Friday, April 30, 2010

The First Part Last

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson

This is a sweet poetic love story. The story between a 16 year old male and his brand new baby, told from the teenage father's point of view. It was original, endearing and true to life. The author does an excellent job telling about the up and downs of teenage pregnancy. I was greatly moved at the end of the book, when I fully expected a predictable ending. It was definitely not predictable!

I recommended this book to one of the teenage mother's in my class. Her baby is about 5 months old. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it is to be a teenage parent. It is hard to be a 40 year old parent, so being a teenage parent offers a unique challenge for the parents and the child. This book will give you a small dose of the reality of teenage parenthood.

The First Last Part won the Printz Award (my favorite YA book award) and the Coretta Scott King Award. The author has won the Scott King Award three times in her career.

The First Last Part begins with the last part first and ends with the first part last. It is a unique way to tell the story. Loved it! There are two more books that continue Bobby and his daughter, Feather's story. HEAVEN is the second book and LOOKING FOR RED the third. I would highly recommend this book to teenagers and their parents. Great talking points!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris

I really wanted to like this book as I hear all sorts of great things about Sedaris. I expected to laugh out loud till I cried. Unfortunately, one shouldn't have expectations when reading Sedaris. I read this book with my book club called "The Itty Bitty Reading Committee". Two members of the group had read previous books by Sedaris and thought this one was great. Two of us disagreed and thought the author self-centered and narcissistic.

This book is a series of short stories about the author's life and his day to day existence. Many stories have the minor theme of death and dying running through them. The stories are entertaining, some funny, some stupid and some just plain ridiculous. Overall, this book was OK, definitely not a page turner for me but some of the stories were thought provoking. I did find it interesting to be a voyeur into Sedaris personal life.

Needless to say, David Sedaris is a author whose personality kinda got on my nerves and in the way of my complete enjoyment of the book. I am wondering if I should try another one of his books or just abandon Sedaris altogether.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing. Traitor to the Nation. Volume #1 The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

A book that captured many awards including the National Book Award for Young People, and a Printz Honor. This unique book, would not, in my opinion, appeal to the average reader. It takes place around the time of the Revolutionary War and the language in the book is similar to language used at that time. Much of the novel is founded it fact although it has a very gothic feel to it.

I read this book with a group of high school teachers and staff and many could not finish the book due to the way it was written. The author wrote the book in eighteenth century grammar and diction and it had an authentic historical style to it. I did finish the book and plan on reading the second, but the writing did take some getting used to.

The story is about a slave named Octavian. It is common for slave owners to give their slaves sophisticated Greek and Roman names. Octavian is an experiment although he doesn't know it till later in the book. The experiment has to do with the equality of the races. It is very thought provoking.

Then comes the Pox Party. During the Revolutionary period people experimented with inoculation. Small Pox was an epidemic, killing massive amounts of people and they knew that if you were exposed to it and lived, you built up a immunity. Inoculation in many cases was done by cutting the skin and infecting the person with a hair or thread from a pox victim. Many got sick and died this way. It is after the Party that Octavian's life changes in a dramatic way and the early battles of the war are fought. The story ends but leaves you wanting to find out what happens next in Octavian's journey.

If you love history and you can get past the writing style, you will appreciate the creativeness and the important social issues of the time this book represents. Heck, the issues haven't changed much in over 200 years. Give this book a try, you just might enjoy it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas

Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas by Louise Rennison

Louise Rennison has written a series of hilarious books for teens and women who remember being a teen. Georgia Nicolson is the main character in the books. She is a rowdy, saucy and a completely out of whack 14 year old. She has a fat old cat named Angus who is in love with a vixen next door. A serious dad who she can't stand because he is ruining her life as a teenager. She has a little sister who follows her around, dances naked in the house and embarrasses her frequently. Her mother has simply lost all control of her.

I have read three books in the series and plan to finish all ten by the end of the year. I consider these stories my book candy. The are funny and a little off kilter but a delicious romp through teenagerhood. I laugh out loud every time I read one. Plus, these are the best book titles out there.

