Monthly Archives: March, 2012

School = Less Reading

Now that Spring Break is over, I am reading less. 😦 It happens every year, right after school starts, after Winter Break, and after Spring Break. I see Summer vacation on the horizon and know I will be able to read voraciously once more. But, I miss the freedom of Spring Break reading.

I am reading.

Just not as much. And mostly in bed, after everything else is done. Unfortunately, it is about the time my eyes won’t stay open much longer. I read a few pages here and there before bed. I read when I can during Independent Reading and during planning period when I have the time.

My goal is to keep posting, at least 3-4 times a week. I like this blog. I like visiting other blogs about books. I look forward to reading the comments. I will read. I will blog. It just might slow down a bit.

Thanks for reading!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Play Hooky With! (2)

Because spring has sprung, this seems such a fitting Top Ten! Not that I am one to play hooky often, but we all need those mental health days. Especially us teachers 😉 ! Thanks to The Broke and the Bookish for such a great topic. Here are my Top Ten Books I would play hooky with, if given the chance…LOL

Note-All book links are to the associated GoodReads book page.

1. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. I remember seeing the miniseries when it came out on TV so long ago and I love westerns. At one point I worked at a used bookstore for a few months in college and picked up an old, well worn copy of the book. Took it home and it sat on my bookshelf for YEARS. In college, I was double majoring, had two kids, a house, and too much real work to do before reading could happen. When I moved to Arizona, I rediscovered the book when unpacking. One hot summer day I took it to the pool with me thinking, “Hey, if I don’t get it read, I can just lug it back home.” I began it that afternoon and devoured it. I have read it every year (during spring or early summer)!

2. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein. I tried reading the first Lord of the Rings story. It was a no go. It’s something about the way Tolkein writes and the new worlds, languages, and people I had to try to follow. It just didn’t work. But, last night MiniQ brought home The Hobbit and was excitedly telling me about the first few chapters . I opened the book and read the first couple of pages and thought, “huh, maybe I can read this!”

3. The Shack by William P Young. This one has been recommended to me by so many people. And, I had a student do an amazing book project over it last semester. I need to give it a read.

4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Another one that has been recommended by several. Must read. Soon.

5. Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dunbar. I was a HUGE fan of the first book they put out together. I am NOT an economics major, minor, or even dabbler by any stretch of the imagination. But, they way these fellas have explained cause and effects in regards to economics is nothing if not thought provoking.

6. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. I started this one over a year ago. I haven’t gotten to finish it. I think I started it right before school started, which means I had no time with the new move, new job, and other new things filling life. However, the movie is coming out this summer and I MUST see it! So, of course, my rule–Read the book, see the movie–must be followed.

7. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I did play hooky to read this the first time ;-). Actually, I had a legitimate reason for being absent. And, I know it can be read in a day. It’s one of my guilty pleasure reads.

8. Any book of poetry with Dickinson, Poe, Whitman, Angelou, Hughes, and more!

9. The Odyssey by Homer. One of my favorite classics to re-read. I can’t put it down!

10. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. This is my story. I read this as a young girl and remember thinking–she’s just like me. She wonders. She thinks. She asks. She finds. She seeks. She’s me. Still.

So, there you have it. 10 books I would love to take a day off to simply sit underneath a weeping willow tree, with an ice cold glass of lemonade, my book, and me.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (1)

This is my first It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? post! 🙂

I finished quite a few books over Spring Break and will update my Spring Break post accordingly. Yay me!

For this week, I have a few required readings, for my classes and a few I am trying to get read to post reviews at NetGalley. I have only recently begun requesting books from NetGalley as ARCs and am looking forward to the process. But, I am also feeling a bit of the deadline crunch, as most of the books I requested have a time limit they are available. Oh well, I will learn what works and what doesn’t.

So, my required reading:

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. We will read at least chapter 1 this week in my 1920s & 30s class.

 

Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Houston. We will read at least the Forward, Chronology, Terms, and Chapter 1 in my War Literature class.

 

 

 

And my free time reading 😉 :

My goal with Lawyers in Hell edited by Janet Morris is to read one story at least every 2-3 days. So far, I have read 3 of the stories and each one gets better.

 

 

 

 

ARCs to be read:

Nevermore by William Hjortsberg. Even though this was published in 1994, it is an interesting read. It incorporates Houdini, Poe, and Sherlock Holmes all in one story 🙂 !

 

 

 

 

Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Breman. Due to be released in September 2012. I just started this one during independent reading time in class today. Intrigued by the female protagonist. It’s set in London and promises an atypical teenage love story involving magic and journalism. I am hooked already!

