Thursday, June 23, 2016

My Summer Book List: Part 2

Here is an update on my summer reading. If you are confused about why this starts with #4, go check out "My Summer Book List: Part 1." Now, let's just dive right in.

4. The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
I am going to go ahead and just get this out there: I didn't really enjoy this book. Our book club chose it because an excerpt from the introduction of the book was used in a literary analysis essay question for an AP Literature exam a couple of years ago. We spend about 3 full days in training going through that excerpt and analyzing student responses. It made us all want to read the book because the excerpt was enough to whet our appetites. There are several members of my book club who thoroughly enjoyed this novel, so don't assume that it's a bad book. It just wasn't my cup of tea. If you like stories with rich, in-depth, realistic, flawed characters then you would probably love it. My biggest issue with this one was the lack of any real plot. There was a clear beginning but no real end. Erdrich didn't even seem to be leading toward any end. I need a story with great characters, but I also need it to have. . . well. . . a story. Also - and this is just personal preference - I didn't like any of the characters. 


5. Anthem by Ayn Rand
I read this book for two reasons. The first was that it was recommended to me by a friend and colleague. She recommended it based on the fact that I love books like 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451. The second reason I read this is because there is a chance I might be teaching it next year. This is more of a novella than a full-fledged novel. The plot and structure are very simple, but the themes are very in-depth and thought provoking. It was such a quick and easy read and I enjoyed it. This story, like most in the dystopian future genre, deals with the dangers of a society that discourages individuality. 

6. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I switched gears a little with this one. I decided I wanted an easy read after a couple of deep, philosophical reads. This one has been in my Kindle for awhile and I just never got around to reading it. It's the first in a series. I haven't decided yet if I want to continue reading the series. I don't know if Maas intended to base her story loosely around the story of Beauty and the Beast, but it definitely has that feel to it. "Beast-ish" type male captures pretty girl and takes her to live on his huge estate. Girl falls in love with guy, chaos ensues. Granted, it's not that simple. Maas ups the game a little with this one. Beauty has to save the Beast, but not in the way you might think. I did enjoy it, but the writing is only OK and there are a couple of slightly racy parts. So, keep that in mind. 

7. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The main reason I read this one is because I want to see the movie. I want to see the movie because it has Emilia Clarke in it, and I love the Mother of Dragons. I will read just about any book in almost any genre, but I'll admit that sappy romance drama is not my favorite kind of book to read. I grew out of Nicholas Sparks-type novels a long time ago. It's why I've never read anything by John Green. However, I decided to give this one a try and I'll admit I'm torn. I liked the book. I devoured it in just a couple of days, but the more I think about the storyline the more I question whether or not I really did like it. First of all, I figured out the ending by page 5. I can't really get into much else without giving away spoilers, so you'll have to read it and decide for yourself. If you do, let me know and we can have a chat about it, because this book definitely fosters some intense conversation. 

That's all for now. The next book club book is Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I've read that book before, so it probably won't make it on this list series, but it's worth the read, trust me. Everyone I know (so far) who has read it has liked it, regardless of the genre you prefer. My husband strictly reads non-fiction when he reads at all and even he loved it. Plus, there is a movie coming out soon.
I'm about to start East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It's a big one. Keep checking in, and if you have any book suggestions leave me a comment!

My Summer Book List: Part 2

Here is an update on my summer reading. If you are confused about why this starts with #4, go check out "My Summer Book List: Part 1." Now, let's just dive right in.

4. The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
I am going to go ahead and just get this out there: I didn't really enjoy this book. Our book club chose it because an excerpt from the introduction of the book was used in a literary analysis essay question for an AP Literature exam a couple of years ago. We spend about 3 full days in training going through that excerpt and analyzing student responses. It made us all want to read the book because the excerpt was enough to whet our appetites. There are several members of my book club who thoroughly enjoyed this novel, so don't assume that it's a bad book. It just wasn't my cup of tea. If you like stories with rich, in-depth, realistic, flawed characters then you would probably love it. My biggest issue with this one was the lack of any real plot. There was a clear beginning but no real end. Erdrich didn't even seem to be leading toward any end. I need a story with great characters, but I also need it to have. . . well. . . a story. Also - and this is just personal preference - I didn't like any of the characters. 


