Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Recreate the Cover Contest: You Wish

Princess Bookie is at it again! These recreate-a-cover contests are so much fun that I can help but join in! I've not read a lot about You Wish by Mandy Hubbard, but I had a ton of fun recreating this cover! And, if I win (which is doubtful given the talent that turns out for these events), I would win a My Little Pony. And the book. But, a My Little Pony! I loved those little creatures when I was a little girl in the '80s.

So, here is the original cover, which I think is pretty awesome on its own:


And here is my recreation, in which I took the theme in a less pink direction. Not that there's anything wrong with pink. I just wanted to envision a totally different cover for this book. 


It's a little muted, a bit understated. I'm okay with it. I've already seen some other recreated covers that I like better, but I enjoy the challenge of this activity. It's fun. Feel free to join in!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Official Mockingjay Trailer

Scholastic just released the official trailer for Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay. Don't get too excited, as it doesn't really reveal much, but it does a good job at teasing my brain into thinking that I'm not reading into it enough. I've already watched it four times for clues. Not many to be had. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review: The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell

I'm not gonna lie. I was super excited to read this book. I am (was?) a huge fan of Sex and the City when it was a TV show (I haven't loved the movies as much) and watched it every week while it was running. Though I am familiar with all things Carrie Bradshaw, I didn't remember her talking too much about her childhood on the show, so I thought that this was going to be awesome.

And it was. Kinda. At first, I had a really hard time getting into the voice of the main character. But, once I gave in and channeled Sarah Jessica Parker's voice, I was all set.

In this prequel, Carrie Bradshaw is a senior in high school. She is fashion forward and quirky, just like in the TV show, but I was surprised by the lack of genuine girlfriend-ships in her life. She was not the Carrie surrounded by a group of savvy advice-offering women at the end of a tough date. Apparently, Carrie's high school friends were pretty self-serving and just plain bitchy.

Carrie doesn't fare any better with the boys. She crushes on the new boy in town, Sebastian, but doesn't really have all that deep of a relationship with him before (SPOILER) her "best" friend takes him away from her. Maybe this is setting us up for her tolerance of Big in the TV show? I don't know. But, I wanted her to have a little more chutzpah or something and give Sebastian and her ex-best friend a little what-for. She didn't.

The book did segue nicely into her interest in New York and creative writing. By the time the book ends, Carrie is safely in the hands of (SPOILER) Samantha Jones, who is saving Carrie from a major debacle for the first, but not last, time.

This is an entertaining read. It grew on my as I read. But, I don't know that the time period, 198? is going to appeal to too many teens. I think that a Sex in the City fan might like it better than the average reader, but I could be wrong.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

2010 Summer Beach Reads Challenge

Thankfully, it's not too late to join the 2010 Summer Beach Reads Challenge. I just stumbled across this challenge today, and am glad I did. I've been in a reading frenzy for the past few days and would like to keep up this pace. I've only got five weeks until school starts (and this challenge ends) and would like to have shelves stocked with all kinds of new reads for my returning students!

Here are the levels to choose from for this reading challenge:

* Tadpole - Read 4 books in this challenge.
* Minnow - Read 8 books in this challenge.
* Dolphin - Read 12 books in this challenge.
* Shark - Read 16+ books in this challenge!

I think that I'll fall somewhere in the minnow to dolphin pool. I don't think that I'll be able to read more than 16 books in the upcoming weeks because my summer camp job is pretty intense. (I work with children with autism in the summer. Super fun, but super energy-suck.)
If you're interested in joining, just create an introductory post and post your link on the Book Fanatics Blog page. Happy readings!

Book Review: Songs for a Teenage Nomad

Kim Culbertson's Songs for a Teenage Nomad is like a great mixed tape. It's not so much a CD, because it doesn't feel as smooth and polished as a CD. It has a bit of the messy brilliance that a good mixed tape possesses.

This book is infused with music. The main character, Calle, uses music as a sort of best friend and a way to keep sane. Her mother is always in and out of relationships. When her mom's "in," Calle's life is good. When her's mom's "out," they have to move and start over again. This tumultuous sort of existence has left Calle with an awesome soundtrack of a life, but with very few actual friends and no sense of community.

That is, until Calle and her mother move to the sleepy ocean side town of Andreas Bay, California. Calle normally is pretty invisible in whatever school she's attending. In Andreas Bay, friends, possible love interests, and even a few rivals emerge fairly quickly. Soon, Calle's feeling right at home and loves it.

