Saturday, November 15, 2008

A to Z 2009 Challenge

And while we're adding next year's challenges, here's another one I'm in for:
The A to Z Reading Challenge. I am choosing option B, which is to read 26 books with titles beginning with all 26 letters of the alphabet.

The 2009 100+ Reading Challenge

Why not? Even though I have only read 58 books thus far in 2008, I'm feeling gutsy. So I have signed up for the 100+ Reading Challenge. Since I met my Book-a-Week goal, I might as well strive for higher, right?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Bean Trees--Barbara Kingsolver

Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 1992
Rating: 4/5

Another really good read this year. In this novel the protagonist, Taylor, leaves her small town in Tennessee and travels west. Stopping on the way at an Indian reservation, she acquires an abandoned and abused baby. Spunky and vibrant, Taylor is a true heroine as she manages to find a place for herself and Turtle, the baby, in Arizona. There she creates friendships with a newly-single mother, two old-fashioned spinsters (one of whom is blind), and a woman who runs an auto body shop when she is not aiding refugees from Central America. The book is about friendship and belonging, about helping others, and about realizing that life is bigger than oneself. While I wouldn't say this book was as good as The Poisonwood Bible, it is still a worthy read.

Book-a-week # 52!!!! I made it!!!!!
Challenge/s: Decades--1980s

The Thirteenth Tale--Diane Setterfield

Genre: Gothic Fiction
Year Published: 2006
Pages: 406
Rating: 5/5

Oh how I loved this book! I was swept away by Setterfield's version of gothic fiction. For days my vision was clouded by dank moors and hidden children, and a dark, doomed, looming house. This was one of those books that you wish would never end even as you zoom toward the finish to find out what happens.

The book is a story within a story. A biographer named Margaret Lea who lives above her father's bookstore and grapples with the fact that she is a single twin whose sister died at birth is contacted by a well-known author, Vida Winter. Ms. Winter is known not only for her books, but for the fact that she has never disclosed the truth about herself to any biographer. Now, she wants that truth told, and Margaret is the person she wishes to tell it to.

Margaret moves into Ms. Winter's house on the moors, and becomes immersed in her story. I will give away nothing, but I will tell you that the story includes insanity, twins, abandoned children, incest, a house falling into disrepair, a governess, a fire, an asylum, and many, many references to the novel Jane Eyre.

I didn't think I would like this book, but it was one of my favorite reads of the year. So even if you think it doesn't sound like your thing, I'd advise you to give it a shot.

Book-a-week # 51
Challenge/s: RIP III

I Am Mordred--Nancy Springer

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Year Published: 2002
Pages: 192
Rating: 4/5

I really, really liked this book. Granted, I love the Arthurian mythology, and it is hard for me to not enjoy ANY retelling of that story. But I think what I really enjoyed about this book was the deeper theme of predestination--is it possible for us to avoid what we are meant to become?

In this novel, no. Destiny wins in the end, despite all of Mordred's better efforts. The reader is privy to his feelings of love and hate for Arthur, the father whom he is destined to destroy. We watch as he tries to let goodness overcome fate. We see Arthur's struggle as well, for he too knows that the son he loves but cannot acknowledge as his own will one day kill him. And in the end, it comes down to an effort between the two to save poor Mordred's soul.

The story is sad and captivating, simple and complex, and I recommend it to anyone, especially those with an interest in Arthurian retellings.

P.S. Does anyone else have an odd feeling that that is Brad Pitt under the helmet on the cover?

Book-a-week # 50
Challenge/s: Young Adult, Arthurian, Naming Conventions

You Don't Know Me--David Klass

Genre: Young Adult
Year Published: 2002
Pages: 352
Rating: 4/5

This is another good young adult novel. The narrator is telling the story to his mother, by whom he feels abandoned since she has taken up with a man who abuses him. The story is sad and funny, as he outlines his adventures in classes, in the mall as his friend is arrested for stealing an eggroll, in his date's basement trying to avoid her angry father, and various other scenarios. Perhaps not very realistic (the character certainly is unlike any fifteen year old I've ever encountered) the book is still entertaining and viable, especially considering the difficult subject matter the author is tackling.

Book-a-week # 49
Challenge/s: Young Adult

Scorpions--Walter Dean Myers

Genre: Young Adult
Year Published: 1996
Pages: 224
Rating: 3/5

I liked this book, although it was rather simplistic compared to the other Myers book I read this year, Fallen Angels. The story is about a young man who is drawn into a gang by his criminalized brother and his intense hatred of the school bully. It is hard to review without spoiling, but suffice to say that there is a lesson to be learned here, not only about the choices we make, but about how friendships are affected by said choices. My students really like this book, and I often recommend it to them.

Book-a-Week # 48
Challenge/s: Young Adult

Friday, November 7, 2008

Yes We DID!!!!! (link to Obama book giveaway)

I am still reeling from the election Tuesday. What an exciting and inspiring night! Watching the rally in Grant Park on TV (I know, I should've been there) I was struck by the unification and diversity of the crowd. I think this bodes very well for our nation.

A fellow book lover, Teddy Rose is sponsoring an Obama book giveaway. Here is the link for more info:
Visit so that you can win Life Magazine's The American Journey of Barack Obama!

There is a long road ahead of us, but a little hope goes a long way. Our country has awakened, and the whole world is watching.