Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

It's kind of embarrassing that I only read one book this week, but I have a lot of excuses. They are as follows: the book I'm reading now is really slow going but I want to finish it; I've been out doing a lot of fun summer things and not reading; our power went out last night and despite my best effort, it was really hard to read by candlelight.

You Are One of Them
Fortunately the one book that I did read this week was a really good one. Starting out during the Cold War, this book is about two young girls, Sarah and Jenny, who write letters to Yuri Andropov asking him to please not bomb the US. Despite it being Sarah's idea to write the letter, Jenny becomes a media sensation when Yuri not only responds to her letter, but invites her to the Soviet Union to see how nice he and his people are. While there, Jenny's plane goes down and her entire family dies. Years later, Sarah receives a letter telling her that Jenny may not actually be dead and she visits Russia to find out for herself. This story was about spies and the Cold War and international relationships, but it was also about friendships and growing up and letting go of the ideals you once held about someone. It was definitely an engaging read.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns: A Novel
This book straddles the line between memoir, coming of age story and mystery--only instead of being a whodunnit, it's a why did he do it? On the cusp of 13, Riddle Camperdown (named after her father's hero, Jimmy Riddle Hoffa) witnesses a horrific crime and is terrified into silence. Over this summer, Riddle changes as the mystery slowly unravels, but so do the adults around her. As the novel unfolds, it's revealed that the mystery is bigger than Riddle and connects all those around her, showing her that no one is really what you think.

Capitol Murder
This is one of those books that is definitely a beach read or a summer read. I checked it out from the library's e-book selection because I didn't have anything to read at the moment. It was a good filler book and kept me engaged. The book focuses on Private Investigator Dana Cutler and lawyer Brad Miller, who are recurring characters in Margolin novels, but prior knowledge of the books isn't necessary. The book begins with serial killer Clarence Little who has a penchant for torture and women's fingers. Through a mistake in an early case, Little comes back up to trial. Brad was his original lawyer and begins receiving letters in the mail from him and is worried about what may happen if he is freed. Meanwhile, there is a terror plot that loosely involves the senator Brad currently works for, as well as PI Cutler. By the end of the novel, all plot points were tied together, somewhat too conveniently, but again, this is a good beach book, so you can't totally complain about that.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure
I probably don't need to give an overview of the plot because you've all seen the movie. But if you're like me and you've seen the movie a hundred times and never read the book, READ THE BOOK IMMEDIATELY. I'm a huge fan of reading the book before the movie, but it just never happened with this one and I never got around to it. I'm so glad I finally did. The author's voice is hilarious and it was great to see how much of it they kept in the screenplay of the movie. As always, the book goes beyond the movie and is worth a read for the asides and the clever description of the Zoo of the Death. This was a brilliant read and I kind of can't believe that I'm just now reading it.

Odd Interlude: A Special Odd Thomas Adventure
This was originally just an e-book but was recently released in print. So while it's part of the Odd Thomas series, it's not a complete installment. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed it and read through it in one sitting because it was such a great story. While this won't give you the full scope of Odd and his cast of characters who you've probably come to love (no ghost of Alfred Hitchcock or Elvis or Sinatra, for example), you still get enough of the Odd Thomas experience to enjoy yourself. Odd and Annamaria on their journey to their next location end up in Harmony Corners, where things are anything but harmonious. Intent on solving the mystery of Harmony Corners, Odd discovers several interesting characters: a brave 12 year old girl, a mummified creature, a super-smart computer, among others. Definitely a quick, fun read.

Bobcat and Other Stories
As with most short story books, some of the short stories were incredibly poignant while other were not as much. That said, most of these were really strong with varying subjects. Some took place in America, some in other countries, so the topics really did vary. What seemed a common theme in each of these stories was that they all revealed an uncomfortable look at human nature that any one can relate to.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

So I kind of forget that it's Wednesday. Hiya Summer!

Big Brother: A Novel
This is one of those reads that reaches into your heart. The narrator, Pandora, has a complex relationship with her dysfunctional family and when she goes to pick her recently fallen-on-hard-times brother up at the airport, she discovers that in the years since she's seen him, he's gained 200 pounds. To make this more difficult, Pandora's husband is something of a health freak--allowing no junk food in the house and compulsively cycling to keep his body lean and trim. Pandora finds herself caught between helping her brother not eat himself to death and saving her marriage, plus somehow saving herself. This book also takes an interesting look at the way our society looks at food and obesity.

The Other Typist
As an English teacher, I LOVE unreliable narrators. However, it's definitely a tool that can easily be overplayed, but when done right, it can be brilliant. And in this book? It was done right, literally, until the very last page, to the point where I flipped back because I was shaking my head. Rose, our narrator--possibly very unreliable?--is a typist at a police precinct in the 20s. Rose is very moral and has a certain sense of guidelines that she follows, until she meets the flashy and gorgeous Odalie and the two become the very best of friends, attending speakeasies and weekend getaways together. It's on a weekend getaway that things begin to turn dark for Odalie and Rose. Saying any more would give away major spoilers, but this is a great summer read to get absolutely absorbed in.

