Sunday, September 30, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 30

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 30 is "the book you're reading right now."

I am currently finishing up The Kill Order by James Dashner.  It has taken me longer to read than I expected (largely because I've been flattened by an awful cold that makes me want to fall asleep during any semi-free moment), but I should be done within a day.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 29

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 29 is "an author you wish was more well-known."

For this one, I'm going with an author (and a person) near and dear to my heart.... my friend of over 20 years, Melissa Raguet-Schofield.  Ever since we were kids, I have loved to read the stories she has to tell.  She is a beautiful, talented writer.  Unfortunately, her works have not been published yet.... but I am honored to be a reader of her drafts as she labors to break into the world of publishing.  Last year, I read her first novel, Waiting for Orpheus, and I am currently reading her second work, tentatively titled Girlfriend.  Let me tell you, folks, I read a lot of books, and I know that Melissa's works are far better than many that I've picked up off my library's shelves.  Publishing is a hard business to break into, but I sincerely believe that she can become a success in this industry.  Here's hoping!

Friday, September 28, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 28

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 28 is "where do you read?"  I feel like I already answered this (Day 18), but here goes.....

As the mom of 4 kids ages 6 and under, I read pretty much whenever and wherever I get a spare minute.  I carry a book with me pretty much everywhere.  That way, if I have 2 spare minutes before preschool pickup or while waiting for my first grader to get off the bus, I can get in a couple of pages.  When I read with my kids, we're usually cuddled up in a rocking chair (if it's just one of them) or on the couch or in my bed (if it's 2 or more kids).  When I was younger, I loved to just sit at the library  or in a bookstore and read, surrounded by other people who loved books--but now time away from the kids is rare, so I don't do that very often anymore.  As I said on Day 18, I'm not too picky about the places that I read, but if at all possible (which is rare in my life), I do prefer for it to be quiet so I can read uninterrupted.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 27

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 27 is "your reading playlist."  That's easy for me to answer--I don't have one.  I prefer not to listen to music (or anything else) when reading because I don't like to be distracted--I'd rather focus completely on the story.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 26

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 26 is "favorite book boyfriend/girlfriend."

Well.  Often, books thrive on the conflicts in the relationships between the main characters.  Either of the "should I pick Boy A or Boy B?" variety, or the "can we work out all the problems that the world throws at us and be together" kind.  And while those conflicts make for good reading, they don't often make for good couples.

Ann Brashares' Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series had some couples that I really rooted for (Bridget and Eric, Tibby and Brian, Lena and Kostos), but since the series was more about the friendships between the girls, none of those stick out as better than the others.  I think Samantha and Kent in Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall could have been really good together, but their relationship was clearly doomed before it started (since she was dead and all).  I do like a lot of the couples that develop in Sarah Dessen's works--Eli and Auden in Along for the Ride, Remy and Dexter in This Lullaby, and Annabel and Owen in Just Listen.  I think that Etienne and Anna from Anna and the French Kiss would be a good real-life couple, since their relationship was so deeply based in their friendship, but have a hard time getting behind them as "best" because of the whole Ellie thing.  Augustus and Hazel from John Green's The Fault in Our Stars were also great, in spite of the fact that they were also doomed from the beginning, since they met in a cancer support group.

So there you go--kind of like real life, no actual 100% perfect couples, but several that I feel affection for.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Haven't Finished

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's topic: 10 series that you have not finished for one reason or another.  For some, I haven't finished because I didn't enjoy the first book.  With others, I just haven't gotten that far yet.  Here we go:

1. The Delirium trilogy by Lauren Oliver - I've read Delirium, Hana (book 1.5), and Pandemonium, and I'm looking forward to finishing up the series when Requiem is released (March 5, 2013).
 
2. The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson - I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and I was really turned off by the violent, graphic, disturbing nature.  I have no plans to ever read The Girl Who Played With Fire or The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.
 
3. The Seeds of America Trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson - I read and enjoyed Chains and Forge, and I look forward to the release of Ashes (October 1, 2012).
 
4. The Modern Faerie Tales by Holly Black - I read Tithe and didn't like it all that much.  It was fine, nothing wrong with it, but I don't plan to pursue Valiant or Ironsides when there are so many other books on my TBR list.
 
