Sunday, June 28, 2009

Read this week (3)

Not so much reading happening this week... lots of movie-watching though. Tons of knitting and crocheting too. And a little too much shopping. But I'm okay with that. I visited my family this weekend, so I was busy busy busy. Anyway.

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith
I liked this book better than I liked the companion novel Tantalize. But that's not saying much. I had a hard time accepting the fact that a person could adjust so well to being a blood-thirsty vampire, to forget all about what it was like to be human and to want to feast on any old hot-blooded being in the room. And to accept this new lifestyle without so much as a complaint or thought to why this is happening. Beh. I wasn't convinced. And I certainly didn't enjoy the angel falling in love with the vampire. I'm not religious in any way, but even this seemed awkward and just wrong to me. I suppose I prefer the benevolent, vegetarian vampires. I really don't like the violence or disregard for human life. But that's just me.

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale
This was the last of Shannon Hale's books that I had yet to read. This graphic novel is co-written by her husband and illustrated by Nathan Hale, who is not related to the couple in any way, which is a neat little coincidence. It is the revised story of Rapunzel with a Wild West twist - I'm not a fan of the Western, but this book was great. The mother who locks her in a tower is sufficiently evil, and the world is magical yet familiar. I would definitely recommend this book to fans of fairy tales, original and retold, adventure stories, and hero stories. And to any girl 9+ who needs a few more girl power stories in her life. I think it also has a wide appeal in age range and gender - I'd go as young as third grade and know a few high school students who would enjoy it as well. Oh! And I love the fact that it's larger than a normal book or graphic novel at that, almost a foot tall, I would say. I liked having more of the story on one page - which I never really thought about before. The colors are also vibrant, and the pages sleek and shiny, another preference of mine.

So, I'm hoping to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and The Forest of Hands and Teeth this week since I have to return them to their libraries (yes, I go to more than one library) by Wednesday. I've got another busy weekend ahead of me, so that might be all I get to read, unfortunately. I wish I could get back into audiobooks, but I've been loving lots of new music lately, so it wins. The summer's going by too fast - I have loads more reading to do! And sometime soon before I forget, I'd like to blog about library representation and stereotypes in books because I've read quite a few recently that touch on this topic. And I need to start blogging earlier on Sunday because I'm just about brain dead. The zombies got me.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Read this week (2)

I should have said before but I'll say now that this is not a book review blog. There are many of them. There are also many professional review journals out there. Although I could write reviews and snappy annotations, I'd rather focus on my own reading experiences and reflect on the books I read. Perhaps this makes my blog less useful to the world, but it's sure worth it to me. This also means that I will periodically talk about a book in its entirety - including spoilers for those who have not read the book. Anyhow, just wanted to clarify my purpose in this grand ol' blogosphere. Onward!

Stargazer by Claudia Gray
This is the sequel to Evernight, a book that I abhorred getting through. I can't remember why I disliked Evernight so much, but the feeling stayed with me. For the first few nights reading Stargazer, I felt like I was reading a teen romance, which made me slightly uncomfortable and not eager to keep reading. Oh, how I pine for you, you vampire hunter you, even though I will soon turn into a vampire and you will more than likely have the urge to kill me. Bianca and Lucas' relationship bored me and irritated me, but Balthazar! He kept me interested in the story, and oh how I wish I could have followed him instead of Bianca, who's definitely not good enough for him even though he may have had a misplaced crush on her. Towards the middle of the book, I actually did want to keep reading as the pacing picked up and the story wasn't half bad. But the ending! Awful. Truly terrible. Sure, I'll become a vampire hunter too... even though, um, I'm kinda a vampire myself. What hypocrisy! What ludicrousness! If there is another book in this series, I will not read it. No, I do not want to even fathom what could happen next. Okay, fine, I'll probably read it. I'm hooked, what can I say?

