Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban June 23, 2013

Filed under: ALA,authors,book reviews,books,YA,Young Adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:53 am
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Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve read through a book non-stop and then felt compelled to write immediately about it. The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban is the book that has done that for me. I LOVE this book. I love it so much, that I want to start reading it again tpfrom the beginning right now. I love it enough that I have already ordered the book that the author references in the “A Conversation with Elizabeth Laban” section at the end of the novel. I love it enough that I think high school English teachers should strongly consider making it required reading along with their student of Shakespeare. It would help their students understand tragedy at a level that classics can not bring to life for them.

I love it as a reader and I love it as a writer.

I wish I could have written it.

It has a map of the setting. I love when there is a map in a book, yet I didn’t even really look at the map. I just love that it is there.

It’s set in a school. I love books set in schools, especially for teens, since everything in their lives revolves around their friends and social contacts.

I love that one of the main character’s, Tim’s, parents are referenced so slightly, almost as if they were an annoyance to him. Yet you can tell he loves them, but just can’t be bothered by them. So dead-on with young people of that age.

I love the details about the locally-grown food throughout the book. Subtle references to the farms and locations the food came from-unnecessary details to the plot of the book, yet so detailed, it allows the reader to be there with the students of Irving School.

I love that I had to just keep reading it from the first page until the last. That it made me stay up late and wake up early, just so I could finish it.

I love the characters. I love that the tension you experience in the first couple chapters is still there, driving the characters on, driving the reading on, through the last page. Never is there a dull point, where you find yourself skimming, to get back to the main plot. I love that it’s set in a boarding school. I have a fascination with boarding schools.

It’s just that good.

Is the author going to be at ALA? I need to meet her and tell her how amazing her book is.

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Kindred Souls by Patricia MacLachlan April 30, 2012

Filed under: book reviews,books,KidLit,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:22 pm
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Once again, turned off by the Disney-esque cover, I almost passed this one over the last time I was at Cover to Cover. Forutnately Franki was there to say, “It’s Patricia Maclachlan!”

I loved this story but it took me a long time to get through it. Not because it was a hard or long read, but I just kept thinking that there was no way there way going to be a happy ending, and I just kept not being in the mood to read anything that might make me cry.

Hence, this slight 120 page book took me over four months to finish. Patricia MacLachland knocked it out of the park again with this one. I loved the relationship between boy and grandfather, as well as grandfather and dog. What a great story.

 

Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle with Anorexia by Harriet Brown April 27, 2012

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:54 pm
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Everyone who has a daughter or is friends or family members with someone who has a daughter should read this book. Brave Girl Eating has been on my shelf since 2010, but as I packed up books for the move, it grabbed my attention. I read the whole book late into the night. I considered myself pretty educated on eating disorders but this memoir gave me a whole new insight into one family’s struggle. How the simple pleasure of having a meal together as a family can be forever altered into the worst part of your day. The author (mother) is a research reporter and does an excellent job of incorporating her research about this disorder into the book.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs March 20, 2012

I’d looked at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children many, many times, always ending up putting it back on the shelf at the bookstore or library. The photos honestly creeped me out a little. (If you are familiar with The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, there’s a picture in the book that also can creep me out-girl with knife and glowing pumpkin). I didn’t try reading any of it. I just got hung up on the photos and had decided it was probably a ghost story. And scary–which I don’t do very well.

It wasn’t until I found it on sale for the Kindle sometime in the past couple weeks that I decided to download it, thinking it would be something to read when I was in Africa. (Not having enough to read while in Senegal is one of my nagging worries, but probably a silly worry). Once I read the first page though, I was hooked!

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.”

I love looking at first lines of books and trying to determine what is it that creates the magic that an author can just hook you with a line.

 At first, Jacob and his relationship with his grandfather is what got me. Then I just had to know what was going to happen. Possible mental illness. Time travel. Father/son relationships. Good vs. Evil. I just kept wondering and reading.

I would describe the book as a fantasy/mystery and can’t really imagine anyone who would not enjoy this story. It would be a great book to curl up in the evenings and read with my nine and twelve-year-old (if they could be that close to each other and not start wrestling or sniping at each other). It does have the creepy factor if you are looking for a that in a read-aloud. Overall, it’s just a great story. It got me thinking about what old photos I might find around from my grandparents and what I might think when looking at them. I’m sure there are no floating girls, but it would be interesting nonetheless.

See what you think!

