Monday, December 27, 2010

Fire by Kristin Cashore

Yep! This one was on my Nook too, thanks to Christmas gifts! I am so glad because I have immediately reread both of Cashore's books.

Comments: This book has some very modern ideas.
Both of these books are overtly feminist. In Graceling, Katsa chooses a sexual relationship without marriage and also chooses not to bear children. In Fire, Fire has a cavalier relationship with Archer. In both books, birth control is mentioned while abortion and some sort of permanent contraception are mentioned. (I do like her mentioning birth control and periods since those are topics girls wonder about.) Both books have SUPER strong female leads. I will assert that Cashore is not a man-hater; both of her male leads are very intelligent, sensitive, and traditionally manly.
Fire mentions a lesbian relationship though it does not go into detail and really only alludes to the comfort found in a friend of the same sex, but I think the relationship is obviously a lesbian relationship. If you read Graceling, please let me know if you think Raffin and Ban were homosexual based on no one line in particular but rather on the overall feel of their relationship.

This book reverts to some rather un-modern themes.
One theme is that in order to truly understand yourself you must know where you came from. This comes across in the rather Shakespeare-like revelation of everyone's true parentage. In the case of the men, one could see how they had chosen the vocation of their real parents but the mindset of their "good" parent. With Fire, she must battler her real parent's (whom she knows) influence to become something he was not.
One of my favorite themes in literature is what I like to call "the cult of the orphan." I suppose this is really an archetype of the orphan, but whatever! Think of Anne of Green Gables, Huckleberry Finn, The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, and Daddy Long-Legs. What do all of these books have in common? They were written 1860-1900. It was a prominent idea in that time to have an orphan take on the world and win. This idea is seen in both of Cashore's works. I like it!

Anyway: I really enjoyed both of these books. I am glad to own them and be able to reread them whenever I want. I can't wait for the other 5 books. Please leave a comment if you have an opinion on one of my observations.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

OK. This is up for the VSBA...and it is my WINNER! I LOVE this book! (Please notice the caps; they ARE relevant.)
This is a work of fantasy set in a world with Seven Kingdoms. In this world, some people are born with Graces, or special abilities. The heroine of this story, Katsa, is graced with killing. Her love interest in the story, Prince Po, is graced with the art of fighting.
I really enjoyed the writing of this story. It was character-centered while not ignoring the plot; the plot continued to more forward while the characters were revealing themselves.
I really enjoy her word play and symbolism: humbled vs. humiliate, death vs. survival, and sight vs. blindness. Read it and understand!
I was given a Nook in August when I had my tonsils out. I have just been reading Pride and Prejudice on it (for the 34th time!) because it was free and I am cheap. After reading this novel, I knew I wanted to own it. I decided to purchase it for my Nook with a Christmas gift card from my sister-in-law, Melissa. I have been happily rereading this novel (with my secret knowledge that only readers of the novel possess) and looking for favorite parts to highlight and foreshadowing that I didn't see before. I also like reading for references to Po's secret just because he makes me happy.

Please read this novel! It is not about vampires at all!

Up next: Fire by Kristin Cashore: the second novel in the 7 Realms series. Her blog is at

Monday, December 20, 2010

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

I read this because it is on the VSBA list. It won the 2008 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. While I enjoyed it, I do not think it is better than my other VSBA favorites: Black Box and The Hunger Games.
Background: This book is set in 1947 (post WWII) in New York and Palm Beach, Florida. I really enjoyed the little details about the time period including, but not limited to, references to Victory Gardens and the reason for longer skirts in the late 40s and 50s (decadence after years of rations on cloth).
Reading: It had already been pointed out in the VSBA Book Club that things in this book are not what they seem; in fact, it had been referred to as a mystery. With that in my mind, I read this book looking for clues...and I found them. I wish I had not been told that it was a mystery because looking for clues kind of spoiled the big reveal for me; I had already caught on.
Book Club: Since this book has already been talked about a couple of times at the book club, I think I will pull some 40s and WWII non-fiction to show as tie-ins for people who have already read the book. By doing this, I may be able to show some of the way toward "Life-Long Learning Misti-Style" (i.e. read a fiction book and then parts of a related non-fiction book).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

General Silliness:

Now that that's out of the way...I will try not to make any revealing comments here because I really do hope some of you read this trilogy of books.

General Comments:
1. I wish that at the end of this trilogy the author had gone more Pride and Prejudice and less Animal Farm in her personal relationships.
2. I still don't see how the final arrangement evolved into existence. I get that he was who Katniss should have been with. I just didn't see any redevelopment of what was lost. Yes, I know I can infer it, but I just don't see neediness in her character.
3. A la Harry Potter: I am tired of dead people producing children as if that will make up to readers for the loss of beloved characters. (Do you know who I'm talking about in both books?)
4. I liked the books and I'm not sure there was another way to end the story, but I don't feel triumphant or anything here after reading about 1100 pages.

Natalie: I did it!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Exciting: I have read 42 books since I started this blog in October 2009! Yay! It has accomplished one of its goals: to hold me accountable for my reading.

This is book 2 in the Hunger Games trilogy (a word I taught to a VSBA Book Club member at last Thursday's meeting). I read about 50 pages of this and then got distracted with other things (like the previous book entry). When I picked it up again, I was engrossed. I had heard bad reviews of the rest of the series; not bad I guess, but I had heard that the remaining two were not as good as the first one. I did not find that to be true of this 2nd book. I really enjoyed it and am starting the 3rd one tonight; Natalie comes home soon, so I've got to get on it!

Natalie: Do you have a question for discussion or anything to guide me with as I think of what we shall discuss when you visit?

Friday, December 3, 2010

William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls by Katie Nicholl

Why This Book: I have always loved the British royal family. My mom went to England a few years after the marriage of Diana and Charles and brought me home a doll of Princess Diana in her wedding dress. I just loved her! She had a fabulous train! Anyway, I loved her. I remember where I was when she died. I had just returned home from watching GI Jane with friends when Mom told me about the wreck in Paris. I watched the news the rest of the night and then the funeral coverage the rest of the week. I just find them all fascinating!
So, on Sunday morning, November 21, I saw the author on the Today show talking about her new book. I immediately requested it from the NPL. The next morning...the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton was announced. I'm so glad I requested this book before the news broke!
Revelation: I used to dream about marrying one of these brothers. I thought they were so great. I'm not so sure now. They both sound like hard-partying ladies' men (Harry more so). So, I think I have decided not to marry one of them (Gene will be relieved, I'm sure!).
Target Audience: This book was published by Weinstein books in New York. When reading this book, I thought the intended audience was Americans. Once, the author referred to cookies (as opposed to biscuits), a distinctly American term. Another time, she observed that Kate Middleton's parents had attended what, in America, would be called "public schools" (intake of breath in horror!).
Hmmm: What confuses me is this one quote about Harry which the Nicholl says came from an American: "He's so handsome. Cuter than William-I love his ginger hair" (277). I ask you: what American do you know who calls it ginger hair? We call it red hair. Interestingly enough, I heard it referred to this week as ginger hair on The Graham Norton show on BBC America; he's Irish not English, but still, it's not an American term.

