My Reading Week #IMWAYR- November 15, 2021

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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

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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

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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!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- September 20, 2021

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Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

I was able to do a library hop and visit a couple of bookstores which you can read about on my other blog

The Book Nook (Canby)

North Bank Books

20th Ever Library Hop: Books and Bridges Edition

And, now for the book reviews…

Once Upon a CamelOnce Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A nice new middle-grade read-aloud featuring Zada who may be the last camel in Texas. After a sudden windstorm disrupts her and her friends’ lives, she must be caretaker to two baby birds as they look for the parents, avoid a mountain lion, and find a new home. She shares details of her life which began in Turkey and with a herd of others camels including her best friend, Asiye. It’s a wonderful example of how stories can get us through difficult times.

KaleidoscopeKaleidoscope by Brian Selznick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Selznick’s books are always an experience with their mix of text and illustrations. These vignettes of love, loss, friendship, and the fantastical remind me of Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Like a kaleidoscope, the whole story is fragmented and in this case they may seem to fit together but creates a whole new picture altogether.

Ain't Burned All the BrightAin’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My #antiracistreads for this month wasn’t on my radar but it should definitely be on yours. It is Jason Reynolds’s upcoming teen novel Ain’t Burned All the Bright which includes art by Jason Griffin. This very unique book is an experience about black lives in a time of a pandemic when the world is on fire- literally and metaphorically. Jason Reynolds is like a sorcerer with his ability to captivate readers. It’ll be interesting to listen to the audiobook version as well. This comes out January 11th.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- September 6, 2021 / August Review

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Well, August has been another tough month. Portland had another heat wave (which thankfully wasn’t as bad as the one earlier in the summer) and a day where the smoke from the forest fires were bad. And then my phone was all wonky for most of the month and I couldn’t blog.

I did have one additional post since the IMWAYR/ July Review and that was my recap of my Season of Baldwin Reading Challenge.

I had a hard time connecting with people even though they were supposed to be my people. (In this case, I mean either the LGBTQ+ community or being around other Filipino.) I did get to support a few Filipino owned businesses so I was glad I did my part.

Then, there was one day at work when a guy shouted at me since he didn’t want to wear a mask! I wish people would just get it through their heads that we’re in a pandemic and that we all have to do our part if we want to overcome it.

But, one thing that really made me happy in August was that I got to visit a new library which you could read about here.

The end of the month, I started to feel slightly better just knowing I could say goodbye to August.

So far this year, I’ve read 312 books. The breakdown is:
18- Adult novels
19- Adult non-fiction
28- Graphic novels
49- Middle Grade novels (Goal: 52)
229- Picture Books and Board Books
9- Young Adult novels

of which
68- Nonfiction Picture Books (Goal: 104)
37- Audio Books

And since I haven’t been reviewing the books I’ve been reading, I’m going to share books I’ve read so far that were on my #MustReadin2021 list. (There are at least three titles that were on the list that I somehow didn’t write reviews for!)

I Am Frida KahloI Am Frida Kahlo by Brad Meltzer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The latest installment in this wonderful inspiring series for kids. I’m sure readers will be enthralled by Frida’s life, creativity, and determination!

The Year of the DogThe Year of the Dog by Grace Lin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d been meaning to read this for awhile now since I love the Where the Mountain Meets the Moon series and enjoyed most of her other books as well and am such a fan of the Book Friends Forever podcast. This was like getting to visit with old friends even though you may never have actually met in person. In addition to seeing how their friendship began and getting to read an entertaining story with Asian characters, I enjoyed the sort of behind the scenes glimpse of becoming a writer and where ideas come from.

Hilo Book 7: Gina---The Girl Who Broke the WorldHilo Book 7: Gina—The Girl Who Broke the World by Judd Winick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another exciting installment that tackles ongoing grief and having to shoulder unasked for and unwanted responsibility. I’m curious as to where this arc will lead and how many more books there will be in the series.

The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Tea Dragon, #3)The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Kay O’Neill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This series has been a delightful discovery and I love recommending the books to readers who want to be totally seeped in a world of quiet magic.

