Sunday, March 29, 2015

Summer Reading List!

I know I'm a little bit early here, but I'm building my summer reading list!  I'm so excited.  I even ordered a few new books, three of which are pre-orders.

Here they are:
The Goldfinch

I keep hearing about this and seeing people read it, so I ordered it.  It comes out in paperback in a few weeks, so I decided to wait a bit to get it.


Sounds a bit like The Fever, which I didn't like (see review) but I'm hoping that this author is better.  We'll see.  I'm also waiting for the paperback to come out for this book as well.

Go Set a Watchman (To Kill a Mockingbird, #2)

Who isn't excited to read this?  I did a little dance down the school hallway a few weeks ago talking about it with another teacher because I was so excited about it!  It comes out in July and I'm going to be ready for it!!

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

I am actually ordering the young reader's version of this book.  I debated whether I should or not, but if I do, I'll be able to add it to my classroom library and share this with my students.  I might even be able to use it as a read aloud for my students, depending on its length and suitability.    This one should be here soon and I'm excited to start it after I finish reading my current novel.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

     The Girl on the Train by Puala Hawkins takes on a ride with Rachel Watson who is obsessed with Jess and Jason, a couple she watches from her commuter train window each day on her way into London.  She has created lives for them, a fairy tale story that helps her get through her day and deal with her own wrecked life and her ex-husband’s new family.  One day she sees Jess with another man and Rachel has to do something about it.  In a drunken stupor she finds her way to their house, only to wake up the following morning with no idea what happened, but the knowledge that something has happened.  When she learns that Jess, her Jess, is missing, has just disappeared,  Rachel finds herself pulled into this mystery (in reality, inserting herself into their story) and discovers more about her own past as Jess’s life is slowly revealed.
            Told from different perspectives, you get to learn a little about the lives of other women surrounding Rachel and this mystery.  Megan (Rachel’s Jess) leads us through her own past, revealing bits of her tragic life.  Anna (the new wife of Rachel’s ex) chronicles her own troubles dealing with the drunk Rachel who won’t leave her family alone. These were both nice breaks from Rachel’s terrible decision-making.  Megan’s perspective was the most interesting because of everything she reveals. 
            Rachel’s character is one that you desperately want to help.  You want to help her with her drinking and cringe every time she takes another drink because you both know it’s not going to end up well for her.  When she shows up at the scene of the crime, you want to yell, “What are you doing?” and walk her back to the train and escort her home to the room she lets from an old friend.  Each step Rachel makes is a mistake and everyone knows it, but they’re steps she has to make in order to move her life forward.  They are steps that only this character would make.
            Starting off The Girl on the Train, it was slow-going and I wasn’t sure if I would finish it.  Having just finish Gone Girl a few months ago, this felt so similar that at first it wasn’t authentic.  The characters seemed like they could have come from that story and didn’t belong here in this foreign space.  It wasn’t until after the first 50 pages or so that I was pulled in and couldn’t stop reading.  This is where the characters and the space of the novel began to be real to me.  This is where it grabbed me and wouldn’t let me stop, made me find a few minutes here and there to fit in a page or two, uncover another clue. 

            If you liked Gone Girl you will certainly enjoy The Girl on the Train as well, but be certain to give it a bit to settle in and get comfortable.  This is another book where you’re just not sure what the outcome will be, but I’m sure you’ll be surprised.  Every step of the way, more details are revealed that lead you down the same path as Rachel, and it’s not a comfortable road to walk, but it’s one you won’t be able to leave either.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Two books to finish in the next few weeks

Here's what's coming up next:


Two very different books.  I was waiting for my husband to finish reading The Girl on the Train and Beautiful Darkness was sitting right there.  The first one was okay and I knew I could put it down when I needed to (because this one is a long one!).  Well then my husband rushed through his book and I really really want to read The Girl on the Train.  So now I'm kind of reading both...

We'll see when I get finished!