Side Note: I just Googled this book to put a link here. The first hit was for Amazon. It pulls up on with a different picture on the cover. I wonder if they made any of the changes mentioned in Target Audience for the American book?
UK Amazon:
American Amzon:
Weird: On the American cover, William is looking away and Harry is facing the camera. The opposite is true of the UK version.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This book is a nominee for the Volunteer State Book Award. Megan Lee book-talked it at our November meeting; she was so good, it made me wish she had been my teacher in high school (even though she's about my age!). I had thought about reading it, but Natalie Crowson kicked me into over-drive when she emailed that she wanted to discuss it with me; she'll be here over Christmas, so I knew I had to get on it!
This book is set in the future when the United States has become Panem. Panem is divided into 12 districts. Each district must send 2 tributes to fight in the Hunger Games every year (think Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"). This is the story of Katniss Everdeen and her role in this year's Hunger Games. This book has a strong female protagonist, lots of action, and brief glimmers of romance (post if you get the allusion!).
Fun Times as a Librarian: I read this book in about a week. I had checked out all 3 of our books (this is a trilogy) and taken them home in preparation for the Thanksgiving break. A boy came in last Wednesday and asked for Catching Fire. I told him it was checked out but I would order it from the public library. I brought the book back the next day. When I took it to him right before his lunch break, he was surrounded by kids leaving gym for Christmas. When I handed it to him, he smiled and said, "YES!" A friend near him said, "Is that the 2nd one?" It was just a great moment in librarian-ing to place the book a student wanted in his hands and see him (and others) excited about it.
My prediction (for Natalie mostly): I think Katniss will end up with Gale and Peeta will end up with Prim. I don't think Peeta really loves Katniss, just the idea of her over all of these years. Think Little Women with the Jo-Laurie-Amy thing. Don't tell me! I'm just tossing my ideas around.
VSBA Vote: This is fabulous! I finally like one better than The Black Box! Still, the black box was great! I'm not sure how I feel about publishers shoving fantasy on us. Repeat after me: You will buy fantasy and vampire stories, you will buy fantasy and vampire stories, you will...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fawn by Robert Newton Peck

I found this book while weeding the collection a few weeks ago. It was on the list of books older than 20 years. I set it aside to take home for Dad because of the Mohawk brave on the cover. When I opened it to look at the copyright date (1975), I read this inscription on the facing page:
To the Black Watch who bled there.
To the Mohawk who starved there.
To the old man who saw me skin the rabbit."
This may seem a bizarre transcription to most, but to me and Susan, it fits right in with our Outlander series.
This book moved very slowly to me. It is character driven except the character seems so strange (stereotypical Native American) and solitary. I had a hard time getting into this and could only read about 10 pages a night.
Question: Do you think Native Americans and ancient Egyptians were really as austere as they are portrayed to be?
Weird: Check out Peck's weird bio on Wikipedia. See who was his best man at his wedding.
Up Next: Natalie Crowson asked me today if I have read The Hunger Games trilogy. I confess I haven't, though Megan Lee book-talked it well at last Thursday's book club meeting. The first book (The Hunger Games) is a nominee for this year's Volunteer State Book Awards, so this book will satisfy my book club quota for the month. Now, I must find a way to get all 3 books in the trilogy back in the library for myself before the Thanksgiving break!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hayes

Verdict: I LOVE this book! It is so funny if one if a Southerner; I imagine it is funny, but not SO funny, if one is a regular ole person not of the Southern persuasion.
This book is set up with chapters about an aspect of the Southern death. Chapters cover such topics as tasteful food at a funeral, casseroles made with Campbell's soup, acceptable songs, the eternal pantry, and much more! Each chapter is followed by numerous delicious-sounding recipes, though I haven't tried any of them.
Bottom line: I highly recommend this book to Southerners, especially those no longer living in the South, because it will make you smile!
You can see the lovely cover of this book at
Question: Has anyone ever eaten an aspic? This must be a Southern delicacy more Southern than yours truly. The recipe (and picture on the cover of the book) make it sound like a V-8 Jell-o mold. Yuck!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Exile by Diana Gabaldon...

...An Outlander graphic novel with illustrations by Hoang Nguyen; "experience Jamie's side of the story."
Graphic novels are a really popular current trend in the book world; they are essentially literary comic books. I had never read a graphic novel until this one. We have Jane Eyre, The Odyssey, and Maus I and II (hallmarks of this genre) at school, but none have ever appealed to me until now.
If you've been keeping up with this blog, then you know that my friend Susan Strasinger and I have been reading The Outlander series together (just started The Fiery Cross today!). I was at a vendor fair yesterday when I received a graphic novel flier. Lo and behold, Diana Gabaldon and her new graphic novels were featured. I tried to request this from the public library, but it was waiting to be ordered. Nothing would do but to go to Barnes & Noble last night to buy my own copy to complete my Outlander set.
This story is told from Murtaugh's point of view with an eye for Jamie's experiences. One of the things Susan and I really admire about Gabaldon is her use of point of view as an interesting element (difficult to accomplish!). There were some times while reading this graphic novel when some secret was revealed (that Claire had not known when she told the story in the first Outlander novel), I found myself thinking, "What? That so did not happen." Then I would realize that this is not a work of fan fiction; it is a work by Gabaldon. These new things are things she may have always known had happened since she created the world.
I enjoyed this, but I think it is because it relates to something I already enjoy. I am not sure this genre is for me on a regular basis. On the flip side, I can see how some students who begin with a graphic novel might progress to the original novel later. In fact, in the notes at the end, Diana Gabaldon tells readers that the graphic novel only covers the first 1/3 of the novel; I hope this leads someone to read the novels because they are so enjoyable!
Gabaldon began writing comic books before progressing to other genres. This seemed a natural leap for her. (I still can't wait for a movie or, even better, a mini-series about each book!)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt

I found this book while weeding fiction at the JOHS library. It was on my list of books with copyright dates over 20 years (this is 1977), so I was taking it off the shelf to check its conditions and the last time it had ever been checked out. It had never been checked out, but I read the back and thought it sounded interesting. Besides, Natalie Babbitt wrote Tuck Everlasting, which I really enjoyed when I taught it to 7th graders at Donelson Middle while student teaching (bless their hearts because I was not the high-quality teacher then that I came to be after years of experience).
This book was not my favorite. It was weird without being enchanting. It had the potential to be enchanting, but it just didn't succeed. It is about the relationship that develops between a girl and her estranged grandmother; the revelations in character relate to the mysteries of her grandfather's death at see.
It was just weird. It doesn't have draw. I have chosen to withdraw this book.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman...