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World (Aristotle and Dante, #2)Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was ecstatic to be able to read this sequel to one of my favorite books of all time. It’s incredible to fall in love with a book and have the words enter your being. This book comes out October 12th and I know I’ll be rereading it by listening to the audiobook. Skate for Your Life

Skate for Your Life by Leo Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am such a huge fan of the Pocket Change Collective series and I think every middle school and high school libraries should carry them. They’re basically long essays about experiences specific to the person writing about it. In Skate for Your Life, Leo Baker shares their story falling in love with skateboarding at a young age, pursuing it as a career and the obstacles it presented to them as gender-queer nonbinary person.

ContinuumContinuum by Chella Man
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am such a huge fan of the Pocket Change Collective series and I think every middle school and high school libraries should carry them. They’re basically long essays about experiences specific to the person writing about it. In Continuum, Chella Man shares his story living in the intersections of his multiple identities as a Deaf, genderqueer, trans-masculine, Chinese, and Jewish person.

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the CountryThe Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember hearing this poem for the first time and how I was immediately taken in by the words and filled with a sense of promise and possibility- like listening to a sermon I had nothing but praise for- that I instantly put it on repeat. Reading a poem in one’s own voice as opposed to listening to the poet or a good orator is a different experience.

This was part of my Inaugural Poems Reading Challenge which you can read here: https://thechroniclesofachildrensbook…

Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's LiteratureWild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5. I’d been meaning to read this for awhile and am glad I finally did. It had interesting trivia and behind the scenes info about KidLit creators. But the format felt too bloggy (which is understandable since the writers are/were all bloggers) and made me crave more. And, surprisingly, considering how snail paced the publishing world sometimes feel, some parts felt outdated already. The best thing about this book, though, is that you’re bound to get some great recommendations!

Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an AdultWild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This has been on my TBR for awhile now and I read this back to back with Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, Peter Sieruta. Both books take on the world of kidlit and their creators but this one focuses more on his experiences reading or rereading the books he loved to his kids or the books he’s been meaning to read. What’s almost unforgivable is that he didn’t read Anne of Green Gables- and chose not to read it although he did start it- so that has completely soured whatever positive associations I had with this book.

The Book of DelightsThe Book of Delights by Ross Gay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and RedemptionJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My antiracist book for this month is Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.

It focuses on the problems within the criminal justice system especially for BIPOC and the poor. It’ll definitely get you angry. I admit it’s scary to think how many people believe truly evil and racist things and the extent of what they’ll do to keep their sense of power and entitlement.

I’m intrigued about the film adaptation.

I ended up donating to the Equal Justice Initiative after finishing Just Mercy. https://eji.org/

Caste: The Origins of Our DiscontentsCaste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Caste is an eye-opening reading experience reframing American racism jn a way that may be more universally understood through the lens of the caste systems in India and during the Nazi regime. It is not an easy read because of all that has transpired and continues to happen to this day. For me, the lynching done by the dominant caste (which they also celebrated and marketed through the selling of postcards depicting scenes of these atrocities) are not really products of the past but have just taken on a new form via the police brutality- often recorded- that have killed many Black men- and despite evidence to the contrary, the perpetrators are hardly ever held accountable for their actions. It’s almost like a public warning of “This is what we can do since we are the ones in power.” Naturally it is not all police who do this but those who get away with it are usually those of the dominant caste.

Reading Caste during this time when a white gunman shot and killed 8 people in Atlanta was really chilling because even the fact he was captured alive when other suspects who have done far less- or even nothing at all- have been mistreated and/or killed- not to mention his hate crime was explained partly by him having a bad day- is unnerving.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

 

Season of Baldwin Reading Challenge Completed

I noticed most of my reviews of the James Baldwin books I’ve read started with “I’d been meaning to read this…” so I just decided to dedicate some time reading his books which I’m dubbing the Season of Baldwin. The bulk of this reading challenge would be to get through all his novels and maybe read other works that people recommend. Usually I’ll set up other rules like read them in chronological order but I’m treating this with the impression that I’ll read the right book at the right time.

Another factor that made me choose to do this reading challenge was that art of James Baldwin kept popping up in Portland and I took that as a sign.

Art by Daren Todd
He even showed up when I was on vacation visiting a bookstore in Las Vegas!

And, I had actually watched the documentary I Am Not Your Negro earlier this year as part of my antiracist education. It was a difficult and uncomfortable watch but necessary and eye-opening.