5. The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore (James Frey and Jobie Hughes) - I read I Am Number Four and The Power of Six, but I haven't managed to check out The Rise of Nine yet (it was released last month).  I do plan to read it, though I'm not sure I'm crazy enough about the series to pursue all the supplemental books.
 
6. The Clockwork Angel trilogy by Cassandra Clare - I haven't started it yet, but I've heard nothing but good things about it.  It's on my TBR list.
 
7. The Matched trilogy by Allie Condie - I'm purposely waiting to start this one until the final book is released (Reached, November 2012), because I know it will make me crazy to start and not be able to finish.
 
8.  The Maze Runner series - I've read The Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, and The Death Cure, and I'm actually working on The Kill Order right now.  So I'll be done soon!
 
9. The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness - I actually thought I had finished this series (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men), but now I hear there's an additional short story available (The New World) online, so I'm going to have to check that out.
 
10. The Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth - I'm waiting to start this one until the third book is published in the fall of 2013, because I know I'll be hooked once I start and won't want to have to wait to finish!

 

Children's Book Review: The Black Book of Colors


My kids recently checked this book out of the library and just loved it.  I was very pleased with its unique nature, and I loved watching my kids explore it.  Here's the description from the front flap:

"It is very hard for a sighted person to imagine what it is like to be blind.  This groundbreaking, award-winning book endeavors to convey the experience of a person who can only see through his or her sense of touch, taste, smell, or hearing.

"Raised black line drawings on black paper, which can be deciphered by touch, accompany a beautifully written text describing colors through imagery.  The text is translated into braille, so that the sighted reader can begin to image what it is like to read by touch, and there is a full braille alphabet at the end of the book.

"First published in Mexico, The Black Book of Colors won the New Horizons prize at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in 2007.  It has since been published around the world and has been universally praised for its unique and innovative approach."

For example, yellow is described as tasting "like mustard" but feeling "as soft as a baby chick's feathers."  My kids loved running their fingers over the braille words and feeling the pictures, trying to guess what they were before tilting the book to the light to see them.  This book is a unique sensory experience, and also a great way to expose kids to the world of the blind.  It can easily lead into imaginative discussions of "what do you think this color tastes/looks/smells/feels like?"  I highly recommend it as a "thinker" book for young children.... my 4 and 6 year olds loved it!
 

30 Day Challenge: Day 25

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 25 is "a book you want to like but can't get into for whatever reason.  Why can't you get into it?"

I think it is fair to just answer this question by saying "most books I have ever been required to teach."  I really want to like them--partially so that I can feel all intellectual :), but also because then the experience of reading them would be so much more enjoyable.  Not to mention the fact that it is way easier to motivate students to like a book that I actually liked myself.  Side note: I have enjoyed teaching courses where I can create my own syllabus infinitely more, and I think the students do too.

Books that I have taught but not really enjoyed include:
* Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
* The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
* The Odyssey by Homer
* The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
* Billy Budd by Herman Melville
* The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
* Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
* Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
* King Lear by William Shakespeare
* Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
* The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
* Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
* Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Book Review: We'll Always Have Summer

I recently finished Jenny Han's Summer trilogy, which concluded with We'll Always Have Summer.  I didn't feel that either it or It's Not Summer Without You had the same magic as the debut novel, The Summer I Turned Pretty, but I did enjoy the read.

In this book, Belly is just finishing her freshman year of college.  She and Jeremiah have been dating for the last two years, and she chose to attend the same college as him.  She is very much in love with Jeremiah in the present, but after a lifetime of loving his brother Conrad, she can't seem to quite evict his memory from her heart.  She views him as just that, though: a memory.  And Jeremiah is her present and her future.

Until she learns that Jeremiah 1) cheated on her and 2) kept it a secret.  ("But we were on a break!" he argues, a la Ross on "Friends.")  She is devastated.  She thought that Jeremiah would never let her down, and now he has crushed her.  She doesn't know if she can ever trust him again.

And then Jeremiah declares that he never wants to be without her, that he will never look at another girl again.  And he ASKS HER TO MARRY HIM.  Whoa.  This is where my initial affection for the book came to a screeching halt.  Belly is 18 years old.  Jeremiah is 19 or 20.  And she says yes.  And they decide to get married that August.  Like, two months away.  Even though their families are dead-set against the idea.  And somehow, Belly manages to push it out of her head that this entire engagement has come about as a result of Jeremiah trying to get her to forgive him for sleeping with someone else (as a side note: Belly has not actually slept with him herself).

