Friday, September 30, 2011

It's Friday and Time for the Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop

“In honor of Banned Books Week, what is your
favorite “banned or frequently challenged book”?”

Today's question from Crazy for Books is a good one.  I've already talked about banned or challenged books in another post this week, but this is still a hard question. 

I guess my favorite challenged children's book is Bridge to Terabithia which is a wonderful exploration of friendship, life, and death.  For adult books, I would say my favorite is Of Mice and Men because it was one of those required reading books that didn't feel like an assignment. 

There are tons more great titles on the lists I've seen this week including the Harry Potter books and To Kill a Mockingbird!

I'm going to hop around and see what other people wrote about.  Happy hopping all!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Challenged Books - Interesting Titles

Julie at My Book Retreat had an interesting post.  She looked at the list of recently challenged books and asked people to comment on the books that surprised them the most.  Her post is here.

The ALA Most Challenged list can be found here.

I hadn't looked at this list in awhile.  I expected to see Harry Potter, Catcher in the Rye, and the Twilight series.  I was shocked to see Bridge to Terabithia on a few lists.  That was one of the best books I've ever read with a class of students.  It provoked the best discussion groups and really touched the kids.  It made them think and feel.  What more can we ask of a book!

I was also surprised that My Sister's Keeper was on one of the lists.  Again, this is a book that makes you think and feel.  I could see my fourth grade students from that class ten years ago loving Picoult as young adult readers. 

I am going to make a point of reading one of the books on the lists that I have never read.  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teaser Tuesday

It's been awhile since I had time to post.  The start of the school year is always hectic.  I really have missed spending time the the blogosphere!  This looks like a fun (and easy) meme.  If you want to play, click here.

My book is A Mortal Terror: A Billy Boyle Novel by James R. Benn

"That's good to know.  I've got a nice SS dagger stashed away."

"Well, see Arnold, he's always buying.  I hear he ships the stuff home, got a pal who sells it off."

This is the latest book in the series, and I'm quite enjoying it.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


This is a picture taken last month at the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania.  The NPS has done a lovely job of honoring the heroes and telling their individual stories.  On this 10th anniversary, we all need to remember the sacrifices made that day for our freedoms, and we need to protect those freedoms to honor their sacrifices.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I Hit 50!!!

Thank you everyone.  I just got follower number 50!  I'm very excited.  Have a great Labor Day weekend.

It's Monday and I'm Musing

Here's today's question from Musing Mondays:

Who do you think is the hottest male/female character from a book?

This is an easy one.  Ranger or Morelli from the Stephanie Plum books.  They are both hot in very different ways!  I almost don't want to see the movie that's coming out soon.  I'm afraid the casting won't fit the images in my head.

On another note, it's been a busy week getting ready for school to start.  I have about five reviews backed up so I'm hoping to get them posted in the next few days.  I'm also excited that I'm almost to 50 followers.

Have a great Labor Day!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Musing Mondays - Fun List

   Here's this week's Musings.  Play along here.

What was the last book you…

• borrowed from the library? I can't remember ... probably something I read to my class last year.

• bought? The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman - review to come.

• cried over? I can't remember.

• disliked and couldn’t finish? Among the Missing by Morag Joss.

• read & loved? The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

• got for review? (or: got in the mail?) The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

• gave to someone else? a book about a dog to my mother-in-law but I can't remember the name.

• stayed up too late reading? Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

What about you?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Friday Follow - Mythical Creatures

Here's today's Follow Friday question:

In some books like the Sookie Stackhouse series the paranormal creature in question "comes out of the closet" and makes itself known to the world. Which mythical creature do you wish this would happen with in real life?

I don't tend to read a lot of fantasy books so this one's a hard question for me.  I'd love to meet Firenze from the Harry Potter books.  It would be fun to have him as a teacher.  I'd also like to talk to Dobby and learn about house elves from Harry Potter.  It's such an exciting, magical world that I could pick just about anyone from that world.

