previous post.

(Not only have I not been posting here regularly, but for some reason, I also haven’t been reviewing the vast majority of the books I’ve read. Hopefully, I’ll get back into the groove of things since 2022 will be this blog’s 10-year anniversary!)

I ate at a lot of Filipino restaurants. A part of me justified it by saying it’s Filipino American History Month but I was going to eat them regardless. I should just be grateful that the Philippines (in this case, its cuisine) is finding its way to Portland!

Of course, I also had to do some Halloween stuff throughout the month- like visiting a Halloween-themed book store, completing an Edward Gorey jigsaw puzzle, reading spooky stories, etc. And, I was able to help out a lady give out books for Halloween again. I’ve been coming to her house- which some of the trick-or-treaters have dubbed as the “Book House”- since 2012 and been lucky enough to be part of it every year except last year.

I was able to visit even more bookstores and libraries this past month- including going on another library hop, probably my last one for this year. You can read all about my bookish travels on my other blog. https://bookstoresandlibrariesvisited.wordpress.com/

I also filmed a “Book Haul” video just because. You can watch that here: https://youtu.be/QRMWZuYis50

Also, it’s that time to nominate your favorite booksellers for the James Patterson Holiday Bonus Program! Deadline is November 15th. You can get more details here: https://www.bookweb.org/james-pattersons-holiday-bonuses-booksellers Share in the comments what your favorite independent bookstore is!

So far this year, I’ve read 430 books. The breakdown is:
19- Adult novels
22- Adult non-fiction
31- Graphic novels
55- Middle Grade novels (Goal: 52)
293- Picture Books and Board Books
10- Young Adult novels
of which
77- Nonfiction Picture Books (Goal: 104)
42- Audio Books

I realized I wasn’t doing so bad with the number of books I’ve been reading. Although, I need to ramp up my nonfiction picture books to reach my goal!

And, now, for the book reviews…

I shared a video for a couple book reviews- Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr and Mel Fell by Corey Tabor- that I did part of a book committee I was on. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/dZhiVqRWk1U

My First Pop-Up Mythological Monsters: 15 Incredible Pops-UpsMy First Pop-Up Mythological Monsters: 15 Incredible Pops-Ups by Owen Davey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Was delighted and surprised to see the Philippines Sarimanok included in a pop-up book of mythological creatures.

Duran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and MeDuran Duran, Imelda Marcos, and Me by Lorina Mapa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This young adult graphic novel memoir has her coming to terms with her father’s death and recounting her life growing up in the Philippines during the People Power Revolution, the powerful nonviolent movement to oust a dictator from power. (I should look for a book to learn more about that historic event myself.)

I also read a short graphic novel story “The Siren’s Executioner” by the Trese team, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldismo, part of an online anthology- Ten Years to Save the World. I enjoyed getting a quick glimpse into a Filipino mermaid mythology and, like with all the other stories (I assume since I hadn’t read the others yet but I might since there are other Filipino- and LGBTQ+!- creators in it), has an environmental bent to it. You can read it- and more by others- here: https://www.10yearstosavetheworld.com/comics/budjette-tan-and-kajo-baldisimo

Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented CitizenDear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My #AntiracistReads pick for the month is also a bonus #FilipinoReads selection: Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas.

It’s a memoir of leaving the Philippines for the United States and, despite having grown up there and building a life, he discovers his immigration papers were fake therefore making him an “illegal alien.”

It’s a story of how much sacrifice the parents (and grandparents) of immigrant children make to ensure the next generation has a better future.

It’s a thought-provoking read about who gets to tell the stories of a country and its people and who gets to define who’s allowed to be here or not. I mean it’s not surprising on who and why but it’s mind-boggling to see how it’s still going on.

I appreciated how much help and support he had growing up because I’ve often found myself on the receiving end of other people’s generosity even when they didn’t need to do so. I’m also aware that not everyone has that good fortune bestowed upon them.

Filipino Ghost Stories: Spine-Tingling Tales of Supernatural Encounters and HauntingsFilipino Ghost Stories: Spine-Tingling Tales of Supernatural Encounters and Hauntings by Alex G. Paman
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was laughably bad- but I read the whole thing because I wanted to have a Halloween read and I didn’t have the energy to read all of Edgar Allan Poe’s works this month.

I did like the glossary of supernatural related terms at the back of the book which only some were mentioned in the actual collection of stories. I would have preferred it more if the book just delved into these terms more.

I also like the publisher since they showcase stories from all over Asia.

You can go to my Goodreads page to see other books I’ve read which I’ve been too busy to review. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7247248-earl

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- October 4, 2021 / September Review

New-2020-IMWAYR-Button
Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

My mini theme for September was to Simplify by saying no to certain things allowing me to say yes to things that would be better for me and my mental health.

Unsurprisingly, a big mood lifter was going on my bookish travels to visit bookstores and libraries. I was able to visit 5 bookstores and 3 libraries in the past month. You can read about them on my other blog.

I’ve also been trying to not have expectations as to not get disappointed but I’m having a hard time with that since it sounds so pessimistic. Is this even something I should be working towards?

And, life just goes on doing its thing which is a lot to process. I know things have to change but it’s not something I can figure out on my own. After one of my super down days, I got so frustrated that I initiated a 2-week challenge to help me try and get back on track, which I’m happy to say was very effective. Yet, once it ended, I decided not to continue with it and I reverted back to bad habits.

To end on a positive note, I was able to volunteer again. I have my weekly shift for the library and, just last week, I had another volunteer shift at a different nonprofit so that made it feel like old times. Here’s to even better days ahead- but not me expecting that there will be!

So far this year, I’ve read 400 books. The breakdown is:

18- Adult novels

20- Adult non-fiction

29- Graphic novels

53- Middle Grade novels (Goal: 52)

270- Picture Books and Board Books

10- Young Adult novels

of which

73- Nonfiction Picture Books (Goal: 104)

41- Audio Books

And now for some reviews… Dessert Island

Dessert Island by Ben Zhu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Monkey lives on a dessert island. Fox lives on a desert island. In this deceptively simple story of friendship and fortune, readers will be treated to a story that can be enjoyed on multiple levels.

Room to Dream (Front Desk #3)Room to Dream by Kelly Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mia Tang is back and fiercer than ever! From the front desk of the Calivista to China to visit family- and back again, her experiences continue to expand with both unexpected fulfillment of dreams and new challenges. Readers will continue to root for Mia and may be inspired themselves to go for their dreams!

PonyPony by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just finished probably my favorite #mglit novel of the year. A story of enduring love, unbreakable friendship, and the resiliency of the human spirit to face challenges and overcome them.

Lightning-struck and friends with a ghost, twelve-year-old Silas already has an unusual life but now he has to out on a rescue mission to save his dad from a gang of crooks. R.J. Palacio has crafted another masterpiece full of adventure, heart, and- yes- wonder!

Spoiler alert: Definitely not one of those books you want to be reading in public. Unless you want to be sobbing even behind your mask.

You can go to my Goodreads page to see other books I’ve read which I’ve been too busy to review.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!