Because Belly's mother (a reasonable woman) says that she cannot support Belly in this decision, Belly has a fit (yet another sign of her immaturity and total unreadiness to get married) and moves out.  She runs off to live at the summer house--where, it just happens, Conrad is also living for the summer.  And thus the stage is set for the final answer to the question we've asked for the entire trilogy: Which brother will Belly choose?

In It's Not Summer Without You, I was frustrated that Jeremiah was painted as the all-around perfect guy.  He was kind, loving, supportive, honest, and fun, with no faults to speak of.  But that vision fades pretty quickly at the begining of We'll Always Have Summer, when he is revealed to be a cheater.  And a liar.  And kind of a drunk.  And needy.  And spoiled (at least financially).  And self-centered.  And not very supportive of Belly.  Need I go on?

Conrad is the same as always--stoic, hard to read, kind of cranky.  But this book allows him to speak for himself in a few chapters written in his voice, so he comes off as more sympathetic than in the previous books, where we only got Belly's perspective of him.  This book also gives more flashbacks and details about the time he and Belly spent dating, which made me better understand their connection to each other.  And while it still doesn't give a satisfactory reason for their original breakup, it does explain his emotional distance since then.  So in short, now Conrad is the good brother.

Depending on which brother you rooted for throughout the trilogy, you may or may not like the ending of this book.  I had a hard time getting past the ludicrous idea of an 18-year-old getting married to her cheater boyfriend, but the way Jenny Han wrote it, it was clear that she also thought it was a poor idea (and Belly was just too immature to see that).  While I didn't love the trilogy as a whole as much as I loved its first book, I did really enjoy it, and I look forward to checking out Jenny Han's newest book, a collaboration with Siobhan Vivian entitled Burn for Burn.

Happy reading, everyone!

Book Review: It's Not Summer Without You

I recently finished reading It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han.  I had been anxious to read this follow-up to The Summer I Turned Pretty and chafed at the delay while I waited for my library to order it for me.

To begin, this book definitely feels like what it is--the middle book of a trilogy.  Largely, I felt that it served as the link between the first book and the third.  I still enjoyed the book, but I didn't feel that it had the same magic as Han's debut book.

The book takes place during the summer after The Summer I Turned Pretty, although it includes plenty of flashbacks to the intervening year and even before.  After dating briefly, Conrad and Belly have broken up.  Even more devastatingly, Susannah has died.  Now it's Belly's first summer ever without a trip to the summer house.  She's stuck at home and isn't enjoying herself, in spite of her friend Taylor's best efforts.  But then Jeremiah calls, saying that Conrad has disappeared from school.  Jeremiah and Belly set out to find Conrad, and Belly finds herself caught between them.

The entire story takes place over the course of about three days, but as I said, it does include flashbacks.  One complaint that I had with this book is that Belly's current immature attitude and the flashback episodes don't make her relationship with Conrad seem very serious.  While I understand that she had loved him for her whole life, this book left me with the impression that their dating was casual at best.  So I understood that she was having a hard time getting over him, but I didn't really see why she expected him to think it was such a big deal.  More flashbacks explained this much better in the third book, We'll Always Have Summer.

My other complaint is that in this book, Jeremiah is painted as pretty much perfect.  He's a loyal friend in the first book, but here he seems to have no faults whatsoever.  Clearly the author is trying to establish him as a better choice for Belly than his brother--which, for the record, I do think he is.  But he was just portrayed as so all-around perfect that I had a hard time believing in him as a character.

Overall, a quick read and a nice story, but definitely the weak link of this trilogy.

30 Day Challenge: Day 24

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 23 is "you judged a book by its cover--and it was amazing. What book was it?"

Again, I'm not really a "judge a book by its cover" girl.  But I can think of two books where I was not a big fan of the cover--but read and enjoyed them anyway.

One is Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen.  I'd read several of her books before, so I expected it would be good.  Even after just the first few chapters, though, it was obvious that the cover was a misrepresentation of the book.  Auden would never wear pink, and she'd really only wear a dress for a very special occasion.  And the muscular guy on the cover doesn't fit with my impression of Eli either.  Plus it was Maggie, not Eli, that actually taught Auden to ride a bike.  So the cover doesn't really go with the book at all.