What about you?

Booking Through Thursday - History

Here's today's Booking Through Thursday:

Sometimes I feel like the only person I know who finds reading history fascinating. It’s so full of amazing-yet-true stories of people driven to the edge and how they reacted to it. I keep telling friends that a good history book (as opposed to some of those textbooks in school that are all lists and dates) does everything a good novel does–it grips you with real characters doing amazing things.

Am I REALLY the only person who feels this way? When is the last time you read a history book? Historical biography? You know, something that took place in the past but was REAL.

I honestly can't remember the last time I read a nonfiction biography or history book.  I've read lots of historical fiction, but that's slightly different.  I've also read a number of historical picture books.  The only thing I can come up with as an answer is that I've read children's biographies of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, a number of famous artists, and many famous women since I teach a unit on biography in my second grade class.  So I guess I value reading biography and history, but don't tend to do it as my personal recreational reading.

What about you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Musing Mondays - Plot or Character

This weekly meme is hosted by Should be Reading.  Here's this week's question:

Do you prefer character-driven stories, or plot-driven stories?

This is an interesting question.  I pick up a book because the plot sounds interesting, but I won't keep reading it if the characters aren't interesting.  I've noticed that many of my reviews focus on characters and their development in a story.  I think that any series books that I read must attract me because of the characters.  I can remember character names but not always the names of the books.  In a perfect world, books need both, but I have to have great, well-written characters.

This post is a day late since I'm sneaking in blogging time from a trip to the beach!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Skating

I just found this meme and thought it sounded like fun!

This is my daughter getting ready to skate in our local figure club's summer show.  She skated to "You Raise Me Up" in honor of her sixth grade teacher who, on Easter weekend, lost her year-long battle with breast cancer.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Blog Hop - Longest Book

Book Blogger Hop

I just started participating in this weekly blog hop and really enjoy it.  Crazy for Books hosts it so check it out!  Here's today's question:

“What’s the LONGEST book you’ve ever read?”

(Note: I’m putting one caveat on this question. You aren’t allowed to say the Bible, Torah, Qur’an, or other religious/spiritual text.)

That's a tough one.  I'm pretty sure it was something I read in school -  Gone with the Wind at 960 pages.  There are others - like Dante's Inferno that seemed to last forever but I don't think it was truly as long.

What about you?

Here's today's question:
Q. If you could write yourself a part in a book, what book would it be and what role would you play in that book?
Fun question.  I'd probably write myself in The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende.  I wouldn't want to experience all the tragedy of the story but I'd love to sit down and talk to Clara to understand how she experiences both the real and spirit worlds.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Curl Up

btt button

This is one of my favorite weekly memes.  Here's today's question:
You’ve just had a long, hard, exhausting day, and all you want to do is curl up with something light, fun, easy, fluffy, distracting, and entertaining.

What book do you pick up?

Most of the time I'd pick whatever book I'm reading because I'm a one book at a time girl.  But, there are times when I need total distraction.  If that's the case, I almost always gravitate toward a lightweight, cozy mystery - maybe one set in a kitchen or something like that.  It doesn't have to be a series I've read.  It can be a new one as long as it has some humor in it.

What about you?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Good Influence: Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood by Daniel R. Heischman

Product Details
Good Influence:  Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood
by Daniel R. Heischman

146 pages

February 2010


First, a disclaimer, this book was purchased for me by my employer, and it was my required summer reading.  It will be the basis of teacher discussion and development at the start of the new school year.

The author, Heischman, is an Episcopal priest who has been a Dean of Students, Headmaster, and Chaplain at a number of private Episcopal secondary schools and colleges.  The thesis of the book is that teachers have a special responsibility to their students to be "grown ups" so that they can guide and model behavior and choices for their students.

