Spring Reading

    This Spring Break my goal is just to relax and get in some good reading time.  I have started well with 3 books done in just two days.  It is interesting to me how much fiction is out there with dystopian and end-of-the-world themes.  I think I might have to take a break and find a more cheerful book before continuing to read this type of book.  They certainly make you think!

The first book I want to talk about is The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch.  This is a post-apocalyptic book with a lot of action and adventure.  The book starts off with Steve and his dad, who are scavengers, traveling and looking for things that they might trade for supplies needed for survival.  In the world of this book there was a terrible plague (P11) which wiped out most of the population.  The people that are left are working hard to survive.  Stephan ends up in a tricky situation in which he needs to trust some strangers, but he has always been taught never to trust anyone but family.  There are battles and a lot of suspense in the book, but what really drew me in was the complexity of the characters and the questions about human nature that this world brought up.  Are we really just savages when you take our material possessions away?  Will people lose who they are and the ability to be kind if there ever is a situation like this?  I would highly recommend this book to young and old.  It will especially appeal to boys. 

      I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up the book How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff.  I knew it had won the Printz award, which is a high recommendation in my book, but I did not really have any idea what it was about.   I started reading and was immediately drawn in by the way the author wrote in the voice of a teenage protagonist.  The use of foreshadowing in the book was also interesting because it really helped me to know that something terrible was about to happen.  The setting in this book is a small town in the countryside in England.  An American girl is sent to live with her British cousins after a fight with her step-mother. 
Her personal problems are soon forgotten when the world all of a sudden is in a war.  The electricity is cut off and there are no phones and she and her cousins are stuck living as orphans because her aunt is stuck in another country and unable to get back.  There are many twists and turns and it kept me riveted to the page because I wanted to find out what was going to happen.  I am impressed with the author’s imaginative not-too-distant future.  This book has a lot of action and also a survival story.  I would recommend this book especially to teenage girls who will identify with the voice of the protagonist and the way that she thinks.  There is also a subtle message about eating disorders in the book. 

     Another Spring Break book is the book Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings.  I have had this book on my shelf for a few years.  I knew it looked good and had received high acclaim from critics, but I was hesitant to pick it up as I always am with books I know will be sad.  This one has a tragic boating accident at the center of it and a teenage boy who has a difficult time with the outcome.  Partway through the book the protagonist has to make a difficult decision and has a very hard time figuring out what to do in his moral dilemma.  This is an amazing story and I am sorry I waited so long to read it.  I would highly recommend it for everyone. 

   Last but not least is this classic little book for young adults, Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster.  It is a charming story of an orphan who gets a benefactor that sends her to college.  One of the conditions of the money that she will get is that she has to write to this benefactor once a month to tell him about how she is doing in school.  She is not to ever know the name of the man who is paying for her education and is to call him Mr. Smith.  Jerusha, the protagonist, thinks this is boring and since she happened to see his shadow which showed he was a tall gentleman she decides to call him Daddy Long Legs.  This character is a charming young girl and the story is a fun one to read.  We read it in class in preparation for seeing the musical version at Skylight Musical Theatre.  I was so glad to have the opportunity for this trip also.  I highly recommend both the book and the musical. 

Matched, Monster, Chains

              The first book I want to talk about in this post is a fairly recent release.  The book Matched by Allie Condie is reminiscent of The Giver in that this dystopian society at first seems like a Utopia.  In Matched the main character, Cassia, is happy with her life and sees nothing wrong with the way the society decides things for everyone.  Her world makes perfect sense and seems to be better than what used to exist.  Then a series of events starts her thinking that maybe it is not the best idea to have everything decided for you.  This is an intelligent book that really gets into the head of the main character.  Cassia is a likeable teen who is faced with some pretty unpleasant decisions and realizations. 

     This next book is a book that I have been meaning to read for quite some time.  I am talking about Monster by Walter Dean Myers.  It is an excellent book for high-interest easy reading.  In this book the main character is a boy in jail going through his trial for murder.  He is interested in film and movie-making so the majority of the book is written like a screenplay.  In this book we get a glimpse of what it might be like to make the stupid mistake of helping some tough guys in the neighborhood.  I highly recommend this book to everyone.  It is a quick read and a great story as most of Walter Dean Myer’s books are. 

