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.

2:34 PM

11) A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

This was one of those books where I couldn't decide if I wanted to read it or not.  I had seen it several times online and even had it in my hand ready to purchase, but then I second-guessed myself and put it back.  The surprisingly negative reviews on Amazon really made me nervous that this book would be a waste of time, but somehow I got it started, and once I did I was happy.

Goolrick's 'A Reliable Wife' was a very engrossing story.  It was very descriptive, which was both good and bad.  While the picture the text painted for me was full of detail, sometimes it just drug on and on and on.  It wasn't bad enough to make me stop reading though.  I also could see why some Amazon reviewers didn't appreciate all the sexuality of the book.  I'm no prude by any means, but the main character's constant thoughts of sex, memories of sex, dreams of sex, etc, etc, were just overkill.  The book would have been just as good without it.

The ending definitely made up for the slow parts, in my opinion.  I do agree with another Amazon reviewer that I had about all I could take of the author's favorite phrase: "Such things happen."  That was also an annoyance, but the story kept me reading and I loved the ending, so all in all, it wasn't a bad read.

10:09 AM

10) Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I've got to say that this book was a pleasant surprise.  Usually I don't read books about vampires or politicians, but something made me pick this one up.  I thought the idea of Old Abe as an axe-wielding vampire slayer was too funny not to explore.  Perhaps it's just because I'm a native Illinoisian, but this book was wonderful.  It read much like a regular biography, which the vampire storyline woven in between.  That being said, however, I DO NOT typically like biographies and find they read like a really boring list of events.  Grahame-Smith's writing was captivating throughout the novel.  His simply storytelling skills are what make such a subject so enjoyable to read.  I also have to say that everything in this book made sense as far as how the vampire situation affected Abe's life and political goals.  Everything fit like a glove and I didn't feel like there were any pieces missing or pieces forced to fit when in reality they just didn't.  Wonderful book and has a lot of true, interesting information about Abe Lincoln, although I wouldn't read it for that purpose.

Favorite quote:  "Without death," he answered, "life is meaningless.  It is a story that can never be told.  A song that can never be sung.  For how would one finish it?"

7:12 AM

9) The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

This book has been on my reading list since I first saw it advertised in Bookpage.  I've waited oh-so patiently for it to come out on paperback and finally got around to reading it.  There's no other way to describe this book than disappointing.  It really has such potential, but the author falls short of creating anything memorable. 

Her characters are larger than life (Truly is literally so), but they have the depth of a puddle.  As a reader, you never really get to see any real emotion from the characters.  I expect Truly, the so-called giant, to show a little more sadness at the loss of her beloved sister.  And when things go wrong with Amelia, a friend who's more to Truly than her real sister ever was, it's almost like she feels nothing at all.  A few paragraphs tell us that Truly is heartbroken by this tragedy, but we never see it. 

That's one thing I couldn't get over about this book.  I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn't.  My writing teachers have always said that you need to SHOW the readers what's going on, instead of simply TELLING them.  Although the difference is subtle, I think it makes all the difference, especially in a book like this.

11:17 AM

6) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This is a catch-up post.  This was the sixth book I read this year, but I'm just now getting around to posting this.

I read this because Tim Burton's movie is coming out soon.  I really liked this classic story and I'm surprised I hadn't read it earlier considering how much I love the Disney version.  I must say, this is one instance though, where I found the Disney movie to be better than the book.  It leaves out all the part I didn't like from the book (the Duchess and the pig baby, the Mock Turtle) and expands on the ones I loved (the tea party).  I was surprised how little a part the tea party had in the book.  That really disappointed me.  I'm still in the process of reading Through the Looking Glass, but I must point out that I've stopped halfway through to read a few other books and I'm really not enjoying it at all.  :(

11:10 AM

5) Serena by Ron Rash

This is a catch-up post.  This was the fifth book I read this year, but I'm just now getting around to posting this.

This book sat on my Amazon wishlist for at least a year.  During a reading dry spell, I finally decided to give it a read and I can't believe I'd waited so long.  This book was AMAZING!  It's not typically the kind of book I'd read, but I couldn't put it down.  Serena was definitely an unforgettable character.  This book had me thinking about it weeks after I had finished it.

It is set in the 1930s and takes place mainly in a logging camp run by Serena and her husband.  Even the information given about logging and the dangers of such a job were fascinating.  I can't say enough about this book.  I still can't believe how good it was!

My favorite quote: "Kephart told me...how it pleased him to know I'd die and eventually my coffin would rot,and how then I'd be nourishing the earth instead of destroying it."

11:03 AM

4) Time of the Witches by Anna Myers

This is a catch-up post.  It was the fourth book I read this year, but I am just now getting around to posting this.

