Challenge #15 A Banned Book

f39c38ec882602eff2abee7c86b9130e.jpgI am sorry to say that I have only now just read The Diary of Anne Frank. When I was in middle school we read the play version and even went to go see the production, but now I feel like they did us a great disservice by not having us read the whole book. Anne was such a remarkable person.

There were many times that felt the same as Anne, especially when I though of my younger adolescent self. As a girl just starting to go through puberty, her situation was made even worse by the constraints of her living situations. Any child going through puberty, or any adult who remembers what it was like going through puberty would be able to easily relate to Anne. Especially since she holds nothing back. This diary was meant to be a place where she could write her most private thoughts in order to have an escape. She was “Kitty’s” only true audience until it’s world wide publication.

I was also surprised on Anne’s reflectiveness of the world around her. She was only 13-14 for the majority of the writing at yet she had a higher understanding of the issues at the time and asked great philosophical questions as a result. I loved Anne’s optimism and her willingness to always look to the future. Which is not to say that she never was in misery or doubt. She even mentioned a few times how it might be better if they were already caught and dead so that they would not have to wait so long for the unknown. But can anyone blame her? I think I would have been in much more despair had I been in her place.

I just hope that if I ever get to teach Anne’s diary to students, I can do her justice.

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10 Books I Would Re-read if I had the Time YA edition

When I made my previous post about books that I would like to re-read if I had the time, I left out all of my favorite YA books. That’s a problem because while the majority of my shelves are no longer filled up with YA novels, I still do read them and love them. But as I went back to my previous list, there wasn’t enough space for all the books I wanted to include. To remedy this problem I decided to make a second list made up of just YA novels completely to itself. I suggest you go read these right away.

These are in no particular order

  • Percy Jackson Series  

When I started these books I was indeed still considered a young adult, but not quite the age range specified for these particular novels (I was in either 11th or 12th grade). Despite some people believing I was too old for these stories, I knew that if I had indeed been my 7th or 8th grade self at the time you would never have been able to pry these books from my hands. They were everything I had been looking for while growing up: myths, adventure, comedy, cutesy romance! I don’t care how old I get the Percy Jackson series will forever hold a place in my heart!

  • The Book Thief

I never thought I would so attached to a book that was narrated by Death, especially when that book takes place during WWII. If this book does not become a classic then there is no justice in the world. I still remember reaching the end of the book, and my dad walking into my room to see tears running down my face and sobs shaking my body. He immediately jumped into panic mode and asked what was wrong and I held up my copy of the book. When he saw that I was just being my crazy book-loving self he rolled his eyes and walked out the door. Who knows if I’ll be better off the next time I pick up this masterpiece.

  • Wildwood Dancing 

One of my favorite genres to read is fractured fairy tales (aka retellings of classic fairy tales, generally with a twist). Wildwood Dancing is by far the best retelling I have EVER read. It is actually a combination of several fairy tales, but mainly focusing on “The Twelve Dancing Princess” and “The Frog Prince.” The imagery conjured up by the poetic language and mysterious turns of events had me turning through the pages until the very end. I can remember the dreamy haze that I entered in while reading. It was so sad to wake up at the end.

  • The Fault in Our Stars

This one shocked me. I usually don’t enjoy realistic fiction and yet when I reached the end of this beautiful book I found myself so completely attached to the story and the characters that I wondered if I would ever be truly happy again. I was a bit older when I read this one though, probably around 21, so maybe I had just learned to appreciate different types of genres. For a story that was about learning to let go, I was unwilling to do just that.

  • The Airborne Trilogy

I read these books just a couple years ago, but man did I wish that they had come into my life so much sooner! Like Percy Jackson, these books were everything I was looking for in novels when I was growing up (I really liked good adventure stories). While not strictly steampunk per say, these stories do take place around the end of the century in an alternate reality where instead of steamships and trains, the main mode of transportation was airships.

  • His Dark Materials

Phillip Pullman is a freaking genius! If you have not read these books make sure you do so very soon! I even recommend listening to the audiobook versions. They are a full-cast audio and some of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to. I found them to be perfect winter reads when I was cuddled up under big blankets and with snow swirling outside my window.

  • L.O.S.T Trilogy

I would be surprised if anyone had heard of these books. I discovered them when I was about 15 years-old. That summer my life was dedicated to these stories. If you haven’t caught on yet, I loved (and still do) fantasy fiction. I was also your typical 15 year-old girl who loved endearing romance stories. These books were a perfect balance of just that. I still remember the summer that I read these books to be one of the best summer readings ever! Even when I had long since finished the books I often returned to favorite passages (the closest I have ever come to re-reading) and lived with my head in the clouds.

