Thursday, July 29, 2010

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

What do you think of the two very different covers for this book?

My YA book club discussed this book last night, and we had a great meeting.  We used this helpful discussion guide.  From the title alone, two of the ladies expected the book's topic to be "Should I stay with my boyfriend or not?"  Boy, were they surprised!  The actual topic is: "Should I stay alive or die?"  High school senior Mia and her family are involved in a horrific car accident that leaves Mia's body in a catatonic state.  However, Mia is able to view her own body and learns that she holds the key to life or death.  What will she decide?

The reason I chose this book is because of Natasha's Maw Books Blog.  She specifically pointed out that Mia really loves her family and that is rare is YA literature.  Mia does love her parents and her brother.  In fact, she'd rather spend time with her family than go to some party.  (Parents of teenagers rejoice!)  Mia also loves her boyfriend, Adam, with a mature love that transcends their differences.  Great examples of love.

Religion is not a part of Mia's decision-making process.  When she considers "leaving" it is to reunite with family members.  No mention of heaven or hell.  I'm just saying, you might want to think about that stuff before making that kind of decision.

Interestingly enough, the book includes a detailed flashback about an atheist (a family friend) and his funeral.  LSS: Man is atheist. Dies. His family gives him a Christian funeral.  Mia's mother vocally complains about the absurdity of the funeral and the denial of man's family to accept the kind of person he was.


Clearly, the book is not written from a biblical world view.


Monday, July 26, 2010

A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker

Summary: Fiona and the rest of the senior class must survive the mandatory Marriage Preparation Course in order to graduate.  Oh yeah, and Fiona is matched with the biggest jerk in the school.

I read A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker because Melanie gave it such a great review.  It wasn't what I expected (a good clean read), but it was an enjoyable, laugh-out-loud funny book.  And that about sums it up.

Best Part of the Book: the Hamlet quotes!
Worst Part of the Book: the promotion of homosexuality.


Girl Coming in for a Landing by April Halprin Wayland

Girl Coming in for a Landing is a novel in poems by April Halprin Wayland.  It's a sweet, sweet book for teenage girls.  The protagonist tell us about her life through her poems.  Poems about her crush, her classes, her friends, her sister, her family.

What I liked about this book:
  • a character I could easily connect with
  • her love for her family
  • the poem "Why I Am a Lot Like a Horse"  Funny name, but seriously I like this poem!  (I would print it here for you, but I'm afraid I'd be banished to copyright jail, so please grab the book and read it yourself.) 
  • It is the FIRST book I've read in one day--woo-hoo!  (Yes, I'm a slow reader.)
  • April Halprin Wayland's writing tips at the end of her novel
What I didn't like about this book:
  • the ouija board
  • the drawn picture of a topless girl...with nipples.  I'm just saying, it was unnecessary.
Overall, a great book! 


It's Monday! What are you Reading?

This is a weekly event hosted by Sheila at BookJourney.  Stop on by her great site to join in on the fun!

Last week I read American Born Chinese and A Match Made in High School. Reviews to come on both.

This week I plan on reading...
Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli
Girl Coming in for a Landing by April Halprin Wayland

Both of these are part of the IWU Adolescent Literature college course syllabus.  Feel free to join me on reading them all!


Thursday, July 22, 2010

2010 National Book Festival

The 10th annual National Book Festival
Organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress
Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010
National Mall in Washington, D.C. 
10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  

Book Festival participants include:
Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay)
Mem Fox (Koala Lou, Possum Magic, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes)
Linda Sue Park (A Single Shard, Project Mulberry, The 39 Clues, Book 9: Storm Warning)
Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved, The Great Gilly Hopkins, Park's Quest)

View the entire list of author participants here.  The website says they are still adding new authors.

I attended this wonderful Book Festival in 2005 when I was an English teacher in Northern Virginia.  My co-worker/friend and I listened to Meg Cabot and Sharon Creech give delightful presentations.  Meg Cabot was hysterical.  We were also able to get signatures from Meg Cabot.  (P.S. This was before I read Ready or Not (worst. book. ever.) and when all I knew of her was The Princess Diaries and All-American Girl.)

Meg Cabot signs my book (All-American Girl--one of the funniest books I've read).
Have you been before?  Will you go this year?  I'm soooo excited to hear Suzanne Collins speak!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Adolescent Literature Course at IWU

I graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University, a Christian school in Marion, Indiana.  While there, I took the course Adolescent Literature with Dr. McCracken.  I loved it!  Throughout the years, I've kept touch with him through emails asking him to send me the titles on his new syllabus.

Here is the list he sent me in the spring. My goal is to finish the list by the end of the summer.

  1. A Step from Heaven by An Na
  2. Girl Coming in for a Landing by April Halprin Wayland
  3. Inexcusable by Chris Lynch
  4. Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
  5. Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  6. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
  7. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  8. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  9. Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli
  10. True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff
  11. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  12. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
If you'd like to join me, feel free!  I love feeling like a college student again!  Instead of reading the book and writing an essay on it, I read the book and write about it on my blog!

The down side is that I miss out on the classroom time with my professor.  I am anxiously awaiting his response to my email asking why he chose some of these books for a course at a Christian university.  A Step from Heaven, True Believer, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian--all of which I've reviewed on this blog-- are troublesome.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's Monday What are you Reading?

It's another installment of "It's Monday What are you Reading?" hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  Thanks Sheila!