But, there is the lurking mystery that is her father. Her mother says that Calle's father was a selfish musician who abandoned his family for greatness when Calle was little. One day, when searching through her mother's drawers for a parka, Calle stumbles upon a letter from her father, begging Calle's mother to allow him to see Calle.

Shortly after Calle confronts her mother with this information, the relationship between her mother and her new husband is on the rocks. If this relationship doesn't work out, Calle knows another move is in store. She doesn't want to move and wants to find her father. So, she starts looking. And what she finds certainly surprises her.
*  *  *
I love that music is infused throughout this book. I love most of the bands and singers that Calle mentions. Everyone from R.E.M. to Bob Dylan to Ani DiFranco to India Arie are mentioned in this book. Dozens of musical figures. It's great. 

But, there are all of these side characters that are only partially developed. Most are friends with Calle, but even her mother and father could be explained in a little more depth.

Even with these flaws, this novel is worth the read. It's quick and fun and poignant (at times). I kept thinking about how important music has been in my life, particularly when I was a teen. And, I thought about my students and the relationship that I see them having with their favorite bands and artists. This book would appeal to a musical reader. If you don't love music, particularly of the alternative/ classic rock/ singer-songwriter vein, then this read is probably not for you. 

I'm actually going to be hosting a giveaway featuring this book later in August as part of the From Dusk Till Dawn Read-A-Thon that'll be hosted by Jami of YA Addict. To win this book, check back in late August and enter the contest. In the meantime, be thinking about the songs that define you. *Hint, hint!*

Thanks for the Smitten With Books ARC Tours for providing this read!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday's Fab Five (4)


 In this meme, Froggy of Frogarrita's Bookcase asks five simple questions so that we can get to know one another a little bit better. It's pretty fun and interesting. Feel free to join in if you want!

1. What new author have you discovered this year that is now on your auto-buy list?

Definitely Maggie Stiefvater. I read Shiver and was hooked. It'd read a shopping list if she wrote it. It'd probably be amazing!

2. What author have you yet to read, despite having most of their books in your TBR pile?

There are a few authors that I know I need to read. One is Melissa de la Cruz. I've never read any of her books, but love that lots of my students are hooked on her Blue Bloods series. I have several girls who would love it if I were to start reading and chatting about this series with them.


3. What book do you regret giving/ loaning because you never got it back or got it back in poor condition?

I never remember who I lend books to because I lend out dozens a month. And, I'm not one to get upset about a ruined book. I know that mistakes happen and that I've spilled stuff on books before. It happens!

4. Who's a favorite author that you'd read no matter what genre they write?

This is a  tough question, because my favorite YA authors tend to stay in their particular genres. But, there is one that comes to mind. I've read several selections from Patricia McCormick. My favorites are:

Sold, which is a novel told in poems. It's about a young Nepalese girl who is sold into the child sex slave industry. It's superbly written and powerful.

Purple Heart, which takes place in Iraq. It's about an American soldier who is injured in the war and who starts to question the validity of that war. It's well-written and the main character, a young male, is totally believable.

Cut, which is a short novel about cutting. The Chick Lit Book Club read this title a few years ago. It's gritty and realistic and was a great discussion-starter in our group.

I'll read anything that McCormick writes in the future because I've enjoyed each of these very different books. I'll look forward to whatever's next!


5. What's a favorite book that you go back to time and time again and won't let go of?

Well, this question is tough for me because I have so many favorite books and have lots of sets of books because I'm a teacher. I'm going to say that the book that I hold on to and teach every year, despite the fact that I could let go of it is Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I look forward to reading it every year and have yet to get sick of it. It's generally one of my students' favorite reads. There's just something about the relationship between Lennie and George that pulls on my heartstrings year after year.

So, that's my Fab Five. I look forward to reading your responses!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Break Reading Challenge (10)


What a cool activity! Karin the Librarian, hostess of the Summer Break Reading Challenge, has asked participants to create a book cover using a few online generators. Using the sites she's provided, you need to create:

-a fake author name
-a one-word title in the form of a verb
-a cover with a photo from a flickr CC site

Here's my result and my description of what this book would be about, if I was actually going to write it:
Told from two points of view, Slurp is the harrowing story of what alcohol can do to a family.