Here are the James Baldwin books I’d read in previous years…

Giovanni's RoomGiovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d been meaning to read this and I’m glad I finally did because it’s become one of my favorite favorites. The writing is superb immediately drawing you into the story. And even though you know how it’s going to turn out, James Baldwin has created something so alive that you think it might somehow change.

 

The Fire Next TimeThe Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d been meaning to read this and admittedly I didn’t know much about it coming into it. I thought this was a collection of essays but it was actually just two works. The first is a short letter to his nephew on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. The second, which is the rest of the book, is about his faith and the racial injustice in the US. Both are powerful in their own ways that reveals a cold hard look at the realities of his time- and sadly our time as well.

 

Little Man, Little Man: A Story of ChildhoodLittle Man, Little Man: A Story of Childhood by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A most unique picture book- James Baldwin’s sole children’s book. Leave it to him to capture experiences that are hardly told- and maybe at the time of its original publication, never told at all. It may seem gritty to our older sanitized selves but the honesty is refreshing. Adult situations and adult problems can never truly be separated from children’s lives as much as we would want to protect them from it as long as we possibly can. I wish there was a more cohesive thread to these vignettes and a stronger sense of a story structure to give it some sort of closure.

 

And, officially starting off the challenge with Going to Meet the Man proved it was the right decision because… wow!

Going to Meet the ManGoing to Meet the Man by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of short stories were incredible. I liked all of them except “The Man Child.”

I enjoyed “The Rockpile” and “The Outing” and because they involved the same characters I thought all the stories were going to be related and loosely interwoven. I’m excited to stick with these characters for my next Baldwin read, Go Tell It to the Mountain.

“Sonny’s Blues” contains some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read so I think everyone should read that.

The titular story was ugly, horrible, and difficult to read- subject-matter wise. The writing was superb as usual.

“This Morning, This Evening, So Soon” was probably my favorite. I felt lots of the experiences the narrator shared stemmed from Baldwin’s real life. But I admit I don’t know much about his life so I have to remedy that, too!

 

Go Tell It on the MountainGo Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t know what happened to my review of this novel but I’m going to try and reconstruct my thoughts about this novel.

I had read about some of the characters in James Baldwin’s Going to Meet the Man short stories collection and, since they were my favorite parts of those, I was excited to spend more time with them.

I was quite taken by the writing and loved the moment between John and his mother in the beginning. I really thought this would be a straightforward coming-of-age story but was surprised when the second part of the book was dedicated to flashbacks, which is Baldwin’s style.

The third part takes it back to the characters’ present time.

A masterful piece of work to write about so many powerful themes in such a unique structure.

 

If Beale Street Could TalkIf Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

James Baldwin does it again with another beautiful and heartbreaking novel that reflects the ugliness and scariness of that time- and, unfortunately, of his time, still, as well. It also celebrates the love and hope and perseverance of those a country, a system, is determined to break but knows it can’t.

The characters are memorable. You’ll be swept away in the love story of Tish and Fonny. You’ll be reading with bated breath to see how the story unfolds and the ending is surely something to think about.

A scene between the two families was probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

I am (and continue to be) in awe of Baldwin’s writing.

 

Another CountryAnother Country by James Baldwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wasn’t expecting this novel to be so long! I even had to up the speed of the audiobook so it would go faster but not enough so the narrator sounded like a chipmunk.

I also read a few summaries since the first seemed quite spoilery, the second too vague and the third even more spoilery!

Maybe because I was meeting a friend to discuss this book and that time was fast approaching but the length of the book really affected my feelings towards it, I was exhausted by the time I actually finished.

If each character was a country, I felt we spent too long on each one when a slight layover could have sufficed.

The storytelling and writing were still superb and insightful but some of the tactics he’s known for (like time jumping) really annoyed me during this read. Plus, I didn’t like any of the characters. I don’t have any problems with realistic fiction but I also want it to be slightly different from real life.

 

Just Above My HeadJust Above My Head by James Baldwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a way, James Baldwin’s novel of brotherly love is a culmination of what made his other novels so great with the superb writing, the memorable characters, and the insights of what makes us all so wonderful and horrible at the same time. But, it also feels like all those other books combine in the sense that this was really long. I ended up reading two of his other novels before finishing Just Above My Head. I admire his ability to write such an epic but I wish we didn’t have to spend so much time with so many characters.