My goal is finish The Girl on the Train by the end of March and then I can read Beautiful Darkness over our Spring Break and finish most of it.

Star Wars Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan by Jeffery Brown

Star Wars Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan
By Jeffery Brown

Jeffery Brown has brought us another fun adventure with Roan in his second year at Jedi Academy.  This year he’s better prepared and excited to start flight training.  He knows it’s going to be a great year.  Until he realizes that things are really the way he expected to, and the new Holobook thing is really kind of weird too.  Roan makes some not so great decisions in his second year and has to figure out how to fix his mistakes before he ruins everything.

This is a cute and fun read for your more reluctant readers.  The combination of graphic novel, diary entries, and letters from teachers/friends/family make it a quick read and help to keep your kids interested in the story.  Brown does attempt to make a stab at addressing online bullying, but it’s not truly addressed and almost seems as if it was thrown in there to be more with the times.  I wasn’t a huge fan of this part because it could have been addressed better.  It seemed like it was just a second thought. 

Overall, it’s cute and funny and most kids will connect with Roan.  Kids who enjoy the Star Wars franchise will also like this book.

Young Elites by Marie Lu

Overall, Young Elites had the potential to be great, but it was lacking something that the Legend series had, a sense of reality within a fantastical world.  Fans of Marie Lu may be disappointed, but I expect will still enjoy the story.

Adelina never thought she was anything special. After years of living with her father's mental and emotional abuse, she leaves-- accidently murdering him on the way. From there Adelina is thrown into the world of the Young Elites, a group of young adults marked by an illness that swept through the country years earlier.  With their powers, they hope to gain freedom for their kind.  Will Adelina learn to harness her powers and become one of the group?  Or will she find herself murdering once again?

I enjoyed the way Adelina is portrayed. It's easy to like her and feel sorry for her, despite the fact that she is NOT a good person. I even find myself rooting for her when I knew she was bad.  Marie Lu has written us an anti-heroine you can love and root for and try to convince to do the right thing, even though you know it’s never going to happen. That’s not who she is.

However, what I didn’t enjoy was the overuse of words like alignment, energy, and weaving.  By the last 50 pages, I cringed every time these words were used because it just became annoying and distracting. In addition the names were so ridiculous that every time a new character was introduced at the beginning, I stopped and thought “what in the world?”  What was needed was a few characters with familiar names.  It sounded as if all their names (both first and last) were just vowels and consonants thrown together haphazardly in an attempt to make them sound magical and exotic.  Instead they sounded fake and completely took me out of this magical world that had potential.  The world of this novel lacked something concrete to hold you down and keep you entrenched in the world of the Young Elites.  Anything would have been nice.

Despite this, the story wasn’t terrible, but it doesn’t come close to Legend and I’m not at all interested in reading another book about the Young Elites.  However, I’ve spoken with a few of my students who have read it and they are excited for upcoming novels.  Maybe the younger crowd is less concerned with feeling a connection to reality.  

Saturday, March 7, 2015

How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

   I saw a post on the A Wuthering Heights Facebook page about this book. I skipped over it at first, but went back to check it out later when I was up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep. I was immediately intrigued and bought the book so I could start right away. 

   Samantha Ellis takes us through her life via the books she has read. It was beautiful and I immediately felt as if she and we're friends having a discussion about books. This memoir is for book lovers. Travel along through familiar favorites and discover new reads--books you've never heard of and ones you've put off, for whatever reason, that are calling your name again. Ellis delves into our favorite characters and identifies why they're our favorite, but then leads us in questioning whether or not they should be. 

I enjoyed the book up until the last chapter. It seemed like a sudden slip off a cliff and into a void. Maybe I just wanted more, but we were rolling along, having a fine time and suddenly it was goodbye and I was confused because I thought things were going well. I hadn't been prepared for this ending. 

If you are a book lover, especially if you have read classic female characters with a passion that has almost seemed scary, you need this book. You will walk away with a new friend to introduce at next month's book talk.