Tagged: Benjamin Alire Sáenz

T is for Taking a Break #AtoZChallenge

So, yes, I went on my church retreat and it was quite relaxing and delightful. I took several naps and even got to play Catan, which I now want to play again. Don’t worry. I have pretty much already set up a game night to make that happen.

Ah, the beauty of retreat.

Speaking of the beauty of retreat, here is a picture of my view from the dock on Saturday morning.

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It’s the last week of classes. Whew.

So, after making my to-do grid, I realized I had a lot of work to do this weekend and so spent most of it grading and/or doing prep for this week and finals. I have made so much progress, though, so it was totally worth it. And after next Friday? SCHOOL’S OUT FOR THE SUMMER. As long as I get my grades in by then.

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Rereads abound!

I have reached the stage of my life where my body literally rebels against me trying to work on Saturday. I had plans to finish grading Saturday, but instead I took not one, but two naps. Two! I was just exhausted.

It’s cool, though. I finished grading this afternoon and will write up an assignment sheet before I go to sleep tonight–unless I fall asleep first. We’ll see how it goes.


This week on the blog, I started the A to Z Challenge, so it has been pretty busy around here. I posted some things, basically:

I forgot the hashtag for some of my posts, but all of the lettered posts are part of the A to Z Challenge. My theme, btw, is gratitude.

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But if you try sometimes, you get what you need: February/March in review

1. March was all about the Slice of Life challenge. I posted every single day in March, and, if you missed any, you can find them all here.

If I were still doing the challenge, I might have posted yesterday about going to the NCAA regional semifinals for gymnastics which was pretty cool. I would have complained about the lack of distinctive leotards and how bars seemed to be every single team’s nemesis and also the awful, awful music used for some of the floor routines. Also the price of stadium food. I would have gloated about spending time with a super cool lady friend and that our team made it to the finals. But then I would have possibly made a sadface as I described how me and my friend figured out there’s no way we can make it to the finals.

2. In February, I read five books:

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ISO: Books about Sibling Abuse

When I was a teenager, one of my friends had a brother who beat her up. At the time, I didn’t understand what that meant and couldn’t reconcile it with what I thought I knew about sibling relationships. To me, the fact that he “beat her up” meant that they got into fights sometimes. And, for me, then, fights were fair and equal matches that both people signed up for.

I remember I mentioned it/them to my parents once, and my dad even remarked with a shake of his head on it. “Isn’t that the boy who beats up his sister?” he asked. And I corrected him. “No,” I said. “They get into fights sometimes.”

I was young and had a limited understanding of the world. However, I knew about intimate partner violence and child abuse by parents/guardians because of soap operas and books. I had no clue that sibling abuse was a thing. I thought that siblings could fight or maybe get on each other’s nerves or participate in schemes and manipulation (okay, yes, this is all stuff I read in Sweet Valley High), but not once did I understand that domestic violence could occur between siblings.

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It’s Monday & I’m more than halfway through the semester

That means it’s almost over.

That means soon I’ll be able to breathe.

I don’t think I have ever looked forward to winter break more.

In other news, this week I got to meet literary goddess and living queen emoji Meg Cabot. She is every bit as funny and amazing as you would imagine. Also, she thinks I rule.

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Audiobook Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I wanted to tell them that I’d never had a friend, not ever, not a real one. Until Dante. I wanted to tell them that I never knew that people like Dante existed in the world, people who looked at the stars, and knew the mysteries of water, and knew enough to know that birds belonged to the heavens and weren’t meant to be shot down from their graceful flights by mean and stupid boys. I wanted to tell them that he had changed my life and that I would never be the same, not ever.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been on my radar since it first came out–not only because it has won so many awards and is lauded by many, but also because my summer book club picked it a few years ago. I didn’t read it then because I had required reading fatigue (it’s a thing I tend to get every summer), but I knew I would get back to it eventually. Well, eventually came this year once I found out Lin-Manuel Miranda (of Hamilton fame) did the narration for the audiobook.

 

ari

The plot of the book is pretty straight-forward: Aristotle (who goes by Ari) is a lonely 15-year-old who befriends Dante one day at the swimming pool. Then, you know, life and stuff happens. Big life and big stuff. I am avoiding spoilers here, obviously.

What I Liked

– First and foremost, this is a friendship novel. I LOVE FRIENDSHIP STORIES. They make me happy. Friendships can be easy and challenging and hard and beautiful, and that’s exactly what happens here.

– Dante is pretty fantastic. He’s such a great character: open, honest, frustrating, angry, challenging. He’s just so earnest! Ah, it’s adorable.