By "grown up," he does not mean simply being an adult.  He makes the distinction that teachers are adults, but that not all adults are grown ups.  That point actually makes a great deal of sense to me.  I've seen too many teachers go overboard to make friends with students, only to lose their students' respect and the ability to control a classroom.

The same can be said of some parents.  In my twenty plus year teaching career, I've seen a real shift in how parents perceive their role.  Many, but by all means not all, parents seem to value their children's happiness above all else, and they think their job is to clear the path for their children.  Unfortunately, this results in questioning school and teacher decisions and not allowing students the room to make choices and solve their own problems.  In this case, Heischman would argue that a "grown up" needs to help facilitate student choice, and even student lack of success so that they can truly understand what it means to work hard toward a goal.

The point is well made, and one that I deal with all the time, even in elementary school.  It is a short book, but the author, unfortunately repeats himself and belabors some of his points.  I would have appreciated some more models, outside of his own experiences, to help guide me as I work with parents and students.

Overall, it was thought-provoking, but left me wanting more substance.  Some of my anti-non fiction bias may be coming through on this one.  Overall, I'd give it 3 1/2 stars.  I'd love to hear what you think of his idea of "grown ups."  I know there are a number of teen bloggers out there.  What do you think - should the teacher be your friend? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - My Favorite Reviews

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie week.  Since I just got back into my blog after taking an extended break, I decided that my top 10 would be my top ten favorite reviewed books.  That gives me a chance to re-introduce some of the books I loved from the past.

1.  The Book Thief - probably my favorite YA novel of all time!

2.  The Time Traveler's Wife - read the book, the movie doesn't do this one justice.

3.  The Wednesday Wars - a really fun YA read.

4.  The Sum of Our Days - I think anything Allende writes is brilliant.  I never reviewed Paula, but it's one of my all time favorite books.  The last 20 pages make me cry every time.

5.  Ashfall - the last YA book I read and I can't say enough good things about it.  And the author visited my blog and left a comment.  Very cool.

6.  The Keeper of Lost Causes - I think this could be the next breakout book series.

7.  Where All the Dead Lie - another of my current favorites.

8.  My Sister's Keeper - my favorite Jodi Picoult novel, but I never saw the movie.  I was afraid that Cameron Diaz would wreck it for me.

9.  Before I Fall - another new book which impressed me in many ways.

10.  Before I Go to Sleep - part of my current string of successful reads.

It was interesting to go back to my older posts and realize that my reading styles and preferences really haven't changed that much in the last few years.  I was also a bit sad that I stopped blogging for those years, because I wonder what books I've forgotten about that really should be on this list.

I'm looking forward to reading other people's lists.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Musing Mondays

This week’s musing asks…

Do you like looking at other people’s bookshelves?

Yes, I'm a bit of a snoop that way.  Probably like everyone else.  I do wonder if bookshelves are going the way of record players because of the number of Kindles and other ebook readers out there.  I've also started conversations with people I see reading Kindles.  I've found that people who are sitting reading in public places tend to like to talk about what they are reading.

What about you?

Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

Where All The Dead Lie

Where All the Dead Lie by J.T. Ellison

400 pages


September 2011

This is another netGalley book!  Here's the blurb:

"The shot to the head didn’t kill Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson. But it will crack her psyche and take her to the very edge.

In her showdown with the murderous Pretender, a bullet taken at close range severed the connection between Taylor’s thoughts and speech. Effectively mute, there’s no telling if her voice will ever come back. Trapped in silence, she is surrounded by ghosts—of the past, of friendships and trusts lost...of a lost faith in herself and her motives that night.

When Memphis Highsmythe offers Taylor his home in the Scottish Highlands to recuperate, her fiancé can’t refuse her excitement, no matter his distrust of the man. At first, Memphis’s drafty and singularly romantic castle seems the perfect place for healing. But shortly the house itself surrounds her like a menacing presence. As Taylor’s sense of isolation and vulnerability grows, so, too, does her grip on reality.


