August Wrap-Up

Happy September everyone!

The 2022-2023 school year is about to begin, and I am incredibly busy getting everything ready! I’m excited for my new group of sixth graders this year, but these first couple weeks at the start of the year are always exhausting! So I’m a little behind on my reading and blogging, but that’s okay. Hopefully once things settle a little more I’ll be able to get back on track.

This month, I read a lot of young adult and middle grade fiction in anticipation of my return to the classroom, and I read some really great books that I’m excited to share with my students this year! Going into September, I’m hoping just to continue reading whatever sparks my interest so that I can keep on reading even through the inevitable exhaustion of the first month of school.

Without further ado, here is my wrap-up of all the books I read in August:

To learn more about a book, click on the photo to find the Goodreads synopsis.

Stats and Overall Thoughts:

Books read: 9
Physical books: 7
(Books that I physically own: 3)
Audiobooks: 0

E-books: 2

Fiction: 9
(Historical fiction: 2)
Nonfiction: 0

Average monthly rating: 3.9
Top Book of August: The War That Saved My Life

*To learn more about a book, click on the photo to find the Goodreads synopsis.

5-star books:

  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Paperback)
    • I absolutely loved this book. I’d heard great things about, and it definitely lived up to my expectations! This is technically a middle grade book, but it could easily be enjoyed by readers of all ages. I’ll keep this blurb brief, but you can read my full review HERE!
    • A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Paperback)
      • This was such a beautiful story. I was so captivated by it that I basically read it in one sitting (it also helps that it’s pretty short). I do feel like it could have been fleshed out a little more to give it a little more emotional depth, but considering the target audience I think it’s perfect as is. It moves at a rapid pace but still includes enough historical context that kids would be able to follow what’s happening in this place and time (Sudan, 1980s). This would be a great one to read with 5th grade and up. Review coming soon!

    4-star books:

    • The Orange Grove by Rosanna Ley (Romance, Hardcover)
      • While I wasn’t super invested in the actual love story in this romance, the true love story, I felt, was with Sevilla. It’s set in Sevilla, Spain, and the research that went into this book was truly impressive. The descriptions were so vivid and accurate that I actually felt like I was back in Sevilla while reading it. The reason I rated it 4 stars is primarily because the pacing was slow at times and it seemed unnecessarily long. I also didn’t always feel like the characters’ reactions were realistic, and the over descriptive nature of the storytelling (which I appreciated regarding the setting) sometimes felt like telling rather than showing when it came to character motivations. And finally, almost all of the Spanish language included in the book was written incorrectly, which irked me. Even the most basic “yes” and “no” were written incorrectly as “si” and “non” every time. The former is incorrect because, without the accent mark, it means if rather than yes. And the latter is incorrect because “no” in Spanish is just no; I think non is French. However, despite all of that, I really enjoyed reading this! I appreciated the themes of family, and I thought the characters were surprisingly complex, which led to more nuanced themes of love that show how complicated it can be. I also liked the ending and how all of the characters ended up developing. Overall, if you’re not able to visit Sevilla in person, this is a great alternative way to “experience” the culture, food, and beauty of this incredible city!

        *Side note… One interesting thing to note about the writing style in this book… Was the excessive… use of… ellipses… It wasn’t quite as excessive as in my previous sentence, but it was definitely more than I’m used to reading! It wasn’t a big deal – I got used to it pretty quickly – but I did think it was a little odd!
    • Me, Frida, and the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes (Mystery, Middle Grade, Hardcover)
      • I enjoyed this one, but I wouldn’t say that I loved it. On a very personal level, I was a little annoyed that the main character was so upset about having to go to Mexico City for her summer break, because it’s a city that I desperately want to visit. Some of the things I didn’t like: slow pacing in the first half, rushed/unrealistic climax, resolution that didn’t allow for character development of supporting characters. What I did like: themes about family and bravery, representation of Mexican culture and art, and, of course, Frida Kahlo! I’m a big fan of Frida Kahlo and her artwork, so it was exciting to see this play such a prominent role in this middle grade story. Review coming soon!

    3.75-star books:

    • Hunter x Hunter #1 by Yoshihiro Togashi (YA Fantasy/Adventure, Manga, Paperback)
      • My first ever foray into manga! I read this one because my students love manga and anime, and it’s not really something I know a lot about. So I wanted to try reading some manga to be able to connect with them a little bit better this year, and this was one that I’ve heard them mention before! While I hadn’t read manga before, I have read graphic novels, and those aren’t really my thing either (I enjoy them every once in a while, but I generally prefer novels with more prose). Overall, I thought this was cute! There’s a little bit of violence, but I think this would be fine to have in an upper grades classroom (maybe 5th grade and up). One thing that bothered me a little is that it didn’t really follow a typical plot structure in the sense that this story seemed to end during the rising action. I get that it’s a series, but I’m used to each installment in a series completing its own mini-arc that contributes to a larger overall series arc. However, I think it really just comes down to the fact that I’m not accustomed or even all that knowledgeable about this genre, so I don’t want to count my concerns against it since it’s just something that I’m not used to. I gave this book a 3.75 rating because I didn’t love it and it wasn’t enough to convert me into a manga fan, but I thought it was a creative premise and, though I’m not suddenly a manga mega-fan, I am curious enough about what happens next to want to read volume 2!

