Monday, August 12, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books.
This poor post has been suffering on my blog due to my crazy last several weeks!  I should be going into my school to work on moving into my classroom RIGHT NOW, so I need to write this quickly!  I thought I'd have a ton of books to share, but then I realized I haven't read as much lately as I did at the beginning and middle of summer.  Traveling and getting ready for school have definitely cut back my reading time!
The Wig in the Window

This is a funny, entertaining, twisty mystery involving a very odd middle school counselor, Dr. Agford, best friends and seventh graders Sophie Young and Grace Yang, and Trista. After witnessing what Sophie and Grace think is a brutal murder, they start a crazy adventure trying to prove, then un-prove Dr. Agford's guilt. The characters are quite unique, and the mystery keeps you on your toes. This is a mystery for tweens, though, not younger elementary students due to references of hickeys and the counselor's giant boobs. Middle schoolers will love the humor and plot twists, though, and more serious subjects such as bullying and difficulties with friendship are addressed.
Every year I choose a book to read aloud to my friends when we travel to our girlfriends' weekend destination. Only true book lovers would understand this at all! To others, it probably sounds really strange! Ha. This year, after some Twitter conversations, and reading the blog Unleashing Readers: Helping Students Navigate the World of Books , I decided on Endangered for our 15-hour round trip. I usually don't start reading until the trip home since on the way there we are too busy talking. Unfortunately, because of that, I don't always finish, and we have to pass the book around afterward so everyone can read the ending.  One of my friends texted that she woke up worried about Sophie and Otto! That gives you an indication about how involved we were in the story. Sophie is a Congolese-American teenager who is split between her father in Miami, FL and her mother in The Democratic Republic of Congo. They are divorced, and her mother runs a sanctuary for bonobos. On the way to visit her, while traveling through Kinshasa, Sophie buys a straggly infant bonobo from a wildlife trafficker. She names him Otto for the eight fingers he has left. Her mother is angry with her because buying animals from traffickers only heightens the problem. Otto stays with them, though, and bonds fiercely with Sophie. Shortly after Sophie arrives, her mother leaves for a journey to release some of the bonobos. My friends and I thought her mother seemed awfully selfish. Her life's project was the bonobos, not her family, and it seemed careless to leave Sophie behind. During the time her mother is gone, an armed revolution breaks out. Sophie could have been rescued by the UN and flown back to America, but she would've had to leave Otto behind. When she realizes the gravity of that separation, she decides to run away from the peacekeepers and hide in the sanctuary enclosure. While she's there, she hears the sanctuary being attacked. What follows is an unforgettable survival journey. Sophie sets out with Otto to try to stay alive and find her mother. Throughout the novel, Sophie is impulsive and doesn't always think through consequences, but she sure is tough and resourceful! During the journey, we couldn't help but fall in love with both Sophie and Otto! Many theme topics come up in this book: suffering, cruelty, survival, war, love, empathy. Sophie questions if it is appropriate for people to devote their lives to the welfare of animals when there is so much human suffering. Otto, though, is vulnerable, and she realizes he needs her. That's enough for her. Her mother told her that the way a nation and its people treat animals is a telltale sign of how they treat people. I loved the author's note in the back in which Schrefer says, " don't have to ignore a lesser suffering because there's a greater one out there - that's a sure route to paralysis." This is a perfect ladder for The One and Only Ivan, but it is definitely for young adults because of several difficult scenes. Thank you, Ricki and Kellee, for convincing me I had to read this book!  My friends have all finished by now, too, and loved it.  Endangered was a Walden Award Finalist - read more about it on Ricki's and Kellee's blog - they were both committee members:  It was also a National Book Award Finalist.
I'm on a quest to read all of John Green's books because I think he's a genius. His stories are edgy, witty, and heartbreaking. In this one, Miles (nicknamed "Pudge" by his new roommate because he's so skinny) decides to try out Culver Creek Boarding School his junior year, his father's Alma mater, to seek the "Great Perhaps" (Francois Rabelais, poet). In other words, he's a little bored and lonely and is hoping things might be better there. He has the somewhat macabre hobby of memorizing famous people's last words. As soon as he moves in, he meets an angst-ridden group of friends, led by the disturbed, reckless, beautiful prankster, Alaska. It doesn't take long for Pudge to fall in love with her. Green creates a sense of foreboding by heading the chapters in the first half of the book with the number of days BEFORE. The last half of the book is a search for meaning AFTER. As an adult and parent of teenagers, I cringed at all the substance abuse and impulsiveness, knowing that it was going to end in tragedy, but Green knows how to write for young adults. I have so many lines highlighted in my Kindle that this review would be ridiculously long if I shared them, many of them quotes that are threaded throughout the novel and add to the theme - "You shall love your crooked neighbor/with your crooked heart" (W.H. Auden) and "Damn it, how will I ever get out of this labyrinth?" (Simon Bolivar) I would caution that this book is for older high schoolers. The characters remind me of the kids in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. My next John Green book is going to be An Abundance of Katherines.