...with illustrations by Dave McKean
This book a Newberry Award as "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."
This book is based on Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. It is the story of a boy whose parents are killed by The Man Jack. He wanders to a graveyard and is given "the protection of the graveyard" for his youth. He is given the name Nobody and adopted by a couple who died in the 1700s, the Owens'. The book is about his adventures in the graveyard and out in the world. It has all sorts of moral lessons and a refreshing lack of romance. Read more about it at
I read this book because it is up for a Volunteer State Book Award. I enjoyed it, but I think it is more suited to middle school; therefore, it is not my favorite for the voting.
I do plan on using this book as the theme for our next book club meeting. I think I will pick up some Halloween decorations next week when they go on sale! Does anyone have any ideas for food?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Intrigue at Highbury (Or, Emma's Match) by Carrie Bebris

This is the fourth book in the Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery series. I have read the other 3 and found them amusing, but I am going to stop this one at page 65 of 317. They have gotten increasingly far-fetched, and this one isn't even interesting to me. It goes against my nature to stop a book in the middle, but I am making the decision to return it to the NPL tomorrow. I have other books to read (namely, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman) that have been nominated for the Volunteer State Book Awards. I've got to get back to books I'm enjoying; I read for pleasure now (and sometimes it is a pleasure to read for information, i.e. the NON-FICTION travel guide of Scotland I have sitting on the coffee table right now).

Don't worry, though, fellow Janeites! I can't wait to get my hands on Stephanie Barron's Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron: A Jane Austen Mystery.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

I finished listening to Book 4 of the Outlander series. After each one, I need a little break; once I get back to them, I can't stop. I am so thankful to Susan for introducing me to them and encouraging me to listen to something new (not Pride and Prejudice for the 18th time...still love it!)
The best aspect of this series if the changing points of view. The Outlander (Book 1) was engrossing and had the change in time period to keep it spicy. Dragonfly in Amber (Book 2) was interesting because it also switched back and forth between present tense and flashback. Voyager (Book 3) finally shows some times when only Jamie is present and Claire is elsewhere, so a new point of view is introduced here. Drums of Autumn (Book 4) alternates between the slowly converging stories of Roger, Brianna, and Claire. This story was so satisfying to me until the last 1/8 of the book when the dramatic irony/ one character's determination not to accept happiness almost overwhelmed me.
This book was very exciting for me because both Susan and I saw a prediction come true. She had predicted that we had not read the last of Black Jack Randall. I had predicted (back in Dragonfly) that Jamie's tombstone had been placed near Black Jack as a clue for Claire and not as a grave-marker. BTW: Susan predicts that their deaths in the house-fire that will be reported in the paper are a rouse to fool someone in order to make a fresh start in life (compare to fire at Jamie's print shop in Dragonfly).

When I bought the actual books for Susan and myself last year, I also bought The Outlandish Companion. I am still working my way through it. It only covers material from the first four books. If you buy it, I suggest not purchasing it until after you have read the first four. No, possessing it but not reading it is not an option. If it is in your house, you will open it and figure out some things before it is time. I mean it! I tried not to read, but even reading the glossary of names gives away some information. I was glad, however, to have this at the end of the four books. It cleared up what happened to Nayawenne; I somehow failed to make all of the right connections.

One of my goals this year is to teach students to find an interest in a book and go from there. Susan and I have learned so much from our reading in the Outlander series. We have further studied Bonnie Prince Charlie, Scottish dress and weaponry, the Moraveans, and Scottish travel. In fact, I have the Scotland DK Travel Guide next to me right now and the DK Eyewitness Scotland book on order from the NPL. Intellectual stagnancy is a drag and knowledge rocks!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I love this website: For each book spotlighted on the website, there is a brief hook, a list of honors, author information, a playlist selected by the author to accompany the books, questions about the book, and party ideas (for some books).
I plan to use it with my school's Volunteer State Book Awards Book Club. Students are reading one book on the list every month. 5 of the nominees are on this website, so I have plenty to choose from for our meetings.
Please check it out!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Matched by Ally Condie

How this Book was Chosen: The JOHS library gets pre-released books every few months or so. We put them on a shelf and only tell senior library workers or regulars about them. One such "regular," a boot-straps kind of girl who always has a book in her hand and makes my day with our conversations, chose this book. She read it in about 2 days, and then she asked me to read it. She has read lots of these, but she has never asked me to read one. So, it took me a week, but I read it.
Story: This story is set in a dystopia. I have always liked dystopian stories (Animal Farm, The Village), but reading this story helped my student discover that she likes it as well: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! (I digress...) On some level, this is also a classic love-triangle with Cassia, Xander, and Ky. Cassia and Xander are "matched" at the Match Banquet on Cassia' 17th birthday; they have always been best friends and this is an ideal match. When Cassia goes to view her datacard with Xander's information on it, she sees Xander and then another boy she knows named Ky. Now Cassia must choose between the life she is told to have and the life she may be strong enough to choose to have. Good book!
When Can You Get It?: This book is set to be released November 30, 2010. You can find out more about it at
Further Digression: I love the green dress on the cover of this book!

Beastly by Alex Flinn

This book is a modernization of Beauty and the Beast: all versions. At first, the idea seemed odd to me to rewrite a fairy tale for young adults; then, I remembered library school. When we were in Children's Lit class and Mrs. Kinnersley pulled out those children's books, I (the stodgy high school person that I am) gave a groan. Then she started reading, and all the years fell away and the whole class was full of children where adults had been just a few minutes before. Children's books transcend age. The same is true of fairy tales. The same is true of this fairy tale that because this book.
Kyle Kingsbury is popular, good-looking, and cruel to those less-fortunate than he (i.e. ugly people). After one night of serious meanie-ness, he is turned into a beast guessed it...a witch. He will remain as a beast until he finds a girl to love him/kiss him and break the spell. You know the story, but this version has some interesting modernizations like chat rooms and a junkie-father.
More information about this book can be found at

VSBA Voting: This book is good, but I think Black Box (see August) is still my favorite.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Black Box by Julie Schumacher