Ghost Stories from the Ghosts' Point of View Trilogy Vol. 1 (Volume)
[I was given a copy of this book for free, but the opinions contained in this review are my own]
I will admit that I am fairly ignorant on things relating to this topic, but that doesn't mean that I'm not open to the thoughts that there is a spiritual energy around us that some people can see while others can't. Growing up in a house that was built in the 1840s vs. living in a relatively new house is a testament to that, because my parents' house has a certain feeling about it that our house doesn't. A sense of history and energy, to say the least--and then there was the time that my green hairbrush relocated itself, but that was the only thing that ever happened to me. Mostly, the house just felt different and that's why this book interested me. The author is retired from a career in the Navy and this book is about helping ghosts who are stuck in this world cross over, after hearing their story. Usually, it's in places where history has happened--the Civil War, Native Americans, WWII, or where people have died in accidents and don't realize what's happened to them. I suppose that regardless of what you believe, this could be an interesting read to enjoy to even if you don't believe in ghosts.

The Devil's Arithmetic (Puffin Modern Classics)
I'm teaching this in the fall, so even though I've read it before, I re-read it to make notes over it. It's been years since I've read it, so it was like reading it for the first time. The title refers to the math that the Nazis had to do to achieve the Final Solution. The story itself is about a 12 year old Jewish girl, Hannah, who is bored at Passover and tired of remembering, embarrassed of her relatives who are ancestors and have outbursts over war movies and over the numbers on their arms. During Passover Seder, she's chosen to open the door to welcome Elijah and in the midst, she is transported back to 1942, where she ends up as a girl named Chaya and is quickly taken to a concentration camp. She befriends a girl named Rivka and she learns what it means to be a survivor. I love this book because it's one of the few age appropriate Holocaust books for 8th graders. It's just brutal enough about the subject material without being too difficult for them and the reading level is low enough that I can pair it with The Diary of Anne Frank and get through both in a month. It's definitely a good read for kids and adults.

What are you reading?

Friday, June 7, 2013


As a teacher, the 180 days spent in school span out so differently each year. There are some years that each day feels like a lifetime. There are some years that they fly by and suddenly it's Christmas-spring break-hey, it's May! That was this year.

As a parent, the years always fly by and Luke's first year of Kindergarten was no exception. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was taking a photo of this nervous little guy with his seemingly too big backpack and wondering how on earth I was going to put him on a school bus and send him off into the world.

Somehow we did and somehow we blinked and it was the last day of Kindergarten. The backpack shrunk and the smile wasn't really nervous anymore.
He came skipping home from school with a backpack full of papers, an award certificate for Analyzing Appetizing Avocados, and a report card full of S+'s. He had such an incredible first year of school. He's reading above grade level and has grown so much socially. I could easily brag on and on, but suffice to say, we had an excellent first year of school and while I'm hoping the summer goes by slooooowwwllly, I'm also so grateful for a good year for him and looking forward to many, many more.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What I Read Wednesday

Deeply Odd (Odd Thomas)
I love the Odd Thomas series, definitely one of my favorites. Odd is a fry cook who wants to JUST be a fry cook, but unfortunately, he has the ability to communicate with the dead as well as psychic connections that enable him to see tragedies that may happen if he doesn't intervene. While this novel definitely doesn't work as a stand alone, I appreciate that you don't have to have the others absolutely fresh in your mind when reading it. Remembering the major events is enough to get the references back to earlier novels. In this novel, Alfred Hitchcock is the dead spirit who Odd communicates with and the impending tragedy seems to involve children and a psychotic cowboy. If you haven't read any of the Odd Thomas books, I would definitely recommend this series. While they're written by Dean Koontz, they contain a little more humor and voice than his usual stories.

The Prophet of Yonwood (Ember, Book 3)
This was the third book in the City of Ember series, yet it was a prequel. It felt a little misplaced to me. While it tied in to the previous books, it didn't tie in until the very end and would've functioned easily at the end of the series, as most prequels are usually released. I'm not quite sure why it was released as book three out of four, but while it was an interesting read, I kind of wanted to continue with the story that I left off in book two and didn't feel like I was doing that.

The Diamond of Darkhold (Ember, Book 4)
The last book of the City of Ember series. This one ties it all together and helps the main characters unlock the mystery of Ember and discover how to help humanity along. Overall, I enjoyed this series. There is a lot better dystopian lit out there and it took a strange sci-fi turn that didn't quite fit, but for younger readers, it's a good series.

What are you reading?