My Season of Baldwin is nearing its end after finishing this novel. One more to go!

 

Tell Me How Long the Train's Been GoneTell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, I can’t believe I just finished my last James Baldwin novel to complete my Season of Baldwin Reading Challenge.

As for this particular novel, my only regret is that it was so unnecessarily long. Somehow the last three novels I read were lengthy. I couldn’t believe how much into the past we had to keep going into when a few key moments would have sufficed and made the story better. And then the ending was so abrupt.

I wish this novel had focused solely on the theatrical life of Leo Proudhammer because there was already so much to dissect there. The flashbacks to his childhood were fascinating but seemed redundant and a choice that was repeated in previous works. (Or maybe this was the first instance since I did read them out of order.)

I think another reason I wanted this to be shorter was that I probably wouldn’t have minded if they were two or three separate books.

 

I also decided to read other books by him that wasn’t for the challenged but I felt really enriched my experience of reading his works.

Blues for Mister CharlieBlues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Knowing this play was written by James Baldwin and knowing this was based on killing of Emmett Till, it was bound to be powerful. A murder of a black man divides an already divided town. When the white killer is put on trial, there is hope that justice will be served but the history of racism and racist ideals shows the near impossibility of that happening- and as we can see in present time the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Jimmy's Blues and Other PoemsJimmy’s Blues and Other Poems by James Baldwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Readers can still expect James Baldwin’s sharp and cutting insights on life and love, race and society, in this collection of poems. “Inventory/ On Being 52” was probably my favorite.

The Amen CornerThe Amen Corner by James Baldwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A pastor’s past comes to wreak havoc on her present and future. A power play erupts within the congregation. James Baldwin is great at putting characters you want to care about in difficult situations- most often due to society and sometimes, like in this case, because of human behavior.

One of my best friends and I actually had a book club for Another Country during Pride. And she surprised me a few weeks later with this nice postcard that had a quote from Giovanni’s Room.

Watching the documentary James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket was a great way to know him not just as an author and activist but also as a human being. It talked about some of his works which I read and it gave me a whole new appreciation for them. And, to paraphrase someone in the documentary talking about Baldwin’s writing but to expand it about his life as well, even though he wrote a lot of heavy and dark topics, he was able to shine a light sometimes from a fiery rage against the world but also from the burning flame of hope that he didn’t completely lose to despair.

I’d say, overall, my reading life has been greatly enriched reading James Baldwin’s work and that every reader should read at least a few of his books.

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- August 2, 2021 / July Review

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Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

In July,

I was able to go to Las Vegas to be with my brothers and sisters and see other family members. The recap can be read here.

I was also able to go on a library hop and visit new bookstores which you can read on my other blog.

And, I finished my Season of Baldwin Reading Challenge which I’ll post about next week.

I had named this time the No Bummer Summer and while it hasn’t been the case, I know there’s still plenty of time left to turn things around or to add no bummer elements to the rest of the summer.

So far this year, I’ve read 312 books.

The breakdown is:

17- Adult novels

19- Adult non-fiction

22- Graphic novels

45- Middle Grade novels (Goal: 52)

201- Picture Books and Board Books

8- Young Adult novels

of which

65- Nonfiction Picture Books (Goal: 104)

35- Audio Books

And, now for the book reviews…

Becoming VanessaBecoming Vanessa by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Based on the author/illustrator’s own childhood experiences, Vanessa wants to make a good first impression with her classmates. But when her outfit is deemed too much and her name too long, she starts second guessing her approach until her parents remind Vanessa to just be herself and people will see what makes her special that way.

Bird BoyBird Boy by Matthew Burgess
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Being the new kid in school is never easy especially when you get teased and nicknamed “Bird Boy.” But even though Nico wants to fit in, he can’t help his flights of fancy and, soon, his classmates are drawn by inner confidence and want to become his friend!

El Cucuy Is Scared, Too!El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! by Donna Barba Higuera
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ramon is nervous about his first day of school- and so is his boogeyman friend El Cucuy. In a hilarious turn of events, Ramon ends up comforting El Cucuy that he is scary enough despite all the changes happening in their lives. The sweet story of facing one’s fears incorporates Spanish words into the text.