I recently finished:
Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer.  I had the chance to see the movie with my old roommate from high school while I was visiting her in Ohio, so I saw it before I re-read Eclipse.  Oh well!  The movie was great!  Jacob is so much more likable in the movie than the book. 
If I Stay by Gayle Forman  I will write a review soon on this book.  It's our YA book club selection, and I think it will foster good discussion at our meeting at the end of the month.

What's on my list for this Week:
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang  This is on a class syllabus that I'm reading through.  I'll share that list in an upcoming post.  I picked it up at the library today and was surprised to find it in the Graphic YA novels!  Who knew?  I've never read a graphic novel, so I'm intrigued. 
A Match Made in High School by Kristin Walker  I am excited about this book!!!  From what I can tell, it's based on the Shakespeare idea of mistaken identities.  It sounds like a good clean YA book.  I have high hopes!!
Under a Maui Moon by Robin Jones Gunn  I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS BOOK!!!  It's on the way from, and I'm biting my nails in anticipation!  Robin Jones Gunn is my favorite author, and this is her new release.  Plus the setting is Maui, a setting she has written about in other books such as Whispers, one of my favorite books.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Three Cups of Tea- Young Reader's Edition by Greg Mortenson

This young readers’ edition of the worldwide bestseller Three Cups of Tea has been specially adapted and updated by Greg Mortenson to bring his remarkable story of humanitarianism up-to-date. It includes brand-new photos, maps, and illustrations, as well as a special afterword by Greg’s twelve-year-old daughter, Amira, who has traveled with her father as an advocate for the Pennies for Peace program for children.
Taken from


I have not read the adult version, so I don't have much to compare.  However, the map, photos, and interview with Greg's daughter are great additions to the book. These will make the story easier to read for younger readers.  I chose the young reader's edition because my friend, Heather, told me a couple years ago that the adult version told a good story but was very political with a lot of Bush-hating.  Like I said, I haven't read it, so I can't vouch for that review, but I can say that the young reader's edition did not fit that bill.

This book kept the focus on what Greg Mortenson is doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan. That being building schools in poor villages to promote learning for the impoverished children, specifically the girls.  It is an inspiring story about how much difference one man can make.  It is also a great story of adventure because it chronicles Greg's real experiences such as getting lost on a mountain and escaping fighting drug lords.

It's a great story for American middle schoolers.  I hope after reading it they gain an appreciation for their American school buildings, education, and opportunities for college.  I did!

True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff

Short and sweet review:
A poor high school girl experiences the overtaking emotions of first love, has a fall-out with her best friends over religion, and watches her mom date a new man all while trying to better herself in the attempt to go to college.  It is the second book in the Make Lemonade Trilogy, but it works as a stand-alone novel as well.

Longer review:
A poor high school girl experiences the overtaking emotions of first love, has a fall-out with her best friends over religion, and watches her mom date a new man all while trying to better herself in the attempt to go to college.  It is the second book in the Make Lemonade Trilogy, but it works as a stand-alone novel as well.

Positives: Written in free verse, it is a very fast read.  It is engrossing, and the characters are developed well.  I easily  related to LaVaughn's feelings of her head-over-heals crush on Jody. Which girl can't relate to this strong emotion?  LaVaughn is a forgiving character, and one who values her friendships.  There are a couple of instances when she is rude to her friends, but she comes to them and apologizes.  I liked that a lot.

Negatives: This book shows a distorted view of Christianity. LaVaughn's best girl friends have joined a Christian club to specifically help them keep their virginity.  As the book progresses, the reader learns more and more about the club which calls "hyper religious."  LaVaughn (and the author) see the very conservative side of Christianity (eg. They believe in Creation as opposed to evolution) as negative, something that is ruining her friends.  LaVaughn herself does some research on Christianity and makes her own decisions on what it means to be "true believer."  Here's a clue: her decision has nothing to do with accepting the divinity of Jesus Christ.  As a conservative Christian, I strongly disliked this thread of the plot and would not recommend the book to anyone. 


Monday, July 5, 2010

It's Monday What are you Reading?

It's another installment of "It's Monday What are you Reading?" hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

Last week I read:

Three Cups of Tea, Young Reader's Edition
More Growing Grateful Kids by Susie Larson

This week's plan:

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (a re-read)  My goal is to get it done before I watch the movie!

More Growing Grateful Kids by Susie Larson  I know it's taking me forever to read this book!  However, it's wonderful!  It is so encouraging and helpful on how to teach my kids compassion, humility, and contentment in the midst of this culture of materialism and entitlement.  Wow. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Words that come to mind about this book:

Does it have some good things to offer the world?  Yes.  There are good messages of overcoming obstacles and chasing hope when there's none around you.  It also gives a good account of what life on Alexie's reservation was like.  (Don't let the title fool you; it's partly autobiographical.) People should know the hardships that Indians have encountered due to our country's poor treatment of them.  I support youth learning all these lessons, but I cannot support this book because these lessons are mixed in with irreverent and profane statements about the One True God. 

Twilight meets The Hunger Games

How's that for a title?  That was my dream last night!  Edward, Bella, and Jacob were three of the contestants in the next Hunger Games.  And like in the end of the book The Hunger Games, partners were allowed. But in my dream, the players chose their own partners at the beginning.  So Bella had to choose who she wanted for a partner: Edward or Jacob?  (I'm sure reading the article on Eclipse in Entertainment Weekly last night set me up for this dream.)  All the drama!  Who's going to die?  Added vampire and werewolf killing techniques to the arena.  It was so dramatic!!!  Well, Bella chose Jacob as her partner because she had enough faith in Edward to know that he would protect her without being her partner.  So her choice gave her two allies.  Who needs to see Eclipse when you have a dream like that!