Summer Reading 2016- Week one

IMG_2688.jpg This summer I hope to keep up with posting about my reading, but I am taking my last two grad classes, so I will do my best.

The first book, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, is the debut novel of Stephanie Oakes.   I am excited for any further books she writes – this was a complex and tense novel that hooked me in from the start.  After talking to him about it, my husband also read it in about a day.  The writer’s MFA in poetry is highly evident in this novel, in that the writing style and metaphors are fantastic and useful.  That being said, this is a novel for high school students, as it deals with some exceptional levels of violence and cruelty, which Minnow recounts, both to her FBI psychologist, and to her roommate in juvenile detention.  While we know from the very beginning that Minnow no longer has her hands, how that happened is revealed over time.  While the main character that belonged to a cult could become a truly sensational story, the author here carefully crafts a protagonist that the reader responds to – and roots for, through all of the flashback reveals.

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I admittedly do not read a lot of series to completion.  I will often read the first book in a series, but often I don’t finish the rest of the books.  The Shadowhunter books are a definite exception to this tendency.  I tend to consume these as quickly as I can, and I enjoyed this first book in her new, connected series.  Fans of the previous two Shadowhunter series will see some of their favorite characters in this, but there is a new cast, and a new take on a love story here as well.  I feel that Clare does a great job of integrating action, adventure, supernatural forces, and love stories that are a bit different from the expectation.  The love interests always face a major obstacle – but often in an unexpected way.  I look forward to the rest of this series as well.

Through the Woods is a collection of graphic novel short stories.  Some are takes on fairy tale – like stories, all of them are unsettling, and leave some interprative choices up to the reader.  This is not a great collection to read right before bed, but I think it is a great addition to my high school library collection, and a great one to give students that enjoy a good creepy read.  IMG_2685.jpg

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A Time to Dance is a novel in verse. It tells the story of Veda, a rising star in Bharatanatyam dance.  She lives with her parents and her grandmother, and her mother does not really support her dancing.  She would prefer for Veda to become a doctor someday.  However, when Veda is badly injured in an accident, and has to have one of her legs amputated, she has to find new ways to reach her dreams.  This reminded me a great deal of The Running Dream, by Van Draanen,   Veda’s quest to dance again is inspiring, and the plot does not fall into melodrama, but does a great job of exploring Veda’s quest back to dance in a realistic manner.  The fact that it is a novel in verse also makes this one a quick read.

The final book for the first week was Caged Warrior, by Alan Lawrence Sitomer.   This novel tells the story of Mccutcheon Daniel, or Bam Bam, as he is known in the underground illegal world of cage fighting.  His dad has been training him since he was three, so that he could eventually become an MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter, when he turns eighteen.  The family lives in Detroit’s 7 mile neighborhood, and has a lot of fight action, which will appeal to fans of mixed martial arts.  It also has a young man who wants to get out of the fighting lifestyle, but is trapped by his love for his sister, and his abusive, addict father.  This is an interesting work, with a memorable protagonist, and some unexpected twists along the way.

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Summer reading – Week one

My last day of work for the school year was June 5, and I have had the pleasure to read a wide and varied assortment of books this first week off.

IMG_1386The first book I read was Countdown, the first of a planned trilogy on the 1960s.  For those that are interested in paired texts, this novel has non-fiction throughout, which give the readers the context they need to understand the time period.  The novel itself is a coming – of – age story, told by misunderstood middle child Fanny Chapman.  It is set during the Cuban missile crisis, and sets up the Civil Rights Movement as well.  In order for middle school students to understand the historical context, there are frequent breaks where historical nonfiction  is included.  An interesting novel in a mixed medium format.  I did enjoy it, although I admit that sometimes the story felt contrived in order to explain the history of the time.

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The second novel I read was also the first book in a series.  Some of this comes from the fact that I have been pulling series books in the junior/senior high school library, and putting external labels on them so the order is clear.  As a result, several interesting books have come to my attention.  This one caught my attention because of the cover text that said, “Chocolate is contraband. Caffeine is illegal.”  It is set in the near future, about 2 -3 generations away from our present time.  There are shortages in several ways, and Anya, the protagonist of the novel, is the daughter of an infamous crime boss, the leader of the Balanchine family.  This was a fascinating story, full of intrigue, star – crossed lovers, and difficult choices.  I really enjoyed this one, and it was set in a slightly dystopian future, but the focus was really on the characters and their lives.

IMG_1389Novel number three was the fascinating start to the Iron Trial Series.  I am a fan of both Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, and this did not disappoint.  I am really excited to see where the rest of the series goes.  While the premise of a magical test and magical school might appear to have similarities to other series, and I was reminded of A Wizard of Earthsea and Harry Potter, I did not see the end reveals coming – and I will leave it at that.

IMG_1390Counting by 7s was the fourth book of the week, and I found it to be rather interesting, although I found some of this to be a re-tread of common ground, in that the gifted child in the book, Willow Chance,  seemed almost to have magical powers.  The characters she encounters after a terrible tragedy are interesting, and interconnect in great ways, but I did find myself wondering about  Roberta and Jimmy Chance on more than one occasion.

IMG_1393 This was the book I was able to take from my local public library after I signed up for the adult reading program.  It was a very interesting tale that alternated between the current time with the quest of Tristan to find out about his ancestors, and the story of Ashley Walsingham and Imogen Soames – Andersson, star crossed lovers from the past.  I really enjoyed the sections from WWI and an early Everest expedition, but I did feel that some parts of Tristan’s story could have been a bit clearer, and I am glad to have the novel, because I think I need to re-read the ending a couple of times. IMG_1392

Finally, I ended the week with a personal indulgence.  I love Agatha Christie novels, and I have a small collection of them.  This was my newest addition, and it is an early Hercule Poirot story.  They mystery was great, as usual, and I even figured out part of it! That is always a triumph for me with a Christie novel.  My favorite part of this was Poirot’s delicious rivalry with a French detective.

What is everyone reading this summer?  I had some extra time on my hands this week, as my car was in the shop on some rainy days, but we shall see how the rest of the summer goes.