The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene
This is the first book in the Nancy Drew series, which I gobbled up as a child. I read this for my African American Youth Literature class (even though I am no longer taking it - eh, I need a summer too, ya know) for the sole purpose of pointing out the blatant racism in the original edition. I must say, I wasn't all that surprised. It was written in 1930 by a white woman - I don't think she was too worried about sounding racist in one measly paragraph. She wrote what she knew and what the attitudes of white people were at the time. I read a later, revised edition which completely changed the one black character, turning him into a racially ambiguous, tall, skinny caretaker. Other revisions include the treatment of Nancy's nanny from one as servant in 1930 to almost a mother-figure in the later edition. I don't know why I liked these books as a child. Nancy is a rich girl with amazing luck and all the opportunities in the world - a real crime-solver and independent gal. Maybe I just liked the mystery aspect. Anyhow, I won't be reading any more old Nancy Drews anytime soon, though the new graphic novels do intrigue me.

Moon Over Star by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
I also read this book for African American Youth Literature and watched the video below of the Obamas reading it to elementary students. I didn't have much of a reaction to it. Little girl lives on a farm with her family, and they are watching the first moon landing on TV. What was interesting to me was a comment made in my class that the family in this book was not written in the text as being African-American and that it could be that the illustrator made that decision on his own. Whether or not this happened, I don't know, but it does seem to be a possibility. That's so interesting to me that if you don't illustrate your own book, you're leaving a whole lot of the story up for interpretation by the illustrator since there is not usually communication between author and illustrator, from what I've been told. Craziness! Anyhow, this video is sweet:

The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
I finished this book this morning in bed, weeping for nearly two hours. Love it. Love love love it. Can't say enough how much I loved it. It was written so wonderfully well, I can't even believe it. This is exactly what I want in a book. And I'm glad I don't get it all that often because it's too much for my little heart to handle. Oh, the emotions. The laughter and tears - I don't care how silly it sounds - I was an emotional wreck. This is definitely not a book to be read in public! What surprised me the most is that I should not be able to relate so well to Becky, the main character, but oh how I felt everything she felt. Maybe it's not a relating thing so much as an empathy thing. She's a middle-aged Mormon mother of four - if you looked her up in the thesaurus, I'd be right there in her antonym list. We have nothing in common. I have more in common with Felix than I do Becky! And maybe that's it. I can look at Becky through Felix's eyes even though I can also be Becky since she narrates (and maybe that's one tiny quibble I have with the book - does Becky narrate or not? seems like it at times, but then not so much). Nonetheless, I enjoyed her character very much - a learning experience for this exceedingly cynical gal. I also really liked the organization of the book, the idea to split the story into three parts, three types of kisses, and the book-ended beginning and ending. When I started the second part of the book, I wanted to come back and quote just about every chapter beginning - they were so well-written and engaging! Okay, well I could gush and gush about this book, but I think I need more time to let it sink in. And I could use some sleep too.

I've started a knitting project, so I don't know how much time I'll fork over to reading next week, but I suppose we'll just have to see. Until then...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Just started The Actor and the Housewife...

and I love Love LOVE it!

Truly, Shannon Hale can do no wrong. I don't want to jinx the gal, but I don't think she's capable of writing a bad book. It's just not possible. She has such a talent with words, with character development, and creating a world you can just slip in on and observe. The Actor and the Housewife is the story of Becky, Utah mom of four, and the instant but bizarre friendship she develops with Felix Callahan, mid-thirties Hollywood star.

I'm only on page 97 so far, but I wanted to share some wonderfully written passages that made me giggle with delight. :)
The bar. The air around the dangling lights was thick with cigarette smoke, as if the area were in the process of creating its own atmosphere. It was 1996--if this had taken place just two years later, smoking would have been banned in California bars and there would be no issue. Even from a distance, the odor was making Becky woozy. Strong smells and pregnancy were about as pleasant a combination as rotten seafood and roller coasters. Then her gaze fell to the bar stools--faux art deco contraptions with tiny round seats and three stainless steel legs that looked fit for holding, say, a potted geranium, but certainly not a pregnant woman. (13)

"I think this calls for a pinky pledge." She hooked her pinky around his. "I, Becky Jack, agree to be Felix Callahan's pal, even though he's way overrated as an actor and screen hunk and can be such a brat."

Felix cleared his throat. "I, world-famous and fabulously wealthy Felix Paul Callahan, agree to be mates with Becky, even though she wears grandmother shoes and insists on popping out children with reckless abandon and shows no remorse for her vicious right hook."

