Monday, May 6, 2013

Rebooting the blog/ great recent reads

It's been difficult for me to keep up with this blog.  I love reading and I enjoy sharing my thoughts about what I read but somehow writing about it is intimidating.  There.  I've said it and can move on!

So what have I been reading?  Well, lots of YA novels!  I've torn through four in the past two weeks and although I'm tired from all the late night reading, it's been fun!  Here are my reviews for three of them, Paranormalcy, Supernaturally, and Divergent.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White was pure fun! The main character, Evie, is a bubbly yet tough teenager who tracks law-breaking paranormals while longing for the life of an everyday teenager (she thinks lockers are the coolest!).  Oh, and she loves pink, lots of it!  She's funny, she's moody, she's stubborn, and she's completely lik

able.  And just to keep things interesting, there were even creepy parts that truly made me nervous (of course, I am a wimp but still!).  Girls who liked the Hex Hall series, the Gallagher Girl series, or even the Maximum Ride series will love this book (first in a series, of course!).

I didn't enjoy Supernaturally quite as well as Paranormalcy.  I was irritated with Evie several times (but then again, I chalk that up to the fact that she is a teenager--no offense, teens) and I really did not like the fact that the surprise bad guy was no surprise at all.  However, by the end of the book, I was happy and entertained and isn't that the point of reading?
Filled with action, suspense, and a strong female protagonist, Divergent by Veronica Roth, was very hard to put down!  And, unlike so many other dystopian novels, God and religion are not absent or scoffed at.  Furthermore, the author tackles some very deep questions about our humanity.  What does it mean to be brave? How can humans live in peace with one another? Does peace mean conformity and blind obedience?  All this in a very entertaining package! Was it as good as Hunger Games? Not quite, but I really enjoyed it and, again, isn't that the point?

So if you want to relax and enjoy something fun in the midst of this busy end-of-the-school-year, too-many-tests-season, then pick up one of these.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Summer Reading!

I love lists like New Year's Resolutions, party menus, and, of course, summer reading lists!  Summer reading lists feel a bit like New Year's Resolutions to me.  They're both a blank slate, a fresh start, and loads of possibilities!  I set some lofty goals for myself in each and though I don't like to admit it, I don't always fulfill either list but, hey, the way I look at it, there's always next year/summer!
I've tried to balance the list with some Young Adult, middle readers, literary fiction, and non fiction (did I mention I set lofty goals?).  So in no particular order, here's my 2012 summer reading list!

The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller
Middlemarch by George Elliot
Why We Broke Up by
In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Game of Thrones by George R. R Martin.
Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Emerald Atlas by
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

What are you reading?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Great Reads for Middle Readers

A friend of mine was baffled as to what reading suggestions she could give her 10 year-old daughter who is an excellent and avid reader. Sometimes with uber popular movies out like The Hunger Games or Twilight, it's hard for young readers to think of any other books. Yet I would argue that not only are these books much too mature for young readers, they also may spoil their taste for the wonderful reads that are on their level and interest. So without further ado, here are my recommendations for great reads on a younger but still challenging level. And remember, just because these books are written for kids doesn't mean they aren't great reads for everyone else!
Note: these are in no particular order, just as they came to mind.

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
Savvy by Ingrid Law
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Holes by Louis Sachar
Seed Folks by Paul Fleishmann
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Smith Wiggin
Tuck Everlasting by Sharon Creech (unlike the movie, this book is not a romance)
Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Rascal by Sterling North
The Anne of Avonlea books (of course!)
The Harry Potter series (save the last couple for middle school--though that may be hard)

I've only listed the books that I've actually read. There are hundreds more that are just as wonderful, I've just not read them, yet! I look forward to making a new list soon!

Happy reading!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Tiger, tiger!

I love when I stumble upon a theme! Over Thanksgiving I finished the book Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn and continued reading The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht. Both have an underlying subplot featuring a tiger. As a result of reading these two books, I now have a new found respect for this animal! Fearsome indeed! I would not want to cross paths with one of these cats! In Dark Road, a man gives the protagonist a gun to take with her on her walks through the countryside because a tiger has recently killed a woman. She tells him she's not sure she'll be able take kill a tiger with just a pistol but he tells her it's not for the tiger, it's for herself. Should she be attacked, death would be slow and agonizing. In The Tiger's Wife, a man who goes after a tiger running loose in the countryside after escaping from a zoo is half-eaten by the tiger. Only his lower half is dragged off into the woods.
So as I said, I've gained a new found a respect for the animal. One that I intend to appreciate from the safety of my family room couch!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Can't get enough utopia books!