The other is Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins.  While there's nothing overtly wrong with the cover, the girl doesn't look how I imagined Anna at all.  Perhaps more importantly, I think the title is kind of dumb.  I wouldn't have even picked this book up if it hadn't come recommended by a friend.... but I'm very glad that I did, because it was such a sweet story.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 23

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 23 is "you judged a book by its cover--and it was awful.  What book was it?"
 
Well, I'm not really a "judge a book by its cover" sort of girl.  And it is incredibly rare that I actually hate a book.  One book that I didn't really like very much, though, is Wicked by Gregory Maguire.  And I do like its cover (in all the different versions), although I was drawn in way more by the book description than the cover.
  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 22

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 22 is "your favorite series."  I feel like I've kind of beaten this to death in some of the earlier days of this challenge, but I'll answer the Shannara series by Terry Brooks and the Riftwar Saga (and subsequent series) by Raymond Feist. While I haven't read them in recent years, they still each take up an entire shelf of my bedroom bookshelf.  I re-read Feist about 8 years ago and (some of) Brooks about 5 years ago.  Definitely great memories associated with both of them.

Friday, September 21, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 21

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 21 is "a book you once hated but now love.  What changed?"
 
I actually can't think of an answer for this one.  There aren't very many books that I just flat-out don't enjoy, and I never re-read those ones, so that gives me very little opportunity for changing my mind.  :)
 
As an honorable mention, I'll go with Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.  I was extremely scornful of this famous play when I first read it in high school, because I thought that the title characters were just plain DUMB.  I mean, really, you're going to kill yourselves over not being able to be together?  C'mon, Juliet is like 13 years old.  And if they wanted to be together all that badly, why didn't she just run away to Mantua with him after they got married, instead of hatching this elaborate plan of faking her own death?  Think things through, people.  I didn't actually hate it, but I did think that the epic nature of the story was highly overrated.  As an adult, though, I've taught Romeo and Juliet in my high school English classes, and while I still don't love it, I have come to appreciate its artistic elements.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 20

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 20 is "a book you once loved but don't anymore.  What changed?"
 
When I was in the fifth grade, my friends and I all passed around a copy of The Spy Lady and the Muffin Man by Sesyle Joslin.  We totally wanted to BE the kids in that book and have a spy club of our own.  We talked fondly about that book for years afterwards.  But last winter, I spotted a copy on Amazon purchased it for old time's sake.... and could barely make it through the re-reading.  I didn't find it to be either interesting or funny (both of which I remembered it being when I read it in fifth grade).  I think that was definitely one of those books where the experience of reading it (with friends) was way better than the book itself.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 19

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 19 is "the most disturbing book you've ever read."
 
I usually try to steer away from seriously disturbing books (unlike my stepmom, who has a deep love of true crime novels).  In recent memory, I'd definitely say The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  The graphic sexual violence was too much for me.
 
Over the course of a lifetime, though, I'd have to give a shout-out to all those V.C. Andrews books I devoured during high school.  Seriously, series after series of brothers and sisters falling in love (while usually not realizing they were actually related).  What on earth was I thinking to read all that junk?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 18

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 18 is "the environment you most enjoy reading in."
 
Really, I'm not picky.  I can curl up and enjoy a good book just about anywhere.  In fact, I think that's one of the hallmarks of a good book--that no matter where you're reading it, it transports you out of that place and into the story.
 
That being said, my preference would always be to read somewhere (anywhere!) that I won't be interrupted.  As a mom of 4 kids ages 6 and under, this is pretty rare for me!  I do a lot of "start and stop" reading, which gets the job done but is never quite as magical as just sitting down and digesting the entire story all at once.

Monday, September 17, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 17

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 17 is "a book that you think is woefully underrated."
 
Hmm, another hard one.  I read a LOT of book reviews and blogs, so it's pretty rare that I ever pick up a book without having read at least one good review of it.  However, I did pick up a book off the "new releases" shelf at my local library this past January without having read any reviews of it.... and come to think of it, I haven't read any reviews of it since then.  So my answer is:
 
Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan
I just loved this one!  You can read my review of it here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 16

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 16 is "a book that you think is highly overrated."