To everyone who knew her, Vanessa seemed to have the perfect life. She was a popular girl in high school. She earned good grades. When she became pregnant with her son right after high school and married her long-time boyfriend, her family and friends were thrilled. Vanessa seemed like she was excited, too.

On the inside, Vanessa was a wreck. She had always thought of herself as a girl who could make it out of her town. She envisioned a life filled with the hustle and bustle of the city. College. Travel. Independence. After she got pregnant and her boyfriend become her husband, Vanessa felt all of her dreams slip away. To numb her pain, she turned to alcohol.

For as long as Aidan can remember, his mother has always had a drink in her hand. Sometimes, he comes home from school and she's happy. On these days, she sings in the kitchen and makes dinner for him and his father. Other days, Aidan finds his mother in locked in her bathroom and crying. Or worse--Silent.


When an unexpected tragedy forces Vanessa to become sober, she is forced to look at the result of her years of drinking. Will she be able to remain sober for son? Can she salvage any of the dreams she once held so dearly?
* * *
So, this story sounds pretty gritty and emotional. It's interesting, because I went looking for a picture of a slurpy being slurped. (What a weird word, "slurp".) I thought that I could write a super cute little description for a teen romance or something. But, there were no such pictures. This one, a much darker image, stood out among all of the dog tongues and coffee mugs. This picture did not lend itself to a teen romance or a sunny story. It had to be depressing. But, I'm in hopes that this story would have a realistic ending, where mother and son both found a better life situation. I don't know what that would be, but I would hope to leave them in a better spot than where they started. 

What do you think happens??

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

And The Winner Is...

Before I announce the winner of the Release Day Giveaway for Maggie Stiefvater's Linger, I want to thank those of you who participated. I asked you all to offer up a title that you're looking forward to reading. I'm going to use this list as a guide for future Release Day Giveaways, so you've helped me and yourselves (if you win).

On to the winner. Here's a screenshot of the winning entry, which was chosen with the help of random.org:


So, congrats to latishajean. I've emailed you; please answer within 24 hours with your mailing address.

For those of you who did not win, you still have plenty of time to enter the Mockingjay giveaway! (That's MY most anticipated release of 2010!)

Book Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

I was a little nervous to read Maggie Stiefvater's Linger. I had looked forward to it for so long after devouring Shiver that I was afraid to be let down. I had read some gushing reviews and some that were mixed.

Thankfully, I slipped into the world of Mercy Falls with no trouble. Though it's been a while, I rekindled my interest and relationship with Grace and Sam in no time. It was seamless.

In addition to Sam and Grace, two other major characters, Isabel and Cole are developed in great detail. Whereas Shiver was organized into chapters based on temperature, Linger is the stories of these four characters woven together. The result of this weaving is one amazing tale.

Stiefvater's writing is so fluid, so poetic that I can't help but feel a bit entranced by it. I love that each of her characters has a distinct voice and persona and that their thoughts and feelings ring so true, despite the fact that their life situations are truly paranormal. In my opinion, this is a mark of great writing.

I don't want to offer much in the way of plot summary because I don't want to give too much away. I think that you will enjoy Linger if you loved Shiver. I also think that you will love the way that Isabel is given a more pronounced presence in this second book and that you might find that you love to hate Cole. You will worry about Sam and Grace want their lives to just get normal for once. Or, this is what I wanted. Now, I just want the next book. I'll probably have a long wait for it. That's okay. I want Ms. Stiefvater to have plenty of time to write the best darn book she can!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Release Day Giveaway (2)


If you took part in my first Release Day Giveaway, you played an integral part in the second. Based on your comments about the books that you are most looking forward to reading, I've selected a couple to feature as giveaways. Now, I only chose ones that I am also looking forward to. I know that this will work out for you because my number is definitely your number one.

For this second Release Day Giveaway, I'm offering up a copy of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  Now, this might be hard for you to resist pre-ordering (and maybe most of you have already), and I know I've already ordered three copies for myself. One for my best friend, one for my students, and one for me to read in peace. So, if you end up with an extra copy it won't be a bad thing.

I'd love to order for one of you! This contest is open internationally because I'll be using the Book Depository. Please make sure that this site ships to your country for free before entering.

To enter this giveaway, you need to answer the following mandatory question:

What is one prediction that you have for Mockingjay?