 

Wonder by R.J. Palacio March 17, 2012

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:35 am
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Wonder by R. J. Palacio is a must-read. It is an amazing book that belongs in the homes and classrooms of as many children as possible.

The strength of the characters and the important message about kindness will have children hanging on every word as a teacher or parent reads it aloud.

Auggie (short for August) Pullman is a regular ten year old boy. He loves his dog, his X-box and Star Wars. You would think he is very typical. That is until you see his face. Auggie was born with severe facial abnormalities that are shocking to most people. Until this year, Auggie has always been home-schooled. He is finally well enough to attend public school and it’s with excitement and trepidation that Auggie goes to see his school for the first time.

Wonder is the story of how Auggie navigates his life in school for the first time. It’s also his sister’s story, as well as other people’s stories who are lucky enough to get to know Auggie.

Don’t wait for it to come out in paperback. Go buy it today and start sharing it with students and children. I love the cover and the illustration at the beginning of each person’s part of the story.

Wonder was named Amazon Best Books of the Month for Kids February 2012, as well as receiving starred reviews from: School Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly.

 

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu January 13, 2012

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

September 2011, 320 pages

Walden Pond Press

Library Copy

Anne Ursu has written an amazing book. I love the intersection of realistic fiction with a version of  The Snow Queen. The two friends Hazel and Jack each are suffering from their own family problems. Hazel doesn’t “fit” with her school and her father has recently left, doesn’t call, and is getting remarried. Jack gets teased by the boys in his class for being friends with a girl and has a mother suffering from a serious depression.

So that I can get on to other reading, instead of writing my own review, I’m going to give you a couple links to other blog reviews:

NPR December 2011 Kids’ Book Club Pick  (This is the first I’m learning of Backseat Book Club. Love it!)

Jen Robinson’s review 

Book Smugglers interview  with author in their Inspirations and Influences category.

The author’s use of language really grabbed me. I aspire to write as well as she. Here are my favorite lines:

“Everyone in the fifth grade had messenger bags, everyone but Hazel, who had not been cc’ed on that particular school-wide e-mail.” (p. 11)

“She spoke in bright, shiny words, as if that might distract Hazel from thoughts of Jack.” (p.98)

“Her heart plummeted, and her feathers fell away.” (p. 108)

“…their voices were rough and loud and had the sharp edges of crushed-up beer cans.” (p. 138)

“They were plastic flowers of words–but they looked nice on the surface.” (p. 142)

“She had stepped into the woods in the park and landed in an entirely different place. She knew this might happen. She’d been to Narnia, Wonderland, Hogwarts, Dictionopolis. She had tessered, fallen through the rabbit hole, crossed the ice bridge into the unknown world beyond. Hazel knew this world. And it should have made this easier. But it did not. (p. 160)

“There were so many Jacks she had known, and he had known so many Hazels. And maybe she wasn’t going to be able to know all the Jacks that there would be. But all the Hazels that ever would be would have Jack in them, somewhere.” (p. 247)

“The truth was he had been getting more and more scratchy and thick lately. Because sometimes when you are scratchy and thick you don’t want to be sitting in a shack with someone pretending it’s a palace, especially someone who can tell you are scratchy and thick, especially someone who tries to remind you who you really are.” (p. 248)

Brilliant don’t you think? 

I had heard about this book for a long time before it was released. I probably would have read it sooner if it wasn’t for the one thing that bothers me about it. I don’t think it’s very nice to point out a negative about such a great book, and of no fault of the author’s, but it REALLY bothers me that the girl on the cover looks so much like a Disney cartoon. In the shower this morning, I decided she looks like a cross between Lilo from Lilo and Stitch and Pocohantas. I don’t want a Newbery-worthy book to have a cartoon-like character on the cover. I know that’s probabaly dumb, but really???

That aside, teachers and parents definitely should introduce this book to your middle grade readers! 

 

Couldn’t Put it Down! January 6, 2012

It was unfortunate that both my children were sick today. It was not unfortunate for my reading life though. I finished Jefferson’s Sons, which despite my initial hesitation, completely grabbed me today. I’ve never been to Monticello and have added to the places I would love to go some time. The author did an amazing job with her research with this historical fiction. When part two (of three) of the book started and it became clear to me that each section was going to be narrated by a different character, I was a little annoyed. I can’t really put my finger on why, but I think it’s because the change from Beverly to Maddy was more abrupt than I would have cared for. The change from character two to three occurred without me hardly noticing.