"That was very nice. I almost shed a tear." (57)

Felix was in the other room. She felt a little patter of excitement like she did whenever Mike first set up the Christmas tree. Yeah, Mike clearly wasn't in on the whole patter-of-excitement part. But it was good for him, she thought, as she ran the spatula under the faucet, sending suds bubbling down the drain. It was good for a man to be reminded that his wife was interesting to other people. Last night she'd worn her deliciously satin pajamas to bed and he hadn't so much as touched her knee. (85-6)

Well, I'd like to get back to reading now. I think I may have to actually buy this one so I can re-read chapters whenever I'm feeling the need for something for myself and not work or school. I love finally having something for me!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Read this week

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
A Printz Honor book this year and highly recommended by people who live and breathe YA lit - I have to tell you, it's not my favorite. Not even close. Not at all near it. I've never read anything like it, that's for sure, and at times, I really liked it. The main character (and I can't even remember her name now... Liga?) has a horrific childhood with an abusive father and wishes herself away into her dream world where she lives for many years. But in a book of over 400 pages, some more conflict must be introduced - though I wish it wasn't! I felt that this book could have ended 100 pages earlier, and I would have been happy with it. I do commend Lanagan for weaving a complex tale filled with traumatic events and hopeful continuings, but it was too much for me. Ah, and the language was unusual but beautiful - I wish I had written down lines while reading. I would read parts of it over just for the way she uses her words.

Natalie and Naughtily by Vincent X. Kirsch
These twin girls live at the top of their family-owned department store and like to wander around the store and help customers. This story takes us through each floor of the store where the girls encounter people seeking assistance - but not from them! It begins with two twin boys asking what's best on each floor and how to get to the top, so the sisters hastily write them notes as they do not have time to show them themselves. This is my favorite part of the book because on the endpages, these notes are illustrated, so I went back through the pages to find all of the items on Natalie's list of favorites on each floor. I love the I-Spy ending! As for the story itself, eh. The pictures are pretty, but I probably wouldn't read it again or recommend it to a child.

Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
I started reading the Stephanie Plum books when I took Adult Popular Literature last spring, and I've enjoyed them well enough. They're my escape-reading, my soap operas, my bedtime snack. It's why I read all the Sweet Valley books when I was a kid, so I'm glad to have that sort of consistency back in my life. And Stephanie Plum is a hoot! What a ridiculous character who gets into the most ridiculous situations, and I love her for it. I can't relate, but I certainly feel for the gal.

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
What I love about the amount of reading I do is the unexpected connections I make between the books I'm reading and have most recently read. I've been meaning to read this one for quite some time, but I finally got around to it just as I finished Tender Morsels, another book about an abusive father. Unlike the loving new mother in TM, the mom in Bones of Faerie is MIA, leaving her daughter with her abusive father. Liza has to live with the memory of her father leaving her baby sister out to die in the wild and constantly berating her for not doing just as he says. These are the days after the War between the real world and Faerie, where nature has turned on humans and magic is prevalent but stamped out of Liza's community. When her mother leaves, Liza is determined to find her, risking losing herself along the way. Overall, I thought the story was fine - but I felt a little misled. I thought I was going to read a faerie story, and instead it turned out to be an adventure/survival tale. The world could have been better described, but for the short length of the book (about 250 pages), the setting was conveyed fairly well. This book could have been 100 pages longer, as opposed to Tender Morsels. I would have loved to know more about the magic itself, the children who wielded it, and perhaps more glimpes backward to the war and to Before (even though that's essentially the present for us). Ah, the timing was also great for this book because I've just recently been to St. Louis (the setting of the book) for the first time, so I could picture some of the scenic details. Anyhow, not bad for a first book, but I think it could have been fleshed out so much more.

Coming up next week, I start my African American Youth Literature course, so I'll be doing some more focused reading. I should also get on top of my Golden Jaguar reading for student teaching, but I just have so many books on my to-read pile for myself!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Checked out

There will be no ceremonious beginning for this blog. It's been in my head for too long, and I just want to start sharing already. Periodically, I make trips to the library which result in totes full of books. What can I say? I get really excited at the library. I read too many book blogs, so I put too many books on hold. And who can resist new book shelves? Not me, that's for sure. As my family would say, my eyes are bigger than my stomach - I want too much but can't possibly eat (or in this case, read) it all. But oh, how I try! It's summer, and theoretically, I should have more time to read, so here goes. This is what I have currently checked out:

by Laurie Halse Anderson
I know this book is good. I've read parts of it and thought they were amazing. But it's not a book I can read in one sitting - it's taken me a couple months so far. I'm hoping I'll finish by the end of the summer.