Please leave your answer in the form of a comment on this post. Also, you need to leave an email address or I will not be able to contact you if you are the winner. That's all. I can't wait to read all of your predictions!

Monday, July 19, 2010

And The Winner Is...


Thanks to all who participated in the Book Extravaganza giveaway! I loved reading about all of your favorite poems and poets. Definitely, the top poets were: Poe, Frost, Silverstein, e. e. cummings and Emily Dickinson.


The winner is: Icedream of the Reading in Appalachia blog!

I will mail your copy of  The Sky is Everywhere this week!

If you did not win, don't despair. There is still time to enter my giveaway of Linger (I already have my giveaway copy waiting to be sent out!) which ends on July 20th and I will announce another giveaway on that day as well.

Thanks to Kate of The Neverending Shelf and Kristen of Bookworming in the 21st Century for hosting this awesome Book Extravaganza!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Summer Break Reading Challenge (9)


Summer Break Reading Challenge #9 asks participants to retell the story of the book that they're currently reading (or just finishing) in a series of pictures. I am reading Linger by Maggie Stiefvater, but have only read a little over 100 pages. So, I am going to do my best to summarize what I've read thus far without spoiling any of the story for those of you who have yet to read it. Here goes!





I highly recommend this book to anyone who loved Shiver. I have not been disappointed by the characters, the plot, or the writing so far. I hear that there's a crazy ending, but I don't know what it is. (And that's a good thing!)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Review: Two Histories of England

The Two Histories of England by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens is probably not the hottest title on the shelves right now. I'm sure that this type of book has a very limited appeal, but for some reason, I found it interesting enough to purchase.

I read a review on a blog somewhere and decided that this book sounded like it would be a great resource to have in my classroom. I teach a ton of Shakespeare and an entire course on British Literature and am always looking for ways to liven up the material. While I don't see myself teaching this book to a whole class, there are a number of ways that I've thought to use it in the classroom.

First, there are tons of cool little stories included in this retelling of history. I don't know that any of them are true, but I love little the tidbits about Mary Queen of Scots's red wig coming off after she's beheaded and showing that she'd gone completely gray. A little gross, a lot morbid, but just what kids love to hear!

I also love the playfulness and passion that both authors show for the history of their countries. I've always thought Brits to be a pretty serious people, but Austen and Dickens both approach their recollections of English history with a bit of humor and a lot of gusto. They care about their monarchs and political figures. Like I support the New England Patriots, Jane Austen is unfailing in her support of Mary Queen of Scots. Actually, both authors point out some serious character flaws in Elizabeth I, which is interesting to me as an outsider looking in.

I wish that an American teen would write a book about our history or our current political cast of characters as they see it. It was so interesting to see history through the eyes of these famous authors, particularly Jane Austen. She was only 16 when she wrote her history of England. I would love for an American teen to write as funny and biased a critique of our recent history.

So, this read is probably not going to appeal to every reader. But, if you like to read about history, or are interested in seeing the history of England through Dickens and/or Austen's point of view, you might enjoy this.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday's Fab Five (3)

This is a super fun little meme hosted by Froggarita's Bookcase. Feel free to join in!

1. If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

This is funny because my husband and I just had this conversation the other night. I said that I wanted to be a dog. He thought that I was crazy. But, I love my dog more than most people. I think about him and worry about him and try to make sure that his life is as awesome as possible. There are no other animals (except maybe cats) that people treat with such affection. For the record, my husband thinks that the correct answer to this question is "lion" because then you're unstoppable. I disagree.


2. If you could ahve any super power, which would you choose?

As I've stated every time I answer this question, I would definitely choose to be able to fly. This would lessen my commute in the morning, eliminate a car payment, and help lessen my carbon footprint. I would love it!

3. If you were a character in book, who would you choose to be?

This is a toughie. Hm. I think that I would choose to be Scout Finch from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. She had a pretty idyllic childhood, barring that one episode with Mr. Ewell. She had a great disposition, lots of cool people around her (props to Calpurnia for being awesome!), and I bet that she grew up to have a great life. Happy 50th birthday, To Kill a Mockingbird!

4. What is one food you could never give up?

I guess that I'd have to choose my favorite comfort food, which is pizza. I love pizza with green peppers and tomatoes. Yum. We make our own pizza most Friday nights. It's pretty fun and it gets a little creative because we often try out random stuff that we have left over. Lots of possibilities!

