Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke


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Friday, December 27, 2013

A Green Thumb

Earthquake Terror by Peg Kehret

Adolescent Thriller

Kehret has a green thumb with books--everything she writes is just a really cool read.  Not Pulitzer or Newberry worthy, just really, really good.  I'm such a fan of hers, a new fan.  All of her books are perfect for my classroom and the kids love her stuff.  Her books are always checked out.

This one has danger and disaster from the get-go and it doesn't let up until the last chapter.

Jonathan and his family are used to roughing it.  That's why they are vacationing on very remote Magpie Island with no running water, no electricity, and only one road.  But their camping trip takes a turn for the worse when Jonathan's mom trips and breaks her ankle.  Dad is forced to leave Jonathan to watch Abby, his handicapped little sister.  Then, roughing it becomes way too rough when an earthquake flattens their camper and cuts off the road.  Now, Jonathan is left to take care of things on his own with just his dog to help them.  When the island starts to flood, Jonathan realizes that he can't stay put and wait for help.  He's going to rescue them all.  But, how can he when his sister can't walk, can't swim? 

What follows is a non-stop life or death struggle for the siblings.  I honestly didn't know at several parts in the book if all three of them were going to make it.  It is easy to see why Kehret's books are so popular with kids.  You just can't stop reading at the end of the chapter!  You have to keep reading to see if they'll make it.  It's perfect for low level readers and any young reader who likes a fast, thrilling read.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Enough Already

Dork Diaries #3:  Tales from a Not-So-Popular Talented Pop Star by Rachel Renee Russell

Adolescent Graphic Novel

This series is getting a bit repetitive.  The books do not get funnier or better in any way.  As a matter of fact, they are so exactly like the first one that if you didn't just love that one, you won't like this one much at all.  Only die-hard fans will continue to read these.  I did not love the first one and very much disliked this one.

So, Nikki is still mortified her father is an exterminator and that she is at school on a free scholarship.  To prevent that from happening, Nikki tells the principal of her school that her father can no longer fulfill the school's exterminating contract.  In the book, there was NEVER a mention about how this would affect the family's financial situation.  Nikki is the ultimate in selfsish and self-centeredness, even worse than the diva she's always complaining about.  And, because Nikki is not a braniac, she now has to figure out a way to stay at her ritzy private school because her scholarship was based on her father's bug contract.  Enter a talent competition.  How timely!  How trite and overdone!

I think I disliked this one so much because this book showcased what a shallow, selfish person the main character is.  The plot in this book sends such a poor message to young readers.  What started as a cute idea has now just gone on too long.  The main character is static and so annoying.  The plot is thin and unbelievable.  The drawings and diary format are the only parts I still like.  My students love it, though, especially my lower-level girls. and there just aren't a whole lot of other books out there for them.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pop Blech

Socs & Greasers:  Behind the Scenes from The Outsiders from Rob Lowe's Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

Autobiography

This is a small slice from a larger book, Lowe's memoir Stories I Only Tell My Friends.  It would be unfair to judge the memoir based on this chapter; yet, it was so bad it completely erased any desire I had to read Lowe's memoir.

I read this because The Outsiders has been so important in my life.  It has remained a favorite book of mine since I was a teen; it was the first novel I ever taught in a classroom; and, it was the first time a movie affected me so deeply.  The movie remained a favorite as well.  I was very excited when Lowe started talking about his own personal experiences while reading the book.  I agree with him that much of the beautiful story was left out of the film.  Alas, this part of his tale was brief.  I didn't really care about the rest.  Apparently the most disappointing part of Lowe's whole experience of The Outsiders was that his big moment, his artistic pinnacle as an actor, was completely removed from the final film version. I'm sure the movie would have been so much better with this scene in it. (Use heavily sarcastic voice here.) Lowe's jealousy of the other actors, especially Matt Damon, is so obvious and really left a bad taste in my mouth.

I am not really a celebrity fan so the rest of the "book" was annoying.  It read like one long name-dropping roster.  YAWN! 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Golden!

Mercy Thompson #5:  Silver Borne by Patricia Riggs

Paranormal Romance

This is a series that just gets better and better with each book!