What I Saw and How I Lied
by Judy Blundell
I'm still trying to find time for last year's National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature. I've checked it out a few times already, and it's always ended up at the bottom of my to-read pile. This time it's renew renew renew until I read it!

The Wednesday Wars
by Gary D. Schmidt
I can't remember which blog recommended this book, but I had it saved in my bloglines for awhile. Seems like an interesting middle grades read.

Tender Morsels
by Margo Lanagan
I'm reading this book right now and keep finding excuses not to go back to it. Like Wintergirls, I know this book is good, but it's not a quick read. And I currently have attention span issues.

Swallow Me Whole
by Nate Powell
I was looking for a graphic novel to read (as in an original graphic novel) and this came highly recommended by someone from somewhere. I should really start tracking these recommendations. I don't know if I'll be able to get into this one - I'm not much for black&white; I need color!

by Claudia Gray
I did not like Evernight - to the point that parts of it just made me angry. But since it evoked such a strong emotional response from me (beats an "eh" reaction), I thought I'd read the sequel. And I'm still obsessed with vampires. Thank you, Stephenie Meyer.

Natalie and Naughtily by Vincent X. Kirsch
Aha! I know where I found this one! I stumbled across Esme Raji Codell's blog this weekend - a name I recognized because I had read Educating Esme when I thought I wanted to be an elementary school teacher; then later recommended How to Get Kids to Love Reading to my cousin who's in early childhood education. Anyhow, thanks to Esme, I get to read about a fellow Natalie - a surprisingly rare occurrence. The illustrations in this book are just lovely, so vibrant and beautiful! I might have to buy it.

Marcelo in the Real World
by Francisco X. Stork
Who hasn't recommended this book? I'm fairly certain it's next on my to-read list. Next week, maybe. Okay, I'm scared it won't live up to the hype, and I'll be disappointed. So I'll convince myself that it's no good to be pleasantly surprised when it is. :)

Living Dead Girl
by Elizabeth Scott
Can I read this book? It has a The Lovely Bones feeling to it, and that book was just painful. Good but painful.

Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta
I'm so behind when it comes to award winners. Why does the Printz committee torture me so? I tried reading this book a few months ago, and it wasn't happening for me. Apparently, from other reviews I've read, I have to get 2/3 of the way through before it gets good. I don't have that kind of patience! But alas, I will try again.

Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation
by Thomas Siddell
I just finished this webcomic collection this weekend, and oh how I loved it! I'm tempted to read it online, but it's not the same as flipping through those glossy, full-color pages. Check out my review on GoodReads.

The Fruit Bowl Project
by Sarah Durkee
I volunteered to be one of the readers for the whittling down of the 2010-2011 Golden Jaguar list, and this is one of my books to read. One of my ten from about a hundred.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan
The cover's beautiful. People are talking about it. And how can I resist a dystopia?

by Cynthia Leitich Smith
I didn't like Tantalize, but I can't help myself. I'm a sucker (ha ha) for series and companion novels.

Dragon Slippers
by Jessica Day George
A nominee for the 2009-2010 Golden Jaguar Award. Must read!

Dork Diaries: Tales from a NOT-SO-Fabulous Life
by Rachel Renee Russell
Not sure whose blog I found this on, but it looks adorable. Kind of a Diary of a Wimpy Kid rip-off, but oh well. When it's hot, it's hot. It'll be a quick read, and I'm happy for that.

Bones of Faerie
by Janni Lee Simner
I've been wanting to read this since before it came out last year when I was creating my faerie webliography, but I never got around to it. If I ever go for my doctorate, I'm studying faerie literature, for sure.

Any Which Wall
by Laura Snyder
This was on many bloggers' lists of books to read or books they got at BEA, and it was just sitting on the new book shelf at the library, so...

All of the Above by Shelley Pearson
A Golden Jaguar nominee for 2009-2010. The Golden Jaguar is a reader's choice award created by the librarian at the middle school where I will be student teaching, so I thought I'd read all the nominees for this upcoming year with them. All 20.

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