I'm already feeling guilt over this topic, because I feel like whatever book I answer with, that will discourage people from reading it, and I NEVER want to discourage people from reading.

But if I had to answer, the one that comes to mind first is Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.  I'm sad to say that, because they are two superstar writers.  But I feel like the book got a lot of hype from the movie version (which I have not seen and therefore cannot comment on), but the book itself was just so-so.  I was tempted to not even finish the book, except that I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  I've enjoyed other books by those authors though (including Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, which they wrote as another collaboration), so don't let this turn you off of them.  :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 15

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 15 is "a book you haven't read and have no intention of ever reading."

Hmm, that's a hard one.... I have SO MANY books on my TBR (someday) list.  What comes to mind, though, are The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson.  I recently read his The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and while I liked the mystery of it, I was very turned off by the graphic violence, so I don't really want to pursue the rest of the trilogy.

Friday, September 14, 2012

30 Day Challege: Day 14

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

 
The topic for Day 14 is "five books you really want to read and haven't had a chance for whatever reason."  I would have to say that this list is going to be basically the same as my fall TBR list.  Here's my top 5:
 
* Matched by Allie Condie
* Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
* The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
* The Pact by Jodi Picoult
* I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Thursday, September 13, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 13

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

 
The topic for Day 13 is "a book you'd like to forget and read all over again so you can fall in love with it once more."
 
As I pointed out yesterday, I often forget enough details that I can re-read a book again and again and love it every time.  In fact, I often re-read my favorites because I love catching new details the second time around.  The book that I'm currently most looking forward to re-reading is:
 
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
 
I fell in love with this book way before it hit the mainstream and definitely did my share of passing it on--to my book club, my students, and various friends.  Just this past weekend, I got my copy back from another friend who had borrowed it.  I've been wanting to do a re-read ever since I saw the movie, but it's been on loan to various people since then..... So now that I've got it back, I'm reading it again before passing it on again!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 12

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

The topic for Day 12 is "a book you regret not having read sooner."  My current pick is:
 
It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
This is the book that I'm reading right now.  It's the sequel to The Summer I Turned Pretty, which I read a couple of months ago.  But as I often find with series, if I don't read them all back-to-back, I tend to forget the details and I get frustrated when reading the later books because I'm trying to remember all the details of the earlier books.  So while I'm really enjoying It's Not Summer Without You, it's making me want to re-read The Summer I Turned Pretty.  I really just need to learn not to pick up a series until I have access to all the books at once!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Make You Think

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. This week's topic: 10 books that make you think (about the world, life, people, etc.)
 
1. Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist.  This book of essays makes me think about faith, friendship, work, motherhood, and virtually every aspect of my life.
 
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  This book opened my eyes regarding the plights of Native Americans today.
 
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  This book is the amazing story of how cells basically stolen from a poor black woman shaped the face of modern medicine.  It also reveals a lot of facts about medical testing, development, and personal rights that I would never have dreamt of.
 
4. A Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.  I taught this book to my high school freshmen one year, and then we were fortunate enough to be able to hear Beah speak live.  This memoir is the highly emotional, deeply disturbing story of his time as a boy soldier and the atrocities that he both witnessed and participated in.
 
5. Split by Swati Avasthi.  This story of abuse and its consequences definitely touched my heart.
 
6. No Choir Boy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin.  In this book, Susan Kuklin tells the stories of several young convicts who have been sentenced to death row (some of whom still claim to be innocent).  She reveals their living conditions and the circumstances that they must endure.  Both hearbreaking and horrifying.
 
7. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I couldn't help but obsess over every bite of food I put in my mouth while reading this story of a girl with severe anorexia.  It was THAT absorbing.
 
8. Looking for Alaska by John Green.  So did Alaska actually kill herself, or was it an accident?  Makes you think about life.
 
9. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.  In this book, a teenage girl gets to live the last day of her life over and over again.  She alters her actions each day and then sees the consequences of what she has done.  This book really makes it hit home how much impact every action we take can have on those around us, even without us realizing it.
 
10. Love the One You're With by Emily Giffin.  A happily married woman encounters the former love of her life, who wants to give their relationship another try.  For all those people whose lives didn't end up quite how they expected (and isn't that all of us?), this book really illustrates that what we get is so often better than what we used to think we wanted.


