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