– Ari is pretty great, too. He’s the narrator, so the reader is more privy to his thoughts, and he is struggling to find his place in the world. I liked that he is pretty much just doing what comes next like a checklist for life, even if he isn’t sure what he wants yet. I think that’s pretty accurate for how many teens do things.

– This is a kissing book. Lots of talk of kissing here. Lots of kissing happening, too. I approve.

– THE PARENTS. Both boys’ parents are excellent. They are supremely flawed human beings who are doing the best they can, which means they screw up sometimes but that they love their kids so, so much–and the narrative acknowledges it. Also, Dante’s father is an English professor, so that automatically raises his level of awesome for me.

– Gina Navarro and Sophie (I can’t remember her last name). These are girls Ari grew up with who drive him insane but also love him a super lot and force him to participate in life stuff. At first, I was jarred by their presence, but I really like how they challenged him and how he came to see their place in his life.

– So basically all of the characters were great is what I’m saying.

– THE ENDING. I 100% love the ending to this book, and that’s what took me from liking it to really liking it. And when I say the ending, I don’t mean the last chapter. I mean pretty much the whole last act, starting from the moment Ari’s parents sit him down for a heart-to-heart until the very, very end. It was pretty much perfection.

– The dialogue is super realistic and I loved, loved, loved any time the characters were talking to and interacting with each other. I could pretty much see every single one of those scenes playing out in front of me. They were so great.

– One of the running threads through the book is this idea of being a “real” Mexican. I loved that exploration of the boys’ identities and how the idea is tied into not only cultural expectations but also outside stereotypes. It’s really well handled and Saenz is subtle in how he completely and most emphatically states that the only thing that makes someone a real Mexican is being Mexican. Love.

– Lin-Manuel Miranda is A+ as a narrator. I would listen to another book he reads. Also, he can definitely roll his r’s. I tried over and over to say Bernardo the way he does, and it just wasn’t happening. I also don’t speak Spanish, so you know.

What I Didn’t Like

– I thought this was a summer book. It’s not. When Ari went back to school, I was so confused and a little upset. This is all about my expectations as a reader, but it is what it is.

– I am pretty sure Ari is depressed throughout most of the novel (thought it’s never explicitly stated), and that’s fine. He’s also a pretty interior character, which is also fine. However, what that meant for huge chunks of the novel is that Ari is completely in his head and most of what he thinks is expressed in negatives. There is a lot of “I don’t know why I did this” and “I don’t know why this” and “I didn’t say anything, but” or “I didn’t ask him this.” Those moments (and there are A LOT of them) made the narration and the story drag.

Also, one thing I was taught when I studied creative writing was not to describe what a character doesn’t do and so I am hyper aware of when an author does it.

Those moments may have played out better in the text than in the audio, but just imagine listening to someone tell you for five minutes straight all the things they didn’t do in a given situation. It would get real old real fast.

On the plus side, it did make the moments of dialogue and character interaction that much more enjoyable, so.

In conclusion: A really powerful look at friendship, family, and love with great characters and an excellent ending.

Source: Library

 

 

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It’s Monday & Tropical Storm Colin is ruining my plans

I should be at the gym is what I’m saying. But no. Bands of rain with squall lines are coming through. RUDE.

This past week, I read:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounding up

Great characters, EXCELLENT ending. Also, Lin-Manuel Miranda is an A+ narrator. Will review on the blog.

 

Royal Day Out: A From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess e-shortRoyal Day Out: A From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess e-short by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I. Love. Grandmère.

That is all.
 

 

Kill the Boy BandKill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I made it about 1/3 of the way through this book and just could not bring myself to pick it back up again.

I find all of the characters grossly offensive and problematic on pretty much every level. If the author was aiming for satire, she missed. By a lot.

View all my reviews

 

As of today, I’m reading:

Dear Bill, Remember Me? by Norma Fox Mazer

I am still making my way through my library book sale finds, so I started Dear Bill, Remember Me? and Other Stories by Norma Fox Mazer last night. It’s a definite palate cleanser after Kill the Boy Band.

I’m currently listening to some podcasts so my audiobook adventures are on hold for now. However, I’m going to have to start packing soon (as in, I should have started yesterday), so I should really get on finding my next read.

Happy reading, everyone!

It’s Monday & I read a bunch of YA from the last century

This past week, I read:

A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a SandwichA Hero Ain’t Nothin’ but a Sandwich by Alice Childress
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a little hard to get into because the first chapter is told in dialect, and I was tired when I started it. It’s told in alternating POVs by everyone affected by Benjie’s drug use and offers some interesting perspectives on family, race, and economic equality.

It’s a slim volume but took me longer than I expected to read–probably because it took me a little while to figure out.

That ending is killer, for sure. Worth it just for that.

(I also wrote a full-length review of this on the blog. You can read it here.)