Someone or something is coming after Taylor. But is she being haunted by the dead…or hunted by the living? "

This is the seventh book in the Taylor Jackson series.  I was fine reading it as a stand alone novel, but it does reveal the ending of the last book so some people may want to read the series in order.

I'm three for three with netGalley books.  I loved this one as well.  It was another book that kept me reading late into the night.  There is a nice ghost story element to the book that adds to the suspense and tension.  I finished it during a road trip to Gettysburg, PA so I was probably in the mood to go along with the ghostly elements of the story!

I loved Taylor and her relationship with Sam, her best friend.  It's rare that friendships between women seem real, fractured, and repairable in books.  This one felt like all three to me!  I was a little less interested in Taylor's relationship with Baldwin - maybe the author assumed I knew a little more about him than I did.  That would be my only criticism of the book (and it's a minor one!)

There is a great villain, but I don't want to give it away.  I did see it coming, but enjoyed watching the author unfold the story anyway.

Again, another 5 star read!  I may need to go back and read the first six books to see how these characters got to where they are!

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading

This may be a bit of a cheat but here's what I've read in the past two weeks while I was on vacation.  For anyone living in Pennsylvania, I fell in love with your state.  Great place to visit and I met some fascinating people along the way.  Anyway,  titles I read:

Product Details Here's my review.

Product Details I finished this one since the last Monday post, but it may have been two weeks ago.

Product Details Here's the review.

Product Details Review coming soon!

Product Details This one was my summer reading assignment for work.  I don't normally read non-fiction so the review may take a few days because it's harder for me to write.

What's up for next week:

Product Details I read a great review on this one so it's high on this week's list.

Product Details I just got a netGalley copy of this one so I may give it a shot!

So what are you planning to read this week?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


I just got back from a two week vacation and was treated to two lovely comments.

Darcus and Kristin both nominated my blog for an award.  It was a great welcome back to blogging.  Here it is:

The goal of the award is to spotlight up and coming bloggers who currently have less than 200 followers. The rules of the award are:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.

2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

I love the idea of paying it forward so here are my five choices:

1.  Ramblings of a Day Dreamer - love the look of her blog and it's sense of humor!

2.  Book by Book - we seem to have the same taste in books!

3.  Much Loved Books - this might be a bit of a cheat because the blog's already got this award, but it deserves a bigger audience.

4.  Once Upon a Prologue - love her layout and great label list.

5.  Willa's Ramblings - I seem to be going for look but I like how much fun this blog is.

Check them out!

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen

400 pages


August 2011

This is another review copy I got from netGalley.  Here is the blurb from their site:

"The Keeper of Lost Causes, the first installment of Adler-Olsen's Department Q series, features the deeply flawed chief detective Carl MØrck, who used to be a good homicide detective-one of Copenhagen's best. Then a bullet almost took his life. Two of his colleagues weren't so lucky, and Carl, who didn't draw his weapon, blames himself.

So a promotion is the last thing Carl expects.

But it all becomes clear when he sees his new office in the basement. Carl's been selected to run Department Q, a new special investigations division that turns out to be a department of one. With a stack of Copenhagen's coldest cases to keep him company, Carl's been put out to pasture. So he's as surprised as anyone when a case actually captures his interest. A missing politician vanished without a trace five years earlier. The world assumes she's dead. His colleagues snicker about the time he's wasting. But Carl may have the last laugh, and redeem himself in the process.

Because she isn't dead . . . yet."

This is the first in a series that, apparently, is already popular in Denmark and is being translated for the U.S. audience.  It is fabulous.  I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and read all three books.  I thought this book was even better.  Carl is a great character, and the author has given him both a personal and professional back story.  The other main character, Merete Lynggaard, is equally fascinating.  Her back story is also well-developed.  She has an adult disabled brother and is a highly-placed political official.