My daughter, like the main character in the books, is named Georgia and so I am saving these books to give to her when she turns thirteen in about four years. Every time I laugh out loud, my Georgia is curious to know what is so funny.

The first book in the series ANGUS, THONGS, AND FULL-FRONTAL SNOGGING won the Printz award. This is my favorite book award because I tend to love all the books on the winners list. The second book ON THE BRIGHT SIDE I'M NOT THE GIRLFRIEND OF A SEX GOD is just as good as the first as Georgia finally gets her man (a much older teen in a band). The third book KNOCKED OUT BY MY NUNGA-NUNGAS has a lot of snogging going on. She learns ear snogging and nip libbling. I love her snogging scale and wish I had thought of that when I was a teen.

I highly recommend these creative books to fun seeking teens and their mothers. You will learn a little British speak, and pee your pants because you won't be able to stop laughing. Oh and now there is a movie!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Schindler's List

Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally

Most of the world has seen the film, but not read the book. I saw the film years ago and remember not really liking it. So when I picked up the book to read, I was a bit nervous that I wouldn't like it. I started reading Schindler's List in February and during that month something serendipitous happened. I was asked to chaperone a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. This was a dream come true for me. Literally books can bring you to magical places and bring new opportunities to your life. This is one instance.

It took me about two months to finish Schindler's List. This is not an easy read. The first 200 pages were difficult mainly because of all the Polish and German words and then trying to connect all the different people. I ended up taking a month long break from the book. I never do this, I always read a book cover to cover. But this was the right choice and I when I went back to reading it, I was prepared to finish it.

I read the book on the plane to and from the Holocaust Museum and I am so glad I did. The Museum was such an emotional and moving testament to the people of the Holocaust. Schindler's List really prepared me for what I would see there. Afterwards, it helped me to reflect on the importance of continuing to read about the Holocaust and other difficult life matters, so that we as a world community never forget and we tell our secrets without shame.

While in the bookstore at the Holocaust Museum I found the book THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT by Roma Ligocka. The girl in the red coat is in the story of Schindler's List. So I was immediately drawn to it. The back cover said that the author recognized herself in the film and was then forced to confront her past which inspired her to write this memoir. This book is now on my to be read list.

This book definitely deserves its status as one of the 1001 books you must read before you die. I would definitely recommend this book but give yourself plenty of time to read it. It is not a book that you travel through quickly or easily but it is truly memorable and inspiring.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Challenges

Have you ever participated in a book challenge? This will be my first experience with a book challenge. As a book snob I enjoy a challenge even though I have a hard time with anyone dictating my book choices. So the key is to pick challenges that don't interfere with my right to read what I want. I am going to try two book challenges this year and may add more.

The first one is called The Graphic Novel Challenge. My son loves these types of books and I have a few hanging around on my book shelves that need to be read. Plus I thought I could find some good books that would appeal to my son as well and then we could have something to talk about it. I am joining at the intermediate level, which means I pledge to read 3-10 graphic novels by the end of the year. I will review them as I go.

The second one I want to try is The Young Adult Book Challenge. My goal is to read somewhere between 12 and 25 Young Adult novels this year. I am super excited about this because I love YA books and I love reading what my students are reading. It gives me a reason to connect with students about book choices. Plus these books are falling off my shelves begging to be read.

I challenge you to try a book challenge!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Anthropology of an American Girl

Anthropology of an American Girl by Hilary Thayer Hamann

Random House Publishers recently sent me the Advance Reading copy of the book ANTHROPOLOGY OF AN AMERICAN GIRL by Hilary Thayer Hamann. I really wanted to tell you about this book, even though I haven’t read it yet, because they book buzz surrounding this book is highly charged with positive accolades.

The author originally self published her book and it became an underground favorite and its popularity spread among readers. Publisher’s weekly states that if publishers could figure out a way to turn crack into a book, it’d read a lot like this. Book world enthusiasts are comparing this book to J.D. Salinger’s work as well as classics like Jane Eyre. When I looked up the book on Amazon it includes 22 reviews from readers and 21 give the book five stars with only one person giving it four stars.