I am now trying to read the nominees for the 2010-2011 Volunteer State Book Awards in the Young Adults Grade 7 and Up category. I am starting with the ones that my school library has. I have already read and blogged about The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks; you may find its review in the November 2009 section of this blog. If I get finished with those before the April 1 deadline for voting, then I will get some others from the public library; actually, I think I will purchase the others for the library this year. You can see the complete list of nominees at

The Book: This book is about depression and its effect on the depressed person and the people around the depressed person. This story is told from the point of view of Elene Lindt. The reader sees her journey through her sister's, Dora's, depression and commitment to a hospital. It also has a bit of love tossed in for comedy. Actually, the love story is not funny at all; I am using the term comedy a la Shakespeare, as in NOT tragedy, or happiness.
My Opinion (so I'll remember for voting purposes): I really enjoyed this book. I read it in 3 sittings, which is quite the accomplishment with two two-year-olds. I cried unwillingly twice toward the end; the tears came on their own accord.
Question: I was thinking about doing a Twilight book club with students by reading a Twilight novel and then reading the correlating classic novel from which Stephenie Meyer drew inspiration. With this book club, we would all read the same book and discuss. The selling point is that the Twilight series is hugely popular now. I am now considering a VSBA book club. We would all read a different book and then comment on it to encourage others to read that book for the next month. The selling point is the kids' voting on the VSBAs in April. Do you have an opinion on which one I should try?

Information on this book can be found at

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

This book is the story of Nefertari, the daughter of Mutny and the niece of Nefertiti (see previous post about Nefertiti by Moran). This story covers her transformation from child to woman and her desire to be chosen as a wife by Ramses. I think this novel will be interesting to teenage girls. Even though Nefertari is looking for her place in the palace, all teenagers girls can identify with looking for their place in the world as they leave childhood and enter womanhood.
The cover of this book is beautiful. You can check out part of this work at

I had my tonsils removed a week ago tomorrow. On Friday, Bridget Riley delivered a get-well basket to my house with items from my co-workers at Overton. In the basket was a Nook and a cover, amongst other things! It is such a generous gift! I am figuring it out currently. It already had Pride and Prejudice loaded on it, so I may be rereading that soon.
Question: Any suggestions for books to download?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nefertiti: A Novel by Michelle Moran

This historical novel is really about Mutnodjmet (Mutny), Nefertiti's sister (and mother of Neferteri, wife of Ramses II). Through the eyes of Mutny, readers see the story of Neferteri and her husband, Pharaoh Amunhotep, as they abandon Egypt's gods, most notably Amun-Ra, in favor of Aten. They abandon the city of Thebes and build Amarna and Amunhotep becomes Akhnaten. He seemingly changes his god in order to gain control of priests and money. Doesn't this remind you of Henry VIII? (Perhaps I will read something about the Boleyn sisters soon
These basic facts are historically accurate. The meat of this novel is fictional. Akhnaten and Nefertiti were virtually erased from history, despite their efforts at immortality through building, because of their heretical views. Because of this, Moran is able to write her own story while remaining true to the known facts of this Egyptian period.
I am enjoying my current adventures into Egypt's past. If I had it to do again, I would read my Egyptian books in this order: Nefertiti by Moran, The Murder of King Tut by Patterson (see March's post), The Heretic Queen by Moran (I am currently reading this), Julius Caesar by Shakespeare, and Cleopatra's Daughter by Moran.
You can read an excerpt and see the cover at

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

This was the first book I ever successfully listened to on a Playaway. (I tried to listen to Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson but had difficulty with the device.) A Playaway is a dedicated MP3 player for a book. It is the book on tape on its own MP3 player. They supply the battery and you supply the headphones...perfect for walking around the neighborhood. Nothing to download or buy...
This is a work of historical fiction. It is the story of Cleopatra's daughter with Mark Antony, Cleopatra Seline. Seline was a twin; her name, Seline, means moon, and her brother was named Alexander Helios, which means sun. They also had a younger brother, Ptolemy, named for their family tree that descended from Alexander the Great, the Ptolemy's. This work includes many real historical figures including: Octavian (later Augustus), Tiberius, Agrippa, and Juba II.
I really enjoyed this work. What excites me most about it is the idea of putting it in the hands of a teenager who has just finished reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. I hate that play! My personal feeling is that Shakespeare's only flaw is that all of his plays climax in Act III, leaving you two more acts to go. This is not a problem in Romeo and Juliet, but it is a HUGE problem when trying to get kids to read a historical tragedy like JC. Back to this work: I can't wait for some teenage girl to pick it up and realize that Mark Antony was a real guy who went on from the Triumvirate to have this crazy life with Cleopatra. I know the history, but I'm not even sure I really connected the two parts of his life until I read this. The book also mentions Cleopatra's son with Julius Caesar, Caesarion, for another reference to JC. It's just full of little historical nuggets that made me happy.
Comment: I like the author's note at the end comparing these worldly eleven to fourteen year-olds to today's child actors: young people thrust into an adult world at a young age. I thought it was an apt modern-day comparison.
You can see the cover and read an excert at

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn by Mark Twain

Dad and I listened to this one in the car over about a 3-week period. I read this when I was a junior in high school. I didn't find it funny at all then. This time around, I laughed at how stupid Tom and Huck are all of the time. I "became" Dad and would talk aloud to them in my frustration at "freeing" Tom.
I liked listening to this book on tape. It definitely helped not having to decipher the Missouri dialogue. I particularly liked the reader's emphasis on the words elegant, style, and regular.
We will start listening to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer tomorrow. Technically, Tom Sawyer comes first, but Huck Finn is what the library had available when Dad decided he wanted to listen to some Twain.
Question: Have you reread anything from high school with different results (i.e. you like it now and you didn't then or vice versa)?

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

This book is part 3 in the Outlander series. I enjoyed this story better than the last one, but I ran into a wall with this one and finally finished it by reading it instead of listening to it. I just found that I was missing the printed word.
There's been so much on the news lately about Amazon and e-readers, but I'm just not sure I buy into them. I don't want to be a dinosaur, but I love holding a text in my hands.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I reread this book last week. Once again, it possessed me. The writing is not that fab, but the plot is just all-consuming. Her imaginary world built on reality is amazing!
I don't really have any comments on this book, I just want to record that I read it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephenie Meyer
So, I bought this book mainly because I felt it completed my collection of Twilight novels. (BTW: This novella is 178 pages; I generally think of them as being 75-125 pages. It totally rocks that S.M. can convince 14-year-olds that 178 pages is a novella when I couldn't even get them to read a 10-page short story for homework. I suppose this is a result of writing 500-page novels. Yay for S.M.!) I even mentioned this book, pardon me, novella, to Dawn Wenning, and she responded with a remark about Bree's apparent insignificance in the novel Eclipse. I totally agreed until I read this novella. It totally rocks!
  • If you have already watched the movie (this is Friday, it came out Wednesday) but maybe didn't remember who Bree was from when you read the novel two years ago (like yours truly), Bree is the young-ish girl in the newborn army that the camera focuses on every now and then who is ultimately taken care of by Felix.
  • If you haven't read the portion of a novel (though not a novella!) that is Midnight Sun, read it ASAP! Go to to read the story of Midnight Sun and then choose the appropriate link. While not quite the same as the light shed on Alaska and the Cullen's family life in MS, I feel this novella sheds similar light on dark places of which I had no idea they even existed in Eclipse.
  • It took me a while to get to a place in this novella where the story started to interact with interesting characters from the novel.