Mercy and Adam are finally mated together, but their relationship is in danger of cooling off.  Mercy is not fitting all that well into Adam's pack.  Most of the pack is uneasy with a lowly coyote being their new female leader.  Someone is apparently upset enough to try and kill Mercy over it.  My favorite (and most romantic) part was when Adam fights (in a to-the-death) match for Mercy's honor.  Adam=Wow!  ?And, now that Mercy has officially rejected Sam in favor of Adam, Sam is suicidal and quickly losing himself to his wolf side.

Mercy has been asked by the friend of a friend to guard a book.  Not just any old library book, either.  A book powerful enough, literally, to kill for.  When the owner of the book turns up dead, what is Mercy supposed to do with the book?

One question...where is the vampire Stefan?  It's like Riggs just pushed him to the side because he didn't work out.  I loved Stefan!  I want a Stefan series.  It just feels like a loose end that needs tied up.  Perhaps in the next book?

This one is full of all the action, adventure, and romance of the other books.  What I really love about the character of Mercy is that she isn't a static character.  She learns from her previous mistakes and changes, and yet she still makes new mistakes.  She never reaches that ho-hum perfection phase that some other lead characters get.  I can't wait for the next one!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Award Winner in Every Way

A Mercy by Toni Morrison

Adult Fiction

This book was a national bestseller, an award winner, on the New York Times Bestseller list--but don't we expect that from Morrison?  Yes, and she always delivers.  Morrison is the Nobel Laureate and this book clearly shows why she is deserving of that honor.  Morrison crafts words much as a potter at a wheel, spinning and churning to create a masterpiece of fragile beauty.

The book takes place in the 1600s in America.  This setting gives it quite a unique perspective as most books are written about slavery during Civil War times.  Jacob is not really a slave owner but gets talked into taking a young black girl to settle a debt.  Florens, abandoned by her mother (she thinks), goes to live on Jacob's farm and spend the rest of her young life desperately trying to find love and be loved.  The whole story is one of unrequited love.  Everyone in the story seems to be suffering from lack of love and some even die of it.  Florens lives with two other slaves, whose stories are even sadder and more tragic than hers. 

The whole novel was worth the last paragraph.  There are parts of the story that won't make sense until you come to the end.  Hold on because it is worth the wait.  I wish there would have been more of Mercy's mother in the book.  Her words were so tragic, so powerful, so beautiful.  It took just a few pages to show the depth s of a mother's love.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Surprise

The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda

Adolescent Fiction/Adventure/Fantasy

I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did, but I loved it!  This is the first book (I think) in the Ash Mistry chronicles and definitely a series I will keep reading.

Ash and his sister have been on vacation, visiting their aunt and uncle in their native India.  Ash has been bored to tears.  He is more of a Western boy and misses his TV, music videos, and junk food.  Looking at temples has bored him out of his skull.  When Ash discovers an ancient artifact at one of his uncle's dig sites, his boring vacation turns into a life and death adventure.  Ash gets in touch with his roots really quickly when a legion of Indian gods and goddesses come after him, determined to retrieve the artifact.  One of my new favorite characters is Parvati, a snake goddess.  I hope she returns in the second one.

What I loved most about this book was the Indian mythology.  Rick Riordan has cornered the market on Greek, Roman, and Egyptian mythology, but that was something different.  So unique!  Indian mythology is full of amazing gods and goddesses like I've never seen before and monsters that will make your head spin.  It has created in me a strong desire to learn more about this culture.  The book is full of excitement and adventure--a great read for adolescents.

Friday, December 6, 2013

It Has Been a Fine Ride, Alex Ryder

Alex Rider #9:  Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz

Spy Thriller

I have loved this series from the very beginning and have followed it faithfully.  It has been a fine ride, Alex Ryder, and worth every minute I have spent with you (which is quite a compliment when you consider how many pages are in each book!).

In this last installment, Alex is absolutely fed up with MI6.  He's been an unwilling spy at the expense of his childhood, but he is determined to enjoy being a teenager.  Once again, though, he's roped into an espionage game that is way above his head.  He is sent to the far East to pose as a schoolboy.  He seems to hate everything about this new mission and, yet, he pursues it with the most passion I've seen yet.  As Alex is getting more mature, more dangerous and more grown up, so are the villains.  This one seemed impossible to beat.  The reader also gets to see much more of Jack in this book than every before.  It made their situation more dire to see the devotion between the two of them. 

The pages just flip themselves, so eager was I find out what happened next.  This book did my time, and the series, justice.  My biggest wish is that Horowitz would take Alex into adulthood and launch a new generation of 'James Bond' era books.  I would love for Alex to continue!