So what’s this book about? According to the back cover it is a coming of age story about a young woman on the brink of adulthood. The novel begins when the main character Eveline is in high school in the 1970’s and follows her through her early adulthood in the 1980s. This ambitious work explores the sexual and intellectual awakening of a young American woman struggling to remain true to herself as she encounters love, passion and death amid the challenges and heartbreaks of growing up. My guess is the back cover commentary won’t even do the book justice.

The book is set to be released to the public on May 25th, 2010. You can preorder a copy at Amazon if you are interested. The publisher intends for this first edition hardbound copy to be a collector’s item. For more information on the book you can go to the website:


Friday, April 9, 2010

Moby Dick book cover t-shirt

Moby Dick book cover t-shirt

I just discovered this awesome website that sells T-Shirts based on out of print book covers. My BIG plan this summer is to conquer Ahab's whale of a tale called Moby Dick. I am not reading this by myself for that would be twice as crazy and so I am reading it with a friend as we provide moral support and encouragement to FINISH the book. I have just decided that if I finish this book I am buying myself this T-Shirt as a reward that I will wear proudly. I think the shirt and reading the difficult tome that is Moby Dick, will be an ego booster and give me major bragging rights. I can't wait to own this shirt! Oh and the cool thing is that for every shirt that is bought a book is donated to a community in need. Click on the link to view the shirt. They have many more book titles to choose from. I am totally ready for MOBY DICK. Bring it on Melville.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Elegance of the Hedgehog

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry

Profound Thought #1.
I believe this to be an intelligent story that takes place in a weathly apartment complex in Paris. It is the story of Renee the concierge and Paloma, a rich, suicidal teenager who lives in the building. They are kindred spirits even though they are divided by age, income and class.

Journal of the Movement of the World #1.
This tends to be a book you either love or hate. It appears there is no middle ground. I happened to love this story but one of my friend's hated it so much she couldn't finish it. It was equally similar at my book club meeting with four members attending, three adored the book, one loathed it.

Profound Thought #2.
What I enjoyed most in the story was the themes of Russian literature running through the novel. Renee's cat was named Leo after Tolstoy and Anna Kerenina was referred to frequently as well as other great novels like Gone with the Wind. Yet I feel as though I might have missed some hidden mystery because I haven't read Anna Kerenina yet. This book has inspired me to read more Tolstoy, especially his story on Art (the author referred often to Tolstoy's What is Art? book)and the famous one about Anna. I love books that lead me on new reading adventures.

Journal of the Movement of the World #2.
Wikipedia states "According to Tolstoy, art must create a specific emotional link between artist and audience, one that "infects" the viewer." In my opinion the author does this and that is why this book has become a worldwide bestseller and that a film based on the novel was released in France in July, 2009. It is titled The Hedgehog. I am not sure if the film has been released in the U.S. yet.

Profound Thought #3
The choice is yours. What will your thoughts be about this book?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Every Last One

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

I just got this Advance Reader's Copy in the mail from Random House Press. This book is set to be released in the bookstores on April 13th, 2010. I have read four of Anna Quindlen's other books, all of which grace my book shelf and I adore her as an author. I can tell that this book will be close to my heart just from reading the back cover.

The main character's name is Mary Beth who has three teenage children. One of her son's is named Max (like mine) and he is suffering from depression (another coincidence). Then something terrible happens. Ugh, I hate it when terrible things happen. The rest of the back cover states that this is a novel about facing every last one of the things we fear most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel, about living a life we never dreamed we'd have to live but must be brave enough to try. To be honest, this book will probably make my cry my eyes out.

Quindlen is an author who doesn't ever disappoint me. Her books always make me think and rethink and then think again. All of her powerful stories have changed my life in some way. Just writing this piece has made me reflect on them again. Here are the four I have read and would strongly recommend as well.
1. Black and Blue
2. How Reading changed my life
3. Being Perfect
4. A Short Guide to a Happy Life