Monday, June 28, 2010

O, Juliet by Robin Maxwell

This book is a historical novel based on Romeo and Juliet. Maxwell moves the story to Florence of the 1480s and includes the Medici family in the work. Romeo and Juliet are 25 and 18 (respectively) and Juliet has been modernized and made into a feminist poetess.
I did enjoy this novel. I plan to try to do "If you liked this, then read that" book-talks next year when English classes finish reading their works. I found out about this book from a library journal. I would like to buy it for our library next year, but I am concerned about two scenes (p.126 and p.191-193). If you read this book, please let me know what you think about 14-year-old girls reading those pages.
Comment: Every time I read/watch Romeo and Juliet, I find myself thinking that it might work out this time. I know that is stupid of me, but I suppose that is the power of this story. I also feel that way about To Kill a Mockingbird. Question: Are there any books or movies that you feel this way about?

I am going to start including a link to the book's website (if available). The link for this book is at . By the way, this book is brand-spankin' new! I was the first to read it from the NPL.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

This Book is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson

This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All
This book was given to all MNPS librarians by Dr. Susan Whitworth at our "End of the Year Celebration" in May. It had rave reviews about how funny it was. I didn't find the book as a whole that funny, but I did find some funny parts.
I don't read much nonfiction, so this was quite a change for me.
I am going to comment on this book by posting some quotes I found enjoyable; I feel they will speak for themselves.

  • Librarians' values are as sound as Girl Scouts': truth, free speech, and universal literacy (8).
  • Librarians are essential players in the information revolution because they level that field. They enable those without money or education to read and learn the same things as the billionaire and the Ph.D...They are the little "d" democrats (8).
  • Look at all you can do here! was the message patrons got when they walked into one of these places (45).
  • If you are out of diapers, do not open the soiled diaper, scoop out the turd, leave the turd on a shelf, and then ask the librarian to tape the newly cleaned diaper closed again...(63).
  • "This site draws its name from the Chivalric Order of the Duchy of Caledeon Primverness, and Members of the Order take vows of Literacy, Obstinacy, and Bibliomancy." Bibliomancy? It's defined for us a little further down: "Divination by jolly well Looking It Up" (155).
  • We are old, stooped-over people doing old, stooped-over things. They want us to lighten things up, they want the library to be active and hip, they want to pit in a cafeteria and schedule entertainments- they want us to join the modern age (199). Comment: This quote reminded me of the meeting of MNPS HS librarians at the main NPL branch downtown. A young, male, teen librarian talked to us about all of the rockin' things they were doing for teens and about how they all just wanted places to hang out. I told Gwen this discouraged me because we didn't have money to change our set up to please teens. She reminded me that we are an academic library at JOHS, not a public library. Thanks for the reminder, Gwen!
  • Information justice is a human rights issue; the public library must remain "the people's university" (204).
  • He finally found its three volumes, untouched, in the basement of the Boston Athenaeum research library. "You wonder who they bought these books for, anyway," he said to the librarian. "We got them for you, Mr. Basbanes," he was told (207).
  • Instead of "How to Use Online Databases," we offered classes like "Cookery 101."...We would talk about how to use the catalog or online database, but in the context of a subject (209.
  • I didn't know there was so much in there, waiting for us (211).
  • If we are helping build or create something, save a town landmark, fight for freedom, launch a field of study; if we survive a disaster or witness a miracle- if we do anything with our lives besides watch television- we might want to document it somehow and save the evidence (222). Comment: That is the purpose of this blog.

Here is a link to the book; you can click from here to read the first chapter:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

This books alternative non-PC title is Ten Little case you ever see a copy with that title.
This is one of Agatha Christie's most popular novels of all time. The other REALLY popular one is Curtain, Hercule Poirot's last case. FYI: Hercule Poirot is my favorite detective of all time. Agatha Christie herself did not like him and grew tired of him; however, the public liked him so well that her publishers made her keep writing novels with him as the lead. It is my opinion (and probably the generally accepted opinion because it seems so obvious...esentially, I am not taking credit for any great insight here) that the character Ariadne Oliver voices Agatha Christie's personal opinions about Hercule Poirot; look out for her if you read any of Christie's novels.
I've already admitted that Hercule Poirot novels are my preference and, I must confess, I have read this novel several times before. I listened to it on tape with my dad. It is my current mission to expose him to as many classics that he has never read as I can over the summer.
I read my first Christie novel as a teenager on the way to a family vacation at Reelfoot Lake. I read The Sleeping Murder. It is the only Christie novel that I have ever solved.
Observation: I also really like Christie's Peril at End House. Question 1: If you read Christie, who do you prefer: Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot. Question 2: If you have read many Christie cozies (English mysteries), what is your favorite?
Observation: My love of Agatha Christie led me to start reading Agatha Raisin cozies by M.C. Beaton. Question 3: Has love of one author/work ever led you to the love of another author/work? If so, please elaborate.
Up next: Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

This is part 2 of (so far!) 8 books. This is one of those series, like Harry Potter, where you just wish it would go on and on.
I got in on Harry Potter at book 3. After that, I was hooked. I had to endure the years between books and I knew the exquisite impatience of waiting for another book to come out when I already knew I would have it read in a few days and would just have to wait again. That was OK, though, because the joy was worth the wait.
That's how I feel with this series...except I'm not having to wait. I'm just reading (listening, actually) and loving every minute of it knowing that when I'm done with this one, another awaits. That is, of course, until I get to book 8; then I'll have to wait with the rest of her fans! Oh, I can't wait to get there...or can I?
My friend Susan and I are reading them together and discussing them. We talk about the finer points of the books. I am enamored, however, with a less fine point. If you read this, pay attention to the references to hot water. I just love them!
Question: What is your favorite modern convenience?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Christmas in Plains by Jimmy Carter