5. Anthem by Ayn Rand
I read this book for two reasons. The first was that it was recommended to me by a friend and colleague. She recommended it based on the fact that I love books like 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451. The second reason I read this is because there is a chance I might be teaching it next year. This is more of a novella than a full-fledged novel. The plot and structure are very simple, but the themes are very in-depth and thought provoking. It was such a quick and easy read and I enjoyed it. This story, like most in the dystopian future genre, deals with the dangers of a society that discourages individuality. 

6. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I switched gears a little with this one. I decided I wanted an easy read after a couple of deep, philosophical reads. This one has been in my Kindle for awhile and I just never got around to reading it. It's the first in a series. I haven't decided yet if I want to continue reading the series. I don't know if Maas intended to base her story loosely around the story of Beauty and the Beast, but it definitely has that feel to it. "Beast-ish" type male captures pretty girl and takes her to live on his huge estate. Girl falls in love with guy, chaos ensues. Granted, it's not that simple. Maas ups the game a little with this one. Beauty has to save the Beast, but not in the way you might think. I did enjoy it, but the writing is only OK and there are a couple of slightly racy parts. So, keep that in mind. 

7. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
The main reason I read this one is because I want to see the movie. I want to see the movie because it has Emilia Clarke in it, and I love the Mother of Dragons. I will read just about any book in almost any genre, but I'll admit that sappy romance drama is not my favorite kind of book to read. I grew out of Nicholas Sparks-type novels a long time ago. It's why I've never read anything by John Green. However, I decided to give this one a try and I'll admit I'm torn. I liked the book. I devoured it in just a couple of days, but the more I think about the storyline the more I question whether or not I really did like it. First of all, I figured out the ending by page 5. I can't really get into much else without giving away spoilers, so you'll have to read it and decide for yourself. If you do, let me know and we can have a chat about it, because this book definitely fosters some intense conversation. 

That's all for now. The next book club book is Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. I've read that book before, so it probably won't make it on this list series, but it's worth the read, trust me. Everyone I know (so far) who has read it has liked it, regardless of the genre you prefer. My husband strictly reads non-fiction when he reads at all and even he loved it. Plus, there is a movie coming out soon.
I'm about to start East of Eden by John Steinbeck. It's a big one. Keep checking in, and if you have any book suggestions leave me a comment!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

My Summer Book List: Part 1


I am an avid reader. I read like it's my job (and in a lot of ways, it is my job). I read a lot of books throughout the year that I have to teach to my students. I read a lot of essays written by teenagers (yes, you should feel pity for me). I read books and articles about different teaching methods, I read tutorials on how to use this and that piece of technology, I read blog posts about teaching, faith, humor, etc. 

You get the idea. I read a lot.

But summer is when I'm at my reading best. Summer is when I can read all the things I want to read simply because I want to, and not because I need to. My English teacher friends and I have a book club every summer. It's really just an excuse for us to get together, hang out by the pool, and enjoy the fact that it's 11:00 AM on a Tuesday and for a little while we aren't having to work. I like reading the books they pick out, as well as the ones I read on my own.

This year, I decided to keep track of the books I read. I used to do this when I was a little kid and I think that's part of what gave me such a passion for literature and reading. My mom would have my brother and I keep a list of every book we read over the summer and she would give us $1 for each one we finished. It was her way of making sure we kept our brains stimulated when we weren't in school. I got to the point where I read so many books that she gave me a threshold and once I hit it that's all the dollars I was getting. 

Obviously, no one is paying me based on the number of books I read anymore, but I am still obsessed. So, I decided to share with you my summer book list along with my thoughts on each book. If you like to read, then maybe this will help you choose your next novel. A good place to start would be this article I wrote for iBelieve: "You Need These 10 Books in Your Beach Bag Right Now." This is just a list of some of my favorite Christian fiction novels. I haven't read any of them this summer, but I'm planning on re-reading one or two of my favorites later on.