  • The Thief Lord

We read this book in 6th grade Reading Class and I still remember the hold it held over me and my classmates. The fact that it was read in school, and the fact that I don’t remember any tests or quizzes given on it (although I’m sure there were plenty), but only the excitement of reading together as a class, shows how much this book stuck out to me. I know for a fact that I will revisit this book someday-either on my own, to my own future children, or to my students. The Thief Lord will be read once again in my life.

  • Hear the Wind Blow

Let me just start off by saying that Mary Hahn Downing’s books were my life between the ages of 9-12. I loved all of her books and the library had to keep ordering in more for me. That being said Hear the Wind Blow was a very special one for me. All of her other books were ghost stories (that’s literally all I read at that stage in my life), but this one was purely historical fiction. I still remember my librarian coming to me and telling me that this was a different from all her other stuff that I had read, but she thought I would like it all the same. When she told me that it was historical fiction I remember being very hesitant, but I trusted her and gave it a shot anyway. I am so glad that I did! This is the book that got me interested in historical fiction and history in general, specifically the Civil War. From that time forward, I was on the constant prowl for more historical fiction that would lead me into another time and place.

  • The House Next Door

Speaking of those ghosts I was reading during that time, this one happened to be one of my favorites. This was the first book I remember reading that had such a beautiful love story that I actually wept. Up until that point I had never cried at a book before. The injustice of it all and the raw ache that I felt inside gave my pre-teen heart something to hope for, to dream about. I’m not making the claim that this book was any great masterpiece. Rather it happened to come into my life at the exactly the right time, and touch me in exactly the right way that I knew I would never ever forget it. I still even remember the smell of the pages…

So there you have it, my list of books that I would like very much to revisit someday. I could probably add a few more onto the list but these ones made the biggest impact in my life. Thanks to these books, my childhood was full of imagination and fun. Thank you to all the authors who wrote these books and allowed to me to become the dreamer that I am today.

Link to Original Blog:

In which I share 10 books I read over and over (and over)

Challenge #14 A Book that has a Color in the Title

Apparently this challenge was not a difficult one for me to accomplish. I did’t realize until I completed this challenge that I had actually already two books with a color in the title..5436850298c75ac4358bfe215cd482d7.jpg.oops. Oh well, I used those two for other challenges anyway (challenges 12 & 13).  To go along with the YA streak that I was on, I decided to pick up The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed his Percy Jackson Series. They are literally probably my favorite books. So I was expecting quite a bit from the his Egyptian series as well. I will admit that my standards were lowered by the fact that I hadn’t heard as much praise from the reading community about these books that I had about all his other books. The result was a mix between “Ok, this is a good story” and “Hmm, this seems a bit lack luster compared to the Greek Series.” I was particularly disappointed with the portrayal of the gods in The Red Pyramid compared to his other series. Growing up I loved both Greek and Egyptian mythology and when I read the Percy Jackson series I thought “Yes! This is exactly how I would imagine the Greek gods would be in a modern retelling with an audience focused on kids and young adults.” I didn’t get that feeling with the Egyptian gods however. They didn’t possess that immortal like quality that Riordan gives to the Greeks. Also, the plot was a little more confusing based on his descriptions. Other than that it wasn’t bad! Carter’s parts annoyed me a little. He definitely seemed like a stronger character when Sadie was telling the story. Sometimes he just seemed too forced. Overall I gave The Red Pyramid four stars. It’s still a great book for anyone to read and I’m looking forward to reading The Throne of Fire and The Serpent’s Shadow here soon.

Challenge #13 A book about a culture you are unfamiliar with

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Despite all the madness that has been happening in the Middle East and Africa in my lifetime, I don’t pretend to know much about the culture of those who come from these chaotic areas. Thus when I caught sight of The Red Pencil in Barnes & Nobles I was instantly drawn to the premise. This story is about Amira who is a twelve year old girl living in Darfur. Her greatest wish to to learn to read and write, however she lives in a society that believes that women should only dream about becoming wives and mothers. Events take a heart wrenching turn when Amira’s village is attacked by the Janjaweed and they are forced to leave everything behind. It is Amira’s dream that gives her the strength to move beyond the tragedy and hope for a better tomorrow.

This book is written beautifully in prose form and includes unique illustrations. I really enjoyed reading this book and it went by quick. The author’s main goal is to open the eyes of the suffering of those who have experienced war and as a result are left to live in refugee camps with meager supplies. Her tale is one of humanity and gives a face and a name to the hundreds of men, women, and children we see on the news. I am really excited to add this book to my classroom library with the hope that it will help my students open their eyes to the world around them.