Once again, this book is for the SPL summer reading program and Dad and I listened to it on CD.
I have no idea how many pages this is in book form, but I am sure it must be a novella. It was 2 1/2 hours on CD and it was read by President Jimmy Carter himself. He has a wonderful Southern accent. My favorite word to hear him pronounce was his wife's name, Rosalind, because he said it like rosin (tree sap).
In this book, the former president recounts a few Christmases from his childhood, his time in the navy, his time as governor of Georgia, and his time at the White House. Throughout all of these stories, he places great emphasis on Christmas' being a commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Dad has read some of his other books and he admires Carter's Christianity as seen in those books. In fact, before the boys were born Dad wanted us to take a trip to Plains, Georgia (Carter's hometown), to hear him teach Sunday school. I wish we had done it. I don't know if he still teaches Sunday school, but I do know that trips are much harder now that the boys are here.
Topic: As previously stated, Carter read this himself. I think we should take advantage of our modern abilities and have recordings of important people like him reading their own works. Who is the one person (past or present) that you would most like to hear read his/her own works?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I am starting the summer reading program at the Smyrna Public Library. I have to read 6 books by late July. The boys are also participating; they have to read 30 books!...age-appropriate, of course.
Dad and I listened to To Kill a Mockingbird in the car when we were taking the boys on drives or going to Wednesday-night church. I'm not sure what inspired me to grab it from the SPL. I mean, I taught this book every year I taught English I (that's 6, not this last one). I just picked it up for us, I suppose, because I love it. When I got to the car Dad told me he had never read it. This should really have surprised me because I made it through school without reading it either. I read it for the first time when I had to teach it back in the spring of 2004.
Topic 1: I believe this is the greatest work of American literature. What do you believe is the greatest work of AMERICAN literature? (I am limiting this discussion because many of friends read mostly British lit, like me.)
Topic 2: What are some classic works that you did not read in school but feel you should have?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This is my new favorite modern (i.e. not Jane Austen) book! Thank you, Susan Strasinger, for recommending this. I will advise anyone who wishes to read this book with the same advice Susan gave me: listen to it as a book on tape! The story takes place in Scotland, and the English and Scottish accents of Davina Porter make this book so much more authentic than I ever could have in my head.
Confession: This book is a romance. I had never read a romance before this...I plan to read all 7 books currently in this series and keep up from then on.
Premise: A WWII nurse from 1945 travels back in time and falls in love with a Scottish Highlander in 1743. They get married, and romance ensues. Notice: the romance does not happen until they are married.
Thought: I like this book because the adventure begins in earnest once Jamie and Claire marry. It is not like the YA books I read where life ends at marriage. This is a nice paradigm shift in my a shift to what should be my reality; when reading this book, I really felt like an adult. Sometimes the YA books I read (for my job as a high school librarian) make me feel like a teen with immature emotions. The emotions in this book are so mature!
Literary Value: My teacher-friend Susan and I have been getting together at lunch to discuss this book. It has been such a joy to see lierary merit in a book for the pleasure of it, not because I have to look for symbols because I need to teach them. Symbols/ metaphors to look for as you read: (1) nail in the hand symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ for the Church, (2) St. Anslem allusion, and (3) preservation of Jamie's whole body (hand) and preservation of Jamie as a whole man (soul).
Discussion: If you read this book, please add any other symbols/metaphors/points for discussion that you wish to include.
Task: For the next hour, live your life thinking about what a person from 1743 would think of the things we do, even really mundabe tasks. I just did it while unloading my dishwasher. If you participate, let me know what things you do that would blow the mind of someone from the past...maybe even make him/her think you were a witch (hint, book readers!).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

Timeframe: I read this book on the flight home from San Juan to Atlanta to Nashville. This includes time in the airport. It took me about 14 hours off and on. Actually, I guess it took about 10 hours because we spent much of our time in lines at the Puerto Rican airport!
Book: This is the second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series.
My Concern: I hope Riordan ages his writing style along with the characters. Percy is only in 7th grade in this book, so he still seems immature. I hope Riordan really ages Percy as these books go along.
Musings: I sometimes miss teaching English I. As I was reading this book, I really missed it. This book revisits most of the characters (even the oft-overlooked Laestrygonians) from The Odyssey. I love The Odyssey. This book brought those characters to mind again and made me happy. I wish I was still teaching English I in order to be able to say to some of thos kids who hated reading The Odyssey but loved hearing me tell the timeless story: "Hey, here's this book. Read it. You'll like it so much better than Robert Fitzgerald's translation of Homer. Please, teenage boy, don't stop reading. Let me guide you to the world of pleasure reading with this book."
There is more information on this book at

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Timeframe: I read this book during my week-long cruise of the Carribean last week. I mostly read it in the aternoons after returning from our excursions and before a nap. It was an easy read and not demanding.
Premise: This is the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Percy is short for Perseus. Percy is in the sixth grade when he discovers that he is a half-blood, the son of a mortal woman and Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.
My Thoughts: I love mythology. I have since I was little. My mom, also and English teacher, told me The Odyssey as a bedtime story. I like the idea that this story brings to light minor gods and their lesser-known stories. This story really displays the pettiness of the Greek gods that students sometimes miss.
My Concern: I am worried that this is an attempt to turn Harry Potter into a mythological story. Percy, like Harry, starts his story in 6th grade. Percy, like Harry, is a chosen one; Percy is the son of one of the "big three." Percy, like Harry, has a close female friend who is very smart (a daughter of Athena, in fact). Percy, like Harry, discovers that he has a nemesis.
My Delight: These are not the traits of Harry Potter. These are the traits of the heroes of all ages for all people. They are archetypes with whom people have identified for ages. Heroes are chosen; something about them calls them to be special. Heroes do not succeed on their own; they always need a wise friend to compliment their advenutous and spontaneous qualities. Heroes must have an enemy because a story is not deiven without conflict; evil is real in the hero's world, just like evil is present in the real world. I LOVE THEMES AND ARCHETYPES!
Recommendation: Read it! Read it yourself. Read it with your 8-12 year olds. Read it!
Information on this book can be found at

Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee

Timeframe: I read this book in its entirety on my trip from Nashville to Atlanta to San Juan, Puerto Rico. This includes all time at the airport, so it took about 8 hours. Obviously, I enjoyed this book!
Reason for Choosing this Book: I heard this author speak at last fall's TASL (Tennessee Association of School Librarians) Conference. She read her speech. When she first started reading, I though, "Oh my! This is going to be awful." I was so wrong. She's a great Southern author. She is from Columbia, Tennesee, though she lives in Baltimore now.
Identification: This book spoke to me at different times in life. It is about a girl living in Spring Hill, Tennessee (Joelton as a teen, Smyrna now, all places near Nashville but NOT Nashville...smaller but not small because of their proximity to Nashville). This teen was constantly aware of her weight (Me since 8th grade. Even when I was thin in high school, my weight has always been an issue for me.) She hits 190 pounds and knows things have to change (my weight pre-pregnancy). She drops to around 160 over the course of the book (me now). Her mom gets cancer and she struggles through those feelings (me 2 years ago). She even has a very critical aunt (so me!)! So, you see, this book just spoke to me.
Recommendation: Please read it. You may find that it speaks to you too.
You can read some about this book on the author's website at

