Saturday, August 28, 2010

How I Read Mockingjay and Why You Shouldn't Follow My Example

Let me tell you a story.  The story of how I read Mockingjay.  
There are no spoilers!

I pre-ordered from amazon in February with free 2-day shipping.  The book was released on Tuesday, so I expected it to arrive on Wednesday.  Once I discovered it was coming via UPS, I kept a vigilant eye on the street.  I thought, It will arrive around 1 pm; I'll put the boys in bed and read it the entire nap time!  I even spent the entire afternoon in my front yard waiting and watching.  Nothing.  I filled the time reading another book and then visiting (on the front yard) with unexpected visitors.  Still no UPS truck.

Our friends had invited us over for dinner that night at 5 pm.  We were buckled into the car and backing down the driveway at 4:50 when what do I hear?  Yes, my book arriving--when I can't read it!!!  Aah!  So, I was forced to leave my precious cargo in the car while we spent the evening at our friends' house.  We had a great time there eating, talking, and watching the kids play.  Later that evening after my kids were in bed, I got about 50 pages in.  I was falling asleep at 9:30--I know, pathetic.

Day 2.  And Day 2 was a day when I babysat my friends' twin babies while they work.  That meant I was responsible for providing care for 4 preschoolers while trying to read a book.  I snuck in 5 pages in the morning.  And then it was nap time.  I got to read for 2 hours without interruptions!  Bliss.  Fast forward to that evening.  I was up late reading in bed.  It's late.  I was on page 289, and the content on that page caused a physical reaction in me.  I put the book aside, ready to face sleep because I didn't want to face the next page.  There was an ache inside me, and I started to whimper.  My husband came in bed and let me talk things through with him while he held me comfortingly.  We ended the conversation with a decision to read a few more pages because that was a bad place to stop for the night.

Day 3.  I had roughly 100 pages left to read before my husband's relative arrived from 2 states over to spend the weekend with us.  No problem, I thought.  He's supposed to arrive around dinner, and I'll have all of nap time to finish the book.  I enjoyed a morning at the zoo with the kiddos, arrived home to fix lunch, and answered a phone call from my husband to hear these words: "My uncle is ahead of schedule.  He could be there in an hour."  Aahh!!!  Mayhem.  I abruptly told him, "I need to get off the phone.  I have things to do!"  He may have taken that to mean make the guest bed, pick up toys, vacuum, unload the dishwasher, clean the kitchen, etc.  But of course, you savvy readers know what I meant: I needed to READ and read NOW!  I got the kids in bed ASAP and started to read.

I'm about 5 pages from the end--5 pages!!!--when my relative pulls into my driveway, and I am forced to stop reading!!!!!!!!!  Gasp.

I was courteous enough to greet him and play hostess.  But as soon as my son woke up to entertain him, I excused myself to the restroom and finished the book!  After which I pulled my hostess hat back on, and was busy touring, eating, and watching a high school football game.  Any spare second of alone time I got (read using the restroom), I was thinking about Mockingjay.  It was so frustrating that I didn't have time to process the book!  Give yourself time to process this book!!!  You will not be able to read the last page and go on with your life.  You will need to analyze it.  Talk it over with a friend.  Question Collins' motives in writing it.

May your reading and post-reading experiences go smoother than mine! 


Sunday, August 22, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at bookjourney
Come join the fun!

Geez, the only book I finished last week is The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry.  My review on it is here.

I am currently reading:

Unfortunately, this book has not "hooked" me yet and I'm halfway through.  The big bummer for me is that the setting is a section of Maui that I did not visit.  After an incredible vacation to the west side of the island last summer with my husband (Thank You Jesus!), I was ready to read this book and be transported back there --for free this time!  So I've had to adjust to the fact that this book's setting is southern Maui.  

I am reading this for the 3rd time.  Last time I skimmed and scanned up until the arena.  This time I'm reading every detail... and analyzing them too!  (For example, why does Peeta's -along with the other boys in the arena- facial hair stop growing in the arena?  Is this a detail that will resurface in Book #3?)  All in preparation of the release of Mockingjay tomorrow!  I pre-ordered from with 2 day shipping.  When will it arrive???  How are you getting your copy of Mockingjay?