5. What is one food that you never want to eat again?

Fruitcake. Without a doubt. I've had it twice; once to try it and once on accident. The result was not pretty for anyone standing near me either time. Uck.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Extravaganza: Giveaway Time!


As part of the Book Extravaganza, which is being hosted by Kate of The Neverending Shelf and Kristen of Bookworming in the 21st Century, I am offering a little giveaway. I absolutely love these two blogs and admire all of their hard work and effort in providing fun and entertaining book-blog information and activities.

So, I am giving away one copy of Jandy Nelson's The Sky is Everywhere. I chose this book for its unique structure and the way that poetry was woven throughout the text. For this giveaway, you need to share the name of a favorite poet in the comments section of this post.

Because I loved this book so well, I'd like to offer every one of you a copy. Of course, my bank account will not allow for such extravagant antics. I can offer up one copy of this book to one lucky, randomly selected winner from the US. (Sorry International folks; check out my giveaway for Linger and enter if you haven't already!)

To enter, simply fill out this form and leave your answer to the poetry question in the comments section of this post.

This giveaway will only be open for the weekend, so please enter before midnight (EST) on July 18th.

My Favorite Genres

Rebecca at Lost in Books asks "What are your favorite genres?" To join in on this fun little meme-y question, just click the link and connect with others who've answered the same question.

My favorite genres, under YA lit are:

1. Dystopian Literature: I love a good futurist tale. To me, this genre of literature requires such imagination, such precision that you cannot help but admire authors who create whole a new (imperfect and disturbing) world. I am partial to books like The Hunger Games.

2. Novels in Verse: Another huge challenge and testament of a writer's skill and craft is the novel in verse. I have an entire collection of these novels and even teach a few. I love it when a novel in verse uses spare language and text to create complex characters with depth. Some of my favorites include: Keesha's House by Helen Frost, all of Ellen Hopkins's novels, and Sold by Patricia McCormick.

3. Realistic/ Contemporary Lit: I think that there is enormous potential in the ability of contemporary writers to use their writing to influence teens and others who are dealing with difficult choices and life situations. I think about books like Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and the amazing (as well as eye-opening) discussions that I've had with students over this novel. One of my new favorites is Hate List by Jennifer Brown. This book addresses the aftermath of a school shooting. I can't wait to find a way to incorporate it into my teaching.

What are your favorite genres?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review: The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare's The Clockwork Angel is stunning. I've read Clare's work before and enjoyed it, but this book, this series, these characters are so engrossing. I cannot wait for the next book in this series!

Here's a bit about the plot. No spoilers.

Tessa is living in the United States and missing her brother, Nate, who left on a steamer to Victorian London months ago. Her aunt, a woman who raised Tessa and her brother after both of their parents died, passed away and Tessa was left alone. And then comes a letter from her brother, offering a free trip to London.

As soon as she arrives, she is kidnapped by a pair of Dark Sisters, who force Tessa to develop a latent power that she did not know she possessed. If Tessa does not cooperate, they swear that her brother will be killed.

Tessa's power is unusual and rare. She is able to transform herself into any person, living or dead, as long as she holds an object belonging to them. It is clear that the Dark Sisters want to train Tessa to harness this power, but why? When they tell Tessa that the all-powerful Magister plans to make Tessa his wife, she knows that she needs to find a way out--and soon.

Tessa's world, once simple and very human becomes completely unpredictable and grows more bizarre by the minute. She is plunged into a world filled with vampires, demons, warlocks, and Shadowhunters.

This is a page turner, and one that I could not put down. I loved the Victorian London setting and the lines of poetry that Clare used to start every chapter. I did not love all of the characters, but I don't think that I was supposed to. It is clear to me that Clare will answer questions and delve more deeply into some of the less clear plot points in the next books in this series. I don't know that I can wait to read them, but know that I must. Grr.

This book came to me from a Book It Forward ARC Tour. Much obliged!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Extravaganza: Giveaway Coming Soon!


The wonderful ladies of Bookworming in the 21st Century and The Neverending Shelf are teaming up to host an awesome Book Extravaganza! I am not sure about all of the excitement and fun that Kristen and Kate have planned for us, but I do know that there are going to be quite a few contests and giveaways held on a variety of book blogs during these three days (July 16-18).