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

OK, so I'm finally finished with this book. It took me six weeks of having this "book on tape" in my possession to finish. When I started reading it, Bridget Riley told me not to read it at night. I would concur with her advice and add that you shouldn't read it when you are down or when you don't feel like getting down. I actually liked this book, but it is just so heavy with saddness; I couldn't do it every day.
Premise: This book alternates between the story of Daniel Burnham and his building of the 1893 Chicago World Columbian Expodition and the story of H. H. Holmes and his serial killings during the fair. Tidbit: Bridget's 11th graders like the part about the serial killer; I loved the parts about the World's Fair.
Amazing: So many great people played a part in the World's Fair. Two notable ones include the artist Frances Millet (who later died in the sinking of the Titanic) and Fred Law Olmstead, the landscape artist who designed New York's Central Park and the grounds at the BILTMORE. (BTW: I want to play croquet on one of Biltmore's lawns in particular. I just know that's what Olmstead had in mind for it when he designed it!)
Incredible: So many new inventions showed up at this World's Fair. The first Ferris wheel was here; it was made to rival Gustave Eiffel's tower at the 1889 Paris World's Fair. Other notable firsts include (but are not limited to): Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit, Shredded Wheat, Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, elongated coin souveniers, and the term "Windy City."
Discussion: With all of these great events/firsts/people recorded in this book, why are students drawn to the parts about the serial killer?
There are lots of interesting facts to be found at

Next Books: I am currently reading Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee, a native Tennessean; I like things from Tennessee, except a moon pie. I leave for a cruise on Saturday. I have several books packed, among them are the first three books of Rick Riordan's Percy jackson series.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson

The actual title of this book is The Murder of King Tut: The Plot to Kill the Child King- A Nonfiction Thriller. Try saying that five times fast!
Set-Up: This book is told in alternating chapters that take place in 3 different times with 3 different men. The first story line is the occasional thoughts of James Patterson about the creation of this book; he has maybe 5 brief chapters. The second story line is the life of Howard Carter and his decades-long quest to discover the tomb of Tutankhamen. The final story line, which I would call fiction in this nonfiction thriller, is the story of King Tut and his eventual murder...mwhahaha...curse of the mummy.
Story of the Book: This is my book; it has not been borrowed from a library. (If you would like to borrow it from me, just ask.) I won this book in the recent Winter Reading Program at the Smyrna Public Library. Dad and I participated. If you read 5 books in a 5-week period, then you won the "gold prize." We both did and we won: (1) our choice of a book from a display...this was my choice...very happy with it, (2) a bright yellow canvas bag that I will now carry things in to church, (3) a mug that promptly went to the garage sale pile, (4) 4 pieces of candy, (5) a coupon for a free milkshake, and (6) a "Your Library Fines are Forgiven" card...should I use this on my dime fine...I think not. Neither Dad nor I won the grand prize of an E-Reader, hence all of our chocolate was already eaten in sorrow.
Recommendation: I recommend this book to people who like history. I really enjoyed it, especially the parts about Howard Carter and his quest for Tut. If you would like to see the cover or read excerpts, go to

Other MAJOR Item: I am so excited! A few weeks ago, I entered the Overton High Library in a national reading contest. One of my students won! She gets a $50 gift card to the bookstore of her choice and our library gets a bundle of Great Scavenger Hunt books. Check out the link where MY NAME is on a national website at !

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantasky
Warning: Parts of this review may annoy you; I am identifying with my inner teen.
Details: OMG! I love this book. Twilight has nothing on it. On Thursday night, I read about 37 pages. I started again on Friday night around 7:15 and finished with page 349 at 1am. I just couldn't stop. I felt so compelled. It was great. I probably have not been so absorbed into a book world since the Twilight series.
Basics: Lucius Vladescu shows up in rural Pennsylvania to tell Jessica Packwood that she is really a vampire named Antanasia Dragomir who was bethrothed to him at her birth. The rest of the story is about their hate/love relationship, her adjustment to life as a vampire, and the political implications of bethrothals.
Style: In contrast to Twilight (which has a great plot and average to below average writing), this book is well-written. The letters from Lucius to his uncle are so great . They smack of irony and sarcasm and, like, commentary on American teenagers.
I'm not doing justice to this book. Please just read it!
Exciting Find: There is a continuation of the story at

Friday, February 26, 2010

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

OK: As you can see from my titles, I LOVE Laurie Anderson books! She is a user of figures of speech and symbolism. These things made me happy as a teacher and, I find, they are satisfying to me as a reader.
Premise: This is Anderson's first work of historical fiction. It is set in Philadelphia during the break-out of yellow fever in 1793. It is a coming-of-age novel, specifically dealing with womanhood.
Reading: It took me a day of reading (which is 30 minutes snatched after the boys go to bed) to get into this book. I was afraid I was going to be disappointed, but I wasn't.

Exciting Find: I finished the Winter reading program at the Smyrna Public Library yesterday (5 books in 5 weeks!). When I went to collect my "gold prize," I accidentally went to the wrongshelf and discovered playaways. I have heard them mentioned before, but I didn't know what they were. They are portable books on tape...they are MP3 players for people who don't own one (like me!)...they are an MP3 player with one recorded book loaded onto it. So exciting! This will revolutionize my walking exercise in the summer! Which one did I pick up by accident (fate?)? I picked up Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson; it is her 2nd work of hstorical fiction! No really was what I just happened to pick up. "That's what I call Positively Providential!"
An excerpt of this book can be found at

Reading Status: I am still listening to The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I am reading Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey. It's about dating a vampire.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Death of a Valentine by M.C. Beaton