Friday, August 20, 2010

The Birthday Ball

I picked up this book for two reasons.  1) It's by Lois Lowry, winner of the Newbery medal for The Giver and Number the Stars (one of my favorite books).  2) It looked cute!

This is a very fun read for elementary school girls, especially ones who enjoy all things princess!  The whole time I read it, I thought, "This is a great read-aloud book."  You could easily read a chapter a night before bed to your kids.  Plus Lois Lowry includes many fun word plays that would make reading it aloud very fun to hear!  For example, the princess's cat's name is Delicious.  The princess says things to her like, "Don't be suspicious, Delicious!" or "It's nutritious, Delicious."

The only thing that really bothered me from the book involves one (or two) of the suitors.  (You see they are conjoined at the hip.)  They love "bathroom humor" which is fine because really, what kids don't?  The only joke I didn't care for was when they laughed about going to the "balls."  And then they laugh at the word balls.  In my opinion, that is past bathroom humor and onto male anatomy.

Beside that, it's a great, fun book!  I recommend it.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty & the Beast by Robin McKinley

Beauty is the first novel by Robin McKinley, and the only one of hers that I've read.  I praise her ability to write, and I would read another novel of hers.  However, this one let me down.  The beginning was slow.  Not until around page 100 did it catch my attention.  However, once Beauty met the Beast, I couldn't put it down!  McKinley did a great job building up the rising action; however, the climax and falling action left me disappointed.  McKinley floods her story with intricate details: a page's worth description of paintings hanging in the hall, the color of each gown Beauty wears for dinner, the type of food Beauty's horse eats in his stable.  Her attention to detail transported me into the world of Beauty and her Beast.  She obviously has talent, and I have hope that it is better honed in her newer novels.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Hosted by Sheila at BookJourney
Last week I finished:

A behind-the-scenes look at Nazi Germany.
Great Book! Review is here.

Another on IWU course syllabus.
Review is here.

I'm currently reading:

Under a Maui Moon by Robin Jones Gunn

P.S.  Adele is doing a fabulous job at presenting the Top 100 YA Novels.  Check it out!


Bringing up Boys by Dr. James Dobson

Let me start here: I recommend it.  To moms, dads, grandparents, school teachers, social workers, etc.
  • The beginning is a bit slow.  Don't give up on it; get to chapter 4.
  • Sometimes his writing is more conversational than textbook.  It is a matter of taste whether you prefer this or dislike it.  Either way, he presents a lot of great material.

Get ready to learn about the:
  • Scientific differences between boys and girls
  • Breakdown of the family affecting boys
  • Immense importance of the father
  • Importance of parents' presence in their kids' lives
  • Origins of homosexuality
  • Masculine confusion
  • How to counter the culture
  • Parenting and discipline tips
  • Importance of pointing our children to Jesus Christ
In my opinion, the best way to read this book is with a like-minded friend.  Read one chapter a week, and then get together to discuss it.  That's what my sister and I did.  We not only learned information, but applied it to our parenting.  
My sister and her husband were struck by the realization that he was working a ton and neglecting all of his vacation time.  He stepped back from work and scheduled a vacation day to visit relatives with his wife and son.  
The book showed me the importance of boys learning masculinity and doing "man" things.  I switched our morning routine from watching "Curious George" to "Handy Manny," and I started letting my boys use real screwdrivers to unscrew screws out of the window handles and screw them back in again.  

I hope you pick up a copy.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

On the IWU course syllabus = required reading.  I would NOT have read this book otherwise. 

Reason #1) Court room novel
Reason #2) Premise: Did black teenager assist armed robbery of Harlem convenient store?  This topic is so far removed from my day-to-day life that I don't connect with it. 