30 Day Challenge: Day 11

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

 
The topic for Day 11 is "favorite book genre and what book made you fall in love with it."  I've got a couple to mention here.
 
The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
This is the book that first led me to fall in love with the fantasy genre, way back when I was in middle school.  Thanks to Terry Brooks, I've been reading fantasy novels for the last 20 years!
 
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I think that a lot of people feel this way about The Hunger Games.  While I had read (and loved) several dystopian books before it, this book is the one that really put "dystopian literature" on the map for me.  Since then, I've read and enjoyed all kinds of dystopian books (many of which I see as a spin-off of my earlier-established love of fantasy).
 
Looking for Alaska by John Green
This was the first book that I was assigned to read in my Materials for Youth graduate class.  Between the awesomeness of the book, the fantastic class discussion, and the supplemental textbook readings that went along with it, I finally started to see young adult literature as a legitimate reading choice for full-grown adults.  I've loved YA lit ever since I was a teenager myself, but after being an English major in college and an English teacher after that, I just felt like reading teen books for fun was something to be ashamed of.  No more, though--now they're almost all I read!

Monday, September 10, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 10

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

 
The topic for Day 10 is "three books you'd really like to see go to the big screen."
 
Well, let me start by saying that it's very rare that I actually see movies.  I did manage to make it to see "The Hunger Games," but that's the only movie I've seen in a theater in about two years.  So for me, the "big screen" usually means "DVD at home six months later."  That being said, my picks are:
 
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
According to Wikipedia, 20th Century Fox has already bought the film rights to this book.  Fingers crossed.  I think that some of the technology in this book, as well life outside the cities, would be very interesting to see.
 
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Movie rights for this one have also been purchased by Fox, so I'm hopeful that I'll actually get to see it someday.  I don't think that the characters are very well-developed in the book, but that might not bother me so much in a movie.  I also think that the maze and the Grievers would look pretty awesome in a movie.
 

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I hesitate a bit to pick this one, because part of what made the book so great was the old photographs that accompany it, and those would be hard to incorporate into a movie.  But I do think that there could be some very neat cinematic things happening with the children and their abilities and the loop.  Actually, I just looked this one up as well, and apparently Fox has also purchased its rights and named Tim Burton as director for a future film.  Very cool.
 
So even though I didn't know that ANY of these were being made into movies before I picked them, apparently at least a few other people out there (people who are employed by Fox, anyway) think like me.  Looks like my wishes are going to come true!
 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 9

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

 
The topic for Day 9 is "your favorite quotes about books."  Ah, so many that I love!  Here's a sampling:
 
"A room without books is like a body without a soul."
- Marcus Tullius Cicero
 
"I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library."
- Jorge Luis Borges
 
"'Classic'--a book which people praise and don't read."
- Mark Twain
 
"I cannot live without books."
- Thomas Jefferson
 
"Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself."
- George Bernard Shaw
 
"No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally--and often far more--worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond."
- C.S. Lewis
 
"Books are my friends, my companions.  They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life."
- Christopher Paolini
 
"After nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world."
- Philip Pullman
 
"Books are uniquely portable magic."
- Stephen King

Saturday, September 8, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 8

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

 
The topic for Day 8 is "your favorite quotes from books."
 
It's interesting that this should be today's topic, as I was just thinking that I need to start keeping a notebook or something where I can record quotes that I like from books.  Unlike my dad, who keeps a yellow highlighter within arm's reach every time he sits down with a good book, I just can't bring myself to write in books; it feels like sacrilege.  The only exception to this is that I did take notes in the books I used to teach; it made referencing things during class soooo much easier.  So as a slighly modified topic, here I'll be sharing my favorite quotes from books that I've taught.
 
"Such welcome and unwelcome things at once / 'Tis hard to reconcile."
- Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 3 (spoken by Macduff)
 
"You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.... until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."
- Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
 
"The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."
- Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
 
"Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as understood."
- 1984 by George Orwell
 
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
- The Great Gastby by F. Scott Fitzgerals
 
"Of course they needed to care.  It was the meaning of everything."
- The Giver by Lois Lowry

Friday, September 7, 2012

30 Day Challenge: Day 7

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!

 
The topic for Day 7 is "your favorite book cover." 
 
