2012 Reads

So I realize we are already in February, but in this case it’s better late than never.  I will also admit that there are two books I never wrote about.  It was a good year for me, for the most part.  September came around though and things REALLY, REALLY stalled for me.  Between starting a new position in my school and taking a course, my time was pretty well taken up.

January

     

Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mother: by Susin Nielson

I read this book for school purposes, it’s a nomination for the Forest of Reading (Red Maple) this year and since I’m running the program at school I thought maybe I should read a book or two.  This one definitely was the most silly selection of the ten books nominated this year.  It’s a cute story about a girl who is tired of the men her mom is dating and decides that George Clooney would be perfect for her mom (they met year before when mom was working as a makeup artist).  It’s a quick, easy, silly read that I know the girls who are part of the program have all liked…not really a guy read that’s for sure!

Two Kisses For Maddie - by Matthew Logelin

Visit the Liz Logelin Foundation I knew the story before I started the book so the tears were completely expected. Getting to read the love story between Matt and Liz and then living through Matt’s first year without Liz is a heart wrenching read.  That said there were definitely some laughs throughout the book too – such as when Matt forgot mittens for Maddie when they went to the top of Banff.  Using socks for mittens made me giggle, but it was a great way to solve the problem.  This is a beautifully written book that will surely be treasured by Madeline when the times comes for her to read her parents’ love story and the story of her first year of life.  One of the nicest things about this book is the fact that Matt continues to write on his blog and you can continue to keep up with how he and Maddie are doing.

The Hunger Games – by Suzanne Collins

I know, I know, I’m probably the last person in the Western world to read this book.  Okay, maybe not the last.

I loved this book.  I wasn’t really sure what to think of it when I first stated it but once I got into the action of the story I couldn’t put the book down.  I’m not the fastest reader, and was seriously sleep deprived because of the late nights I spent reading because the story was just that gripping.  Not one for futuristic stories, I have to say this book changed my mind a bit about reading that particular genre.  Although you know from the start that Katniss Everdeen is going to be going to The Hunger Games, how she gets there was a bit of a shock! (Mind you, if you have watched the movie trailer, you already know what happens).  I was so excited reading this book that I had to tell me students about the series.  Apparently I was convincing because I think I had four students buy the series on book orders!  If you haven’t read the series go get yourself a copy of the first book.  (I really do think this is one movie I will be going to the theatre to watch!  It looks pretty close to the book and that’s always a good thing to me.)

Catching Fire – Suzanne Collins

Book Two of the series kept me just as sleep deprived, if not more.  Long story short, Katniss ends up back in The Hunger Games and is fighting for her life a second time.  I think the first book was the better of the two, but trust me once you read the first book, you’re going to want to continue the series.  I actually think this is going to be one series that I will be sad once I have finished the last book.  I will say that I was not expecting the ending to turn out as it does.  I spent the book wondering how on earth Suzanne Collins was going to write the ending knowing that there was one more book.  She did a great job of keeping my interest (during the school year this can be next to impossible) and making a logical conclusion to the book so that the story could continue into one final book.

February

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins

I wasn’t really sure how I was going to like the last book of the series.  It had to hold a lot considering how much I enjoyed the first book and fact that the second book simply wasn’t as good as the first.  The story of the third book was good, but drawn out a bit and left some blanks, although you knew what happened based on the fact presented.  The blanks really didn’t need to play out for the story to make sense and really would have just been added words.  In the end, I was okay, even happy with how the story ended.  I’m a sappy person at the best of times so the fact that I cried during the last 10-15 pages was a surprise – I wasn’t expecting the ending, not really. I’m sure not everyone will agree, but to me the way Suzanne Collins wrapped up the book worked well and left me feeling satisfied.  Impressive since with about one hundred pages left, I thought I was in for a pretty big let down.  All in all, I can see why people are talking about the series and recommended it to everyone.