Specials (Uglies, #3)Specials by Scott Westerfeld

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a fan of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. Specials is the last in a trilogy that features the main character Tally Youngblood. I love that his protagonist is a girl and yet the plot is exciting and action packed enough to keep boys interested. I have had just as many guys as girls check this series out of the library!
He touches on all the hot button topics of our day but from a futuristic perspective that makes you question what our society truly values--plastic surgery, the quest for beauty, our hunger for better, faster, smaller technology, wasting/saving natural resources, and, of course, utopia building. Yet all of this is written in a way that is accessible to young people (meaning, it ain't boring or preachy!).

View all my reviews

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ah, Summer!

Finally!! One thing I love in life is making lists at the start of something new. New year, new season, new stage of life, etc. I always make a list. I think the endless possibilities at the beginning of something new are half the fun! The summer reading list is no exception! What will make the list? How many books can I finish before school starts again? Should I include the one that's been on my list since junior year of high school? These are the "pressing" questions that I consider as I compile my list.

In high school, I used to make summer reading lists that were a couple of pages long (I can think of a couple of students who do this too!). I'd like to think I'm more realistic now, but I don't think I am. Oh, well. Like my list of New Year's resolutions, I may make goals too lofty to ever attain but at least I have something I'm shooting for!

So, here's the goal for this summer: 20 books by August 1st. And in no particular order, here is the list of books to read. I've tried to include a variety of teen reads, middle school reads, contemporary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc. We'll see how it goes!

1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand; nonfiction
2. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen; contemporary fiction
3. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson; nonfiction
4. The Lifting Dress by Lauren Berry; collection of poetry by a YES teacher
5. Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy; classic
6. The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova; contemporary fiction
7. The Rower's Code by Marilyn Krichko; business book for school (required)
8. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen; middle school read
9. The Specials by Scott Westerfeld; YA dystopia
10. Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier; historical fiction
11. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner; another YA dystopia, 2nd in trilogy
12. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen; YA novel
13. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer; nonfiction, my husband highly recommends
14. The Blind Side by Michael Lewis; nonfiction sports book
15. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; fictional Holocaust story
16. Scumble by Ingrid Law; middle school read
17. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray; funny YA novel
18. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett; loved Bel Canto!
19. Matilda by Roald Dahl; children's book I have never read
20. The House on Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne; children's book I've read but not yet with my children

And of course, I love to know what other people have put on their lists! Do tell!

Friday, May 20, 2011

An Invisible Kid, a Witch, and Tina Fey

What do these three have in common? Not much unless you count the fact that they are all the subject of my reading this past week. I finished reading Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements last weekend and Chime by Franny Billingsley on Monday. I'm sure a wiser person than I could come up with some kind of connection between the three but best I can come up with is that I've enjoyed each one.

Things Not Seen is about a teenage boy who wakes one morning to discover that he's invisible. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief (or is it suspend belief?)but the author takes pains to make it believable and, more importantly, to delve into what the ramifications of such an occurrence would be. This is a great "thinking" book for teens! It begs the, "What would you do?" question and I think teens can really see themselves in the main character Bobby. This is a great read! And I love how Clements' uses the sci-fi details to make the book believable and to reveal his character's struggles. In effect, the fiction serves as a backdrop for the issues all teens can relate to: feeling invisible, fear, helplessness, and alienation.

Chime deals with a different teen struggle-- learning to love oneself. The story is about a teenage girl named Briony who claims she is a witch and should be hanged for her crimes. She then goes back to tell us her story of how it all began. I had trouble locking in on the setting for this book when I first started reading it. I thought maybe it was the Salem witch trials but it turns out it is set outside London in a swamp (are there swamps in England?) in the early twentieth century. It has elements of fantasy, a slow-to-develop but believable romance, and language reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. Briony is convinced that she is responsible for the terrible things that have happened to her family and that the only way to atone for her past evil deeds and prevent future accidents is through reminding herself that she is no good. I'm curious to know what teen girls make of this and I wonder if they see how destructive such negative self-speak is for Briony and consequently for themselves. Overall I found the book satisfying because there is reconciliation and redemption in the end.

I like to vary things up a bit by reading some adult fiction (no, not racy reads, just books that are not specifically geared towards kids). This week I'm reading Bossy Pants. Though this book is meant for adults I'm so glad she has an adolescent boy's sense of humor! Yes, Tina Fey is smart and witty but when it comes right down to it, she loves to talk about bodies and awkward, embarrassing moments. I've been laughing hard through every chapter!