11:20 AM

18) The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

I remember being in summer school of my 4th grade year and seeing one of the smart-yet-still-popular older girls reading this book and it just seemed really intimadating for whatever reason.  Of course, I had no idea what it was about just from the title.  Had I known, I might have been more inclined to read it during my youth, but alas,  I never got around to it.  Now that I'm a 6th grade teacher (HOORAY!), I am required to teach WWII, and I've always been interested studying the Holocaust.

I've read 'The Diary of Anne Frank' of course and that is a staple we'll be reading in my class.  I've also read 'I Have Lived a Thousand Years' by Livia Bitton-Jackson, which was AMAZING.  It was incredibly graphic, but it really made me understand what the Holocaust was like, more so than any documentary or book had up to that point.  My biggest concern was that I wouldn't be able to find an age-appropriate book about the Holocaust that had the same effect on my students.  Thankfully, I decided to read this book and I have deemed it a winner.

Jane Yolen's writing is not overly graphic, which at first I thought meant it wouldn't be as powerful as 'IHLATY'.  I was amazed at how impacted I was by this novel.  It had just enough detail to bring truth to the story, but it wasn't too much to handle.  I'm sure my students will enjoy it.  I'll definitely be using this as a teacher read-aloud when the time for our Holocaust unit comes.

12:40 PM

17) Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

I read this because I loved Wharton's 'The House of Mirth' so much.  This novella was just as good as I hoped it would be and then some.  I knew from the beginning that this was a tragedy, but the conclusion still weighed heavily on my heart.  Ethan's wife, Zeena, was such a despicable character that I didn't find it difficult to hate her.  I yearned so strongly for Ethan to find a way to be with Mattie but the circumstances were definitely against him. 

In a way, I'm glad Ethan and Mattie's suicide attempt failed because it would have been a sweet kind of tragedy.  The book's ending was definitely how it should have been because even after finishing it, the thought of their future fates makes me sick to my stomach.  While tough to swallow, this ending was the most realistic and got a reaction out of me I didn't expect.  Not only was I sad and heartbroken, like after reading 'Mirth,' but I was simply sick and depressed by the conclusion.  That's how a tragedy should be, if you ask me!

12:32 PM

16) Why the North Star Stands Still & Other Indian Legends by William R. Palmer

Couldn't find a picture for this one.  Ian bought it for me when we went hiking with Robynn and Hans at Kolob Canyons.  It was pretty good.  I enjoyed one or two stories more than the others.  It took me a long time to finish it though, because it was so boring at times.  I am really into Native American history, but something about the simplistic writing just doesn't do it for me.  I know that Palmer probably wrote that way because he was trying to represent oral story telling, which was the way Native Americans passed down their legends.  All in all, it was interesting, as I've never read much about the Pahute Indians, but it's not my favorite book on Native American legends by any means.

1:04 PM

15) The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

I read this book because I remember reading on Oprah's website that it was one of Ashley Judd's favorites, and we all know how much I admire Ashley Judd. :)  I didn't really expect to like it and I guess that's what surprised me so much.  I couldn't put it down!  The writing was eloquent and slightly pervasive in the way that classics often are.  I knew the story was a tragedy, so I didn't really expect a happy ending, but I was so shocked by the outcome! 

**SPOILERS** If you haven't read this book and would like to, don't read on!

I cannot believe that Lily died!  I felt there was still so much hope for her.  After being uplifted by a run-in with Nettie and her child, I thought she might have just started to notice that life can still be worth living without riches.  While I know it's ambiguous as to whether or not she intentionally committed suicide, I do not think she intended to overdose on her sleeping medication.  I got the sense that she was relieved at having paid off all her debts with the inheritance check, but still down about what she considered her inevitable future in dingyness.  I didn't get the vibe that she wanted to die, only that she was so exhausted by her thoughts and the stress of her financial position that she wanted to sleep for a long time because then she was at peace.  If anything, she realized the dangers of taking such a large amount of medicine, but she left it up to the Fates as to whether or not it would do her any real harm.

This book was surprisingly sad.  Of course Lily dies the night before Selden finally realizes that he needs to be with her once and for all.  The next morning he shows up only to find her dead body.  So flippin' sad!  Romeo and Juliet never got to me the way this novel did.  One of the best classics I've read next to Jane Eyre and I will be adding this one to my permanent bookshelf.

3:10 PM

14) The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

Holy cow!  I'm not sure I could have loved this book more!  It was a great read that had two intertwining story lines, one in the present day, and one during the Salem Witch Trials.  We all know how much reading about that subject excites me! :)

While I knew I'd like the historical story, I was a little worried that the other narrative would bore me.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It had a little bit of everything: romance, mystery, humor, fantasy, suspense, and danger.

The only complaints I have about the book are that I knew right away who the 'bad guy' was gonna be and her ability to create/use/do magic was a little unbelievable.  I might have been more inclined to believe it if she didn't shoot blue sparks out of her fingers.  Overall though, I loved this book so much that I'm adding it to my personal library.

3:03 PM

13) Jemima J. by Jane Green

This is the first book I've ever re-read by choice.  I read it first when I was in high school and devoured it in a day.  The way Green describes the life of an overweight woman was shockingly accurate.  I felt that at times, Jemima was living my life.  I loved the story and that she succeeded in losing weight.

After reading it for a second time, I was must more critical.  It's still a good story, but it's very unrealistic.  First of all, Jemima lost all of her excess weight and then some in as little as 6 weeks.  She met her dream guy, Brad, but turns out he's secretly attracted to seriously obese girls.  What are the odds?  Plus, her true love Ben, never notices that she's losing weight and I hate the fact that as soon as he sees her thin, it's as simple as, "Oh my gosh, I love her!"  I just think that it ruins the depth of their previous relationship.

It's still a good novel that I always finish in a few days, but now that I'm older it doesn't hold the same magic for me it once did.  However, I might read it again someday, as it really motivated me to get my butt moving and try to lose my own excess weight.

2:50 PM

12) The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers

'The Murderer's Daughters' by Randy Susan Meyers wasn't as action-packed or thrilling as I expected it to be.  I was hoping it would revolve around the traumatizing childhood of the two sisters, but instead, it didn't spend much time focused on the immediate aftermath of their father's crime.  It followed both girls through adolescence and as far as into their 40s.  Their life stories were heartbreaking and interesting.  I liked the story and the hostage scene was very fast-paced and suspenseful.  Overall, I'd recommend this book.