What I’m reading…

Right now I am reading two books, Every Day, by David Levithan, and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews.  Both are really great and I will be recommending them soon.

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Over the holidays I finished 2 books – and almost finished a third.  I read Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi because so many of the grade 12 boys were reading this book.  They were right!  It is a great read.  It is set in the future where the world is in turmoil.  There is a lucrative business in scavenging for oil, copper, and other valuable salvage materials.  Kids are used for this purpose because of their small size but this is not a little kid book.  The second book, The Drowned Cities, is next on my list to read.

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I also read The 100-year-old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson.  This book was similar to Forest Gump and I really enjoyed the story.  Lots of great history as the main character met world leaders like Truman, Stalin, Rosevelt and Mao Tse Tung in his 100 years.

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September/October 2012

So far this school year I have read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, Tumbleweeds by Leila Meacham, and Wild, by Cheryl Strayed.  I enjoyed all three books.  Let’s Pretend and Wild are both memoirs and Tumbleweeds is promoted as Friday Night Lights meets Gone With the Wind.

Right now I am reading The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (yep, that’s the author of Harry Potter).  It is an adult book, but I can still feel a “Harry Potterness” to the characters – I think it is just how Ms. Rowling writes.

   

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The 20 Books of the Summer of 2012

What I Did, by Christopher Walking

Bystander, by James Preller

The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Americus, by MK Reed

The Reading Promise, by Alice Ozma

Blankets, by Craig Thompson

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, by Caroline Preston

The House I Loved, by Tatiana De Rosnay

Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth

Freaks and Revelations, by Davida Wills Hurwin

The Hunger Pains, by the Harvard Lampoon

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

Maus, by Art Spiegelman

Deeper Reading, by Kelly Gallagher

Maus II, by Art Spiegelman

Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach

The Selection, by Kiera Cass

Chopsticks, by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

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I tried to take advantage of our snow day that turned into a snow week.  First I finished reading Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels.  Ms. Campbell recommended this book.  I usually like books about this period in history but I found the language in this book a bit too descriptive for me.  I still liked the story but not as much as Ms. Campbell. 🙂

Next I decided to read a non-fiction book called Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein.  This was a good read.  I think I would like to read her first book so I will understand some of her philosophies a bit more.  I liked what she had to say about letting fear and ego control our lives and that we need to let love be in control.  I also liked that the woman who inspired Ms. Bernstein, Marianne Williamson, wrote the “greatest fear” quotation from Coach Carter.  I love this speech and even have it on the wall in my classroom.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Now I am reading Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan.  It is another book set during WWII but it looks at the story of a young, black jazz musician and his and his friends’ experiences during WWII in Germany and Europe.  So far it is an interesting read.

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Over the Christmas break I tried to read several books that I could recommend to students.  I read the first book in the Mortal Instruments series –  City of Bones.  This was a good book with lots of different “mythical creatures” but in teenage form.  The next book in the series is City of Ashes.

I am now reading Little Brother.  This is proving to be a great read.  It is about a teenager named Marcus who is really into computers and on-line gaming.  He also likes to hack into other computers and use various forms of technology.  The trouble comes when there is a terrorist attack in San Francisco, where he lives, and Homeland Security thinks he is involved.  I am excited to see how this turns out.

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I had a busy summer with lots of reading.  Some of my favourites were Room, Shiver, Linger, and Forever.  Now I am reading the Hunger Games Trilogy.  What a great series!  I am on the second book and it is fantastic.  Come to the library to check them out!

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I read The Happiness Project in a week, what a great book.  It wasn’t over the top and corny but it was fun and had me thinking about how I can be happier in my life.  I have lent the book to Mrs. Wilkins – as if she can be happier 🙂

I am now reading The Jane Austen Book Club.  This is another of those books I have had piled beside my bed for over a year.  My summer reading goal this year is to plow through a bunch of those books.  When I finish one book I select 2 that interest me and then let Arden or Lily pick from the two which book I should read next – so far they have made good choices.