 

Sweet SixteenSweet Sixteen by Linda A. Cooney
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars, rounding down

I liked that this was actually more about the girls’ relationships with their families and each other than anything else–even though the cover and back of the book description led me to believe otherwise. The beginning was a little slow and the emphasis on sixteen was a little weird, but this was firmly grounded in reality and the summer romance was more of a summer friendship, which is a thing I dig. Slice of life, man. It works for me.

 

The Boy Who Drank Too MuchThe Boy Who Drank Too Much by Shep Greene
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The title of this should really be “The Friend of the Boy Who Drank Too Much. Also: Hockey” or possibly “How to Tell If You’re the Friend of the Boy Who Drinks Too Much Who Is Your Hockey Teammate.” Too much?

This was fine but I will probably forget that I read it. Julie was cool, though.

 

Now That I KnowNow That I Know by Norma Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I feel the same way about this book that I did about Tiger Eyes. Super authentic and relatable, and I wish more current YA were written this way.

 

 

 

Necessary RoughnessNecessary Roughness by Marie G. Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Football, football, football, football. There is a lot of football in this book. Just…a lot. So there’s that.

I will say, though, that Lee gets the shock of moving from a multi-ethnic big city to a small lily-white town in the Midwest pretty right. I agree with other reviewers that the ending was rushed, but I did like the family stuff and most especially all of the stuff with O-Ma and Mrs. K. Those ladies are the best.

View all my reviews

 

As of today, I’m reading:

Aristotle & Dante

I’m still listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz (and read by Lin-Manuel Miranda). That Dante kid is pretty great, huh?

 

The Obnoxious Jerks by Stephen Manes

As I mentioned before, I’m moving this summer and am therefore trying to read all of the (unread) books on my shelf to see what’s making the move with me. One of those books is The Obnoxious Jerks by Stephen Manes. I actually read this many, many years ago when I was a kid but remember absolutely nothing about it except the cover. So we’ll see how that goes.

 

Happy reading, everyone!

It’s Monday & I’m smashing my stack while listening to Lin-Manuel Miranda

This past week, I read:

Ender's Shadow (Shadow, #1)Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was fine, but a little dry mostly because it’s very interior and about a kid who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else thinking about how much smarter he is than everyone else. The only problem is that set up leaves little room for interaction with other characters and is, you know, kind of boring. But it was interesting enough for me to finish, so.

Sister Carlotta’s sections were pretty great, though. And I wasn’t that fond of the chapter beginnings. They were unnecessarily vague in places and would have worked better as actual scenes.

 

Royal Wedding Disaster (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess, #2)Royal Wedding Disaster by Meg Cabot
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Suuuuuuper cute with lots of laugh out loud moments. I am extremely tickled that Olivia finds Grandmère to be a comforting presence, but that’s the benefit of a different POV.

These books are just similar to and different from the original Princess Diaries series to delight old fans like me. Although, I do wish Olivia’s nemesis wasn’t basically a mini-Lana.

View all my reviews

 

Last week, I posted:

[wrap-up-posts week=”20″ year=”2016″ listtype=”ul”]

I’m already smashing my stack because I totally pulled Ender’s Shadow right off my shelf. (It was gifted to me several years ago–so long ago that I actually can’t remember when. And, yes, I just got around to reading it. That’s just how I roll.)

 

As of today, I’m reading:

A Hero Ain't Nothin' But a Sandwich by Alice Childress

In more #SmashYourStack news, I have decided to tackle A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich by Alice Childress (which I just found out was made into a movie starring Cicely Tyson and Paul Winfield! So there’s that).

My daughter is so confused by my reading choices right now. Most of the books I’ll be reading from my own shelves are from the ’80s, and I had a small pile of them on my bed.

Her: “Why are you reading all of these old books?”
Me: “Because we’re moving, and I want to read them so I don’t have to pack them.”
Her: *makes a face*

Linda Cooney is up next, basically. Ah, nostalgia. (I bought almost all of these books from the Friends of the Library book sale so will re-donate them to be re-sold to raise even more money for the library.)

 

Aristotle & Dante

 

Call it the Hamilton effect, but I totally just started listening to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz because Lin-Manuel Miranda mentioned on Twitter that he narrated it. I can’t find the Tweet, so here is the FB post:

 

I had started this book a couple of years ago but didn’t finish because I had hit my no assigned reading during the summer wall (my book club selected it). However, I always planned to get back to it. Turns out LMM was just the boost I needed. And now I get to take him on my morning walks with me.

(And I just found out LMM narrates The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I finished earlier this year. I totally would have listened to that one, too!)

Anyway, I’m enjoying it so far, so that’s nice.

 

Happy reading, everyone!