Monday, October 29, 2012

It's Monday 10/29! What Are You Reading?

An unusual Monday here, as we wait out Hurricane Sandy aka Frankenstorm.  It is a HUGE storm, with another storm front coming down from the north to meet it, and it is heading straight for us in northern Delaware.  We are a bit inland so don't have to worry about coastal flooding, but the heavy rain and high winds are supposed to last for a few days, at least.  Roads are closed.  Schools were closed for Monday and Tuesday back on Saturday, so we have both kids at home (plus an extra one!).

On the plus side, if we lose power, I will have an excuse for more reading time!  Here's what we have been reading here:
  • I spent the week engrossed in a spooky read by one of my favorite teen/YA authors: Everfound by Neal Schusterman, the conclusion to the Skinjacking trilogy that started with Everlost, about kids caught in a sort of limbo (aka Everlost) in between the worlds of the living and the dead.  Our whole family has loved this series, and the final book is just as good - I just have a few pages to go!
  • Next up for today is another Halloween read, Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian.
  • I am really enjoying the audio book, The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, about a girl in 1960's Louisiana who time travels back 100 years.  It is excellent so far, though I won't be listening much with the whole family stuck on the house with me this week!
  • My husband, Ken, finished In the Woods by Tana French, and wants to read more of her novels.
  • Next, he read another Neal Schusterman teen/YA novel, Unwholly, the sequel to Unwind, another spooky novel that we all loved!  It's a dystopian series about a future world where parents can choose to "unwind" their children between ages 13 and 18 (but it is considered ethically acceptable because every bit of them is used and transplanted).  Yeah, very creepy!  The first book was about a few teens who managed to escape on their way to being unwound.  Can't wait to read this one - Ken said it was great!
  • Last night, Ken started The Twelve by Justin Cronin, sequel to The Passage.  Both of us are excited to read this one!
  • Jamie, 18, finished City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (for the 3rd time!), but he left book #2 in his dorm room when he came home for the storm!  So, he will have to switch to another series while he is here - that shouldn't be a problem as we just received a bunch of teen/YA books from a publisher.
I didn't write or post much last week because I was sick all week, but I managed two posts late in the week: some exciting news on the adaptation of The Book Thief for stage and screen and a Weekend Cooking Post.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kids/teen version hosted at Teach Mentor Texts.)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Book Thief Comes to Life!

The wildly popular YA novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which sold over 2.5 million copies  in the U.S. and many more overseas, has been adapted for the stage.

This New York Times article explains how the best-selling book - which was one of the biggest YA-adult stand-alone cross-over novels of all time - came to be adapted as a stage production.  It is currently running as a young adult production at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater through November 11.  I wish I lived there so I could go see it! is also being adapted as a movie, though no word yet on when that might come out - sounds like they are just getting started.

Did you read The Book Thief?  I loved it -you can check out my own review here.  Are you lucky enough to live in the Chicago area?  If so, will you go see it?  I wish I could!

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Monday 10/22! What Are You Reading?

