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2024 Bookish Books Reading Challenge (Hosted by Yours Truly)

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My Progress:

11 / 30 books. 37% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (3)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia (1)
- Hawaii
- Idaho (2)
- Illinois (1)
- Indiana
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- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine (1)
- Maryland
- Massachusetts (2)
- Michigan
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- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
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- New York (2)
- North Carolina (3)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (1)
- Oklahoma (1)
- Oregon (2)
- Pennsylvania
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina
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- Tennessee (1)
- Texas (3)
- Utah
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (1)
- Washington (2)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming
- Washington, D.C.* (1)

- Australia (1)
- Canada (1)
- England (8)
- France (1)
- Indonesia (1)
- Ireland (2)
- Italy (1)
- Scotland (2)
- The Netherlands (1)

My Progress:

23 / 51 states. 45% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

16 / 50 books. 32% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

21 / 50 books. 42% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

43 / 50 books. 86% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

My Progress:

38 / 52 books. 73% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

25 / 40 books. 63% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

9 / 25 books. 36% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

2024 Mystery Marathon Reading Challenge

My Progress

6 / 26.2 miles (second lap). 23% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

22 / 100 books. 22% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

58 / 104 books. 56% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

42 / 52 books. 81% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

60 / 165 books. 36% done!
Sunday, December 27, 2020

Family Drama Unfocused But Still Impactful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

With six people in their household, life with the Mannings has always been crazy, loud, and fun.  Twelve-year-old Zinny especially enjoys hanging out with Gabriel, her 18-year-old brother, with whom she always has a great time.  When Gabriel is involved in a serious car accident, it throws their close-knit family for a loop.  Even though Gabriel is not injured, he's taken to a hospital—a facility that treats people with mental illnesses.  According to the doctors, Zinny's beloved brother has bi-polar disorder.  Her parents don't know what to do with the diagnosis, so they make Zinny and her siblings promise not to tell anyone what is going on.  Although she can't quite understand the need for secrecy, she agrees to keep mum.

As the weeks pass, all of Zinny's parents' time seems to be taken up with visiting Gabriel, arguing with the insurance company, and talking to therapists.  Zinny's siblings are dealing with Gabriel's situation in their own ways.  The Manning family feels more fractured than it ever has.  Zinny has so many worries that she needs to share, but she can't let her frustrations out without betraying her parents.  Even though she's been invited to attend a special lunch club/support group at school for kids dealing with various difficult issues, she's not about to share what's going on at home.  The longer Gabriel is in the hospital, the more anxious Zinny feels.  If she can't express all the emotions boiling up inside her she's going to burst.  Can she find a way to get the help she needs?  Will her family ever be whole again?  

My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee is a thoughtful novel about mental illness and how it affects all members of a family.  Although Zinny's victimhood gets old, her emotional roller coaster ride in the wake of her brother's diagnosis feels authentic.  Without a solid story goal, though, her tale feels more episodic than focused.  There's no real plot at the center of My Life in the Fish Tank, which makes the whole story feel a little loosey-goosey.  Still, it features likable characters and teaches some valuable lessons about the importance of feeling and expressing one's emotions, being a true friend, getting help when needed, taking the stigma out of mental illness, and dealing with unexpected changes.  I liked it, didn't love it.


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for difficult subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

MG Debut Accessible and Empowering

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Isaiah Dunn's father dies unexpectedly, it throws his family a devastating curveball.  Four months later, Isaiah's mom is drinking too much, his little sister is needier than ever, and the whole family is living in a dingy hotel room that smells like smoke.  With the constant threat of homelessness hanging over their heads, 10-year-old Isaiah knows he needs to do something.  He's trying to stay out of trouble at school and find a lucrative part-time job, neither of which is working out too well.  Isaiah's father thought Isaiah was a super hero—he even wrote stories about it—but Isaiah just feels like a failure.  How can he save his family?  He needs the super human skills of all the Avengers combined to pull this one off, but all he has is himself.  Isaiah is just a child.  How can he save the day?

Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero, a debut novel by Kelly J. Baptist, is a slim novel that packs a big punch.  It deals with some tough subjects, but it does so in an accessible, age-appropriate, and hopeful way.  Isaiah is a relatable character who's sympathetic and admirable while still feeling real.  His story teaches many lessons about being yourself, working toward goals, using your talents, and asking for help when you need it.  Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero is a poignant, touching, empowering novel that I enjoyed very much.

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for difficult subject matter (alcoholism, homelessness, poverty, etc.)

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

MG Women's Rights Novel Important, Enjoyable

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Brigid "Bridie" Gallagher has experienced nothing but hardship in her eleven years.  The potato famine in Ireland killed her father and brothers, then her mother died in America, leaving Bridie orphaned, alone, and locked in a debtors' prison.  When she's freed, it's only to become a servant for an abusive family.  Fed up with being mistreated, Bridie flees.  In Seneca Falls, New York, she meets Rose Wilson, a Black girl her own age.  Rose finds her new friend a position in the household of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a well-known abolitionist and feminist.  Bridie has never met a stranger woman than her new employer.  The more time she spends with her, however, the more Bridie learns about Stanton's advocacy for women's rights.  However revolutionary her ideas might be, both Bridie and Rose become supporters of the cause.  Like Stanton, they want their voices to be heard, even if not everyone is willing to hear them.  Change doesn't come without a fight and the two girls are ready for battle!  Aren't they?

With the recent 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment of the United States' Constitution, Starting from Seneca Falls by Karen Schwabach is a timely novel aimed at helping young readers learn about the struggle that finally resulted in women being granted the right to vote.  While this might not seem like a terribly exciting topic for a middle-grade book, it's still an important one.  Not only does Schwabach bring 19th Century America to life with vivid period detail but she also introduces readers to important historical figures like Stanton, Frederick Douglass, and Lucretia Mott.  Although Bridie and Rose are fictional, they're sympathetic and likable, making them easy heroines to root for.  Starting From Seneca Falls addresses a lot of issues—maybe too many—which makes the story feel a bit unfocused.  Without a concrete story goal, Bridie's tale is especially loosey-goosey.  Still, I enjoyed this novel overall.  It discusses important topics in a story that moved along swiftly enough to keep my attention.

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  You?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, disturbing subject matter, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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