     Last but not least is the book Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I avoided reading this book for quite some time because I have a hard time reading heartbreaking books and I wasn’t ready for another heavy account of how slaves were treated.  This book surprised me because it was set in the north during the Revolutionary War.  The book was an excellent work of historical fiction and I learned quite a bit about what was happening in New York during the war.  Yes, it is heartbreaking to think about slavery and the awful treatment of slaves.  The main character Isabel did experience her fair share of this, but she also is a resilient and intelligent girl that is a fascinating character.  The book is an intriguing story that tells more than just the story of this one girl and this one household.  I especially love the epigraphs that come from historical documents.  Laurie Halse Anderson obviously did extensive research before writing this historical fiction novel.  It is an excellent book. 

More Great Reads

     Since the school year is fast approaching, I have put on hold many of the adult books that I want to read in order to do some quick reading of the young adult books I have on my “to read” shelf.  In the last week I spent a lot of time reading sequels to other great books, but I noticed something that is bothering me about the books I have recently read.  I think it is just the fact that I am an adult, but some of the reactions and insecurities of the protagonists in these books are bothering me.  It seems like the girls in many of the supernatural romance teen books are so insecure and cannot believe that the guy loves them.  Is this something that every teenager thinks??  I wonder if the young adults that read these books even notice this theme.  I hope they do and they are just as frustrated with the main characters so that they are able to reflect on the behavior and avoid it in their lives.  Okay, enough with the frustrations. 

   The first book that I have recently finished is Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick.  This is the sequel to the book Hush, Hush.  In this book Nora is looking forward to a nice summer vacation in which she will spend a lot of her time with her boyfriend and guardian angel Patch.  However, jealousy and suspicions arise and she finds that she has some trouble in paradise.  Add to that some mysterious sightings of her father, who is supposedly dead, and there is a suspenseful adventure waiting for the reader.  I really enjoyed the book and I love the imagination that Becca Fitzpatrick has to come up with some of the twists and turns that occur.  I have to admit that I was a little bothered by the ease with which Nora became suspicious of Patch.  It seems so obvious to me as an adult reader that she is misunderstanding things…I wonder how others react to this.  Overall, it was a fun book to read and I know many teens would really love it.  I am excited to read the third book in the series when I get a chance. 

     Tiger’s Quest by Colleen Houck is the second book in the series.  In this book Kelsey has just left India and has arrived in Oregon to start classes at the university.  She settles into her life in Oregon but has a difficult time because she left Ren behind.  There is quite a bit of the book devoted to the love story between these two characters.  Kelsey really annoyed me because of her insecurity.  It seems quite clear to the reader that she must be much prettier than she thinks she is from the reactions of the men in her life.  Also, she focuses too much on the physical and does not appreciate the gifts she has.  In this book things happen that make it possible for Kelsey to go on the second quest to work toward a solution for the two tigers.  This time she ends up on the quest with Kishan and has to travel into Tibet to learn about the next phase of the quest.  As a reader I was impressed with the details and the imaginative situations that the two found themselves in.  I am certainly much more interested in looking for and reading more Indian myths to see if some of the ideas came from them.  When I reached the end of this book I was reeling from a great twist to the plot.  I can’t wait for the next book to come out so I can see how things work out. 

     Sharon Draper’s book Forged by Fire is a quick read but worth your time.  In this book the reader learns about Gerald’s life with his loving aunt who takes custody of him after his druggie mother leaves him alone in the apartment and he almost dies in a fire.   Years later his mother returns with a new husband and Gerald starts living with them.  The only thing that helps him keep going in this new home is his sister Angel.  The two of them look out for each other in this unhappy home.  I found myself really rooting for Gerald and Angel and hoping that they would be able to overcome the bad circumstances of their home life.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a great story.  Anyone who has read Tears of a Tiger will definitely enjoy this book.

   Last, but not least is another great book by Walter Dean Myers.  In Somewhere in the Darkness Jimmy is living with Mama Jean who is taking care of him.  His mother is dead and his father is in prison but he gets along fine living with Mama Jean.  One day his father shows up at the apartment and takes Jimmy with him to Chicago.  Strange things are happening along the way and Jimmy is not sure he can trust this man, but he wants to get to know his father.  Once again, Myers writes an intriguing story that keeps the reader guessing about what is going to happen next.  This is another quick read and completely worth your time. 