Ah...Monday morning...quiet house.  I've had kind of a rough week here.  My college son was home sick much of last week, then I caught his cold.  Even a simple virus like this triggers a severe flare-up of our chronic illness (an immune disorder), so it's a double-whammy.  On the plus side, I've had a little more time for reading than usual!  Here's what we read last week:
  • I finished my first spooky read for the month, the teen/YA novel Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch, which combines a post-apocalyptic/dystopian setting with a magical plot.  Its engrossing suspense was a great distraction from how I was feeling!
  • Last night, I finished my neighborhood book group's selection for this week's meeting: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka.  It is a unique novel, written from the perspective of a group of women, rather than individual characters, about so-called picture brides who immigrated to the United States from Japan in the early 1900's, following them for the next 20 years.  It should be fodder for some excellent discussions Wednesday evening!
  • I started a new audio book, The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman, a middle-grade novel about a young girl in Louisiana in 1960 who is transported back in time to 1860.  It is excellent and engaging so far!
  • My husband, Ken, is reading In the Woods by Tana French and enjoying it very much.  He says it is a good mystery with plenty of suspense but also very well-written.
  • Jamie, 18, was home sick from college for 4 days this week.  After catching up on all his favorite TV shows in the first 2 days, he picked up a book and remembered how much he has missed reading since he started college!  He read Relic Master (The Dark City #1) by Catherine Fisher and loved it (Fisher's Incarceron was a family favorite here).
  • City of Lost Souls, Book Five of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, arrived at our house last week while Jamie was home sick.  Since this is one of his favorite series, Jamie decided to re-read the entire series...for the third time!  So, he is currently reading Book 1, City of Bones, though he is back at school with plenty of make-up work, so I don't know how much reading time he has!
I posted two new reviews last week: Caleb's Crossing, a wonderful historical novel by the talented Geraldine Brooks and Magisterium, a great spooky teen/YA novel by Jeff Hirsch. I also posted my plans for Spooky Halloween Reads this month, and another Weekend Cooking post yesterday.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kids/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Teen/YA Review: Magisterium

I wanted to read some spooky books during the month of October, and Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch kicked off my creepy reading perfectly!  This new novel from the author of The Eleventh Plague starts out as your typical post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel, but it also has a hefty dose of (dark) magic and lots of surprises.

Sixteen-year old Glenn Morgan lives a quiet life.  Her mother left when she was six, and her scientist father is immersed in his project out in his workshop, leaving Glenn on her own most of the time.  She goes to school, hangs out with her mohawked friend, Kevin Kapoor, and dreams of the day when she can apply to a space academy and escape her lonely life.  They live in a world based on technology and science, but Kevin has heard rumors of a different world, filled with magic and monsters, just beyond the Rift that borders their backyards.  Glenn insists that there is nothing beyond the Rift but a barren wasteland, as they’ve been taught in their history classes.

One day, their quiet, dull lives are upended when Glenn’s dad finally finishes the project he’s been obsessed with, a metal bracelet, and the Authority, their police force, come to arrest him.  Glenn and Kevin grab the bracelet and escape to the only place they can – across the border.  What they find there, on the run from the government, is crazy and confusing and hard to believe, but Glenn must continue her quest to save her father.

I don’t want to say much more about the rest of the novel because it is filled with suspense and lots of twists and turns.  It is an imaginative and action-packed adventure story about a dystopian world much different than others I have read about (and I have read a lot of dystopian novels this year!).  Glenn and Kevin are both strong, admirable characters whom I was rooting for.  I devoured the book quickly, and now my 18-year old son wants to read it!

310 pages, Scholastic


Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Monday 10/15! What Are You Reading?

Monday already?  Wow, where did the weekend go?  Mine was filled with a lot of work (and cooking) and not much fun or relaxing.  I saw lots of blogs participated in a read-a-thon this weekend.  I've never tried one, but it sounds like a wonderful idea!  Might have to wait until the kids have moved out, though!

After 3 solid weeks of pain and exhaustion following his knee surgery, my youngest son finally returned to school today (I know I said he went back LAST Monday, but that only lasted one day!) - hurray!  However, my oldest son is home from college and in bad shape now!  Looks like he has one of the many viruses floating around at school which has triggered a bad flare-up of his chronic illness.  So, he came home for his usual Sunday visit but felt so bad that he decided to stay (still sleeping - shhh!).

Someday I will be alone again for an hour or two...