The book alternates between present day Carl and past/present day Merete.  As readers, we are lead to a point where their two stories converge, and this is one of those books I kept reading late at night because of the building tension.

The author also creates a second hand man for Carl.  Assad also has a back story, which is mysterious throughout the book.  He is clearly not a maintenance worker, but someone with an investigative or violent past.  We are only given glimpses of Assad's true nature, and it seems that the author has laid groundwork for some fascinating revelations in future books in the series.

This book does not disappoint.  The author deftly builds the story from both Carl and Merete's points of view.  I didn't guess the twist, because there is one, until it was unveiled to Merete.  Then, I couldn't stop reading until I was sure Carl had figured it out too.  5 stars for a great ride!  I can't wait to read more in the series.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ashfall by Mike Mullen

Ashfall by Mike Mullin

472 pages

Young Adult Fiction

October 2011

This is the first galley I've gotten from netGalley.  Here's the blurb from the website:

"Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don't realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying super volcano, so large that the caldera can only be seen by plane or satellite.And by some scientific measurements, it could be overdue for an eruption.

For Alex, being alone for the weekend means freedom from his parents and the chance to play computer games and hang out with his friends without hassle from his mother. Then Yellowstone erupts, plunging his hometown into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence. Alex begins a harrowing trek, searching for his family and finding help in Darla, his travel partner. Together they must find the strength and skills to survive and outlast an epic disaster."

This synopsis doesn't do the book justice.  It is the first of a planned trilogy which, I think, is going to be a huge hit with middle school students.  It should appeal to everyone who loved The Hunger Games.  The novel starts with a bang, literally, and Alex, the main character, is immediately in the middle of chaos and destruction.  He is not your average hero-type character, and he seems annoyingly immature.  By the end of the novel, he is a complex and interesting character because of what he goes through in the story.

As Alex travels from Idaho to find his parents, he is met with a lawless, post-apocalyptic society trying to cope with the aftermaths of the volcanic eruption.  He is alternately met with acts of selfless kindness and violent cruelty.  You never know, as a reader, what's going to happen next.

There are two quotes I really liked from Alex.  At the beginning of the story he says, "Hunger of choice is a painful luxury; hunger of necessity is a terrifying torture."  Nearer the end, he says, " ... the volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity.  No, we'd given that up on our own."  To me, Alex displays incredible growth of character to take the situation beyond his own needs to see how it impacted everyone.  Wow.

Darla, his female travelling partner, is an interesting character.  Alex meets her about 1/3 of the way through the book, when he is at his lowest and needs to be nursed back to health.  She is an intriguing character who also grows and changes in the story.

I don't want to give away too much more but, just a warning, there is violence in the story as well as a rape scene - it is not very vivid, but it is there, and talk of sexual activity with condom use.

This is probably one of the best YA books I've read since The Book Thief.  I am looking forward to the second novel!  I can enthusiastically give it 5 stars!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Mystery of the Blue Ring by Patricia Reilly Giff

This is an ebook I received from netGallery.  It is the first in a series of children's mystery novels by Patricia Reilly Giff.  Ebooks for young readers is always a hard recommendation for me because I've had trouble finding ones I like where the book can stand alone without illustrations.  Some ereaders, my Kindle included, don't do a great job with illustrations.

This is a children's ebook I can enthusiastically recommend for younger readers.  I'm sure my second grade class would be extremely comfortable with its reading level.  This is the first in a series.  I love to recommend series books to kids because it helps them become more fluent readers as they read through familiar characters and settings.  It also solves the "I don't know what to read!" debate.

It's a cute mystery about a missing ring that Dawn and her sidekick, Jason, solve.  I enjoyed the silly descriptions of their disguises, and the other children in the class.

I'd give it 5 stars for being an easy to reader ebook for kids!