Um.  I'm totally drawing a blank.  I'm not really a "judge a book by its cover" kind of girl.  I've thought about this question for several hours and have come up with nothing.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.  I know that I have, on occasion, thought, "Hey, that's a pretty cool cover" but try as I might today, I cannot recall a single specific book that I have thought that about.
 
I totally fail this question.
 
So instead, I'll leave you with a fun fact.  Whenever I review a book or write about a book I've read, I always make sure to use the image of the actual version of the book that I read.  I've found that to be a little tricky lately, as I've been posting images of books I read during my childhood (and have been published with far newer and flashier covers since then).  So there you go.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Children's Book Review: The Little White Owl

My first-grader checked this one out at her school library and insisted on reading it as soon as she got home.  Since then, both my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old have requested re-reads.
 
The little white owl lives all alone, enjoying the stars, the snow, and strawberry jam.  Most importantly, "his head was full of happy stories."  One day, he decides to go exploring.  On his journey, he comes across a group of beautiful, multi-colored owls.  He's thrilled to meet them, but they don't want to play--they're too worried about mussing up their feathers.  They're really quite a boring group, but he wins his way into their hearts by telling them some stories.  His stories excite and energize them.  Before long, they're journeying with him.
 
The illustrations in this book are bright and colorful, just gorgeous.  My kids kept exclaiming over them and pointing out various details.  And what's not to love about a book where stories transform boring lives into something exciting?  A great lesson!

30 Day Challenge: Day 6

The 30 Day Book Challenge is an event happening over at In Between. There are book-related topics for every day of September. I'm playing along.... come join me!


The topic for Day 6 is "your favorite authors."  Ahhh, now here's a topic I can get excited about!

My gut instinct is to say Terry Brooks and Raymond Feist.
They were the authors that got me hooked on fantasy novels back when I was younger, and their latest releases composed my Christmas wish list for about 10 years running.  I've read and re-read both of their books and fallen in love with both of their worlds (Brooks- Shannara; Feist- Midkemia), and they provided a great springboard for me to launch into explore other similar books.  But while I will always have warm fuzzy feelings toward them from the books of my youth, I haven't read anything by them in several years (which maybe I need to remedy with some re-reads). 
Lately, it's more:
 
John Green
Looking for Alaska
Will Grayson, Will Grayson
An Abundance of Katherines
Paper Towns
The Fault in Our Stars
I have read all of his books and have simply fallen in love with each of them.  I seriously cannot wait for him to publish another so I can devour it too.
 
Shauna Niequist
Cold Tangerines
(She has also written a book called Bittersweet, which I own but haven't read yet.  And she's coming out with another one soon.)
While generally I would have to have read everything I can get my hands on by a particular author before labeling them as one of my "favorites," I'm willing to give Ms. Niequist that title after making it only about 3/4 of the way through one of her books.  I'm stretching out the reading of Cold Tangerines for as long as possible, because each and every essay gives me so much to think about.  When I'm reading her work, I feel like she's talking right to me, that she totally "gets" me.  Rarely (if ever) have I felt such a personal connection with an author.  I have had many similar experiences to the ones she describes in her book, and my reactions have been eerily similar to hers.  When she describes her feelings, I always think, "YES!  That's it!  That's EXACTLY how I feel!"
 
While I have not read all of their works (and therefore don't feel qualified to dole out the title of "favorite"), other honorable mentions to go:
* Scott Westerfeld for his Pretties trilogy
* Suzanne Collins for the Hunger Games trilogy
* Madeleine L'Engle for all of her children's books; I keep meaning to read some of her adult stuff
* J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter series.... can't wait to see what I think of her newest adult book!
* Jodi Picoult for Keeping Faith, My Sister's Keeper, and Plain Truth.  The only reasons she's not an absolute favorite are because I thought 19 Minutes was just too disturbing, and I didn't like Mercy at all.

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Casual Vacancy

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week, I'm looking forward to:

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
To be released September 27.

I need to admit that if this book wasn't written by the great J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, it probably wouldn't have caught my attention.  For starters, it's a book for adults, whereas I usually do the majority of my check-outs in the teen room.  Secondly, the summary (below) doesn't sound like my type of thing.  The politics of a small town?  Probably not something I'm even interested in in real life.  BUT, I simply adored the Harry Potter books and admire J.K. Rowling's writing, so I'll give it a try.

Summary from Amazon.com:
When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…. Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.