 

 

Movie Review: The Hunger Games

I could write my own post about the movie. However, Elizabeth, over at Don’t Take My Books Away wrote one I could have written. Her thoughts are so similar to mine. I will link to her post and plan to add more reviews as they come available.

Elizabeth’s Review of The Hunger Games (Check out my comment to her post)

Carolyn Hockley’s Review of The Hunger Games

JoshSHill’s Review of The Hunger Games

Lisa’s Review of The Hunger Games @ ReadBreathRelax (Love that she included what she was hoping for and how it measured up!)

My favorites from the movie:

  • Stanley Tucci–why is it he can play ANY role and play it amazingly?!
  • Woody Harrelson as Haymitch-far more likeable onscreen than in the book. Could have been a bit more rude/unlikeable, but still be able to pull off the helpfulness displayed.
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss–I had read somewhere (sorry I forgot where) that some were afraid she would come off as bland and dull as Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Bella Swan. Not so. She played Katniss beyond well.
  • The Capitol and all its extravagances. While I read the book, I had pictures of opulence and ostentation, but the film does it justice.
  • My new catchphrase–the best one ever!

Why I Hate <3 Triangles

For those who have read even one of my first three book reviews, which you can find here, here, and here, you know my dislike of the love triangle theme running rampant through YA literature right now. Now, love triangles are not a new phenomenon, nor even a surprising one for YA literature. I mean, look at the classics that offer love triangles as their major storyline: A Tale of Two Cities, The Age of Innocence, Gone with the Wind, even The Great Gatsby, which I recently taught in my 1920s & 30s course.

I have never really liked them, even as a teen myself. Don’t get me wrong. I was the typical teenage girl who loved a good romance, probably too much…LOL! But, when it was a love triangle book, I tended to feel like I was being cheated out of a real love story. Because, when you have two fighting over one, there is always a loser and I almost always ended up feeling really sad for the loser and thinking about all the reasons the chooser chose the wrong one, which led me to think the love between the winner and the chooser was not a real love.

Even today, in adult novels, when I pick up even a hint of a love triangle, I tend to give up and move on. I don’t like thinking love is a game. And most love triangle novels treat it as a game. There has to be a winner. There has to be a loser. I am sure there are novels out there where the winner and chooser live happily ever after as friends with the loser, but I don’t buy that premise either. It’s hard for the loser to stick around and see the winner and chooser so happy. I mean really! And, I am sure there are novels where both chasers are losers and the chooser lives a great life alone or with someone COMPLETELY unexpected, yet practical (please let me know if you find one!).

My biggest concern with the love triangle idea deals with its pervasive existence in current YA literature. Our girls need lead female characters who struggle with life’s obstacles, but not every character needs to fall in love. Not every lead female character needs to choose between boy one and boy two. Our girls need lead female characters who can be friends with any one, regardless of gender. Our girls do NOT need more emphasis on love (with another person) as being a necessity to happiness. Don’t get me wrong, we all want and need to be loved, but our girls need to realize love comes in many forms, not just romantic love.

And, the love triangle usually involves such stock characters–the “bad” boy/the boy from the “wrong” side of the tracks/the boy with some “special, sad” circumstance vs the “good” boy/the boy from the “right” side of the tracks/the boy who everyone loves. It diminishes the human character spectrum into the idea of good vs. bad, ignoring the infinite range of characteristics humans can possess. This leads to young girls thinking in terms of good vs bad and ignoring smaller, more defining qualities of boys. Just as we can stereotype and show prejudices against people because of race, gender, and more, the love triangle books tend to encourage stereotyping based on the good vs bad ideal.

Stepping off the soapbox now. Or at least for the moment 😉 !

TQ Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: 2010

Good Reads Synopsis 

  Why I Read It

I want to see the movie this weekend! And, I have a rule I follow most of the time…LOL. Must read the book before seeing the movie. And I made it!

Short Synopsis (no spoilers)

For those not in the know, a short run down of the plot: Katniss Everdeen lives in District 12 with her mother and sister, Prim. Their father died years before and Kat supports her family through her hunting and trading prowess. Every year, each District must send two of its young to fight in the yearly Hunger Games. Think Roman gladiatorial games, where fight to death is the only way to win. The two tributes from each district are chosen through a lottery. Not surprisingly, some youth are more statistically likely to be chosen as a tribute than others. Without giving too much away, Kat volunteers as a tribute and is joined by a boy she recognizes from school, Peeta. The rest of the story involves how the games unfold and who ultimately wins.