Sounds Like School SpiritSounds Like School Spirit by Meg Fleming
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Build up excitement for the upcoming school year with this fun picture book. Chant along in celebration of meeting cool teachers and making new friends.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- July 26, 2021

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Thanks to Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts for this meme!

I was able to go on a library hop and visit a new to me bookstore last week which you can read about in my other blog: https://bookstoresandlibrariesvisited.wordpress.com/ .

Sharing Our World: Animals of the Native Northwest CoastSharing Our World: Animals of the Native Northwest Coast by Ian Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually read this as part of a library’s Story Stroll, which you can read about here: https://bookstoresandlibrariesvisited…

A celebration of animals in the Pacific Northwest and what they teach us.

Hear My Voice/Escucha mi voz: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United StatesHear My Voice/Escucha mi voz: The Testimonies of Children Detained at the Southern Border of the United States by Warren Binford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Various illustrators give voice to migrant children detained in the US-Mexico border and shines a light at the horrific situations they’re faced with.

Mel FellMel Fell by Corey R. Tabor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Absolutely delightful story of letting go of fears and just flying. A fun reading experience all around with fun illustrations.

Carol and the Pickle-ToadCarol and the Pickle-Toad by Esme Shapiro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fun quirky book with a wonderful message of silencing the inner critic and using your own voice. It’s a world where readers would enjoy visiting over and over again.

Vivi Loves ScienceVivi Loves Science by Kimberly Derting
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When aspiring marine biologist Vivi learns the class field trip is to the beach she is excited to discover what ocean life awaits for her there. Includes a couple of fun activities plus some science facts.

MartyMarty by Rachel Noble
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful story about fitting in. When a Martian’s identity is exposed, he worries if he’ll always be an outsider or if he can find a place to belong.

Memory JarsMemory Jars by Vera Brosgol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet story of finding the balance between holding on the good things in life and living in the moment.

Where Is the Dragon?Where Is the Dragon? by Leo Timmers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reminds me of Chris Haughton’s Shh! We Have a Plan but involving dragon-hunting instead of bird-hunting.

Measuring UpMeasuring Up by Lily LaMotte
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A kid enters a cooking channel to hopefully bring her grandma from Taiwan to visit them in their new home in Seattle. But the kids in her school tease her about the food she eats. How can she find a way to fit in and be herself at the same time?

Adrian and the Tree of SecretsAdrian and the Tree of Secrets by Hubert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I stumbled upon this while randomly browsing the shelves of a bookstore I’d never been to. I was intrigued by the title and then drawn in by the fact it was a graphic novel. The only thing I can say without it being too spoilery is that it’s very realistic and has a very moody feel to it.

Just Above My HeadJust Above My Head by James Baldwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In a way, James Baldwin’s novel of brotherly love is a culmination of what made his other novels so great with the superb writing, the memorable characters, and the insights of what makes us all so wonderful and horrible at the same time. But, it also feels like all those other books combine in the sense that this was really long. I ended up reading two of his other novels before finishing Just Above My Head. I admire his ability to write such an epic but I wish we didn’t have to spend so much time with so many characters.

My Season of Baldwin is nearing its end after finishing this novel. One more to go!

The Amen CornerThe Amen Corner by James Baldwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A pastor’s past comes to wreak havoc on her present and future. A power play erupts within the congregation. James Baldwin is great at putting characters you want to care about in difficult situations- most often due to society and sometimes, like in this case, because of human behavior.

Jimmy's Blues and Other PoemsJimmy’s Blues and Other Poems by James Baldwin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Readers can still expect James Baldwin’s sharp and cutting insights on life and love, race and society, in this collection of poems. “Inventory/ On Being 52” was probably my favorite.

You can view all the books I’ve read on my Goodreads page.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- July 12, 2021 / Las Vegas Edition

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I was in Las Vegas recently and was able to be with all my brothers and sisters. I also managed to visit a bookstore and a library while I was there.

One of things I wanted to visit was the secret art installation- James Turrell’s Akhob in the City Center- but I needed to make a reservation a couple months in advance according to the website. Luckily, he did have another installation- Shards of Color- at the Shop at Crystals so I was able to sort of get my fix that way.