In the meantime, as always, books provide a mini escape!  Here's what we've been reading this week:
  • I finished Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital by Dr. Heidi Squier Kraft just in time for my library's book discussion on Wednesday.  It is a fascinating and engrossing memoir about a young mother's experiences serving as a Navy Psychologist for a group of Marines in Iraq.  We had a great discussion about the emotional and psychological effects of war.
  • After months of listening, I finally finished the middle-grade audio book Young Fredle by Cynthia Voight last week.  My lengthy listen is not due to any fault of the book, just a lack of a CD player in my old car!  It is a warm, wonderful story, wonderfully performed - very deserving of its Odyssey Honor for Excellence in Audiobooks Award.
  • Now I am reading an exciting new teen/YA novel, Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch.  It's a very unique story - a blend of dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and magic, all rolled into one!  I could hardly stand to put it down this weekend.
  • My husband, Ken, finished and enjoyed 1NF1N1TY by Rachel Ward, the exciting conclusion to her Num8ers trilogy.
  • Now Ken is reading one of his birthday gifts from me, Into the Woods by Tana French.  I've been hearing such great things about French's suspense novels for years, so I decided to start him off with the first book in this series.  He's loving it so far and says the writing is excellent - he even read a passage aloud to me!
  • Jamie, 18 and an avid reader, is still too busy with his new college life for any reading!  Perhaps he will pick it up again while he is sick this week (though of course, I hope he bounces back quickly and can get back to hanging out with his friends).
  • Craig, 14, has his hands full catching up on 3 weeks' of missed school work, but he did enjoy reading the short story, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell (a classic!) for his English class.  And, in a burst of inspiration (and an urgent need to get away from the TV!) this week, I set up lounge chairs outside in the sunshine for Craig and I and read aloud to him from Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.  He was in the mood for something Halloweeny, and I think he enjoyed that little return to when we used to read aloud to the boys every night.  I know I enjoyed it!
I only posted one review last week, of Young Fredle, the middle-grade audio book.  But I also managed a couple of other fun posts:  My September Reading Summary and my first-ever post for Weekend Cooking.  Check it out to learn about my passion for food and cooking, and what I made for my family this weekend.

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kid/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Middle-Grade Review: Young Fredle

It is easy to understand why Young Fredle by Cynthia Voight was named an Odyssey Honor Book for Excellence in Audiobook Production.  It is a warm, wonderful story, performed by a talented actress.  Though it is aimed squarely at middle-graders, it is so well done that parents will love it, too, making it perfect for family road trips!

The main character, Fredle, is a mouse, a house mouse to be more precise.  He lives behind the pantry walls in Mr. And Mrs.’s farmhouse with his large mouse family.  They live a quiet life, sleeping in communal nests during the day and cautiously foraging for food in the dark kitchen at night, though Fredle wishes he were braver, like his cousin Axle, and wonders what’s outside the world of the kitchen.  One night, Fredle and Axle find something strange and wonderful (a Peppermint Pattie!) on a top pantry shelf, and Fredle finds himself in a situation that requires all of his courage.

One thing leads to another, and Fredle ends up outside, alone for the first time in his young life.  He encounters all kinds of exciting new experiences but also many dangers – things he’s never even heard of like snakes and owls and raccoons.  Fredle is immersed in new things he doesn’t even know the name for, until a young mouse from a family of field mice befriends him and teaches him about things like grass and flowers and stars.  Fredle gets all the adventures he ever wanted and also has a chance to consider what home really means.

I know this sounds like a strange way to describe a novel about a mouse, but it really is a coming-of-age story.  While Fredle is out among friends and enemies of the outdoor world, he grows up.  He thinks about what is really important to him and makes some life-changing decisions that affect him as well as other mice.

Though a story told from a mouse’s perspective might get a bit gimmicky with a lesser writer, Voight’s story of Fredle is told with warmth and sincerity, full of gentle humor and plenty of mouse-sized adventure.  Actress Wendy Carter reads the novel with considerable talent, bringing us into Fredle’s world and adeptly managing the different voices of all the creatures he meets (though I’m not entirely sure why raccoons speak with a Jersey accent, but they sure were amusing!).  All in all, Young Fredle deserved its award and is perfect for families to listen to together.  And as much as I loved the audio production, it looks like the paper book has adorable illustrations, so either format is a winner!