  What I Liked

From the first sentence, I was entranced by Katniss Everdeen’s voice. Suzanne Collins develops Kat’s character first and foremost through her voice as she tells the story of her self selected journey to The Hunger Games. As I read, I couldn’t help but feel Kat was sitting right next to me talking to herself as she told her story. It reminded me of how I think through things and the thoughts that rattle around in my head. Very clear and very introspective. Collins wrote as Kat and even the flashback moments were interwoven so well into the storyline, so as not to cause the reader to stop and try to figure out where in the story one is again.

As for the story itself-I love dystopian stories. Ever since reading books like The Giver, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World, I have been intrigued by the idea of dystopian societies. It’s not that I think dystopias are a good idea, but it is more about trying to figure out how and why a group of people thinks they can create the “perfect” society, while leaving so many miserable. The history teacher inside of me can point to countless real examples of how these ideas have been and still are at work around the world. And, how it almost never works out in the end, for either side. In The Hunger Games, Collins works to paint Panem (Kat’s country) as a society trying to do the best it can to control the population to make life better for those in the Capitol. It is easy to hate Panem and everything about the new society, especially after hearing, from Kat’s POV, how the games came to be and why they are still used.

I read this novel for enjoyment, but as a teacher, my mind is always looking for lessons/themes/ideas to use in my classroom or even with my own daughters. Here are some valuable lessons/ideas I look forward to using in my classroom:

  • Dystopian society’s and how they can come into being
  • I may use this as the backbone to my Sci Fi class next year, or at least as a beginning hook to get the kids into liking sci fi/fantasy.
  • Use of Collins’ writing style–voice–I cannot stress how hard it is to teach voice and audience to students. This book is so well written in Kat’s voice and can be used to show students how to model similar writing.

  What I Didn’t Like

Seriously, if I don’t read a YA novel that DOESN’T have a love triangle to it, I may have to … SCREAM! I will be very upset if the next two novels in the series focus more on the love triangle than the idea of beating or overthrowing Panem/Capitol.Without giving too much away, as soon as the love angle became a play in the games, I was almost turned off completely from the story. But, I stuck it out and was pleasantly surprised by how and who played it out in the end.

  My Rating

5 stars!

My Recommendations

  • Anyone who loved The Giver
  • Dystopian novel lovers
  • Love Triangle lovers (not me 😦 )
  • YA Readers–that includes teachers!

TQ Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

  Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Title: Clockwork Angel
Author: Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication Date: 2010

Good Reads Synopsis

  Why I Read It

MiniQ suggested another one. 🙂 She bought this one after going through a dry spell in which she only read what was required by school. We were at B&N and she decided to find a book on her own. She picked up this one, mainly because of its cover and the idea of Shadowhunters, which intrigued her. Two days later, after being holed up in her room with just the book to read, she emerged and frantically exclaimed, “I need book two!” Of course, we couldn’t run right out and buy Clockwork Prince, so I ended up checking the high school library where I work. They didn’t have the CP, but they did have the first four books of The Mortal Instruments series. I checked the first one out and she devoured all four books within a week and a half. It took her a bit of coaxing to get me to read it, but I finally did.

MiniQ will be posting her own review soon. And, she is less than pleased with my rating and review 😉 .

  What I Liked

I love historical novels. One of my undergrad degrees is in history and I have taught history (and English/LA) for 9 years. Even with my history background, I am NOT one of those readers who nitpicks historical inaccuracies. Why? Because a work of fiction is just that. I do appreciate authors, like Cassandra Clare, who take the time to point out what is real and imagined in their historical worlds.

In this novel, Clare’s writing artfully illustrates late 19th century London in which mundanes (humans) and Downworlders, the Nephilim, and other magical communities must exist together. For those who are familiar with Charlane Harris’ Snookie novels or Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series (my preference), the struggle to find a way for the two communities to live in peace together are similar. The Nephilim, a group of otherworldly beings, work to maintain the peace between mundanes and Downworlders. There are laws, which the Nephilim and Downworlders agreed to, which must be protected.

InClockwork Angel, Clare introduces the protagonist-Tessa-by having her world in upheaval due to her aunt’s recent passing and her only living relative, her brother Nathan, living and working across the ocean in London. Little does Tessa know, her world and what she knows about herself is about to be turned upside down. Tessa arrives in London and realizes her brother will not be meeting her at the dock, but instead has sent two sisters who belong to something called The Pandemonium Club to escort her “home.” From the dark and disastrous stay with the sisters, Tessa learns her self identity is not what it once was.

As much as I wanted to find a reason to use the novel or pieces of it in the classroom, there is little I want to use from it. I do appreciate Clare’s allusions and direct references to other literary works. This is something I could use in my English classroom to show students why it is sometimes beneficial to read or at least know of the classics. There are a few references they might miss or fail to fully appreciate otherwise.