Challenge #12 A YA Bestseller

Here’s another challenge that my students ended up picking out for me. The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard was the number one choice that my after school book club picked out. When I went to pick up the copies for my kids, I noticed that this book was high up there in the YA world. It was singled out in almost every book store I went to as a number one pick for teens, and articles online are already starting to call it the next Hunger Games. After reading it, I wasn’t b4bd9bf0bdefccc0873b1e4e900bffb32.jpglown away by it like I was when I read the Hunger Games, but I will admit that it was really good.

It is very reminiscent of Collins’ books (the setting takes place in the future, the weaker members of society are being oppressed by the more powerful members, a strong heroine  is chosen by fate to represent the change for her oppressed people), but it definitely has its own thing going on. Where as HG was purely science fiction with a huge emphasis on the dystopian genre, The Red Queen has a significant fantasy element mixed in with the futuristic dystopian feel. So much so that sometimes you forget that it’s supposed to be futuristic because of all the fantasy lingo that’s going on. You might not think that would work, but strangely it does!

I will admit that at first Mare, our main character, rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like she was written a little too angry, kind of like I was being force fed her hatred. Maybe it’s because I was comparing her to Katniss who I think was a better character overall, but either way I ended up liking her character along the way. She starts off so tough that you think that she is going to one of those girls won’t ever admit that they were wrong purely out of pride. So it’s refreshing to see her know when she’s beat and use her head to make the best out of a bad situation. I gave The Red Queen four solid stars. While I don’t think it’s anywhere good enough to earn five stars, the story had me hooked and the intrigue of the world that Aveyard created was fascinating.

Challenge #11 A book you haven’t read since high school

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One of my favorite books of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird which I read in my ninth grade English class. It was one of my first opportunities to read something truly substantial beyond the YA books I was reading at the time, and actually enjoying the experience. It has literally been ten years since I read TKM but my love for the book has never gone away, so when I saw this challenge I knew that TKM was the book I was going to pick.

One thing you need to know about me is that I do not re-read books. I’ve tried to in the past but I find that I get antsy because I have so many books on my shelf still waiting to be read. And as a result, re-reading ends up feeling like a waste of time. True there are times where I will go back and re-read my favorite parts of books, but to actually re-read the entire thing is almost impossible for me.

That antsy feeling arose in me again when I picked up TKM, especially in the beginning. To help me try reading the book from a new point of view, I decided to get the audiobook version, which had amazing reviews. Being able to listen to the actress bring the story to life allowed to experience the story in a whole new way and I ended up falling in love with the story all over again. Eventually I got to a point where I just picked up the book myself because I wanted to read it so much, and the audiobook was going to slow for me. Hopefully because I enjoyed my second reading so much, I won’t wait another ten years to pick it up again

Challenge #10 A Book You Can Finish in a Day

#14 A book you can finish in a day: There were many books I could have chosen for this particular challenge, since reading a book in a day is not often difficult for me to do. As a way to help narrow my selection I looked at the list of the top 100 books from Goodreads (Goodreads’ Top 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime). It is my goal to read all of the books on this list and so far I’m not doing too badly (58 books as of right now), and by choosing something from this list I could kill two birds with one stone.

I ended up choosing Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.   I’ll admit I had never heard of this book until I saw it on this list. When I looked it up online I saw review after review glorifying it. There were several people who were even claiming it changed their lives. One English teacher talked about how his students loved it! I had to see what all the fuss was about.

So not only did I finish this book in a day, I finished it in just a few hours (that’s including the accidental nap I took while I was reading). It’s labeled as a novel but after reading through it I think it’s more of a novella. I found the book to be very interesting and a good insight into Asian cultures and religions. For any of you that have read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, this story has the same kind of ring to it. It was pretty much written as an allegory.

While I thought the book was interesting and not bad, I wouldn’t say it was ground shaking and it certainly didn’t change my life. I think this would be a great book to be taught in high school in either an ELA or a History class in correlation with a study on world philosophies/religions. It is a wonderful view into a world very different from modern day America and has a lot of important messages to give to readers. It’s a great book for analysis and study. That being said, if I wasn’t involved in the academic world I doubt that I would have found the book worth picking up. This is a piece of literature that really only serious readers would probably enjoy. If you like more beach reads, books to just pass the time, or books with lighter plots I would not recommend Siddhartha for you. If however you like to challenge yourself or gain new insights then definitely give it a try.