Booklist describes the book: Fowler, a captivating and good-hearted satirist, exuberantly pays homage to and matches wits with Jane Austen in her most pleasurable novel to date by portraying six irresistible Californians who meet once a month to discuss Austen’s six novels. Coyly shifting points of view, Fowler subtly uses her characters’ responses to Austen as entree into their poignant and often hilarious life stories. The book club is Jocelyn’s idea, a fiftysomething gal who seems to prefer the company of her show dogs to men. She has known Sylvia since grade school, and even used to date Sylvia’s husband, who has abruptly moved out, inspiring their beautiful, accident-prone, lesbian artist daughter, Allegra, to move back in and join the book club along with her mother. Also on board are disheveled and loquacious Bernadette; Prudie, a high-school French teacher; and Grigg, the only man. Fowler shares Austen’s fascination with the power of stories, and explores the same timeless aspects of human behavior that Austen so masterfully dramatizes, while capturing with anthropological acuity and electrifying humor the oddities of our harried world. Fellow Austenites will love Fowler’s fluency in the great novelist’s work; every reader will relish Fowler’s own ebullient comedy of manners, and who knows how many book clubs will be inspired by this charming paean to books and readers.

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Finished The Friday Night Knitting Club this weekend.  I was honestly not really enjoying the book for about the first half.  It seemed very “been there, done that”, meaning I felt I had read similar stories before.  The second half changed my mind and I read the final 20 pages through tears – not what I expected!

This year I am really trying to mix up my reading so I am now reading a non-fiction book called The Happiness Project.  I started it yesterday and have not been able to put it down.  The book is described…

The Happiness Project is one of the most thoughtful works on happiness to have emerged from the recent explosion of interest in the subject. Rubin weaves together philosophy, scientific research, history, analysis, and real-life experiences as she explains what worked for her—and what didn’t. Her conclusions are sometimes counter-intuitive – for example, she finds that money can buy happiness, when spent correctly – but they resonate with readers of all backgrounds.

Filled with practical advice, sharp insight, charm, and humor, The Happiness Project manages to be illuminating yet entertaining, profound yet compulsively readable. But The Happiness Project isn’t just an engaging and provocative book. Gretchen’s passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading a few chapters of this book will inspire you to start your own happiness project.

Gretchen has a wide, enthusiastic following, and her idea for a “happiness project” no longer describes just a book or a blog; it’s a movement. Happiness Project groups have sprung up from Los Angeles to Enid, Oklahoma to Boston, where people meet to discuss their own happiness projects. More than a dozen blogs have been launched by people who are following Gretchen’s example. On her companion website, the Happiness Project Toolbox, enthusiastic readers track and share their own happiness projects.

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Heaven is for Real was a good read.  I’m still not totally sure how I feel about its authenticity.  The fact that the Father is a pastor made it more believable that his child would recognize Heaven and Jesus.  There is some pretty good “evidence” though, that Colton’s story is for real.  I did like the feeling of peace and hope that it gave me.

I am now moving on to another book that I think I should read.  It is The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs.   I feel I should read this book because Ms. Jacobs is a former resident of Hope and a graduate of Hope Secondary.  The book got excellent reviews and she has written several books since.  I have had it for a while but it keeps getting moved to the bottom of the reading pile, but alas, no more!  I started reading it last night and had nostalgic thoughts of How to Make an American Quilt so I think I am going to like this book.  The book description says:

Between running her Manhattan yarn shop, Walker & Daughter, and raising her 12-year-old biracial daughter, Dakota, Georgia Walker has plenty on her plate in Jacobs’s debut novel. But when Dakota’s father reappears and a former friend contacts Georgia, Georgia’s orderly existence begins to unravel. Her support system is her staff and the knitting club that meets at her store every Friday night, though each person has dramas of her own brewing. Jacobs surveys the knitters’ histories, and the novel’s pace crawls as the novel lurches between past and present, the latter largely occupied by munching on baked goods, sipping coffee and watching the knitters size each other up. Club members’ troubles don’t intersect so much as build on common themes of domestic woes and betrayal. It takes a while, but when Jacobs, who worked at Redbook and Working Woman, hits her storytelling stride, poignant twists propel the plot and help the pacing find a pleasant rhythm.