  What I Didn’t Like

From the beginning, Clare works hard to describe and paint her characters as round and dynamic as possible, however I still struggled understanding all of the characters. Some, like Charlotte and Henry, seem more contrived and scripted. Fitting into character molds, rather than being fully fleshed out people I could learn to love and pine for. I did find myself rooting for Tessa as the book wore on and I am still torn between Jem and Will. I have a personal love for anyone named Will, because it was my favorite grandpa’s name. But Jem, and his character liabilities make me hope against all hope that he will be the winner in the love triangle saga.

I hope, in the sequels, that Clare takes the time to more fully develop Tessa’s identity crisis. I feel this could be the driving theme in the novels and hope it continues. It is touched on, briefly, in a few scenes in CA, but I feel it could be more fully developed. If it is, I can definitely see the struggle playing out in the communities own struggle for identity.

There is also the inevitable love triangle. For more on my love triangle issues, see my review on Matched by Ally Condie. I will forgo a long explanation here, but suffice it to say, I am more than a little disappointed in YA lit’s penchant for love triangles. I want books showing boys and girls just being friends. Because it’s okay to just be friends!

Overall, and as I told MiniQ (who rolled her eyes and gave me the silent treatment for 2 hours yesterday…LOL), I felt this was a very predictable read and one I didn’t feel urgency to keep reading.

  My Rating

3 stars!

My Recommendations

  • Anyone who loves a good love triangle, no matter how contrived they may seem (not me!)
  • Anyone who likes fantasy about other worlders
  • Historical fiction afficianados, unless they don’t like YA fiction

Top Ten Tuesday (1): Spring TBR List

One of the reasons I started this blog is because I stumbled across The Broke and the Bookish’s blog and loved their Top 10 Tuesday posts. So, here is my first attempt at the Top 10 Tuesday–this week’s is our Spring To Be Read list!

I have already started my Top Ten with a list of books I planned to read over my Spring Break, which is this week 🙂 . So, some of my choices below are already on that list. Not surprisingly, I have a few more to add to my Spring list. These are in no particular order.

  1. Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. This MUST be read by this Thursday, so I may take MiniQ to the midnight showing. I just picked it up today @ B&N.
  2. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck. This is a must read, because my 1920s & 30s students will be reading this for the remainder of the semester. I remember reading it in high school, but it’s time for a refresher!
  3. Lonely: A Memoir, by Emily White. This one has been on my shelf to read for awhile. While my original intent and thought behind the purchase was to look at my introverted self through the lens of another, I think it’s not necessarily along the vein of introversion per se. We shall see.
  4. Lawyers in Hell, edited by Janet Morris. I am a fairly recent convert to science fiction/fantasy reading due to a good friend’s recommendation. He lent me a few out of printin Hell books and I was hooked. If you have no idea what these books are about look for a future review and check them out. Fun reads. If you like mythology, history, literature and wonder how Hell functions for greats such as James Dean, Machiavelli, Alexander the Great and more, it is well worth the read.
  5. Black Magic Sanction, by Kim Harrison. Not a fan at all of the Charlane Harris vampire books, I stumbled across Kim Harrison because of another friend’s recommendation. And I fell in love! This one, however, has been on my Nook for too many months and I must finish it. I actually had to start it over and am currently reading it during Silent Reading time in the classroom.
  6. Myth Adventures, by Robert Asprin. Another recommendation from the recommender of the in Hell series. Funny read.
  7. Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, Daniel Okrent. I started this for my 1920s & 30s class and really can’t wait to finish it. It just takes time for me to read non-fiction because I like to read a bit, then let it soak in. I hate rushing through non-fiction because I always miss something!
  8. Clockwork Prince, by Cassandra Clare. MiniQ just bought this one today. She has been waiting for weeks, ever since finishing Clockwork Angel. I just finished CA and will post a review soon.
  9. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. One of my all time favorites, I try to re-read every year.
  10. Farewell to Manzanar, by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston. Another one I must read because my War Lit class will be reading it this spring. Not looking forward to this one. I am bummed out by the War literature.

That’s 10 that come to mind first. Like I said, most are related to school somehow and I know I will add more to my pile as the spring goes on. What are you reading this spring?

