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 2

IMG_1395This book is really very funny, and has a fun narrator, who is always making fun of himself, and his awkward encounters with people.  While he is telling the story of what it was like to have a friend that dies of cancer, the book is really about Greg Gaines, the narrator.  The novel is sometimes crass, sometimes touching, but at its core is about an original voice, with an interesting cast of characters.  I really did find myself laughing several times.

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      This was a pitch black tale of a tragic death by murder, and the vengeance that begins next.  The first section is where we learn that the teacher in the story is leaving the profession, partly because of the death of her four year old daughter.  When she tells the class that two of their classmates were responsible for the death, events begin to spiral out from there.  The rest of the novel is told from different viewpoints, a different viewpoint each section, and each section is riveting, and well written.  We also see the path of evil, and what varied paths come from seeking vengeance instead of justice. This is the type of novel that I think will stay with me for some time.

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While at the library with my son the other day, I told him I wanted to get a book for myself, as well as the books we were getting for him.  We were passing the new book display, and he grabbed this one for me.  It sounded interesting, so I gave it a try.  This turned out to be a great random choice, and paired well with Confessions.

Lacy Eye is the story of Hanna Schutt, a woman who, three years ago, survived the brutal beating that killed her husband.  Her daughter’s boyfriend was convicted of the crimes, and Hanna has no memory of that night.  The action of the novel begins when Hanna is told that Rud Petty will get a new trial, and that the D.A. wants her to testify, because it seems that Rud will go free otherwise.  As Hanna struggles to remember that night, she is also faced with derision from people that are convinced her daughter Dawn was involved, and the stressor of Dawn moving back home.  Hanna moves forward with her life, and backward in her memories, trying to grasp the truth.  Hanna is a well- drawn, interesting character; and this is a great mystery/ crime story, but it is generally the story of a family

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      The last novel I read this week was Heartlight, by T.A. Barron.  I found it while I was doing a project in the library that involved adding external labels to series, and T.A. Barron had at least two, if not three series, so I thought I should give one a go.  While this was called Sci – Fi  in the blurbs, I think it reads more like a Fantasy.  It did remind me strongly of A Wrinkle in Time, although this novel, published in 1990, felt more dated than A Wrinkle in Time.  Parts of it also felt familiar, so it is possible I read this as a junior high student when it first came out.

Getting Sucker Punched by a book

This week I read the novel Winger, by Andrew Smith.  I won’t give the ending away, except to say it wasn’t what I expected.  The novel has a 14 – year – old boy, Ryan Dean West, as the protagonist, and a lot of the book was funny, crude, and engaging.  The voice of the main character seemed realistic and relatable, and I really enjoyed it.  For those of you that have students that enjoy mixed media style books, this one does have a lot of graphic novel panels scattered throughout.

Then I got to the last section of the novel.  It hit me hard, and I was finishing my reading in the auditorium, while supervising the students in the student – directed one acts. I had a moment where I actually pondered the fact that I had been sucker punched by a YA novel.

I probably would have cried had I been reading alone.  What I did do was turn to a nearby student that I knew was reading books of off the same list as I was, and ask  “Have you read Winger“?   She had, and we had semi-whistpered, commiserating discussion about the novel, especially that ending.  There were other students nearby, so we tried not to give any spoilers out, although later another student joined the conversation.

Upon later reflection, It was the type of moment that made me A) glad to work in a library setting B) happy to be reading from the Lincoln List.  I work in Illinois, and our library supports both the Lincoln List and the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award, both of which are sponsored by ISLMA (Illinois School Library Media Association).  Because I knew students that were reading off of the list, and because they knew of my involvement, it gave us a shortcut to conversation.   We have some books in common.  The lists are another great tool in building reading community.