Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Summer Reading List (Really Quick Reviews)

I didn't have time to do lengthy reviews on each of the books I read this summer, but I wanted to be sure to mention and give quick opinions on all of them, so here goes...

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 
I love Sherman Alexie's voice - I've loved his writing and movies for a long time, so I was excited to finally read this book.  It is a fabulous book - I can see why it won the awards it did - a must-read! Handles issues of race issues, adolescent boys, high-school, friendships, family, etc in a humorous and sensitive way. I will recommend this to all of my students to read with a caution of some mature concepts.  5 Stars

My Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, and Fenway Park  by Steve Kluger
For the more mature reader - great book told from multiple points-of-view with three high-school friends who are the main characters. They are almost seniors, and writing an English paper on their most excellent year - all three write about their freshman year and the flashback part of the story is told through their journal entries from freshman year English class.  I really like the voice and methods that the story was told in with letters and emails and instant message chats and journals. Deals with coming out of a gay character in a realistic and sensitive way. It's a book about relationships and discovering who we really are. Made my top books list for the year.  5 Stars

Gone by Michael Grant
I expected this to be a dystopian along the lines of Lord of the Flies; however it threw me off with the supernatural parts of it that I wasn't expecting. I enjoyed the basic storyline of a town where everyone over the age of 14 disappears one day, and how the kids survive, but didn't like the supernatural parts of it so much - they distracted me from the main plot. I will probably read the sequel though because I did get drawn in by some of the main and secondary characters. 3 Stars

NUM8ERS by Rachel Ward
I really, really wanted to like this book about a girl who sees a string of numbers every time she looks at a person's eyes. On the day her mother died, she learned that the numbers stand for the day that person is destined to die.  I knew going in that it was a book from England, so some of the words would be different. However, I wasn't quite expecting it to be such an on-the-run story, and I wasn't hooked into the love interest storyline, which became more of a focus at the story moved on.  Overall, I was disappointed in the twist at the end. Several times I wanted to abandon, but forced myself to finish it. Overall, it's an OK book for me. 2 Stars

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
I've like John Grisham's adult books, so I was really intrigued to read this one.  There's just something about series books that are obviously intended to be a series from the start so the ending feels a little incomplete that throws me off sometimes, and this is one of those.  Overall, the story was cute with Theo and all of his knowledge of the law and his ability to be in with the judges and other court workers when a big trial is starting. There is quite a bit of law speak in this book, but it is explained pretty well. The plot kept moving fairly well and kept me interested. Overall, I think this is a book for those students who like to watch the procedural shows on TV and would be interested in trial stories and a new series. 4 Stars

Lament and Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
I love, love, love Maggie Steifvater's writing!  I first discovered her when I heard her speak at a conference and got an advance copy of Linger, so of course I had to go buy Shiver and read it right away (stories with werewolves). As soon as I read them, I knew she was one of my favorite authors, and I recommended the series to all of my students and coworkers.  So, this summer I wanted to go back and read her first books (stories with faeries), Lament and Ballad.  I really enjoyed both of these books: the writing drew me in, I was invested in the characters and what would happen to them, the suspense in the plot and wondering how these human characters would deal with the faeries kept me reading, and I was eager to read the second once I had finished the first.  All of these things are what I want in a book. i enjoy reading books with paranormal/fantasy romance aspects, especially ones by Maggie Steifvater, and these didn't disappoint!  5 Stars

The Last Thing I Remember (The Homelanders) by Andrew Klavan
I picked this book up because I saw the cover in the bookstore and the back summary made me think this might be a good suspense/adventure series that would engage eighth grade boys. Mostly I think it will, but I was a little disappointed. I felt that the beginning, when Charlie wakes up in a room being held prisoner, all beat up, doesn't know what is going on, and doesn't remember how he got there was a great start especially as he's trying to escape and figure out what's happening. It flashes back to the last day he remembers in alternating chapters. The problem that I had was that after he escapes and is on the run it got very slow for me.  It wasn't until almost the end that the plot picked up again and we started to get answers on who these terrorists were. By the end I was a little disappointed because I didn't get as many answers as I would have like on how Charlie ended up there.  I will probably recommend it to boys looking for adventure books, but ask them to read the second one in the series and let me know how it is.  3 Stars

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins 
Re-read these two for the second time in anticipation of Mockingjay's August release, and so glad I did.  It was nice to catch back up on the story of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale after one and two years since I read them, and reminded me of why this is one of my all-time favorite series! 

This series is one of the best dystopian stories I've read - a story taking a country similar to ours and putting it in a near future in which the world has changed in some way in which is is supposed to be better and is controlled by a different leading organization than our current governmental structure. 

In The Hunger Games, the country is run by The Capitol - the only area of the country in which they have enough money and food to live a good life. To remind the twelve districts of the failed rebellion from years ago and to make sure they don't rebel again, they hold the annual Hunger Games, a televised event that everyone in the country watches, in which one boy and one girl, between the ages of 12-18, from each of the districts, enters the game world and fights to the death. The winner is set for life and gets food for his or her entire district. When Katniss goes to the games, things change not only for her, but for the entire country of Panem. If you've been waiting to read these books, now that the third one will be out, it's time to read them all in a row.  5 Stars

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
I loved Perfect Chemistry so much that I definitely wanted to read the sequel and learn Carlos' story. Overall I liked it, it's a good romance escape novel, but was pretty similar in storyline to the first book. (See full review blog post)  4 Stars

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Enjoyed the new series with Egyptian mythology from the author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. (See full review blog post)  4 Stars

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