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Secret Daughter was a really enjoyable book.  It didn’t end the way I was hoping, but it was a good ending.  It was interesting to learn a bit about India in a fairly present day timeline.

My next read is Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of his Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo.  I have had this on my stack of books for a couple of months and sort of had to get the “guts” to read it as I expect it will be a little scary (in the sense of “do I want to know this?”)  The back of the book says…

“A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven. Heaven is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didnt know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how reaaally big God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit shoots down power from heavento help us.Told by the father, but often in Coltons own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children,and be ready, there is a coming last battle. “

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Waiter Rant was a great read.  I thought it might turn me off eating in restaurants but there was nothing disgusting – no waiters spitting in food – well, there was a little of that, but not too bad.

I have moved on to a new book, Secret Daughter.  This book was recommended to me by a random lady at Costco.  We were both looking at books and I suggested The Book of Negroes to her and she suggested this book to me.  I love this kind of story, where I feel like I learn something about a culture, even though the book is fiction.

The back of the book says:

On the eve of the monsoons, in a remote Indian village, Kavita gives birth to Asha. But in a culture that favours sons, the only way for Kavita to save her newborn daughter’s life is to give her away. It is a decision that will haunt her and her husband for the rest of their lives, even after the arrival of their cherished son. Halfway around the globe, Somer, an American doctor, decides to adopt a child after making the wrenching discovery that she will never have one of her own. When she and her husband Krishnan see a photo of baby Asha from a Mumbai orphanage, they are overwhelmed with emotion for her. Somer knows life will change with the adoption, but is convinced that the love they already feel will overcome all obstacles. Interweaving the stories of Kavita, Somer, and Asha, “Secret Daughter” poignantly explores issues of culture and belonging. Moving between two worlds and two families, one struggling to survive in the fetid slums of Mumbai, the other grappling to forge a cohesive family despite their diverging cultural identities, this powerful debut novel marks the arrival of a fresh talent poised for great success.

I am half way through and am really enjoying this book so far.

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The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks was AWESOME!!!  I totally recommend this book!  It was funny but also smart.  This would be a great book to do with a class, maybe grade 10 or 11.  Might have to look into it as a possibility for Lit Circles.

My next read is going to be Waiter Rant.  It looks like a fun read.

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The Gravesavers was not what I expected.  Rachel TCB is reading it to give a second opinion.  I am now reading The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks.  This one is a hit!  I am finding myself reading until my eyes are drooping every night – always a good sign!

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Glad to have moved on from Patricia Cornwell.  I didn’t really enjoy that last book but I am a book finisher so I got to the end.

I have moved on to a book I have had on my classroom shelf since last year.  It’s called The Gravesavers. The back of the book says:

In the wake of a family tragedy, twelve-year-old Minn Hotchkiss is sent to spend the summer with her sour grandmother in the tiny seaside town of Boulder Basin, Nova Scotia. Almost as soon as she arrives, Minn discovers the skull of a human child on the beach. She is swiftly caught up in a mystery that reaches back more than a century, to the aftermath of the most tragic shipwreck in Maritime history before the Titanic.

Over the course of this extraordinary summer, Minn will discover romance with a boy who turns out to be much more than he seems, and learn that the grandmother she resented is more curious, dedicated, and surprising than she had ever guessed. She might even meet a world-famous rock star!

By summer’s end, Minn will solve a ghostly mystery and, most importantly, finally be able to give up the terrible secret she has kept locked in her heart.

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Right now I am also reading another of my favourite authors.  Like John Grisham novels, I always have to read the latest Patricia Cornwell book.  Also like Grisham, I have found that her books are somewhat predictable but I can’t not read them.  I am currently reading her newest novel in her “Kay Scarpetta” series called Port Mortuary.

