Monday, July 23, 2012

"If you do nothing else as a teacher, develop able and passionate readers." - Rafe Esquith

This is my career goal. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Book #39: Insatiable

Book #39: Insatiable by Meg Cabot
5/5 stars

"Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper."

This is a great read for those interested in vampire fiction somewhere in between the now infamous Twilight series, and the classic yet antiquated Bram Stoker's Dracula. I have always been interested in vampires but the recent Twilight pop culture explosion kind of ruined it for me, until now.

For anyone familiar with the original Dracula, the name "Meena Harper" might ring a's a play off of the character from Stoker's novel named Mina, engaged to a Jonathan Harker. Her name being from the famous mother of vampire novels sets the stage for a novel that isn't quite as sappy and over the top as Twilight, but more rooted in the older legends, with a modern twist.

This novel was published in 2010, so there are veiled references to the vampire pop culture with which we have become familiar. Meena writes for a soap-opera called Insatiable, and while she loves her job, she cannot stand the ridiculousness that has become vampire pop culture. It's everywhere; it's inescapable. So when Meena's new boss/archenemy decides that what the show needs to gain better ratings is a vampire story-line that competes with the vampires on a rival soap opera, Meena is disgusted. Vampires were already in our faces, and now she was going to have to write scripts about them.

Ironically, though, what Meena doesn't know is that she is about to meet a real-life vampire, and not even know it. Lucien Antonescu, a Romanian prince, is in town, "visiting his friends", who also happen to be Meena's neighbors. Mary Lou, the wife of the couple that live in Meena's apartment building, insists on having a party in the hopes of setting Lucien and Meena up. There is an instant attraction between the two fof them and they quickly become involved.

I should also mention that Meena has a special "gift"...she can tell when people are going to die. Strangers, her best friend, anyone. As soon as she comes in contact with a person, she knows when and how that person will die. However, she can't see any details about her own death....or Lucien's. She soon discovers, after Alaric, a strong-willed Palatine Guard (vampire hunter) straight from the Vatican, practically breaks down her door for information, that Lucien is not what he seems. The flowery language that he uses is not simply because he is from Romania. The references to vampires are not because he has recently been watching True Blood. Lucien is a vampire. And not just any vampire. He is the Prince of Darkness, AKA: ruler of all vampires. Oh, and he's the son of Dracula. Yeah, Bram Stoker's Dracula. That one.

Meena's world is turned upside down as more and more people become involved in the craziness that her life has become. Her infatuation with Lucien fights her will to protect herself and everyone she knows from an impending vampire war. Is Lucien the kind, peaceful vampire that he claims to be, or does he have something to do with all of the murdered women who have been popping up throughout NYC parks, drained of blood?

This novel was a great read. Meg Cabot combined equal parts comedy, romance, action, and more into one fantastic novel. Parts of it may be a little on the Twilight side as Lucien can be sappy sometimes, but the reader gets more of the feeling that it's simply because he's older than dirt, so his language is not quite up to date with this century. And while Meena is swayed sometimes by Lucien's incredibly good looks and sexy demeanor, she is not a pushover. She's an interesting, many-dimensioned character who loves fiercely and isn't afraid to fight for what she wants.

In looking up more information about the novel, I discovered that there is actually a sequel. Though it seemed as though all loose ends were tied up at the end of Insatiable, I'm excited to have the chance to read more about Meena and her adventures. The sequel, entitled Overbite, was published last July, so it should be readily available in libraries and at the bookstores. I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone who might have lost their faith in vampire lit. It's perfect for adults (probably mostly women haha) who are looking for a fantasy novel that still ties into our modern world. It's funny, different, and absolutely entertaining. I look forward to reading the sequel!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

“Reader's Bill of Rights

1. The right to not read

2. The right to skip pages

3. The right to not finish

4. The right to reread

5. The right to read anything

6. The right to escapism

7. The right to read anywhere

8. The right to browse

9. The right to read out loud

10. The right to not defend your tastes”

-Daniel Pennac

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Book #37: Between the Lines

Book #37: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
5/5 stars

Between the Lines is a brand new (I believe it came out last month) YA novel written by the amazing Jodi Picoult and her daughter, Samantha Van Leer. I was excited to read a different kind of novel by Picoult with the addition of her daughter's ideas. This book is very much a YA novel. It doesn't have the depth that Never Fall Down or Looking for Alaska have, yet it is still a worthwhile, entertaining read.

Between the Lines is the story of 15-year-old Delilah. She stumbled upon a children's fairy tale book at her school library (titled the same as the novel) and becomes obsessed with it. She identifies with the main character, Prince Oliver, because both of them grew up without a father, and they are around the same age. Also, based on the pictures in the book, Delilah has a little crush on Oliver. She hides the book for fear of becoming more of a social outcast than she already is, but indulges in it when she is alone, and lets her imagination run wild.

However silly Delilah may seem for being so into a child's tale, the story runs deeper. Have you ever wondered what happens when you close a book? While you're reading anything from Goodnight Moon to War and Peace, the story will take you on a journey to places you may have never been, and you can meet characters that you'd never find in real life. But what happens when you're taking a break after a chapter, or have finished the book, and close it? It turns out that Between the Lines tells a story similar to the famous "Toy Story" films; after a reader closes a book, the characters come alive. Every time someone opens the book, they rush into place to tell the story the reader is expecting. But "offstage" when the book is closed, the characters live out their real lives. So, when the book is closed, the handsome price Oliver isn't really in love with the beautiful princess he rescued. The "bad guy" is actually an accomplished artist, and Oliver's "noble steed" suffers from self-image issues.