March

Un Amico Italiano – Eat, Pray, Love in Rome - Luca Spaghetti

I first came across this book walking through a drug store.  The title jumped right out at me and at first I thought that someone was copying the idea of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book.  I thought that until I saw the author’s name, then realized quite quickly that this was a companion of sorts to Eat, Pray, Love. The book is broken down into three parts: the first being about Luca’s life growing up in Rome, the second about his trip to see America and finally the friendship with Elizabeth Gilbert.  The first section of the book, although interest, from a tourist stand point was somewhat boring to me.  I almost gave up on the book during this section.  I’m glad that I did not.  I ended up enjoying the book immensely once I got to the other two sections.  Reading about his travelling around the United States was rather entertaining, especially the four day trip by train, subsisting on nothing but beer and pizza, because it was cheaper to eat in the bar, then the dining car.  I also rather enjoyed the final section, and the unfolding of his friendship with Gilbert.  Hearing how he was hoping to make their meeting a one time thing and how it developed into such a wonderful, lasting friendship was rather entertaining. Given how the book began I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the book by the end.  Now I want to travel to Italy and visit all of the places he mentions in the book, even the places from the first section.

The Boy In The Striped Pajamas – John Boyne

Saw what you will about the unlikeness of this story ever happening, but for educational purposes this book was fabulous.  Bruno is a boy growing up, very innocently, in Berlin at the beginning of World War Two.  At the request of “The Fury” Father becomes the Commandant of “Out-With.” This book was an absolutely fabulous read aloud to my students (I include it on my 2012 list because I in fact had never read the book before reading it with my class. I knew the story because I had seen the movie).  It took a bit for the students to get into the book but once they realized what the story was really talking about they were begging me to read more.  Each chapter left them hanging and wanting more.  (I was so mean I left the very ending sit over a weekend…first thing Monday they were BEGGING me!) The book is fabulous for the parts of the story it doesn’t tell – there is so much inferencing needed to answer the questions that the author leaves the reader with.  I loved this about the book. Even more, I loved the conversations that were started, the research that was independently done and the students who just couldn’t wait for the book to be finished before watching the movie – they just needed to know what happened (I respectfully asked that these students not give anything away and the politely obliged.)  This was perhaps one of my favourite read alouds that I have ever done with a class.

Flash and Bones – Kathy Reichs

Before starting my comments on this book, I have to tell you that I actually used to know Kathy back in the day of her first novel. I used to hang in the forensic anthropology circles, and met her while attending an American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference.  I can even tell you the advance she received for her first two books – but I won’t share that. This information may or may not have swayed my thoughts on this book. I have never been able to read one of her books before for many reasons, but decided to read this one because a friend of mine (Lindsey) told me I should try and read it…it had NASCAR in it.  So read it I did.

My first thought on the book was that is was absolutely horrible and Kathy was not a very good writer at all. I still stand by that even after finishing the book.  I can’t tell you if it’s my background or her writing style, but I really didn’t like the book at first.  The NASCAR storyline was just plain annoying – too redneck for this non-redneck NASCAR lover.  As the story unfolded I completely understood some of that redneck and it completely made sense, I just didn’t like the stereotype that she used while writing about the sport.  The NASCAR angle aside, the storyline was pretty good.  I really started to get into the book. There were parts of the storyline that I wish has been further laid out but I’m not sure that the story was really lacking based on this lack of expansion. Overall, I didn’t mind the story, just parts of it bothered me right through to the end. Will I read another Kathy Reichs book?  Not likely.  Although I gave up reading Patricia Cornwell years ago, I much prefer her writing style in the murder mystery story lines.

Dead of Night: 39 Clues Cahills vs. Vespers – Peter Lerangis

I have been reading this series since Scholastic started about two years ago.  Now into it’s second part of the series, the Cahills vs. Vespers continues to take readers around the world, but this time instead of working to beat the extended family members, Dan and Amy are racing to beat the Vespers…from killing some of their extended family members.

The stories are not necessarily well written, from an adult perspective.  But from the perspective of the group these books are written for they are pretty great.  My favourite part about the entire series is the fact that the story takes place around the world and historical figures and places and woven into the story. Of course, the way they are woven is completely unbelievable (as an adult) but that doesn’t really matter, because it’s the drama that is meant to be the entertainment.  As a teacher I love these books because of what my students are learning through the story. Not to mention some of the vocabulary, from this book for example: astrolabes and sextants.  The story starts in Turkey and finds Dan and Amy travelling to Samarkand, Uzbekistan. It’s another race against the clock to find the item the Vespers are wanting, while making sure their family members stay alive.  The book is a quick and easy (adult) read.  I have found that grade 5, 6 and somewhat grade 7 seem to be the best age range for these books and this age range has remained the same choice for me throughout. I am still enjoying the series, 14 books in.