Sorry, I have been a bit behind in updating this page.  My holiday to Hawaii gave me the opportunity to read a few books over the Christmas break.

Firstly, I LOVED!!!!!! I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak.  Awesome book!  I lent it to Simon and he loved it too.  This inspired me to read The Book Theif which I have had on my shelf for quite some time.  Also an excellent book!  I think I might add it to the grade 12 list for our Lit. Circles in term 4 – there are some great connections to The Life of Pi, The Kite Runner, and The Power of One.

Over Christmas I also read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  This was another book I have had on the shelf for a while but hadn’t read yet.  I had heard great things about Anderson’s writing and I wasn’t disappointed.  I purchased the movie (starring Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame) but haven’t watched it yet.

I also read John Grisham’s new book The Confession.  It was an enjoyable read – lots of twists and turns – typical Grisham.

Ok, that last book Beatrice and Virgil – a bit “out there” for me, but I finished it.  Not sure if I would say I enjoyed it, but it was a different read, and not a waste of time.

For my next book I am going with a suggestion from the ladies at the Fraser Valley Regional Library who came to talk to my grade 11 classes this week.

This book sounds very interesting:

Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger. . . .

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My next read is inspired by The Life of Pi that we are reading in one of my English 12 blocks.  Yann Martel’s second novel is Beatrice and Virgil and I’m excited to read it.

Here’s an interesting Q&A I found on the Random House site – it makes me more intrigued about reading the book.

20 Writerly Questions with Yann Martel

1. How would you summarize your book in one sentence?
Writer meets taxidermist meets Holocaust.

2. How long did it take you to write this book?
With interruptions, nine years.

3. Where is your favorite place to write?
No favourite place. I just need a chair, a table, my computer and a little peace and quiet.

4. How do you choose your characters’ names?
Carefully, with a mind to what significance the reader might give them.

5. How many drafts do you go through?
Countless. Every day I re-read what I’ve written and make some small changes. But beyond these countless mini-drafts, Beatrice & Virgil was entirely rethought and rewritten three times.

6. If there was one book you wish you had written what would it be?
Dante’s Divine Comedy.

7. If your book were to become a movie, who would you like to see star in it?
Anthony Hopkins.

8. What’s your favourite city in the world?
No favourite. Every great city of the world, big or small, has something to offer. Having said that, Paris, Lisbon, Cracow, Mumbai and Montreal are just some of the cities I’ve loved.

9. If you could talk to any writer living or dead who would it be, and what would you ask?
J. M. Coetzee. How do you do it?

10. When do you write best, morning or night?
No preference.

11. Who is the first person who gets to you read your manuscript?
It varies, but usually a selection of friends and family.

12. Do you have a guilty pleasure read?
I don’t feel guilt in reading anything.

13. What’s on your nightstand right now?
Things Fall Apart
, by Chinua Achebe.

14. What is the first book you remember reading?
Can’t remember.

15. Did you always want to be a writer?
No. I fancied myself going into politics when I was a teenager. I would have been a disastrous politician. I’m not patient enough.

16. What do you drink or eat while you write?
Herbal tea, usually.

17. Typewriter, laptop, or pen & paper?
Laptop when I’m actually writing, pen and notepad when I’m travelling for research. I don’t see why anyone would want to write without a computer. It’s so fast and versatile.

18. What do you wear when you write?
Whatever I happened to put on that day, which is usually what I’ve been wearing for the last week.

19. How do you decide which narrative point of view to write from?
With difficulty.

20. What is the best gift someone could give a writer?
Say “I loved your book.”

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Sorry Kassy, loved the book, until the end!  What was up with that!

•  Her Fearful Symmetry – by Audrey Niffenegger

This book was recommended to me (and lent to me) by Kassy Little.  We tend to have the same tastes in reading so I’m sure I will enjoy it.  This author also wrote The Time Traveler’s Wife which is one of my favourite books.

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