In fact, I am going to host a little book giveaway starting this Friday! You'll only have one day to enter, so mark your calendars, check out some cool blogs, and participate in the fun!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon: Favorite Fictional Characters Mini Challenge (2)

For this Once Upon a Read-a-Thon Mini Challenge, the folks at the Eager Readers blog asks, "What is your favorite fictional couple?"  One couple should be from a book and another couple should be one that you create from two different books. Kinda like a main character blind date, right?

My first couple comes from a lesser-known YA book called I Had Seen Castles by Cynthia Rylant. I teach it in summer school, and kids pretty much love it universally. It's a story about a teen boy named John who is just old enough to enter into WWII after Pearl Harbor is attacked. He has all of the machismo and lives a pretty privileged life, though he takes that for granted. Basically, he's a pretty typical teen boy living in a big city during the 1940's. He's a good character.

But, then there's Ginny. Ah, Ginny. I just love her. She and John meet when he bumps into her on a trolley and she gives him a little what-for. She's vibrant and cool and interesting and beautiful. But, she comes from the "other side" of Pittsburgh--And Johnny does not. She does not see going to war as a rite of passage, and she has struggled more in her 17 years than Johnny has ever dreamed of.

There is this one scene, right before Johnny goes off to war, where he and Ginny get drunk on vodka. I almost cry just thinking about it. Okay, so maybe you think I'm crazy and that I shouldn't use this with teens, but come on! They get drunk and Johnny gets vulnerable and it's sweet and desperate and as real as any YA book comes. These two are not fated to be together forever, but just for a while. And, that's what gets Johnny through the next few years of combat. I love these two kids.

For my blind date, I'm going to set up Edward Cullen from Twilight with Miranda from Life As We Knew It. This sounds like an odd match, and indeed it is. I feel like Edward likes to be in control and plays a sort of savior role toward Bella in the Twilight series.

Unlike Bella, Miranda truly needs someone to save her! She's dying from lack of food after the moon basically crashes into the Earth and leaves our planet without sunlight. So, Edward could help her find food or, if that doesn't work, he can make her into a vampire and they can feed off of survivors until they are the last "people" left. Edward will end his accursed life and Miranda won't starve to death. It's perfect!

Hope you liked my couples. Off to see who you're all choosing!

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon (1)

Though I am (kinda) busy teaching summer school and taking a couple of graduate courses, I am fairly certain that I'll have at least a few hours each day to devote to reading. Here's what I hope to accomplish:

-Read The Learning Leader: How to Focus School Improvement for Better Results by Douglas B. Reeves for a class I'm taking (I'm sure you can tell by reading the title why I've procrastinated in reading this book!)

-Finish reading The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare for the Book It Forward ARC Tour (It's amazing so far! I'm only about 100 pages in, but I had to force myself to put it down last night!)

-Finish reading The History of England by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens (Not as boring as it sounds. It's actually kinda funny. And I love learning about history!)

That is a good starting list. I'm sure that I'll get most of this accomplished quite quickly, and that I'll add to my reading list as this Read-a-Thon progresses.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Break Reading Challenge (8)



For this activity, Karin the Librarian has asked participants to create a Read-a-Like-List of books. We can choose any type of book, but there has to be some sort of explainable connection between the books. I've chosen to think about a group of YA books set in the Middle East. I am taking part in the Middle East Reading Challenge, hosted by Helen of Helen's Book Blog.

I haven't read a lot of YA books that take place in the Middle East, but I feel like I should. Every year, I have students who (for one reason or another) choose to serve our country and enter in one of the branches of the armed forces. Right now, I have at least four former students and two relatives who are serving in the Middle East.

It really used to feel that I needed to teach students about multiculturalism because my students needed to learn to get along with and understand ethnic populations and diversity within our own country. Now, I feel that I absolutely need to be able to prepare my students to encounter other cultures in other countries. Not the same experience.

Before I can teach, I need to learn. I've made a concerted effort in the past to read about African and Asian countries, so this year I'm going to move on to the Middle East. Here are some titles that I hope to read, in no particular order.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali

                                                       







In the Name of God by Paula Jolin









IraqiGirl: Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq by IraqiGirl










The Space Between Our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Middle East by Naomi Shihab Nye

Recreate the Cover Contest: Tell Me a Secret

Ever since Ms. Holly Cupula was nice enough to send me the first two chapters of her book Tell Me a Secret, I've dying to read the rest!