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen

The Mailbox by Marybeth Whalen

320 pages

Christian fiction

June 2010

This is a first novel by a non-fiction writer.  It is based on a true location in Sunset Beach, North Carolina and a mailbox on an isolated part of the beach where people leave letters to The Kindred Spirit.  The actual letters are collected but no one seems to know who maintains the box.   I would actually stop to find it if I'm ever in the area.

In the novel we meet Lindsey, a recent divorced mom of two kids, who has visited Sunset Beach every year since she was a teenager.  As a teenager, she fell in love with Campbell.  We learn about their story through the letters she leaves in the mailbox each year as well as some flashbacks in the novel.

Other reviewers have compared this to a Nicholas Sparks novel because of the heartbreak and second chances.  I will admit that I don't like Sparks that much.  Maybe I haven't read the right book.  The Mailbox was very predictable.  You probably already know how it ends, even from my brief description.

The author seemed to throw in every side plot she could think of:  divorce, cheating, anorexia, teenage pregnancy, heart attack, and multiple crises in faith.  In the end notes to the book, she even admitted that she almost had a secondary character die!  It was a little too much for me.  I kept thinking so what's going to go wrong now.

I really didn't hate the book - it just wasn't for me.  I did think the author did a good job weaving in the main characters' belief in God and how it wavered and strengthen throughout their lives.  I also liked Lindsey.  Her struggles to make sense of a divorce and its impact on herself and her kids were well-written and insightful.  I think I kept reading because of her character.

In a previous review, I commented that a really don't like everything.  Well, I really don't like everything.  I'm giving it 3 stars.  If you are a Sparks fan, you may like this.  If you have read it, I'd love to know what you think.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Night Owl

btt button

What’s the latest you’ve ever stayed up reading a book? Is staying up late reading a usual thing for you?

Yes, I've stayed up late reading a book.  I have a comfy reading chair and light in our den which won't disturb the rest of the house if I read after everyone has gone to bed.  I tend to stay up more in the summer because it gets really hard to do on school days when I'm up at 6:00.  I enjoy being up in the quiet, dark of the house engrossed in my book.  I do admit that I'm more likely to stay up when I'm near the end of a book that I really like.

When I was younger, I remember reading in bed with the flashlight under the covers after my parents made me turn off the lights.  I'm surprised I wasn't sleep-deprived through elementary school!

I used to read late into the night much more than I do now.   By 10:00 most nights, I'm already wiped out.  I tend to do more early morning reading now because I'm up early to take my daughter to skating practices at ice rinks.  That's especially true during the school year.

What about you?  Do you read late at night?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted here, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Most Dangerous Thing

Here's the description from Amazon:

"Some secrets can’t be kept. . . .

Years ago, they were all the best of friends. But as time passed and circumstances changed, they grew apart, became adults with families of their own, and began to forget about the past—and the terrible lie they all shared. But now Gordon, the youngest and wildest of the five, has died and the others are thrown together for the first time in years.

And then the revelations start.

Could their long-ago lie be the reason for their troubles today? Is it more dangerous to admit to what they’ve done or is it the strain of keeping the secret that is beginning to wear on them and everyone close to them? Each one of these old friends has to wonder if their secret has been discovered—and if someone within the circle is out to destroy them."

It's due on August 23, 2011 and sounds like just the kind of mystery/adventure that I want to end my summer reading.  What about you?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Tough Issues

This weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  Play here. 

This week is a list of the top ten books that deal with difficult issues.  I already read a few lists and am amazed with the diversity of responses I already see.  Here's my list:

1.  The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak  - one of my favorite books that truly deals with man's inhumanity to man through the Holocaust. 

2.  Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - one of the best introductions for kids to death.  Every kid should have the chance to meet Charlotte and Wilbur and cry at her death.

3.  My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult - two tough issues in this one.  Reading about sick and dying children is never easy, but I can't imagine living with it.  Also, this is a great novel for discussion of medical advances and the legal issues they create.

4.  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - racism, sexual assault, and drug addiction.  Many books have covered these issues but this is a classic.