Listening Library

Recommended for Ages 8 and up.

P.S. Oddly enough, I had never even heard of Cynthia Voight until earlier this year, when I read her Newberry Medal-winning novel Dicey’s Song, which I also loved!

Listen to an excerpt: 


AUDIO:            BOOK:    

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's Monday 10/8! What Are You Reading?

By some miracle, I am alone this Monday morning!  My son has been home for two weeks, recovering from knee surgery.  The pain finally subsided enough that he could manage without prescription pain killers.  He slept 16 hours Friday night and woke up feeling much better!  So, he finally went back to school this morning, and I am enjoying the rare quiet solitude.

I haven't had much time for blogging these past two weeks, but I used the weekend to catch up a bit.

Lots of great reading this week:
  • I finished reading The Chocolate War, a classic teen/YA novel by Robert Cormier, for Banned Books Week.  It's a violent but compelling story that takes place in an all-boys high school.
  • I am now reading Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital, a memoir by Dr. Heidi Squier Kraft.  My state's library system is focusing on this real-life look at a psychologist's experiences in Iraq (I am guessing to honor Veteran's Day next month), so I am reading this for this week's book discussion at my local library.  It's very good so far.
  • My husband, Ken, is now reading 1NF1N1TY by Rachel Ward, the exciting conclusion to the teen/YA Num8ers trilogy that I just finished last week!
  • Craig, 14, will be reading the short story, The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell, for his English class this week. Craig doesn't enjoy reading much, but I have told him this is a great story.
I did finally write some blog posts last week:  a Banned Book Week celebration at Book By Book and another post on kids'/teen banned books at Great Books for Kids and Teens.  I also posted reviews of two frequently banned books:  Brave New World and The Chocolate War. And, hopefully, I can get back into a more normal routine this week!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kids/teen version hosted at Teach Mentor Texts.)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Teen/YA Review: The Chocolate War

I wanted to read a YA novel for Banned Book Week, so I perused the list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books in the 90’s and chose The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.  I’ve heard of this book many times over the years (it was published in 1974) but never read it before so I grabbed one of the many copies off my local library’s shelves.  It is a violent but compelling novel about cruelty and conformity.

Jerry is a freshman at Trinity, a Catholic all-boys high school.  He is still struggling to deal with his mother’s recent death and lives a lonely existence, going to a new school without any friends and rarely seeing his taciturn father who works odd hours as a pharmacist.  The one bright spot in Jerry’s world is football.  In the opening scene of the novel, he is trying out as quarterback for the team, being brutally tackled again and again while the harsh coach yells at him. Yes, this is a highlight of Jerry’s life.

Though outwardly it would seem that the Brothers who teach the classes run Trinity, the truth is that a secret student group called the Vigils are controlling things behind the scenes.  Archie is the Vigils’ Assigner, and each week he chooses innocent students and assigns them various humiliations and pranks.  No one would ever think of defying Archie or the Vigils; the entire student body lives in fear of them, as does much of the teaching staff.

And that’s how things go at Trinity, the ways things have always gone at Trinity, until one day when something snaps in Jerry, and he defies both the cruel school head and the Vigils.  There’s a poster in Jerry’s locker that says, “Do I dare disturb the universe?” and that’s exactly what he does when he quietly but firmly refuses to go along with the status quo.

It’s easy to see why this book has been banned.  From the opening scene at football practice through several vicious fight scenes, violence is a central theme in the book, and it is quite graphic.  There are also several sexual references, though nothing explicit there, but book banners generally don’t like books that even mention masturbation.

All in all, Cormier’s famous YA novel presents a pretty dim view of mankind.  And I do mean mankind, not humankind, as the book is populated entirely by male characters; the only female characters are minor ones barely mentioned and only present as objects of the boys’ desire.  It is a very “Lord of the Flies” sort of situation, with most of the main characters, including the head teacher, acting with intense cruelty and completely lacking compassion.  True, there are some good guys here, including Jerry’s only friend, Goober, but the good guys are completely manipulated and controlled by the bad guys.  It's a dark view of human nature, though I don’t think the author means to say that all men are cruel but that a few bad apples have turned Trinity into an evil place.  All in all, though the novel was too violent for my taste, there is no doubt that it is a compelling and well-written story, and I can see that it would make for some excellent discussions about human nature in a high school English class.

