Thursday, August 26, 2010

Time for a Walk

Sometimes, I wake up early so I can take a long walk before I start my day. I mean early--before the sun comes up early. I knew there was a chance my uncle would come walk with me today, so I thought I'd read a little and sort of "hang around" to see if he appeared.

That was hours ago. It's now 7:03 a.m. and I still have not walked because I couldn't stop reading Justine Larbalestier's LIAR. It was just two days ago, as I was about a third of the way through the book, that I told someone I didn't know what all the hype was about. Wow, did that change. I wouldn't say it was a great book (sorry, Justine), but I would say that Micah is absolutely the best unreliable narrator I've ever encountered. And that is all that I'll say, because you really need to go get a copy of this book and read it yourself!

Interestingly, part of the hoohah surrounding this book has little to do with the story itself. Rather, when the book was published in the U.S., it was going to be published with a picture of a white teenage girl on the cover--despite the fact that the narrator is black. You can read Justine Larbalestier's version of the story (which, I think, is far more reliable than Micah's would be) here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two Books for the Price of One

Ok, that's a lame title. I'm having a hard time coming up with clever blog titles. Must work on that.

In the last days of summer school, as I proctored a seemingly endless number of Regents exams, I read Thomas Newkirk's Holding onto Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For. I won't give a full review here, but the moral of the story is KIDS NEED TO READ! I didn't agree with all of what he said, but it was a thought-provoking read.

Today, I finished Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy. It was much less predictable than I expected, but also not as well-written (in my opinion) as the first two books in the series. Oh, I read it in two days...but if it had been as compelling as The Hunger Games, I would have finished it before I could go to sleep last night!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Meeting the Sugar Queen

I loved Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells, so I was excited to read The Sugar Queen. And while it was an entertaining read, it fell short; the characters never felt fully developed, so I never had that feeling of being a part of another world.

Still, it was a good book. And I'm sorry that someone nailed plywood over the secret "door" in the back of my closet, because that would be a handy place to keep a snack.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Particular Sadness of Finishing a Good Book

I just finished The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. In my mind, there is a genre called "Ordinary Magic"--those books that might be wildly fantastic, or might be taking place right next door to you and you'd never know.

Rose's mother makes her a lemon cake for her 9th birthday, and the first bite is delicious. Then it changes, and Rose realizes that she's feeling all her mother's emotions--and her mother may not be as happy as she seems. Rose spends the rest of her life eating carefully, because she absorbs the emotions of all the people who made her food as she eats it. (Oreos are her favorite--factory made, so there is very little emotion packed between those wafers. Doritos are also good.)

I loved this book; it looked honestly at the emotions and challenges we all face to some degree, and although it may be fantastic, it was also simple and straightforward and completely believable in all the ways that matter.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Re-visiting Salem

Last week I finished The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry. It took me forever to finish because mid-way through the book, my former foster daughter's son arrived to stay with us for a few weeks. Yikes! I'm not sure if it was my own level of distraction as I chased a busy toddler through the house or if it was the book itself, but I found myself struggling to get through it. I know, I know, don't compare one book to another...but I definitely enjoyed Barry's The Lace Reader more.

One thing did not change--Barry's ability to transport her readers to Salem. Wow! Above all else, I loved the feeling that I was there. And although I found the book tedious at times, I did enjoy the theme of history repeating itself.

So, the (belated) July summary:
  1. Spooky Little Girl by Laurie Notaro
  2. The Good Man Jesus and the Scoudrel Christ by Philip Pullman
  3. What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn
  4. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  5. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
  6. The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry
I also read Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov, which I won't review here because it's not of interest to anyone who is not a teacher (although I will say that I really liked it!), and I re-read Heroes by Robert Cormier with my summer school classes.