This was our book club book this month, chosen by one of our member because it's her daughter's Ball State University Freshman Common Reader. I loved this memoir by Conor Grennan (the audio is narrated by the author), who began a year-long trip around the globe as a volunteer at the Little Princes Children's Home in Nepal. Thinking his three months there would be nothing more than a feel-good deed at the orphanage, he begins reluctantly and haphazardly getting to know the rambunctious children. As he learns more about their terrible plight - they weren't orphans; they were children taken from families by child traffickers who promised that they would be protected from the brutal civil war. Families would pay them a huge fee, thinking they would be safe and better off than if they stayed. Once the traffickers took them, they would enslave them as street beggars and laborers or abandon them far from home in illegal orphanages or poverty-stricken homes and deceive both parents and children into thinking the other was dead. Conor realizes he loves these children and becomes devoted to reuniting them with their families. Intertwined in this extraordinary story is romance, suspenseful adventure, humor, tragedy, and hope. You'll be rooting for Conor, his friends and colleagues, and all the children of Little Princes and the Next Generation Nepal. If you want to see how one person can make a difference, read this book!
The Inn at Rose Harbor (Rose Harbor #1)
I just got back from the Debbie Macomber Fan Retreat in Nashville with my mom.  I confess I'm not actually a huge romance/chick lit fan, but I thought the retreat sounded like a perfect Mother/Daughter get away, and I was right!  We had SUCH a good time.  I'll be writing more about the weekend on my blog later in the week - probably for my Slice of Life post.  For now, I'll talk about this book.  I enjoyed this novel - a perfect summer read. Jo Marie Rose buys a bed-and-breakfast in the small Pacific Northwest town of Cedar Cove, needing to start over after the death of her husband. Her first guests all have pain of their own to heal - Joshua Weaver is returning to try to make peace with his estranged dying stepfather and Abby Kincaid returns to Cedar Cove for her brother's wedding. However, Abby dreads being in her hometown because fifteen years earlier she was driving in the snow with her best friend and accidentally crashed the car, killing Angela. She had put her life on pause after that, thinking that no one would ever forgive her. The inn becomes a place where healing and new beginnings happen, and I look forward to the next book in the series.  We got it at the Fan Retreat! 
The Bible 30-Day Experience: Daily Guidebook
Our church studied this curriculum this summer in small groups spread out among the community over five weeks. I facilitated one of the groups, and we met at church in the afternoon. We had a group of about eight to ten women each week. We thought it was an excellent study, and we were continually amazed about how connected the Old and New Testament are and how Jesus was foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. We had good discussions, we liked the themes each week, and the video clips made the Biblical stories come alive.
My reading life might suffer a bit over the next several weeks as school kicks into gear.  I'll be concentrating on getting my room ready, writing lesson plans, and getting to know my students.  I'll try to fit in reading whenever and wherever I can, though!  What are YOU reading this week?




  1. I really liked Looking for Alaska too. I just finished An Abundance of Katherines and it was really good. I think Paper Towns is next, but I've read underwhelming reviews. My mom and I share Debbie Macomber books too!

    1. Sounds like we have a lot of reading in common!

  2. I love that you read to your friends! I really need to read Endangered. I keep taking it home and then ignoring it. I appreciate what John Green has done for teen book lovers and his books certainly speak to his audience. That being said, he is actually not my favorite. I have recently come to discover the genius of A.S. King and I love to recommend her books to J.G. fans. An Abundance of Katherines was my favorite, by the way! Have a great week!

    1. I understand that John Green isn't for everyone. I need to read Ask the Passengers! Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

  3. Thanks for the shout-out! I am still so, so happy that you responded well to Endangered. Your review brought me back to the wonders of that book.

    The Little Princes looks quite good. I tend to be iffy about a lot of adult books, so I am glad to add that title to my to-read list. It seems like you learned a lot from it. Perhaps, that should be my next big-girl book!

    1. I think you'll like The Little Princes - it would work well as a high school book, too!

  4. Endangered followed me around for weeks after I read it. So loved this book. I think everyone I know knows how much. Incredible. I had the same quest with John Green titles - and I did it in a summer! Only one I wasn't wild about was An Abundance of Katherines - didn't not like it - just not to same degree. Bu see that for others, it was their favourite. When you have read it, we can discuss :-) I really liked Looking for Alaska. And yes, as a Mom, I cringed too.