Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

This is my new "Little Girls Book Club" book for my book club I do with my 10 year old niece. I don't know how I missed this book in the past. It's awesome! It's a little bit challenging because there's some discussion of things that were taking place in India when it was under British rule, and if you didn't know what an "ayah" was, for example, it might get confusing. There's also a lot of English dialect that makes it a little challenging, but it's SO worth it.

It's a lovely story about a young girl who becomes orphaned and has to go live with her uncle who is a very sad and depressed man. At her new home, she discovers there's a garden where no one is allowed to go, and she's determined to find it. She also discovers a little boy there, and he is NOT a particularly nice little man. She, however, is equally not nice, so they make a perfect pair. But together, with the help of a perfectly WONDERFUL young man of the moors, they form a friendship and grow into people who are not only nice, but really quite wonderful. And their friendship works many miracles, both for themselves and for others.

It's quite a delight, and I'd highly recommend it!

5 OBOB books this week!

Here are the 5 OBOB (Oregon Battle of the Books) books I read this week:

The Pinhoe Egg
Ark Angel (my favorite of the five)
The Stouthearted Seven
Atherton: House of Power

Can I just say that for some reason I wasn't that excited about this group when I read the titles? Now though, it's a whole different story. I really, really liked ALL these books. I'm excited to tell you all about them and get teams signed up for OBOB. the regional competition is Feb. 28th here a our very own school, and I'll be getting students signed up next month for school competition teams. We'll also have hte all 6th grade competition as usual. Ms. Darby's hoping to retain the trophy that's been in her room for 2 consecutive years now, but Mrs. Gatlin's determined to take it away! Look for many more details later.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Princess Mia - Meg Cabot

A totally typical Princess Diaries book, and of course I liked it a lot. You'd think I'd grow out of these, but I haven't. I think it's just that I know Mia so well now, it's like having an old friend come by for a visit. What is this number 7 or 8 in the series or something? And she's still the same old Mia. Maybe it's that somewhere inside I still hope that someone's going to tell me I'm a princess...I really ought to be one, you know. And every time I have a summer vacation I realize more that I was meant to live a life of luxury...but alas, I don't think it's to be if it hasn't happened by now. Good thing I have the next best job to being princess---school librarian :)

If you liked the rest of the series, this one's a sure thing. If you haven't ever read a Princess Diaries book and you, like me, wonder what it would be like to be a princess, check this series out. Although I'm warning you, even princesses have to pass Algebra!

Feed - MT Anderson

This audio book was one of the best audio presentations I've ever heard. I really want to look at the book's text and see how it's done, because the way they presented the audio was amazing. I'd HIGHLY recommend the audio of this novel.

This book is set in the future, at a time when basically everyone has some sort of computer chip implanted in our brains, and we receive information directly, kind of like having the Internet and TV commercials all directly routed into our brains. Most people never question it, but Violet's not like the others, and she wants people to think! Frighteningly, I think this story has some very real possibilities. Maybe like Orson Wells's 1984 which he wrote in 1949. A little too prescient.

Some of the material and language is more appropriate for high school than middle school, so I won't be getting this book in our library, but I'd recommend it to mature readers and high schoolers. There's a lot of cool stuff and some pretty creepy stuff, but any way you look at it, it's fascinating contemplating the future.

Wait for Me - An Na

I listened to an audio version of this book (not the best reader ever, I thought), and it took me quite a while to really get hooked. The action was pretty slow during the first part of the story. As it went on, however, the story become very compelling, and many students will determine this book a winner.

This is an immigrant (Korean) family drama where, typically, the teenagers in the family clash with the parents who have perhaps more traditional values than their children. For Mina, she has no voice of her own, even to tell her mother about important things. There is a lot of hurt in this family, often suppressed for many years, and there are many deep secrets tearing this family apart. The question is whether they will be able to find a way to work through their problems or whether things will explode to an irreparable point.

Although the immigrant issues will ring true for some, the issues of parents and children striving to find a way to co-exist peacefully will resonate with nearly all teens.

A great story by Printz Honor winner, An Na.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Heart, You Bully ,You Punk - Cohen

This was my book club pick for August, and it was definitely a heart breaker at the end. Every single person in the book group was like, "WHAT?????" It was an interesting study of three people: teenager Ann James, her math teacher/tutor, Esker, and her father. The writing in this novel is quite stunning, and upon a second reading I found more sympathy for the most troubling of the three characters, but this is one of those books where I'm not really sure if I liked it or not because there was so much I questioned about so many of the characters' behaviors. An interesting read for grown ups with lots to discuss.

The Constant Princess - Philippa Gregory

THIS was a fantabulous book about the life of Katherine of Aragon. It is quite an amazing and interesting story. I can't even imagine some of the things she lived through. And even though I knew what was coming at the end, the getting there was a wonderful journey. Great story!!