5.  Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - I actually just finished this one, and it's an excellent examination of school bullying.

6.  The Wall by Eve Bunting - this is a children's picture book by one of my favorite authors.  It very simply tells the story of a young boy who visits the  Vietnam Memorial with his father to find and trace his grandfather's name.  I cry every time I read it to my class, but it truly makes the sacrifices of war a multi-generational issue.

7.  Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting - another children's picture book.  It's the story of a homeless family who "lives" in an airport.  It's a great story for starting a discussion with kids about what it means to be homeless and how we can all help.

8.  Paula by Isabel Allende - Allende's haunting memoir of the sudden illness and death of her adult daughter.  The last twenty pages will bring you to tears and leave you wondering how any parent survives the death of a child.

9.  The Lorax by Dr. Seuss - Seuss's environmental warning from 1971 which is still valid and relevant today.

10.  Elijah's Angel by Michael J. Rosen - another children's picture book.  This is one of the best books I've read about tolerance.  It's the story of a little Jewish boy who befriends an older African American Christian barber.  The most touching part is when the Jewish family walks through the snow to see the menorah lit in the window of Elijah's barber shop each night of Hanukkah. 

Most of my list is children's books.  It's interesting because I've found that many children's authors do an excellent job presenting tough issues.  I'm looking forward to reading your list and hearing what you think of mine.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson

Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

368 pages


June 2011

I'm sure everyone has read about this one by now.  The basic premise is that the main character, Christine, wakes up every day and can't remember who she is.  She doesn't recognize her husband, Ben, or even know how old she is.  Each day she gets a phone call from a Dr. Nash who directs her to a diary she is keeping of each day to help jog her memories.

Watson slowly builds the tension as Christine's story is revealed in small steps.  As a reader, I became so involved with Christine that I couldn't help but to identify with her.  As parts of her story started to become inconsistent, you start to realize that everything is not what you believed.  There is a tremendous tension in the story as it starts to unravel.  It is heightened by the fact that Christine can't clarify anything for us, as readers.  So, in a sense, we are memory-impaired with her.

Ben is an intriguing character.  I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll simply say that I'm not sure I completely understood his motivations.

Overall, this was a fun read, and I highly recommend it.  I'm giving it 4 1/2 stars.  It's starting to sound like I love everything I read.  That's not quite so, but I've had a string of good luck with books lately.  If you've read it, I'd love to know what you think!

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

 Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

 480 pages

 Young Adult

 March 2010

I'm not normally a fan of YA books, but this one caught my attention.  I can best sum it up as Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day meets The Lovely Bones.  Samantha, Sam, narrates the story which is basically a 7 part rerun of the day of her death.  Sam is a high school senior who is part of the popular clique in the second semester of senior year.  She has three best friends and a popular, Lacrosse playing, boyfriend.

I know that this sounds slightly morbid, but I was quite fascinated with the book.  I couldn't put it down and read far too late to finish it.  I've read a number of reviews and other bloggers who hated Sam, the main character, and her friends.  I actually found myself sympathizing with Sam and really disliking her friend Lindsay, the leader of the girl pack.  The author tries to give you reasons to be sympathetic towards Lindsay by the end, but I just couldn't.  I've seen way too many Lindsays in real life who do tremendous damage to others along the way.

However, I did feel tremendous empathy for Sam, and not just because she's dead!  I could truly understand how she felt torn between following along with her friends and doing the right thing.  I also understood the moments of self-absorption because that rang true for the typical teenager.  Sam's struggle to understand what was happening, and her final realization, felt very real to me. On a spiritual level, her soul's struggle made sense.

The bullying of Juliet felt, unfortunately, very real and was an essential element in both Sam's and Lindsay's stories.  I think Juliet is the character who will haunt me.  It brought home the costs of bullying in teens and how vigilant we, as adults, need to be, but, also, how helpless we can be. 