Tiger’s Curse

    I just finished reading Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck.  This is another series in the new fantasy/romance young adult genre.  I was fascinated by the story which mixes in some Indian mythology with the story of Kelsey an American teenager who has just graduated high school.  Kelsey gets a temp job working for two weeks at a traveling circus and becomes very attached to the white bengal tiger that they have.  At the end of her time there a man comes to the circus and offers Kelsey a rare opportunity to travel and continue working with the tiger.  The story is a mystical adventure and mystery in which Kelsey ends up sleuthing to help with reversing an ancient curse.   Readers do have to suspend some disbelief as the situations that the characters get in are quite hard to believe at times, yet they somehow still feel realistic.  That is the beauty of good fantasy writing!  I would highly recommend this book to teenagers and adults alike. 

The Mortal Instruments

     I just finished reading City of Glass by Cassandra Clare.  I have to say that I am quite impressed with the three books in this series.  I love the idea of the world in which all of these creatures exist.  I also am always impressed when as a reader I have absolutely no clue in the middle of the book how things will possibly work out for the characters in the book.  Throughout this series there is a tension between the main characters that is both intense and realistic.  There are so many twists in the plot lines but each time it seems that the story must have been meant to go that way.  I love that this third book in the trilogy so neatly wraps up the story but does so in an unexpected way which at the same time made me say…”I knew it.”  Anybody who is enjoying all the great fantasy series out there will enjoy this fast-paced series of books. 

    Along these same lines, I saw that Clare has started a new series.  Reading Clockwork Angel was similar to reading City of Bones.  There are a lot of parallels in the stories and it will be interesting to see where the plot line goes in the other books.  I, for one, was glad to see that this talented author is writing more about the fascinating world of the Shadowhunters.  The fact that the new series is set in nineteenth century England was also quite intriguing.  

AHHH! Summer is here!

     It took almost a year before I picked up the book Burned from the House of Night series.  I was so angry with how the last book ended that I didn’t know if I wanted to continue reading the series.   I was curious about how the books would continue after what seemed like a definitive ending in the last book.  I am glad that I decided to continue reading the series.  This book was less about the difficult decisions that Zoey had to make and more about her friends and what they decided to do.  I enjoyed the plot line of this book and the hopefulness that was present in it. 

     Another book I have read during the few short weeks of vacation so far is Secrets, Lies, and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman.  This is a fun, easy read with a bit of a mystery.  The narrator is a teenager who thinks about life in mathematical terms.  It starts with Tess finding out that her mother thinks that her friend may be a murderer.  She is not sure what to do about this but is pretty sure that her mom should be reporting her suspicions to the police.  What follows is a wacky mystery with all the middle school angst that you might expect from a young adult book. 

Witch and Wizard

      The book Witch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet is a fast-paced adventure book as Patterson’s books tend to be.  The premise in this book is the take over in the world of a new radical political party who are trying to rid the world of any possible threats.  Unfortunately that means that they are arresting children who might pose a threat to their power in the future.  The two protagonists in the book are a brother and sister who were never told that they had magical powers but discover throughout the action that they really are a witch and a wizard.  This book has a lot of great fantasy elements but also reads like a lot of the futuristic novels with a warning in them about the state of the world.  I am looking for ward to reading the next book and seeing what happens with the characters and the New Order.

     I also recently read The Princess Bride.  I absolutely love the movie and I wanted to see if the book was as good.  I did not realize that the book is actually an abridged version of the original story written by William Goldman who also wrote the screenplay for the movie.  It was fun to read the story, but there was nothing new in it because the main action was exactly like the action in the movie.

More Great Reads Continued…

   Rick Riordan writes a spectacular adventure in the Percy Jackson series.  I had a hard time putting down each of the installments in the series and couldn’t wait to read the fifth book The Last Olympian.  The development of the relationships among the characters and the twists and turns really made a fantasy story very realistic.  I was as eager to find out what would happen between Annabeth and Percy as I was to find out how they would save the world from the Titans.
      In The Lost Hero Riordan continues to write a fun-filled adventure story.  This book starts a series that includes a different prophecy that is in the hands of other demi-god children.  There are cameo appearances by some of the favorite characters from the Percy Jackson series and a hint that Percy himself might show up in further adventures.  I am very excited to see what else happens to this set of characters.
      The Red Pyramid was also a great read.  I was intrigued by the egyptian myths and gods.  Just as in the Percy Jackson series, I learned quite a bit about mythology.  I also really liked the author’s style of shifting the narration back and forth from Sadie to Carter.  The different styles they had of telling the story added humor and intrigue to the book.