I can see why it is on potential Newbery lists. A story about an American icon, slavery, family and a part of history not known to many all make a great story.

I then picked up The Apothecary, which I read in two long sittings today! LOVE THAT BOOK! The characters are so well developed and felt like real people you’d like to know. A great blend of historical fiction/adventure/fantasy that I can’t really compare to anything else. The preface had me wanting to know about Benjamin. The first chapter had me ready to read a whole book set during the 1950’s when Hollywood movie writers were suspect and often accused of Communism. I then could have read a whole book about an American girl transplanted to a British prep school. If this makes the book sound choppy, it is not at all! It moves seamlessly, weaving in murder, magic, mean girls, espionage, all in a way that I could not put down! I’m having to reevaluate my list after this one.

 

Tearing through Crossed by Ally Condie December 28, 2011

Filed under: authors,book reviews,books,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 2:18 pm
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Even though it did take me quite a while to get into the book, I really liked Matched, the first in the trilogy. I first tried to read it when it came out last year, but petered out during the first six chapters. My daughter then took the book to read and it disappeared into her scary pre-teen bedroom, not to emerge for many months. I then got the book on audio this fall, thinking that might get me past whatever was holding me up.

The audiobook expired before I was done with the book, so I picked up the hardback again.

Read a chapter.

Put it on my to-read stack,

and left it there until last week.

It’s not that it wasn’t good, it certainly got me thinking about a lot of things…the biggest thing being:

“What if no one learned to ‘write’ anymore (print or cursive) because everything was on a keyboard? How easy would it be for your writing to then be monitored? Hmmm….”

Well, I can’t put Crossed down and have almost finished it in the last 24 hours. I love how the chapters alternate between Ky and Cassia. I, of course, love any teacher turned author, such as Ally Condie.

 

#BookaDay #3 & #4 Choker, Delirium December 30, 2010

Filed under: #bookaday,book reviews,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:17 pm
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#3

Choker by Elizabeth Emma Woods

e-galley Simon & Schuster

release date January 4, 2011

I wasn’t too sure about reading an e-galley or any e-book on my laptop, but I thought I’d give it a try. A couple pages into Choker, and I was hooked. My puppies who are used to being able to sit in my lap while I read, were not happy that my lap was full of my computer. I would describe Choker a thriller/horror YA novel that I think will be a hit with readers who enjoy books such as Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser (see review), Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman, or the Gone novels (see review). Cara’s childhood friend Zoe shows up just when she needs her most. The other girls are cruel and having great fun humiliating Cara with her newest nickname “Choker” based on an ill-fated carrot episode in the lunchroom. Their friendship was obviously flawed and gives off many warning signs. Like watching an accident, I read on, even though I was inwardly wincing every time Cara’s parents didn’t realize Zoe had moved in. Cara’s crush on popular boy Ethan, wouldn’t amount to anything in many YA novels, yet Choker has Ethan and Cara moving closer together even as the end comes rushing up in a manner I never saw coming. Mark your calendar, buy Choker next week.

#4 Delirium by Lauren Oliver (actual cover below left)

release date February 1, 2011

ARC cover- HarperCollins

I LOVED Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver’s first novel (review here). It was one of those books that I just could not stop reading or thinking about. I’ve given it as gifts several times to other YA lovers. My good friend Travis brought home an ARC of Delirium from NCTE for me and I savored having it on the bookshelf until winter break started. Set in the future, love is considered a disease. All citizens have a procedure upon turning eighteen to prevent them from “catching” the disease and experiencing the terrible side effects.  Lena makes the unfortunate mistake of falling in love with Alex. Terrified of being caught, Lena and Alex have to hide their feelings from everyone.

Stated to be the first in a trilogy, I look forward to everyone of the books! Lauren Oliver is on my watch list for any future books.

 

#BookaDay #2 Ruby Lu Star of the Show December 29, 2010

Filed under: #bookaday — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:18 am
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I LOVE Lenore Look! The Alvin Ho books are among some of all time favorites to recommend to middle grade readers the past couple years. I haven’t known anyone who has been able to not enjoy Alvin Ho, his troubles, and fears.

I am always on the look-out for new middle grade fiction series and I would classify Ruby Lu in that category. First there was Ruby Lu, Brave and True, followed by Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything (starred review, School Library Journal). Ruby Lu’s father has lost his job, her extended family from China is living with them, and Rudy desperately wants to be able to help.

Due out February 8, 2011, add this to your winter reading list!

 

 
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