Saturday - Ian McEwan

I have to say, this novel draaaaged for the first 3/4 of it, but I was determined to finish it since I'd borrowed it from a friend nearly a year ago and it had merely languished on my pile. By the time I got to the last 1/4, though, I couldn't stop. It's kind of an interesting work, since it takes place all in one day in the life of a neurosurgeon in London, and not many books are like that. The characterization, although I expected it to be really strong based on the type of story, was not what I'd hoped for. Or maybe it was just that I never REALLY cared about the characters as much as I wanted to. It was an OK book, but not one of my faves.

Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky

This was an amazing book - one of the best adult books I've read all year! It was written by a young Russian Jewish woman in France during WWII about the occupation of the Germans in France. It was heartbreaking in its honesty and clarity. It was a different perspective than one usually sees in Holocaust literature, which I really liked.

Because the author of this book was sent to Auschwitz, this book was actually only 2/5 finished, and it is difficult to imagine the power the completed work might have had after reading this.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

The New Yorkers - Cathleen Schine

This was a super fun audio book. It's another of my summer grown-up books. I'm not sure where I got the idea to read it. The friend I thought recommended it to me, said she's never heard of it. Whoever recommended it, good choice. Nice, light summer story. Has a sense of short stories about it at first, but then they weave together. Not a Pulitzer Prize winner, but I liked it.

6 Summer Reads

On vacation and in between vacations (well, I guess the whole summer's really vacation, but I mean vacation, vacation, like actually leaving home vacation) I got busy and did a bunch of reading. Only one of the books on this list is a YA book That book is the first on my list: Deadline (audio) by Chris Crutcher. Chris Crutcher is one of my favorite YA authors. He writes about tough experiences, and bases a lot of his writing on the work he does as a therapist for adolescents. His work, including this one, is always thoughtful and though provoking. Many of his books have been challenged because people thought they dealt with topics too mature for kids. I think this one is a little advanced for middle school both topically i na few spots and philosophically, but it is great writing and would be perfect for high schoolers.

Deadline focuses on Ben Wolf who discovers, just at the beginning of his senior year, that he has terminal cancer. his parents don't know, and since he's 18, he can decide whether to tell them or not. He decides not to. He's trying to save his family from pain. As a grown up I can see how that's never going to work, but I admire his idea of protecting the people he loves. The book is a roller coaster of emotion and has really funny parts, and really sad parts, as you can imagine. I, of course, was bawling near hte end, and if you're home reading where no one can see you, it's one thing, but if oyu're sitting in your car listening to a story while everyone in the parking lot can see you crying your eyes out, you get some looks, let me tell you!

I'll just give you a quick blurb of the adult books:

**Whistling in the Dark - Kagen I read this for my reading group. It was OK, but not great. It just never really grabbed me.
**Seven Wonders - John C. Ryan This was a fabulous quick read of seven inventions we have that if more people started using them could probably save our planet! Some of the things are (1) the laundry line (instead of the dryer), (2) the library (instead of buying new books all the time - that's a lot of paper!), (3) the bicycle (instead of cars)
**The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Bauby Incredible story (now a movie) of a very successful man in his early 40s who suffers a massive stroke and is imprisoned inside a non-functional body with a completely sharp mind. He dictated this story through eye blinks! Amazing and utterly distressing.
**Water for Elephants - Gruen I loved this story about life in a circus in the post-Depression era. It was fascinating. Great photos to accompany the text.
**Thunderstruck (audio) - Erik Larson We'd already listened to another of this author's novels (Devil in the White City) which we enjoyed, so we thought we'd give this one a try. Interestingly, he followed nearly the same format. Two separate stories that after a LOOOONG time, come together. This one, too, had a mystery as one storyline, and the other storyline was that of Marconi, the inventor of wireless communication. Imagine if he could see what "wireless" means now! A little too much of the Marconi for me, but it was enjoyable, nevertheless. The reader could have been better. His voice as a little too soothing, and I kept falling asleep. Luckily, I wasn't driving!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Airhead - Meg Cabot

Well, this was an OK Meg Cabot, but I didn't think it was her best. The reviewers really liked it, though. I liked it, too; I just didn't LOVE it.

It's a bit of a Twist on Freaky Friday and maybe sort of Frankenstein where the main character ends up a science experiment as a brain/body transplant patient. Was it coincidence or fate that super smart but kind of nerdy Emerson Watts and supermodel Nikki Howard were both at the opening of a new Stark Megastore when the ginormous TV screen crashed down? Guess whose brain got saved and guess whose body...

So now Em has to figure out how to convince people that she's really NOT Nikki, even if she looks like her, and she has to figure out WHY she has this other person's body, too. It's got a lot of funny parts when people expect her to be someone she's not, and it's got some good thought-provoking parts as well.

If you're a Meg Cabot fan, a Freaky Friday fan, an A-list girl, or one who's the complete opposite of this, you'd probably enjoy this novel. And if you enjoy this, be sure to watch for the sequel.