April

  

Bringing Up Bebe – Pamela Druckerman

My main reason for reading this book was to see what the author had to say about raising children in France compared to North America.  In all honesty the book was hit and miss for me.  It was definitely an interesting read, but there were some aspects of it that just were that appealing.  Each time Ms. Druckerman mentioned a friend, be they French or American, she gave a sentence or so describing their family (number of children, spouse background) regardless of the fact that we may have already heard about this person, and their thoughts, in a previous chapter.  This really did start to grate on me by the end of the book.

Overall I did find the book rather fascinating.  There are so many aspect of rearing a child in France that I found to be VERY appealing.  The country sponsored child care for one!  I cannot even imagine how much help that is for families.  I was also very intrigued with education there compared to here.  Perhaps the one point that I liked the most was regarding the giving of praise to students in France, or lack of praise as the case is.  In North America we tend to cushion the blow by telling students what they did well, even if the entire piece of work really didn’t meet standards.  In France, they “gently delve into what went wrong, giving kids the confidence and tools to improve.” I really like this ideal.  It completely flies in the face of the whole, everyone should get a trophy because they participated mantra that we seem to have going on in North America right now.  This really isn’t helping anyone, and really doesn’t help the child.  The book was a good read and made me think about the way I interact with the students in my class and made me think a little deeper as to how those children were raised and why they may act the way they do.  There is a lot of buzz about this book right now.  It’s definitely an interesting read, but not the greatest read of the year so far.

Divergent – Veronica Roth

If you have read the Hunger Games then you will be very familiar with this type of story.  Much like the Hunger Games, Divergent revolves around the main character Tris (Beatrice) and the dystopian society in which she lives.  At the age of 16 Tris must choose one of the five factions – Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Amity and Candor. In a world that lives by the mantra “faction over family,” upon choosing many never see there family again, if they choose to defect to another faction.  Tris chooses Dauntless and the training begins.  For those of you who may have found the hunger games to be violent, be warned, this book is more violent in every way. It was also difficult to read because there is a suicide (generally a difficult  topic to read, but made even more so because I was dealing with this in read life too). Suicide and violence aside I loved the book.  Not a fast reader, I finished it in just over a week and in the closing pages had to force myself to put the book down each night otherwise I would have read until I was finished.  The twists and turns throughout where well written and worked very well.  Roth does a fabulous job of putting little tidbits throughout the book to make connections to the main character – for example, near the end of the book Tris realizes she is most definitely not alone in her divergence (the Dauntless guard is a great example). Much like heading into Chasing Fire, I cannot imagine what Veronica Roth has in store for the second book in this series – Insurgent – especially given everything that happened at this end of Divergent! I most definitely suggest this book it was fabulous!

Empty – Suzanne Weyn

The storyline of this book was a pretty good one – what would it be like if we ran out of oil.  The fact that there was no specific date attached to the book, “ten years in the future” was a smart move on the author/editors part because it doesn’t date the book where you can say, “hey that just didn’t happen then!” Overall I did like the story but my biggest critique is that I wanted more.  The story jumped around a bunch in an effort to move the story along but in actuality it just left me wanting more, much more to the story. The one thing that drove me NUTS was Oscpearl!  The colliding of two hurricanes to create a super hurricane named Oscpearl.  First, the name drove me nuts, then it just starting bugging me because it was said over and over and over again.

The story certainly makes you think about what would happen if we do run out of oil – personally I can’t imagine going through what the characters experienced. Not only running out of oil, but having the electricity out, prices sky rocketing because of delivery costs and then simply running out of food and supplies.

The “green” house in the story does sound pretty awesome.  And in all honestly living off the electricity grid would be awesome!

It’s worth the read and since it is a YA book I would recommend it as such.  I think it would make that age group think a little about what if this is their future – but it won’t make them think too hard.

May

Coding issues this month…Hugo is first in the coding, but for some reason third in the list.  I don’t know what’s going on with that one!