TeacherQ

TQ Review: Matched by Ally Condie

  Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Books (Penguin)
Publication Date: 2010

Good Reads Synopsis

  Why I Read It

MiniQ suggested I read this one. She had it for almost a year before she started to read it. Then she devoured it within a few days. As a teacher, I knew it was a book many of my students were reading and after the experience I had with the Twilight books, I decided to forgo my desire to remain untrendy and read one of the books most of my students would be reading. So, I shook off my dislike of trendy and sat down to read the book. I really didn’t even know what it was about. MiniQ had told me about some of her favorite parts, but it was so long ago (ok just a few weeks) I didn’t remember any of the details. And, the book jacket was missing, so I couldn’t even read the synopsis. And instead of going online to read a summary, I just began reading.

  What I Liked

Within the first chapter I was hooked. Condie grabbed me with her writing style, which I find to be succinct and descriptive to the point. No long, flowery passages to labor over. But, rather than be a boring, expected piece of writing, as some YA literature is becoming, Condie writes eloquently. She mirrors in her writing the simplicity of her setting–The Society. A simplicity complicated in its simplicity. However, not all is well in the greater Society. Condie alludes to the inevitable trouble to come for the novel’s main characters and the rest of their Society, largely through Ky’s story line.

From the first scene, where Cassia is thinking about flying, but acknowledges people in Society cannot fly, Condie begins pulling at the conscience in a manner similar to Lois Lowry’s in The Giver. Akin to Lowry, Condie builds a society built around the premise of We (Society) know what is best for You (the Citizens) because we have used logic (probability and statistics) to “create” the perfect society.

Cassia, the novel’s protagonist, understands why Society’s rules must be followed, and has in fact worked hard to make sure the rules are followed by her family, especially her little brother. But, as the novel progresses, she begins to experience what breaking the rules does.

One of my favorite quotes from Cassia:

Nothing I have written or done has made any difference in this world, and suddenly I know what it means to rage, and to crave.

She realizes through her being Matched to Xander, yet longing for a relationship with Ky, Society may not always know what is best. The rise of the individual, the desire for knowledge, and the quest for change drive this novel’s protagonist through some dark and difficult times.

I read this novel for enjoyment, but as a teacher, my mind is always looking for lessons/themes/ideas to use in my classroom or even with my own daughters. Here are some valuable lessons/ideas I look forward to using in my classroom:

  • Society’s Hundred Rule (I will NOT explain more, because I hate spoilers, suffice it to say I could see using this as a writing/discussion prompt in many different ways)
  • Writing-currently there is a debate going on about whether we should be encouraging and even teaching handwriting to school age children. This book brings to light some ideas about what it might be like if no one could actually write.
  • Stories-why they are told. Ky tells the story of Sisyphus (according to Society’s telling, which I thought was brilliant!) and explains why one might want to know stories. As an English teacher I sometimes grapple with my students about why we read the things we do. Ky’s answer is perfect. I won’t quote it, but it’s on page 236.
  • Female protagonists–LOVE working with strong female leads and so far Condie has not let me down!
  • I will likely be teaching the Science Fiction class next year and look forward to incorporating all or parts of this novel in class. 🙂

  What I Didn’t Like

The major drawback for me has nothing to do with the writing style, but rather with the love triangle angle. I have come to dislike the love triangle story line more and more, for a few reasons. First, why can’t YA novelists focus on functional boy/girl relationships where the boy/girl are merely friends? Why must the female character almost always fall in love with the main male character(s)? As a mother, and a teacher in high school, I see the detrimental effects of young girls believing falling in love with boys is more natural than becoming a friend. And I don’t mean a friend who then turns into a lover. I believe boys and girls/men and women can be platonic friends, but the media has made it hard for girls/women to know how these friendships work.

  My Rating

5 stars!

 

 

 

 

My Recommendations

  • Anyone who loved The Giver
  • Dystopian novel lovers
  • Love Triangle lovers (not me 😦 )
  • YA Readers–that includes teachers!

Spring Break TBR

Spring Break for TeacherQ and MiniQ begins tomorrow!

Officially, MiniQ began her SB today, but she is babysitting and didn’t take a book to read.

We will have a lot of free time and TeacherQ plans on spending a big chunk of it reading! Here are our lists:

TeacherQ

School Reading (these are the books my students will be reading for the remainder of the semester)
  • Farewell to Manzanar, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston
  • Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
For Fun Reading (because I can)
  • Matched, Ally Condie
  • The Clockwork Angel, Cassandra Clare
To Finish Reading (because they have been started for so long!)
  • Lawyers in Hell, Janet Morris and Chris Morris (Eds.)
  • Myth Adventures, Robert Asprin
  • Black Magic Sanction, Kim Harrison
Nonfiction Reading (because I am a geek 🙂 )
  • Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude, Emily White **Gave up on this one…can’t read it right now 😦
  • Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, Daniel Okrent