I got this for my classroom library.  It's no suprise I wanted to read it myself because I love any kind of historical fiction that has to do with early American witchcraft issues.  Since I've read so many books that address the Salem Witch Trials, it's not often I find a story that offers such a unique and intersting retelling of the events. 

This fictitious version of events really makes it easy to understand the power of suggestion and the role that possibly played in the hysteria.  Most young people find it difficult to answer the question of how did this happen and can't seem to wrap their brains around the power of suggestion theory.  This book could definitely clear that area up for younger readers.

The elder Ann Putnam was delightfully wicked in this version and I think her character really pushed this book from good to great!

My favorite quote: "That is ridiculous, my dear," said [Ann Putnam].  "Rose cannot be a witch.  The girl still owes us a year of service.  Maybe next year."

10:55 AM

3) Dear Dumb Diary #9 by Jim Benton

This is a catch-up post.  It was the third book I read this year, but I'm just now getting around to posting it.

This was a cute and funny read for young girls.  Benton delivers sarcasm and laughs that any young teen would appreciate.  I'm adding it to my classroom library with the rest of the Dumb Diary series.

10:52 AM

2) Land of a Hundred Wonders by Lesley Kagen

This is a catch-up post.  It was the second book I finished this year, but I'm just now getting around to posting it.

I first discovered Lesley Kagen when I read her first novel, Whistling in the Dark, and fell in love with it.  This time around, she's written another amazingly unique and enjoyable read.  She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.  The characters in this book are quirkly and lovable.  Her work more than anyone else's inspires me to get to work on writing my own book.

My favorite quote: SHERIFF: And for what purpose would you be wantin' to know that information?  GIBBY: For the article I will be writin' about him once he turns up dead, ya big asshole.

10:45 AM

1) The Eagle Catcher by Margaret Coel

This is a catch-up post.  It should have been blogged first this year, but I'm just now getting around to it.

I like mysteries and I like Native American history, so it was inevitable that I'd like this book.  The first two-thirds of the book was pretty slow, so much so that I stopped to read another book in between.  The ending made up for it though and I think I'd read more in this series, if I couldn't find anything better to read.

9:55 AM

8) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

I have no idea what came over me when I decided to read this book.  I say this because I have never, in the least, had any desire to learn about Asian culture.  I have no idea why this is, but it's never interested me in the slightest.  Then, I finally watched Mulan (yes, I know it's only an inaccurate Disney portrayl of historical events) and loved it.  It's probably one of my top 3 favorite Disney movies and that's really saying a lot! 

Because I enjoyed previous books about women in different forms of slavery, I thought I'd give this a try.  I remember that when the movie came out years ago, it got a bunch of buzz, but I had no intention of watching it.  I'm one of those people who likes to watch the movie after I've read the book, if at all possible.  It makes me feel more invested in the story, I guess you could say. 

Anyways, once I picked this book up, I could not put it down.  The writing was simple, yet fascinating all at the same time.  It was rich with Japanese history, but it wasn't presented in a boring way.  The life of Chiyo, later known as Sayuri, was captivating to say the least.  It always amazes me what the women in books like these survive.  I'm not so sure that if I had been in a similar place, I would not have crumbled like a dead cherry blossom.  It's been presented as a love story, but it's so much more than that.  This book has really inspired me to learn more about Asian history.  I am well aware that geisha are only a small fraction of that history, but considering I never had any desire to learn anything about that part of the world, I consider this book a success!

My favorite quote: "We lead our lives like water flowing down a hill, going more or less in one direction until we splash into something that forces us to find a new course." ~Chiyo/Sayuri

3:38 PM

7) Speaks the Nightbird by Robert McCammon

I know it's been awhile, but this is the 7th book I've finished this year.  I'll come back soon and update my previous reads, but for now I'm going to start with this one since it's fresh in my mind.

This book was WONDERFUL!  I purchased it online and had no idea how big it was.  The story is 792 pages to be exact.  I'll admit, it kind of scared me a little, but I proceeded anyway.  It was so well written that the size didn't even matter once I got into it.  I read it for hours at a time and didn't care that I seemed to be getting nowhere page-wise.  I can't think of any other way to describe the read other than smooth.  Since the story took place in 1699, the writing was not very light, but it also wasn't as heavy as some literary classics I've read (such as Jane Eyre). 

I found the storyline to be incredibly interesting.  Of course the main reason I bought this book was because it dealt with a woman accused of witchcraft, but much to my enjoyment, it also had side plots that touched on murder, Native Americans, and pirate treasure.  What more could you ask for?  I remember reading somewhere that this book was the first of a series following Matthew Corbett as an 18th century detective.  I hope this is true because I plan on reading them all!

My favorite quote:  "But every man hears a nightbird of some form or fashion.  It is the struggle to overcome its call that either creates or destroys a man's soul." ~Isaac Woodward