       

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick

I finally read this book – to my class, although it was the first time I actually read it myself. Before I say anything specifically about the book I have to say that I was so very happy when the vast majority of my class loved the book so much better than the movie! YEAH!!

The books was so very good.  The story impressive.  The drawings amazing.  The setting dreamy. The plot…completely unrealistic but that’s why it’s fiction!  I loved the was Brian Selznick introduced and moved the story along using the drawings. It was a great way to show my students they story, they were amazed as much with the story as they were with the pictures.  The descriptions of the train station were fabulous and I so want to visit that train station.  Who am I kidding…I want to visit Paris! The movie may have been good, but the book just has so much more to it.  I also like the way the book ended, especially in comparison to the movie.  You are left knowing where the story goes. I would have to agree with my students, the book is great and so much better than the movie!

Insurgent - Veronica Roth

I read the first book in April, Divergent, and couldn’t wait for this book to come out!  I preordered. I counted down.  I even went to town on release day because my copy had not been shipped yet – how can that be?! And…it was all worth it. My only “warning” is to remember this is a YA book so if you find yourself yelling at the characters keep that in mind – you will completely understand this when you read it. Apparently there were some who were commenting/complaining to the author that there were some inconsistencies between the two books, but I honestly couldn’t see them and probably wouldn’t have cared because the book just kept moving and moving and moving. I have not read a book this fast since the last instalment of Harry Potter.

This book continues right where the last book finished – Tris’s initiation day.  What should have been a happy day, turns bad, real bad and ends up with Tris and Four (among others) on the run. Insurgent takes us further in depth into the lives of the other factions and the factionless too. We learn a lot more about what life is truly like in the different faction areas and characters who left in Divergent reemerge in Insurgent – not necessarily with good endings. I really did find myself yelling at the book, but not because of the teenage angst, rather because I just could not believe the twists and turns that happen. Most of my inferences did not come to fruition, which was so not a bad thing in this case, because it just kept me reading and reading and reading.  I actually had to force myself to put the book down on the Thursday evening because otherwise I would have read into the wee hours of the morning and that would not have made me a happy person at work the next day.  Reading this book really did make me wish that I was a faster reader, but all in good time I made it to the end…only to have that final twist thrown myself and I found myself finishing the book with a big “no way!” and wishing the third book was already out. This of course is only of the problems with reading a series AS the books come out. I was so hoping that book three would be out in time for Christmas, but was so saddened to hear it would be out in time for Christmas 2013! Roth wants to make sure the book is the best final book it can possibly be – I give her that, but man it will be one LONG wait!

I’ve Got Your Number – Sophie Kinsella

I’ve enjoyed most of Kinsella’s books, but I’ll be honest and tell you I pretty much skipped over Shopaholic and Sister, just wasn’t my thing. This book is not part of the Shopholic series, but very much follows the same vein as many of Kinsella’s books.  I wasn’t really sure what I was thinking about the book when I was first getting into it – Poppy is a physiotherapist who loses her engagement ring, then her phone, only to find a phone, that she claims for her use, in the trash bin.  The phone was thrown out by Sam Roxton’s PA. And is typical of Kinsella’s books there is a back and forth between these two characters, nothing romantic, but rather Poppy is “helping” Sam out by passing on his messages, all so she can keep the phone in case her ring is found – she gave the number to everyone, hoping she would get her ring back. Poppy’s fiance is a bit of an ass, if I do say so myself. You can completely see where this story is going to go pretty much right for the beginning, although I will admit at one point I really wasn’t sure Kinsella was going to keep with her normal recipe for success (yes I probably just gave away something there).  In the end I did enjoy the book and despite having a cold and sore throat stayed up late on Friday night reading and went to finish the book early Saturday evening.  The book ended just how it should, and admittedly I also enjoyed the texting between the characters as part of the storyline. I will say that I held off buying this book and borrowed it from a local library (I’m not a big fan of borrowing books and despite being the 2nd person to take out this book, I still hold true to this feeling…the book was already yucky with goodness knows what!) and would say that borrowing the book is definitely my suggestion or at least wait until the paperback version comes out.  I’ve Got Your Number is a good book, but not a great book.