I truly enjoyed the book.  I would caution that there is under age drinking, drug use, and talk of sex in the story.  I'm giving this book 4 1/2 stars.  I can't quite give it 5 stars because I wanted more redemption Lindsay's character.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

It's Monday! Here's What I'm Reading.

This weekly book meme is hosted by Sheila.

Here's this week's agenda:

Currently reading:

I read about this one a blog and hope to finish it this week.  I'm actually fascinated with it!

On the list next:

I got both of these in the recent Kindle deals sale.  The first is a lark because I liked the cover.  The second is one that has been on my TBR list for awhile.

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

I picked up Then Came You because of a review I read in that literary giant, People Magazine.  I'm willing to take recommendations wherever I can find them. 

The story reads very much like a Jodi Picoult novel.  It is told through the eyes of four women:  India, Bettina, Jules, and Annie.  They are all related through the process of surrogacy.  India is the younger bride of a wealthy older man, and Bettina is his daughter from a first marriage.  Jules is the egg donor and Annie is the surrogate.  I don't want to review too much of the plot, but there are some twists and turns in the story.  What I thought would be a story about wealth and social status ended up being about families and how they are created.

Strengths of Then Came You:

There is a sign in my house that reads "Friends are the family one finds along the way."  That sentiment sums up the book for me.  The four women do become a sort of extended family for baby Rory by the end of the book.  I found myself most interested in Annie's story.  There was a real life quality to her that made her likable, and I could really understand the choices she made in the book.

Weaknesses of Then Came You:

The narrative shifts between the women much like a Picoult novel.  However, Weiner's writing was not as crisp as Picoult's.  There were many times when it was clear what would happen even when the perspective changed.  Also, the second half of the book is loaded with Bettina, who was my least favorite character. 

Bettina's mother, the first wife of India's husband, was underutilized in the novel.  The author gave her an interesting back story.  I'd have been interested in bringing her more to the forefront, especially in the second half of the book.

Overall, it was an enjoyable read, a chick lit book with some meat and substance.  I'm going to give it 4 stars.  If you've read it, I'd love to know what you think!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Follow

Q. Name 3 authors that you would love to sit down and spend an hour or a meal with just talking about either their books or get advice on writing from?

This is a tough one because I don't want to say the obvious.

#1 - E.B. White

I'd love to hear about Charlotte's Web.  It is one of the books that I remember bonding with as a child and enjoy teaching to my second grade class.  I'd love to hear the inspiration and thought process that went into writing it.

#2 - Ray Bradbury

This is kind of a cheat because I had to chance to meet him when I was in Junior High School.  He attended a play version of one of his novels and talked to us afterward.  I remember he had a very distinct view of the world and writing.  I'd like the chance to learn more from him with an adult perspective.

#3 - JK Rowling

I'm sure this is someone lots of people would like to spend time with.  I'm most curious about her writing process and whether or not she feels that she has a different story to tell.

What about you?

Book Hop

Book Blogger Hop

I just found this Friday book meme and sounds like fun so here's today's question:

What’s the ONE GENRE that you wish you could get into, but just can’t?

I really do like to read almost anything.  I tend to chose books by author and subject matter not genre.  However, I have always had a tough time with non-fiction.  I can't seem to stick with it and get bored.  That's especially true of the motivational, this is how I do it, type of non-fiction.  I'd rather have great characters and a juicy plot any day.

What about you?  Play here:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Let's Try This Again!

Here's a new question:

What’s the first book that you ever read more than once? (I’m assuming there’s at least one.)

What book have you read the most times? And–how many?

The first book I remembered reading more than once must be a Nancy Drew mystery when I was 10 or 11. I read them so quickly that I had to read them more than once since I only went to the library once a week!

There are so many books I want to read now that I don't tend to read books for pleasure more than once. I have read many children's books over and over because that is how I share my love of books with kids. I have probably read Charlotte's Web over 25 times!