191 pages, Bantam Doubleday Dell


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Celebrate Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week!

Sheila over at Book Journey is hosting a celebration of banned books, with lots of links to other blogs and giveaways, so stop by!  And join in the fun yourself by reading banned books and/or posting about them.

I just finished Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and am now reading The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, both commonly banned books.  Look for reviews of those later this week, here and at Book By Book.

Check out this list of the 100 most frequently banned books (from 1990 - 1999), compiled by the American Library Association (ALA) and this list of most frequently banned and challenged classics.  You will be surprised by some of the titles on these lists.  How many of these naughty books have YOU read??

From these two lists, I have read the following kids/teen/YA books (see Book By Book's Banned Book post for the list of grown-up books read).  I linked to my reviews where they are available:
  • Forever by Judy Blume (a popular one when I was a teen!)
  • The Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (read aloud to our kids)
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (my son read it for middle school, so I read it as well)
  • In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak (listened to on audio with our kids)
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (how dare they ban my favorite book?)
  • Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  • Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (read for school in 7th grade)
  •  Deenie by Judy Blume (another great one by Blume)
  • Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (read aloud to my class by an elementary school teacher)
  • Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (what girl could possibly go through adolescence without this book??)
  • Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford (seriously??)
  • Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Wow, I have been a bad, bad girl!!

I was pleased to see that many of the banned books I have read (on this list and the one at Book By Book) were assigned for school (mine or my kids'), so kudos to our schools for giving us a broad and unrestricted education!

Check out the lists to see how many banned books you have read...and select one you missed and head to your library!

Monday, October 1, 2012

It's Monday 10/1! What Are You Reading?

Happy October!

My husband and I celebrated our 23rd anniversary yesterday.  We actually managed a nice dinner out on our own Saturday evening and celebrated with a steak dinner at home with the kids yesterday.

We had a pretty rough week.  Our son's recovery from knee surgery has been more difficult than we expected.  He was finally feeling better and able to get by without narcotic pain killers on Saturday, but going to a bonfire party and spending the night at a friend's house knocked him out again.  He's still asleep now, but we are hoping he will be able to get back to school.  We know from experience that getting around on crutches is really exhausting for him.

Oh, and this is Banned Book Week so stay tuned for more on that this week!

We are reading:
  • Last night, I finished Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, in honor of Banned Books Week, and I really enjoyed it.  It was clever, funny, and surprisingly prophetic in some ways, especially for a book written in 1931.  I am still making my way through Brave New World Revisited, an analysis and reconsideration of the novel written by the author in 1958, which was included in my copy of the book.
  • Now I am reading a teen/YA novel for Banned Book Week, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, another classic I have never read.  It's good so far.
  • I am still listening to Fredle by Cynthia Voight, an award-winning middle-grade audio book - it is very clever and cute, about a house mouse who must learn how to survive outside. 
  • My husband, Ken, is still reading Full Black by Brad Thor, a thriller.
Neither of our sons has had much time for reading, now that school is in session; Craig might have read last week while recovering from surgery (though he was too groggy much of the time), but he rarely reads anymore if not required to for school - whose child is this?

I finally caught up on some reviews last week; I posted a Did Not Finish Review of The Death of Artemio Cruz and a review of 1NF1N1TY, the exciting conclusion to the Num8ers trilogy by Rachel Ward, a favorite of mine.  And you can get a look at our newest family member, Lola, on my Saturday Snapshot!

What are you and your family reading this week?

(What are you reading Monday is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, with a kids/teen version hosted by Teach Mentor Texts.)

23 years and counting!