Ok so I had to get my students to help me out on this one. I don’t usually read graphic novels, other than the few that I was assigned in my young adult literacy classes in college. So choosing one that I would enjoy was going to take some research. Luckily, my students love graphic novels. When I explained the challenge to them I had several offer up suggestions right away. Smile was one of the ones that multiple students were recommending to me over and over again. Needless to say, my students were really happy to hear that I ended up really liking it. It’s a memoir written about the author’s experience as a teenager. She ends up hurting herself and as a result knocking out her two front teeth. What follows is her experience with braces and just growing up in general for the next four years. Many of us will recognize the same kind of issues: acne, crushes, puberty, losing and gaining friends, and so on. It didn’t take me long to finish but I found that it was a nice change of pace. I thought the art was really well done, especially considering the context and intended age level of the book. Some of us old schoolers will appreciate Raina’s experiences even more since the story takes place in the late 80s and early 90s. There’s even a part where she goes to the movies to see The Little Mermaid. None of the kids have cell phones, notes are passed in class, and Walkman’s are actually a thing. It was fantastic! Overall I gave the book a 3.5 and have since added it to my classroom library. I promised my students that I would pick up her other book, Sisters, soon.
I’ve had Orphan Train sitting on my shelf for awhile now. I had been itching to read it basically ever since I got it, but school, work, and life kept getting in the way. My friend happened to have the audiobook and let me borrow it so I could listen to it on my way to work. Checking my 2016 reading challenge list, I found that I could easily use this book for my New York Time’s Bestseller. It was number one on the New York Times back when it came out in 2012. This probably would have been a good enough reason to pick this book up even if I wasn’t already so interested in the story. And let me tell you, this book delivered. The author does a great job weaving back and forth between the past and present. I will say that the storyline that takes place in the past was a lot more interesting than the modern day plot line, but that might just be my opinion. It really is a heartbreaking tale- think a dark Anne of Green Gables tale. Nothing goes right for our main character as she is shuffled from one tragedy to another. Even though I liked the past sections better, I will say that I really enjoyed Molly in the present day. The fact that she gets in trouble for trying to steal a copy of Jane Eyre from the library just because she wanted to own her own copy attached me to her right away. I highly suggest The Orphan Train to anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction. Even if you don’t, I still recommend you give it a try. The story is a really well told one. Overall I gave it a 4.5 star rating and recommended it to all of my friends and family who haven’t read it yet.Read More »
Ok this one was a lot of fun! As a lover of Historical Fiction and Classics I could not have gone wrong with this challenge. After some debate, I finally decided on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. I was absolutely fascinated with the Civil War growing up and I’ve always been kind of ashamed that I had never read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, especially when it quote on quote “started the Civil War.” I’m so glad that I finally picked it up. This book is not only a wonderful story, but a remarkable representation of anti-slavery feelings in the 1850s. Harriet Beecher Stowe does not hold back. She lashes into everyone, South and North alike for being responsible for slavery. She takes down the slave owners in the same breath that she criticizes the do-gooder abolitionists of the North who would send all African Americans back to Africa rather than try to integrate them into the America society. Stowe gave the slaves a voice that very few were able or willing to do in these times. Stowe does bring a lot of Religion and the gentleness and moral superiority of women into the mix a lot so I could see how some people might be turned off by the book. But if you think about as a first class account of the what was important in society during that time, and how these piece allows one repressed member of society (a woman) give power and voice to other repressed members (African Americans) you can see that it really is a powerful piece of work! I can’t believe that throughout all my schooling to become an English teacher, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was never even discussed in any of my classes. God knows I read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for about three different class (it wasn’t that bad since I love that book). I’m sure one of them could have found room for Uncle Tom’s Cabin on the syllabus.
Ok so this challenge is technically left over from last year’s reading challenge. I never got around to completing it last year so I thought I would add it onto this year’s challenge. I had the Doors Trilogy by Emily Rodda on my kindle and I was just in one of those moods for a quick fantasy read. Growing up, I read Rodda’s other series, the Deltora Quests and the Dragons of Deltora. I loved them! They were quick easy reads, but the world that Rodda created captured my attention and I found myself drowning in those books until I had read
them all (14 books total). I still have found memories of those books and often had nostalgic memories of reading on snowy nights with Christmas music playing in the background whenever I think of them. I was more than excited to return to her writing for another escape, even though I am now an adult. Perhaps that reason alone is why I didn’t enjoy this particular series too much. I found the start of the books to be too slow moving and the end too fast. I had a lot of different expectations that were never met and I was disappointed in the overall conclusion of the books. The characters had a lot of room for improvement and the action was a mix between exciting and sludgy. I mean I can’t say that I hated the books. I still imagine someone, especially a child, picking the Door Trilogy books up and enjoying them. They just were not as good as her previous work. I imagine that if I had read these books first, I would never have picked up the Deltora series. I might recommend these particular books for any parents out there who wants a good fantasy pick to read to their child. They are fast moving and can easily hold a readers attention. You’ll move through the books quickly and I think they could be a nice gateway into more serious fantasy series like the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, Eragon, or His Dark Materials later in life.
For the next challenge on my list I decided to tackle a book of poetry with Maya Angelou’s book of poems. Previously, I had read a few of Maya Angelou’s poems separately, but never a compiled work of her poetry. I was exploring a local used bookstore when I came across a copy of one of her books. It’s been awhile since I read poetry, since I’m usually just a novel reader, but once again I was glad that I picked this piece up. For anyone who hasn’t been introduced to Angelou’s marvelous writing you are really missing out. A lot of her material is raw and serious. You can sometimes feel your heart breaking as you read her beautiful lines. I pages with a colorful sticky notes whenever I came across a line or phrase that I loved. By the time I finished, sticky notes were stuck every which way. I wish every person would take the time to really read at least one of her poems; I think we could all learn a little something from Ms. Angelou.
I decided to get one of the worst sounding challenges done and out of the way, thus I started with the self-improvement book challenge. In general, I hate self-help books. I happened to have The New Rules of Lifting by Lou Schuler because my boyfriend got it for me for Christmas in attempt to get me to go to the gym and lift with him. I love exercise even less than self-improvement books, but I love my boyfriend and I know he’s right that it’s time that I start working out (I promise he said this in an extremely loving way) so I decided to give this book a try. Luckily, this book was not that bad. It was actually pretty interesting. I learned a lot about health in general and what it means to be a woman in the weight room, where and I know I am not alone in thinking that generally only guys go. The author is very witty and doesn’t make the material dry. The book covers why and how to lift, gives a 6 month workout plan that’s easy to follow for beginners and experienced lifters, and also includes some yummy recipes to try as well as the ideal foods to eat as you work out. All in all I was very happy that I took the time to read this book, and I certainly feel a bit more confident when I go to the gym.
I am so excited to get started on my 2016 Reading Challenge! In order to make the reading challenge more interesting I have added more categories and changed some included on the list below (I didn’t see any reason to read a book by a celebrity and a comedian when comedians are generally celebrities anyway). All in all I hope to read 65 books as part of my reading challenge this year.