June

My amount of reading, or lack thereof, very much correlates with the time of {school} year. June was a very thin month in the reading department.  I can’t even say that I read a lot of magazines, although I did do plenty of reading online – if reading reports counts?! With that…here are the reads for June.

Diary of a Player – Brad Paisley (with David Wild)

 I have always enjoyed Brad Paisley’s music and after seeing him in concert two summers ago I loved his music even more – he had a second {smaller} stage back in the audience, near where I was sitting! I really enjoyed reading this book and getting a history of where Brad’s career actually started.  To say the least it really was a matter of being in the right place at the right time and being very, very lucky (and/or blessed).  The book is a funny, quick read and gives you a pretty good history of one small part of country music, from the connections that Brad made/has in the country community. I enjoyed the “Guitar Lessons” that are used between the different sections – try country words to live by. :) He also has quotes throughout from some of country musics biggest names that show how much he is well loved in the country music community. If you are a country music fan this is definitely worth the read (the paperback version just came out).  If you aren’t so much a country music fan, I’ll be honest, you might as well skip this book, it really won’t likely be your thing.

Cahill Files (The 39 Clues) – Clifford Riley

This has everything to do with the series I have written about before, but nothing to do with the storyline of the series I have been reading for several years now.  For some reason Scholastic has decided that now would be the time to start telling you the history of the Cahill family. The book starts right back in Ghent, in 1566 (Treaty of Ghent time) and jumps (very) quickly to modern times.  You get a very brief history of the Cahill family and the book sort of brings you up to date from where the series actually starts.  I enjoyed reading the book, but sort of felt it was a waste of time and paper. I’d really just like the newest book to come out so I know where the current storyline is going to head. If you have kids that are into this series (although I am starting to see interest slowly disappearing for this series) they may enjoy this book. As is typical with these books there is a history lesson to be had.

July

    

Mud, Sweat and Tears – Bear Grylls

I have to admit I was a little surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It was a great look at who Bear is…outside of the TV show, as a matter of fact the show isn’t even mentioned until the very end and even then it’s almost in passing. It was interesting to read about his upbringing in England and the silly things he did a kid.  Reading through his years away at school and then about his time in the British Special Forces (SAS). I honestly had no idea he had climbed Mount Everest…whether he mentioned it on Man vs. Wild or not, I really didn’t watch the show. Reading this book definitely gave me a new respect for Bear Grylls as he is so much more than his show.  He really does have the background to be able to be the lead in a show like Man vs. Wild, unlike other survival shows that have been on and are still on television. Knowing now what his body has been through, the fact that he even does/did the Man vs. Wild is even more impressive! One thing that surprised me was his faith – I just didn’t realize. He is very matter of fact about it and how it helped him through different trials and tribulations. Definitely worth the read.

Dawn – Elie Wiesel

This is the second book in the Night trilogy.  I read Night ages ago when it was an Oprah book of the month.  I finally got around to reading the second book this month.  I didn’t realize it when I first bought it, but until Night, Dawn is a work of fiction.  A work of fiction that is so realistic in how it is written.  I cannot imagine what it was like (because although this is fiction there were people who did this!) to have survived a concentration camp only to become the one who was expected to kill. It is a very short book, just 81 pages, about a night in the life of a man who is chosen/expected to kill a British officer in British controlled Palestine.  The internal battle that Elisha goes through in those pages is heart wrenchingly written. This book really was a good read.

Jane Austen Marriage Manual – Kim Izzo

 Chick lit used to be a genre I gravitated towards, before I grabbed hold of nonfiction for the longest time. This month there are three chick lit reads, including this one.

Simply put, I grabbed this book because my friend did, I had no idea what to expect so the fact that I enjoyed this book was a bonus.  I actually enjoyed it so much that this slow reader stayed up until ridiculous times more than one night, including 1 a.m. to finish the book. The whole concept was so silly and yes I could so easily see a magazine trying this to see if Jane Austen’s words really do work. Kate Shaw was a great character, a woman in her 40s who never had a permanent job, in the magazine world. She is so funny as she goes through the efforts to land herself a rich man. The idea of being able to jet set around the world does sound wonderful, but since that isn’t likely to happen for me any time soon, being able to do so vicariously through the main character worked for me. Of course in true chick lit fashion, I was screaming at the book every once in a while because of how the main character was acting, but that was to be expected! I could total envision the English Manor that Kate ends up at and would love to be able to visit it myself. The ending drove me nuts because in all honesty the book is very predictable, in the chick lit methods, but the author takes us for a few twists and turns at the end – it’s one of the reasons that, despite being so very tired, I stayed up to finish the book. I definitely enjoyed reading this book.