So, without further adieu, here is Part 1 of my summer book list:


1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

To save time, I'll just group all 7 of these together. I re-read them every summer. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this entire story. If you are interested in my thoughts on it, or on any of my favorite quotes from the novel, you can read this blog post from last year.


2. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
This was the first book club choice. It's a great story if you are a fan of suspense and it delves heavily into the idea that we shouldn't judge someone without getting to know them first. I finished this book in less than two days, and that seemed to be the general consensus of the book club group. It's just one of those books that you don't want to put down because you need to know what happens next. My only complaint about it was the way the story wrapped up. It was a little too perfect, but you read it and judge for yourself. Overall, I was very impressed. 

3. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

This was one of those character stories with a major twist at the end. I am a sucker for a good twist and this one didn't disappoint. In fact, it blew me away so much that I had to go back to certain points in the story in order to work out in my head how it all fit together. I love when books force me to think and this one did that. However, the narrator was incredibly unreliable, which bothered me. But that's part of the story and it's what makes the twist so difficult to see coming.

That's all I have completed right now. I'm in the middle of another book club choice called The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich, so I'll reserve judgement on that until I've finished it completely. I'll post again in a couple of weeks with an update on the list. Reading is my favorite part of my summers, so I'm happy to share that with all of you.

My Summer Book List: Part 1


I am an avid reader. I read like it's my job (and in a lot of ways, it is my job). I read a lot of books throughout the year that I have to teach to my students. I read a lot of essays written by teenagers (yes, you should feel pity for me). I read books and articles about different teaching methods, I read tutorials on how to use this and that piece of technology, I read blog posts about teaching, faith, humor, etc. 

You get the idea. I read a lot.

But summer is when I'm at my reading best. Summer is when I can read all the things I want to read simply because I want to, and not because I need to. My English teacher friends and I have a book club every summer. It's really just an excuse for us to get together, hang out by the pool, and enjoy the fact that it's 11:00 AM on a Tuesday and for a little while we aren't having to work. I like reading the books they pick out, as well as the ones I read on my own.

This year, I decided to keep track of the books I read. I used to do this when I was a little kid and I think that's part of what gave me such a passion for literature and reading. My mom would have my brother and I keep a list of every book we read over the summer and she would give us $1 for each one we finished. It was her way of making sure we kept our brains stimulated when we weren't in school. I got to the point where I read so many books that she gave me a threshold and once I hit it that's all the dollars I was getting. 

Obviously, no one is paying me based on the number of books I read anymore, but I am still obsessed. So, I decided to share with you my summer book list along with my thoughts on each book. If you like to read, then maybe this will help you choose your next novel. A good place to start would be this article I wrote for iBelieve: "You Need These 10 Books in Your Beach Bag Right Now." This is just a list of some of my favorite Christian fiction novels. I haven't read any of them this summer, but I'm planning on re-reading one or two of my favorites later on.


So, without further adieu, here is Part 1 of my summer book list:


1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

To save time, I'll just group all 7 of these together. I re-read them every summer. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love this entire story. If you are interested in my thoughts on it, or on any of my favorite quotes from the novel, you can read this blog post from last year.


2. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
This was the first book club choice. It's a great story if you are a fan of suspense and it delves heavily into the idea that we shouldn't judge someone without getting to know them first. I finished this book in less than two days, and that seemed to be the general consensus of the book club group. It's just one of those books that you don't want to put down because you need to know what happens next. My only complaint about it was the way the story wrapped up. It was a little too perfect, but you read it and judge for yourself. Overall, I was very impressed. 

3. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

This was one of those character stories with a major twist at the end. I am a sucker for a good twist and this one didn't disappoint. In fact, it blew me away so much that I had to go back to certain points in the story in order to work out in my head how it all fit together. I love when books force me to think and this one did that. However, the narrator was incredibly unreliable, which bothered me. But that's part of the story and it's what makes the twist so difficult to see coming.

That's all I have completed right now. I'm in the middle of another book club choice called The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich, so I'll reserve judgement on that until I've finished it completely. I'll post again in a couple of weeks with an update on the list. Reading is my favorite part of my summers, so I'm happy to share that with all of you.