And, I love recreating book covers. So, when I heard that Princess Bookie was hosting a contest where Holly Cupala herself will be commenting on the top five entries, I had to participate! I don't know that I'll win this one, because I've honestly seen some covers that I like better than mine. But, there's always hope that someone will enjoy my cover so much and decide to vote me in. It could happen. Not likely, but possible.

The original book cover (top right of this post) and my re-visioned cover (bottom):


Let me know what you think!

Book To Book (4)


This Book 2 Book review is inspired by Jane Eagland's Wildthorn. I received an ARC of this title as part of the Book It Forward ARC tour for this novel. Interested in signing up for an ARC tour? I highly recommend this site!

What is this feature? Book 2 Book is an idea that I had based on some conversations with fellow educators. Most English teachers that I've talked to do not participate in the YA blogging world (and I'm fairly new to it myself). Because they are not as interested or well-versed in this world as some of the bloggers I've met in my travels around the blogosphere, they might not know about the abundance of great YA available. And, so much YA can be used in the classroom.


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As I was reading Wildthorn, which I basically devoured in a few short hours because I could not put it down, I could not help but think of several titles that would pair nicely with this one. So, I am going to choose a few of the titles that came to mind and talk about how each relates to the other. 

Pair Number One: Wildthorn and "The Yellow Wallpaper"
 
 One of the short stories that stands out in my mind as sickeningly sad and real is Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper".  In this short story, a woman suffering from "depression" is locked in one of the rooms of her house by her husband, a doctor. At first, she battles against her confinement, but slowly starts to accept it and no longer wants to leave the room. The reader is not sure as to whether she was actually psychotic upon entering her room, or whether the isolation causes her psychotic breakdown. By the end of the story, the woman is completely unstable and has entered the yellow wallpaper that covers the wall of her small space. 

Wilthorn is about a young girl named Louisa who in tricked into and involuntary admittance in a mental institution. She is admitted to this insane asylum, named Wildthorn, for pursuing her dreams of becoming a doctor and for not conforming to the role set forth for her by Victorian society. Though she has her wits about her when she enters, there are definite lapses in her mental state the longer she is imprisoned in this "hospital".

Both stories are set in Victorian times, though Wildthorn takes place in England and the short story is set in New England. This could be an interesting point for comparison, and could help to create a larger sense of how women were treated in the 19th century by medical professionals and their families.
Pair Number Two: Wildthorn and Girl, Interrupted 
 Even more interesting than the main character's story is the interactions she has with other patients in the mental institution. This aspect, and Louisa's attempts at breaking free, reminded of Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Though the time periods are significantly different, there are some concurrent themes, like sexual abuse of minors, abhorrent medical treatments, and the relationships of the patients and patient/ nurse friendships.

Though Louisa is alone when she enters Wildthorn, there are two friendships that help her to continue to feel like a human and that keep her hoping that she will one day break free of the institution. Eliza is employed on the ward as a sort of low-level nurse. She and Louisa strike up a friendship (and a bit of a romance follows). Also, Louisa befriends an unfortunate girl named Beatrice. These relationships reminded me of those that Kaysen portrays in her book, which is set in America in the 1960's.  

It would be interesting to think about the comarisons and contrasts of mental health care in the late 1800's versus the mid 1900's. Unfortunately, one might find quite a few commonalities.

Pair Number Three: Wildthorn and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
 Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the best books I've ever read. I know that I say this about a lot of books, but this is one of my all-time favorites. It really goes deep into American society and the expectations for "normal" American males living in the 1950's. Certainly, there are a ton of comparisons that can be drawn between the gender roles and expectations from one book to the other. 

But, the most striking relationship between these two texts are the diabolical head nurses in each story.  Reading these two books, I think that I'd expect to meet a devilish, power-hungry, just-plain-crazy nurse. In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the infamous head nurse is named Nurse Ratched. She's pure evil. In Wildthorn, she's called Weeks.  Weeks is not quite as horrific as Nurse Ratched, but she's no one to mess with. She makes it clear to Louisa that she controls the institution and Louisa quickly understands that Weeks is not someone to mess with.

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Overall, I enjoyed Wildthorn tremendously. I think that it could easily be used in a classroom, particularly in a Women's Studies or Women's Lit course. We have an English elective course at our school called Women in Society. I just might suggest this title to my colleague who teaches it!

And, thanks again to the Book It Forward ARC Tours site!

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