13 Little Blue Envelopes/The Last Little Blue Envelope – Maureen Johnson

 Complete YA Chick lit and that’s perfectly alright. I enjoyed the book more than I figured I would. Imagine getting 13 letters from your recently departed aunt? Would you follow the directions? I enjoyed following Ginny on her travels through Europe, meeting all of the different characters along the way. There were definitely parts where I wished just a bit more of the story was given because sometimes I felt like the section/city just sort of ended. I felt like I was right there with Ginny as she explored and learned about each new city and more and more about her aunt. Knowing that there was a book two helped. This is definitely a book I would put in my library at school and the books will eventually go into my classroom library, when I am back to being a regular classroom teacher.
There were a few typos that drove me nuts, but I got over it pretty quickly.

I actually started this book before the first and was 37 pages before I realized it (someone left the book at the kiosk at Chapters and it looked interesting). The fact that I could get that far into the book and feel like I hadn’t missed a beat was pretty impressive. I stopped and went back to read the first book. I jumped right back into the book 37 pages in and didn’t miss a beat. I think I actually ended up enjoying the second book better than the first. Just like the trip from the original letters, this trip was a good one too. It truly made me want to go to Paris, Amsterdam and Dublin. I’d love to take the train through the Chunnel…in my car. The addition of Oliver to the storyline and bringing Keith back into the story kept it very interesting. You definitely felt the tension between the characters. I was sad when the book ended because I wanted there to be more, but in all honesty the book ended just as it should.

August

I tried, I really tried reading a third book this month, a book that wasn’t even long, but I finally gave up. I tried so very hard to read Day, the third book written by Elie Wiesel.  I just couldn’t get into reading the book.
Unsinkable: A Young Woman's Courageous Battle on the High SeasUnsinkable: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle on the High Seas by Abby Sunderland

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book was definitely interesting from the standpoint of getting a firsthand account of what Abby went through during her attempt to sail solo around the world. She did a great job at explaining what her thought were going through the different trials and tribulations of her attempt. I really felt for her when she made the decision to head to port in South Africa, for anyone that had to be tough. She is definitely wiser beyond her years and she more than proved that.
The one thing I didn’t like about the book was the different icons to explain who was talking, especially when it was Abby herself multiple times in a row. I couldn’t figure out why the icon needed to be used and it started to bother me. It did help, especially nearer the end when there were many people talking, but I’m pretty sure we could have figured it out. That said, I am speaking as an adult. As a teacher, I suspect that the icons would actually help my students better follow the story.

Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the '60s and BeyondMad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and Beyond by Jane Maas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Being a big fan of Mad Men this book drew me in. The book itself was a perfectly fine read and definitely gave me great insight into the advertising world that is portrayed in Mad Men. Jane Maas shares some really fascinating stories about her life in advertising. She also informs the reader that Mad Men isn’t as far fetched as you would think. Sure, there are some inaccuracies, it is Hollywood after all, but all in all the show is pretty close. My biggest critique for this book was how it was written. The chapters are written more like individual monologues that were collected and published all under one cover. There was a lot of repetitive writing each time a company or person was spoken about – it makes for easy reading of individual chapters, but as a whole read it really did start to bother me. All in all it was definitely an interesting read.

Categories: Blog

2 comments

  • Elaine

    Wow, that’s a lot of reading! You are not the last person to read the Hunger Games, because I haven’t read them yet. :) I plan to, because I keep hearing how good the books are. I haven’t read any of the other books on your list, but some of them sound interesting. I’ve seen the film of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, and was quite surprised at the ending – I thought surely a children’t book couldn’t end like that! I’ve also seen Hugo, and enjoyed it, but maybe because it looked so good rather than the story being a great one.