    3.5-star books:

    • The Fever King by Victoria Lee (YA Fantasy, E-book)
      • While not a perfect book, I still enjoyed this one! I thought the premise was interesting, and there was a lot of diversity in the cast of characters, but it just didn’t quite live up to its potential. For instance, although the premise sounded interesting (a virus that, essentially, if you survive, gives you magical powers of some kind) was never fully fleshed out and I never fully understood the imagined historical and political context of this world. The characters were diverse, but didn’t always feel fully fleshed out. The romance was cute and executed better than some YA romances I’ve read, but the main issue in the relationship was basic communication, which is always frustrating because its only purpose is to create conflict. While some reviewers felt this book was too sexually explicit for a YA book, I didn’t feel that it was excessive. I did, however, take issue with the excessive amounts of teen drinking and drug use. It was over-the-top, in my opinion. On a more positive note, I did find the villain in this story intriguing. He came across as morally grey, and it’s hard to tell what his true motives are, so that was fun to read! I also found Noam’s power of having control over technology to be interesting because it gave the book some sci-fi vibes as well. All in all, not my favorite book, but I enjoyed it enough to give the sequel a try!
    • Sheets by Brenna Thummler (Fantasy, Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Paperback)
      • The illustrations and color scheme of this book were absolutely gorgeous, but I just didn’t really enjoy the story. It didn’t flow very well, the villain was too over-the-top for me, and I just didn’t really understand the message. It seemed like a half-hearted portrayal of grief and mental health, which is too bad because it could have been a really special middle grade book. That being said, I do think there are elements of this story that many kids will be able to relate to. These include loss of a parent, parent suffering from depression, and an older sibling having to step up to take care of the family/younger siblings. I would definitely include it in an upper elementary or middle school classroom library, but that’s about it. I am little bit biased though since I’m not a huge fan of graphic novels, so definitely check it out if it seems interesting to you! Review coming soon!

    3.25-star books:

    • Blue Period #1 by Tsubasa Yamaguchi (YA Realistic Fiction, Manga, Paperback)
      • There were some really interesting themes in this book! I loved how it showed that art is a skill that can be learned and practiced by anyone, and I especially loved the theme of how art is a way to communicate parts of ourselves that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to. There were also themes about hard work, the dangers of being someone you’re not to please those around you, and how it’s important to follow your passions. I also enjoyed the technical information included about art, but felt that it was incorporated a little clumsily into the narrative. For that reason I rounded up to a 3.25 rating, but I did have a few issues with it that initially had me leaning more towards a 3. For one, I found the dialogue to be poorly written. I also struggled to follow what was happening a lot of the time because there were many time jumps that weren’t clearly indicated in the dialogue or the illustrations. There were also a lot of characters that I had a hard time keeping track of, and none other than the main character seemed fully fleshed out (although I’m sure this improves as you continue reading the series). Compared to my first attempt at manga, Hunter x Hunter, I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much. However, I am still curious what happens next in the story, which is a good sign!

    3-star books:

    • The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee (YA Fantasy, E-book)
      • *CW: Mentions of sexual assault below.

        This is the sequel to The Fever King, and this one again had potential that it just didn’t live up to, and I also didn’t enjoy it as much as the first book. The biggest issue with this one was just pacing. Not enough happened, and what did happen was incredibly repetitive. And to make things worse, the repetitive scenes were often incredibly disturbing and/or didn’t really contribute anything to the plot. A major theme/plot point in this book is sexual abuse and statutory rape, and these scenes were described repeatedly throughout the story. I get that you should be uncomfortable while reading something of that nature, but it could have been portrayed without repeated descriptions of essentially the same scene over and over. It also removed the initial intrigue of the villain. In the first book he was morally grey and manipulative in a more sneaky way, but in this book he’s just a straight up monster. The ending was also abrupt, nonsensical, and anti-climactic. However, I did appreciate the themes that showed it’s never the minor’s fault in situations of sexual abuse (I think that’s a really important message for teens who may have gone through something similar or know someone who has), and also the theme of how it can be hard to know where to draw the line when fighting for something/someone you care about.

    How did your reading go in August? Any stand-out books to recommend?

    Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading (my blog, but also just in general)!

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