The novel did manage to hold my attention, and I was on the edge of my seat awaiting the jury's decision at the end.  This could be a very useful teaching tool for freshman and sophomore students.  It brings up questions of morality, truthfulness, integrity, and friendships.  Expect ambiguity about the main character's role in the armed robbery.  It's a perfect ending for an essay topic, but a frustrating one for a lady who just wants to read a story.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli

This is a great book! 

Italian boys including Roberto and Samuele are captured on their home soil by the Germans and forced to work for Nazi Germany by the sweat of their brow under inhumane conditions.  Donna Jo Napoli said she "wanted American readers to learn of the little-known story of boys in Italy, Hungary, Romania, and other Axis countries who--because they were considered dispensable--were indentured by the Nazis to work for the war effort under inhumane conditions."

The first half of the novel is about Roberto and his Jewish friend Samuele working for the Nazis.  The reader indeed learns the "little-known story of the boys."  Napoli's writing is emotional, powerful, and fast-paced.  The second half of the novel follows one of the boys on his escape from the Nazis.  His ultimate goal is to return to his beloved hometown of Venice, a long journey from his work station in Ukraine.  I did not enjoy the second half of the book as much as the first.  One reason is that it wasn't as interesting to me as the war stories. 

I recommend this book to young adults and adults.  I personally think it's important to be reminded of the evil that was the Holocaust.  This novel does just that.  It unveils the Holocaust enough that we recognize the face of evil, but it keeps parts covered that would give younger readers nightmares.

Plus, the characters retain their faith in God and never doubt his goodness, love, or relationship with them.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang is another required reading book on the IWU Adolescent Literature syllabus.  For the full list click here.  I'm trying to read them all by the end of the summer.  Only 3 more to go!

American Born Chinese is the first graphic novel I have read.  I labeled it middle readers and YA.  I'm not familiar enough with graphic novels to know who reads them or which audience they are written for.  Please comment if you know.

From the front cover:
"...three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant, and action-packed.  American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way up to the astonishing climax--and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent."

One of the tales is an adaptation of the famous Chinese tale about the Monkey King.  Yang explains the history of the tale and his reasoning for making some changes to the classic here.
Here are the highlights: 
At its heart, The Journey to the West is a Buddhist morality tale. In the original, the Monkey King raises havoc among the gods of all other traditional Chinese religions, and it is only the Buddha that is finally able to put him in his place. In American Born Chinese, I've replaced the story's Buddhist underpinnings with Christian ones, drawing from my own faith.
Christianity, you see, lies at the very center of my identity as an Asian-American.
 Hooray!  Finding out this information straight from the horse's mouth made my day!  As I was reading the book I really struggled, wondering, "Is Yang making fun of the One True God?"  I was so glad to find out he is not using the character Tze-Yo-Tzuh as a mockery of God!

I mentioned in another post that I'm not fond of immigration literature.  However, this book breaks the mold of the traditional immigration story.  Boys and girls will enjoy it due to the comic book style, humor, and fast pace of the story.  I recommend it for those who "don't like to read."

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Aussie Author Challenge

Aussie Author Challenge
I'm joining The Aussie Author Challenge hosted by Book Turners.  

The goal:
To read books by Australian authors.

Time frame:
Whenever you chose to join the challenge until 31 December 2010.

The levels:
Ankle biter: 4 books
Grouse: 8 books
Bloody Oath!: 12 books

The rules:
The books must be by an Australian author;
The books must be fiction;
They can be classics or modern fiction;
Have fun!
My goal is the ankle biter level.  My book choices are...
  1. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
  2. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  4. TBD

It's Monday! What are you Reading?

Monday, Monday, Monday.  I actually love Mondays because of this!  Monday is the time for It's Monday! What are you Reading? hosted by Sheila at bookjourney. 

Last week I finished...
Review to come.  I definitely recommend it.

You can read my review here.

This week I plan on finishing...
Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli

P.S. If you read YA lit, you must visit Adele's blog. at  There you can find her list of the Top 100 YA Novels that she compiled after gathering data from over 800 people across the globe, male and female.  Five titles are released each day.  Currently titles #100-#31 are available for our viewing pleasure.  Adele has done an amazing job, and I want to share it with you.  Please share it with others too.