The title is actually Death of a Valentine: A Hamish Macbeth Mystery. I know, I know; this is not one of the titles listed in my last post. I had been on hold for this book for about two months; when it came to me on Sunday (ironically, Valentine's Day); I just started reading.
Update: I am on p.46 out of 214 in The Catcher in the Rye. I'm just not into it. I'll keep trying. I am still listening to/ enjoying The Devil in the White City. It is, however, a book on tape that I listen to on the way to work. I have had snow days, been ill, and had more snow days over the last two weeks, so I am not finished with this title yet.
Cozy: This book is an English cozy, that is, a typical who-done-it. Hamish Macbeth is the hero of the Hamish Macbeth mysteries. He is a red-headed policeman in Lochdub, Sutherland, Scotland. He isn't the brightest, but he uses his people-skills to find out the truth. This book, like the other Hamish books, kept me changing my opinion of the murderer until the end. I will say, though, that this was the first of Beaton's book about which I have guessed correctly.
I also enjoy Beaton's other mystery series with the heroine Agatha Raisin.
Question: What is your favorite book series?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Topic: This book is about a girl dealing with the loss of friendship and a friend, anorexia, and cutting herself. It is similar to Speak, a favorite by Anderson, in that this is a book where a girl faces her issues. It is different from Speak because the heroine created her own hell.
Analysis: This book was hard for me to get into because the topic is so foreign to me. Once I was in it, it was hard to get out of my mind because the topic was so upsetting. The heroine is so pitiful in her messed-up-ness. The teacher in me found the book depressing because it highlighted the fact that there are some children that I am not equipped to handle because they need way more help than I can offer; there are some children who may not be able to be helped at all...sobering.
Literary Merit: I always love Anderson's similes and metaphors. She also has great symbolism: spider web. Seriously, read her and enjoy!
Scary Fact: One of the girls in this story is named Cassandra Jane. This was a potential name if I had ever had a daughter. Cassandra is Jane Austen's mother's and sister's name and Jane is, obviously, Jane Austen's name.
An excerpt of this book can be read at

I'm not listening to Rebel Angels any more; can't do it. I'm still listening to The Devil in the White City; the snow days have slowed my progress on it. I think I'll pick up J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. I've never read it. It's on banned book lists, which probably means it's great!

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Reason: My dear friend Natalie Crowson recommended this book to me. When I told my wonderful colleague Gwen Hines that I was reading it, she was amazed that I had made it this far in life without having read this book. Joy (Picirilli) Erickson told me once that she had named her daughter, Megan, after the Meg of this book. With such credentials, how could I not read this?
Book: This is a work of fantasy. Ever since Dr. Holley made us read Perelandra in World Lit., I have enjoyed this genre. This work moves fast, but the reader doesn't feel like anything important is being left out. From the first chapter, I was enchanted with the story of Meg and Charles Wallace. The second chapter brought Calvin, and then things took off in the quest for Father.
Quotes: I was impressed with some quotes from this book; I even dog-eared their pages in the JOHS library book! If they impress you, feel free to comment on them.
For use when teaching Animal Farm:
"But nobody's ever happy, either," Meg said earnestly. "Maybe if you aren't unhappy sometimes you don't know how to be happy" (p. 133).
Regarding how to handle life:
"We want nothing from you that you do without grace," Mrs. Whatsit said, "or that you do without understanding" (p .183).
Just to please my free-will-believein' English-literature-lovin' self:
"You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it" (p.186)?

Up Next: I have decided to tell readers what I am going to read next in case someone wants to read it with me and discuss it at some point. When Dad and I take the boys on a ride, we are listening to Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (see the post on A Great and Terrible Beauty). On the way to and from work, I am listening to The Devil in the White City by Erik Lasron; it is the story of serial killing at the Chicago World's Fair (non-fiction written like fiction). I am reading Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I love Anderson (Speak); this book was chosen by the Chicago public library as the best book of the last decade.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Book Basics: This book is set in 1890s England. Like all books set in 1890s England, it actually begins in India...with an orphan (or 1/2 an orphan, in this case). Said orphan is then exported back to England where she enrolls in a boarding school and discovers a new family among the girls there. The twist to this novel is that the heroine, Gemma Doyle, is a teenager (not a 10-year-old) who has latent magical powers. The bulk of the novel is spent with Gemma learning how to harness her magical powers; manage complicated teenage friendships (with Felicity, Ann, and Pippa); and sort through those first stirrings caused by Kartik, a young Indian man with secrets.
Judgement: This is a light read that ends with the reader feeling unsatisfied...which leads us to Rebel Angels (book 2). I listened to this book in the car with my dad. Surprisingly, he enjoyed it; we will start Rebel Angels on CD this afternoon.
Situation: One part of this book was uncomfortable for me (since I was listening to it with my dad). Gemma has a sexual dream involving Kartik. Since we were listening to it on tape, I fastforwarded immediately because of my embarassment at listening to it with my dad. When I got to school, I pulled out our copy of the book and read the passage (I mean, if it was bad, I needed to know! I don't want to be blindsided with a parent complaint.) The passage turned out to be fine; I was just afraid of where it might go with my dad sitting right next to me.
Discussion: At what age do people feel comfortable doing adult things in front of their parents? I imagine this question depends on the type of parents you have. If your parents drank, smoked, or used foul language, maybe you would feel more comfortable doing those things in front of them; it would mortify me to do so. Since I'm married with children, I believe my parents have accepted the fact that I am sexually active. This topic is not as embarrasing to encounter around my mom as it was around my dad (see Situation). If one is not married, when it is OK for someone's parents to know a person is sexually active (assuming some of my teenagers at school are)?
A converse question would be: at what age do people feel comfortable practicing adult behaviors in front of their children? Do people who drink, smoke, and cuss do those things in front of their children from birth? When will I feel OK watching a movie with a sex scene with my kids in the same room (answer: NEVER!)?
You can find out more about this book at

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Book Theif by Marcus Zusak

I think this book will always be special to me. You see, I ordered this book for the John Overton High Library Media Center. It came in right before the winter break. Bridget Riley's classes were in the library finishing their research for their papers. A group of girls was sitting at the tables near where I was looking through my new order of books to make sure they were printed correctly (no upside down pages, etc.) and had the correct spine labels. One of the girls stopped her research and asked me if these books were available to check out. I told her that they were not ready yet but that they might be when she returned from the holiday. She sadly told me that she wanted to read The Book Theif but that she was on a waiting list at the public library (a crisis which I have had to endure!). Well, I took that book right then, processed it, and checked it out to her in five minutes. She was so excited! I've helped other students find books before, but this was different. This was my book from start to finish. I found it the School Library Journal. I selected it as worthy of ordering. I checked it in for circulation. I checked it out to a student for the first time. I felt worthy of my job on that day because I had chosen a book that a student was actively looking for!
I finished this book myself over the Christmas break. I got my copy from the public library (our school's copy was checked out!). It was a wonderful book! It is set in Nazi Germany. It puts the average Germans in a new light, not as Nazis but as people trapped in a world where compliance was necessary for life. Read it; it's sad, but so was World War II, so it is to be expected.