However fun and interesting the characters' "offstage" life may be, Oliver has always wondered about the world that lies outside of the story that he acts out over and over. When Oliver and Delilah suddenly make a connection, both of their world are turned upside down. They fall for one another, but there is the problem of Oliver being held captive by his own story. Together, Delilah and Oliver try to free the prince from the story so that they can have their own happily ever after.

Though this description may sound a bit childish, the book is definitely worth reading. It's a quick read, and it takes you back to the time that you believed in fairy tales (if you don't still now haha). The writing is occasionally accompanied by gorgeous color drawings of the fairy tale world, or black and white silhouettes in the margins that were cool to look at. I loved the "Toy Story" aspect of what happens within the pages of an unopened book. It's interesting to consider this actually happening in any of the books you've ever read. When you close the pages of a book do Harry and Voldemort sit down and have tea together? Does Juliet get sick of Romeo's overly romantic and dramatic nature? Is Dracula just a misunderstood, kindred spirit who can never get a tan? I loved imagining the secret lives of beloved characters that reside on my bookshelves.

It was also interesting to see a different side of Picoult's writing. True, she co-authored this novel with her 15-year-old daughter, but it was an interesting combination of Picoult's suspense and emotions seen in her adult novels, and Van Leer's young yet mature vision of real life versus fairy tales. I hope that the mother-daughter duo continue to write more novels together. Between the Lines was a fun, entertaining read that kept you laughing and intrigued.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hanging out at the Silver Bay library over the weekend at the family reunion. =) I've always wanted a window seat like this to read at!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

An update...

Hi all! I'm continuing to devour books on my way to reading 100 in a year; just finished #36 yesterday - an Alex Cross book. It was awesome!

In other news, yesterday I was also published online on the Times Union blog On The Edge, about some good reads to  catch up on. You can find the post here!

I'm heading off to a family reunion this weekend so there won't be any updates for a few days but trust that I will still be reading. =)

In the meantime, please continue to suggest books for me to read, or write a little guest blog about your favorite book! Happy reading! <3

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book #34: Never Fall Down

Book #34: Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
5/5 stars

I read this novel at the beach this week during my vacation, but it is definitely not a light-hearted novel. If you read my review of Sold by Patricia McCormick here, you will know that while she is an amazing writer, she does not shy away from the darkness in life. McCormick tackles topics that are very real in today's world but not necessarily written about and almost never directed at a YA audience. This book was tough to read in that I couldn't imagine these horrible things actually happening, but they did. Never Fall Down is based on the very real story of Arn Chorn-Pond, a man who was just a young boy in Cambodia in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge, a dangerous Communist group took over his country, separating families, destroying towns, and killing innocents, all in the name of Communism. You don't need to know anything about the Khmer Rouge to appreciate this book. I myself was not quite familiar with the history behind this novel, but after reading a first-person account of what happened, I think I learned more than I would from this novel than I would from any history book.

Never Fall Down is comprised mostly of first-person account stories as told by Arn to McCormick, with a few additions from research, and McCormick's own imagination. When Arn was 11 years old, his village in Cambodia was overtaken by soldiers dressed all the same in black clothing. They warned the people that Americans were going to bomb their land, so they must all evacuate and walk for three days, then they could return. Arn and his family gather their few possessions and flee their town, expecting to return soon. They never do.

Arn and his family become separated over time until young Arn is completely alone and must fend for himself in this new time, which the Khmer Rouge refer to as "Year Zero." Everything that has happened in the lives of these Cambodians up till now must be forgotten. They must live in a new world where everyone is equal, and anyone of higher status will cease to exist. For the first time in his life, Arn, who has lived in poverty, is equal to everyone else. However, the conditions under which Arn must now live are far worse than any he had experienced while living poor in Cambodia. Arn must learn to keep his head down in order to survive. As he watches friends and enemies fall around him, he repeats his mantra: "never fall down."

Though this sounds terribly depressing (and while it may be at some points) McCormick's writing skills combined with Arn's raw, true stories keep the reader hooked. Obviously, since Arn was around to tell McCormick these stories, he does live through the reign of the Khmer Rouge, but to find out how exactly he does so when so many others were killed, you have to read his amazing story. Told in a first-person voice, with the realistic broken English of a Cambodian child, readers will be sucked into this story as if Arn himself was telling it.

There is a light at the end of this dark yet incredible story. Arn is not only alive and well today, but he has dedicated his live to speaking out about the violence that was inflicted upon him, and telling his story. Arn has founded Children of War, and Cambodian Living Arts, as well as Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development. He has received many awards for his work for humanitarian causes. He is truly a voice to those who would not otherwise be able to speak and share their stories. For more information about Arn and Never Fall Down, check out this YouTube video of a conversation between Arn and Patricia McCormick about the book and the true events that inspired it (warning: video may contain some spoilers, so if you don't want anything to be ruined check it out after reading!):

Monday, July 2, 2012

An inspiring story...

 My mom emailed this to me a few months ago and I wanted to share it with all of you. What a beautiful story...

From A School Principal's speech at a graduation..

He said "Doctor wants his child to become a doctor.........
Engineer wants his child to become engineer......
Businessman wants his ward to become CEO.....
BUT a teacher also wants his child to become one of them..!!!!
Nobody wants to become a teacher BY CHOICE" ....Very sad but that's the truth.....!!!

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.
One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued,
"What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

To stress his point he said to another guest;
"You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Teacher Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied,
"You want to know what I make?
(She paused for a second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't
make them sit for 5 min. without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental.

You want to know what I make ?
(She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them how to write and then I make them write.
Keyboarding isn't everything.

I make them read, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math.
They use their God given brain, not the man-made calculator.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need
to know about English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they
were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life

( Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

Then, when people try to judge me by what I make , with me knowing money isn't everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant. You want to know what I make ?


What do you make Mr. CEO?

His jaw dropped; he went silent.