It was nice to see another Maya Lin artwork. “Silver River” is an art installation hanging above the front desk area of Aria’s lobby.

I was also impressed by Bellagio’s Botanical Gardens.

I also got to check out Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation just outside of Vegas.

I also enjoyed finding a couple of labyrinths to walk while there.

Enlightenment (Bathala Series, Book #1)Enlightenment by Reno Ursal
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Filipino folklore, mythology and history takes center stage in this young adult novel. The balance of power between the human race and the forgotten ones of powerful, magical creatures is threatened. It’s up to a warrior-protector to save an important key figure in this game until she realizes her true potential. But a desperate enemy and family secrets all make things extra difficult. While some parts were clunky, I really hope there will at least one more book in this series to tie everything up.

It was the perfect trip for my recent Vegas trip where the story takes place.

You can view all the books I’ve read on my Goodreads page. Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!

My Reading Week #IMWAYR- July 5, 2021 / June Review

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By the time this is scheduled to post, I should be in Vegas spending time with family and friends. But I’m currently writing this while still in Portland looking ahead and at the same time.

Some highlights of June have been getting to visit two new bookstores which you can read about on my other blog.

And a Filipino community center just opened up in Portland as well.

Our bookstore just opened up for in-store browsing again and so far there hasn’t been a problem with that.

I’ve enjoyed my Reading the Rainbow BINGO challenge and celebrating Pride by eating all sorts of rainbow food.

And, here’s a before and after of my BINGO card!

Also, Salt & Straw had ice cream flavors based on books so I had to try a couple- Goosebumps and Amulet.

And we had a record-breaking heat wave that was miserable!

But I’m looking forward to what I’m coining a No-Bummer Summer!

So far this year, I’ve read 268 books. The breakdown is:

13- Adult novels

17- Adult non-fiction

16- Graphic novels

40- Middle Grade novels (Goal: 52)

175- Picture Books and Board Books

7- Young Adult novels

of which

60- Nonfiction Picture Books (Goal: 104)

30- Audio Books

Now, for the book reviews…

My First DayMy First Day by Phùng Nguyên Quang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this beautifully illustrated picture book, a Vietnamese boy sets off on his first day to an unknown yet surprisingly familiar destination.

black is brown is tanblack is brown is tan by Arnold Adoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A classic republished with new illustrations showing the everyday moments of a multiracial family.

Milo's MuseumMilo’s Museum by Zetta Elliott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love how representation is tackled in this picture book. After a school field trip to a museum and not seeing anything that represents her or her community, Milo is inspired to create her own to remedy the problem.

The Little Things: A Story About Acts of KindnessThe Little Things: A Story About Acts of Kindness by Christian Trimmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sweet story of how one act of kindness can inspire more.

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best FriendJo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jo Jo Makoons is a new early chapter book series about a girl from the Ojibwe tribe figuring out how to make new friends. Perfect for fans of Jasmine Togochi, Yasmin, Pedro, and Katie Woo!

We BelongWe Belong by Cookie Hiponia Everman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A quick engaging read. This sweet novel in verse is a story within a story as a mother recalls to her daughters her childhood moving to a new country infused with Filipino mythology of half-god half-human siblings dealing with new family dynamics. It is also a celebration of motherhood and sisterhood. Includes a glossary of Tagalog words and phrases as well as translations of two famous Filipino nursery rhymes. I also enjoyed the choice to use a different colored ink to denote the mythology story. The book also has illustrations by Abigail Dela Cruz.

Blues for Mister CharlieBlues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Knowing this play was written by James Baldwin and knowing this was based on killing of Emmett Till, it was bound to be powerful. A murder of a black man divides an already divided town. When the white killer is put on trial, there is hope that justice will be served but the history of racism and racist ideals shows the near impossibility of that happening- and as we can see in present time the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Brokeback MountainBrokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As someone who was first introduced to Brokeback Mountain with the film version and it being surrounded by so much hype- some positive with it being cited as a turning point in queer cinema and some jokingly with it being reduced to the gay cowboy movie- and me seeing it sort of forbidden and taboo in my then not-out self, I was glad to finally read the original short story (available as its own book) because it somehow made the characters more real and what they had gone through more heartbreaking but beautiful they had each other.

You can view all the books I’ve read on my Goodreads page.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy Reading!