Many Great Reads Later

    I am quite embarrassed by how long it has taken me to get back to this blog. I will have a hard time remembering all the books that I have read since the last post.  First I think I will make a list of the books I have read and then I will begin to review them.  I have read most of the rest of the books in the House of Night series, Fahrenheit 451, City of Bones and City of Ashes, The Lost Hero, The Red Pyramid, The Kitchen Boy, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and a few Holocaust historical fiction books.

    I will start with the House of Night series.  I still enjoy the quick and entertaining reading that those books provide.  I will say that the characters are interesting and it is my curiosity about what will happen to Zoey that keeps me going back to the books.  However, I find the story getting more and more unbelievable and crazy.  In the third book Zoey makes some decisions that I found to be really unrealistic and the rest of the books have continued that plot line.  I would still recommend the series but maybe not as highly as I might have before.

    Part of my mission as a teacher and a reader is to be familiar with classic books as well.  I am a little ashamed to say that until this fall I had not read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  It is a science fiction book that takes place in a world where reading and books are prohibited.  The firemen in this world are called out to start fires in homes where books have been spotted.  The protagonist of this book is a fireman who starts to have doubts about his life and the fire starting that he does.  I found myself wondering throughout the book what a world like that would be like.  I think that is the magic of science fiction…it brings you into a new place and makes you think about what the world could be.  I wasn’t as thrilled with the book as I thought I might be.  It is worth the read and it is good to know that I have read another classic, but I don’t think I was missing much before.

     The new Mortal Instruments series is a thrilling adventure/fantasy series.  The first book City of Bones had me intrigued from the start because the protagonist, Clary, has no idea what is going on.  She starts to see things that no one else can see and her mother starts acting really weird all at once.  Throughout the story she starts to discover a whole world of other creatures and secrets that her mother has been keeping.  Besides all the fantasy and intrigue there is a love triangle that develops and makes for some great reading.  City of Ashes continues the adventure and is as fun to read as the first book.

Looking for Alaska, Copper Sun, Tears of a Tiger, Marked

Hello!  I have been super busy with the beginning of a new school year so I haven’t posted in awhile.  That does not mean that I have taken a break from reading though!

     First up today is the book Looking for Alaska by John Green.  In this book the protagonist is a high school boy who decides to ask his parents to send him to the boarding school his father went to.  He doesn’t really have any friends at his school in Florida and is looking for a new beginning somewhere.  At the new boarding school he becomes friends with a rather motley group of students who enjoy pulling pranks.  One of the group is a girl named Alaska who is gorgeous and elusive and quirky.  There is a sense of suspense throughout the novel because each section has a heading counting down to some event.  This is a novel that contains some mature references but is one I would recommend to many teens.  I was drawn to it first because it is a novel that won the Printz award for young adult books.  Every book that I have read that has had that distinction has been an excellent book.

    The next two books were both written by Sharon Draper.  The first book, Copper Sun, was recommended to me by a fellow teacher.  The book starts out describing a very nice domestic scene in a village in Africa and very quickly turns into a tragedy when the white slave traders come to the village and kill everyone that they do not find to be suitable to bring with them for slavery.  The narration is through the voice of a young woman who then tells of her journey on a slave ship, being bought at auction, and living as a slave on the plantation where she ends up.  Throughout the second part of the book the narration skips back and forth between Amari, the slave, and Polly, a white indentured servant. I learned a few things that I did not know about the history of the United States and a free village that existed in Spanish Florida.  I would highly recommend this book.

    The second book by Sharon Draper that I read recently was Tears of a Tiger.  The book starts with a tragic accident in which a star basketball player dies.  The book explores the level of grief that the other students go through and the struggles of the student who was driving the car with survivor’s guilt.  It is a fascinating and sad book.  I really appreciated the way the author used many different formats to narrate the book.  The narration was a collection of letters, newspaper articles, glimpses into students’ thoughts, etc.  I know that this book is the first in a trilogy and I will definitely be seeking out the other two books. Be ready to read a tragic story when you sit down to read this one.

   The last book that I want to talk about is the book Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast.  This is the first book in the House of Night series.  I have to say that I was somewhat reluctant to read this one because I am a little sick of the vampire craze lately.  (Not that I haven’t also been a part of the craze)  I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  The authors created a whole new idea of what the vampire myth could be and it is very intriguing.  I really enjoyed getting to know the main character and learning about her adventures.  This book is reminiscent of Harry Potter and worth the read.