May 31, 2010

Review - Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd (Audiobook)

I listened to this unabridged audiobook for my young adult literature class. 

Bog Child is set in 1981 in Northern Ireland near the north/south border. In some ways, Fergus is just a typical 17-year-old boy preparing for his A-level exams and his driver's exam. However, his family is caught up in the "Troubles," and his parents have contrasting ideas about their son Joe's involvement with the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Joe is imprisoned an on hunger strike. Meanwhile, Fergus makes a startling discovery in a local peat bog: a dead body. It appears to him that it is the body of a little girl. Who was this bog child? Why was her body in the bog? These are just a few of the questions Fergus is determined to answer.

Listening to the audiobook was a wonderful experience, as it was narrated by an Irish woman (Sile Bermingham). Hearing the story with her Irish accent really helped me feel connected to the setting and the characters. She created different voices for all the characters and stayed true to the dialects of the various geographical areas in the novel.

I loved this author's writing style, and I thought it was interesting that she wove the story of the bog child into Fergus's story. Dowd created interesting and believable characters. This is an excellent piece of historical fiction, and it gave me a good sense of what it was like to live in Ireland in the early 1980s. I did have to look up a few words or phrases, though, since I am not very familiar with that time period.

I was sad to find out that this author died recently, but she does have other books published as well. All proceeds from sales of her books go to the Siobhan Dowd Trust, bringing books and reading to disadvantaged young people in the UK. 

Rating: 4/5

This review is cross-posted on goodreads and my library's blog.

It's Monday: What Are You Reading? (5)

What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey where bloggers gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

I finished: 
I am currently reading: 
Next up: 
Barbara Shoup is a local author who lives in Indianapolis. Also, Meg Cabot is from Bloomington. Yay for Hoosier authors! I feel like I should read some John Green this week too. :)

May 29, 2010

In My Mailbox (4)

I'm posting this a bit early this week because tomorrow I will be at the Indianapolis 500!

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It's a time for everyone to share what books they acquired over the course of the week. I'll share what I received in the mail, bought at bookstores, or picked up from the library. 

In the mail: 
  • Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (Won in a contest-Thanks Sheila!)

From the library (I got my new library card this week!): 
From the bookstore: 
Nothing this week! I had a tempting Borders coupon, but I resisted the urge to buy a book.

Review - Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

I read this book for my young adult literature class.

Marcelo has autistic tendencies, but he is high-functioning.He has a condition that hasn't been diagnosed, but it is described as similar to Asperger's. He hears what he calls "internal music" and has a special interest in religion. Until now, he has been sheltered from the "real world" by attending a special school. He has one more year left before graduation, and he is looking forward to a summer job working with the ponies and learning how to train them. However, his father has a different plan for him. He thinks it is important for Marcelo to get a job outside of his school and then transfer to the public high school for senior year.Marcelo is unhappy about the job working in the mail room at his father's law firm, but he has no choice. They make a deal--if Marcelo succeeds and follows all the rules, he can decide which school he wants to attend in the fall.

At the law firm, Marcelo slowly develops a friendship with Jasmine, a coworker. He also spends some time with Wendell, the son of another lawyer, but Wendell makes him feel uncomfortable for reasons he doesn't understand at first. Interacting with these new people at the law firm helps Marcelo make strides toward functioning in the "real world," but it is the discovery of a picture of a disfigured girl that really propels Marcelo head first into it.

Marcelo in the Real World is beautifully written. I really liked that it was written in first person point of view so that we could get inside Marcelo's head. Marcelo's innocence and morality contrasts strikingly with what he encounters that summer at the law firm. He faces an ethical dilemma, and he has to make a difficult choice. This is a charming coming-of-age story that I didn't want to put down. The plot moved a little slowly for me in the middle, but the characters were so compelling that it made me want to keep reading to find out what happened to them. 

Rating: 4/5

This review is cross-posted on goodreads. 

May 28, 2010

A New Challenge!

Challenge from Tattooed Books - Teen's Top Ten Nominees

There are 3 levels to this challenge. I am entering the Solo level (read 1-8 nominated books). Here's what I've read for the challenge (books read in 2009 also count):

1. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Others I'm interested in reading:

4. Hate List by Jennifer Brown
5. Heist Society by Ally Carter
6. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
7. Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Heart Edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci
8. Shiver by Maggie Steifvater

Book Blogger Hop! May 28-31

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly event hosted over aCrazy-for-Books where "book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!" It lasts Friday-Monday each week, so if you don't have time to join today, you can still join later. It's easy to participate! All you have to do is go to the post I linked above and enter the following information: the name of your blog, how long you've been blogging, and what genres you primarily review. 

Then take some time to visit blogs listed on the Hop. If you start following someone through the Book Blogger Hop, leave them a comment and let them know! 

YA Lit Class - Session 3

Last night we discussed Contemporary/Realistic fiction. I really enjoyed the books we were assigned this week. First, we discussed our reading autobiography assignment. Then, one of my classmates led a discussion on Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork and led us in an activity. This took up most of the time, but we did squeeze in some discussion of Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd. A few us also read Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd (although I think that would actually be historical fiction) and enjoyed it more than her other book.

My Reading Autobiography, abridged (originally 6 pages)

  • I'm lucky that I've had mainly positive experiences with reading, and I've had many people who encouraged my love of reading throughout my life. 
  • My parents read to me before I knew how to read. 
  • My favorite part of pre-school was storytime, especially when my teacher read The Berenstain Bears books.
  • I LOVED elementary school, especially the subjects of Reading and Spelling. I even had old teacher editions of textbooks so that I could play "school" at home. 
  • I had great reading role models, including Ms. Gregory, my 4th grade teacher, who read aloud to us and encouraged us to write our own stories. 
  • My childhood best friend, Jessica, lived down the street and loved reading as well. We read The Babysitters Club series and played "library" or "school" together. We liked to pretend we were characters from books sometimes too. 
  • My mom took me to the public library often as a child, and I started reading nonfiction as well as fiction then. I loved browsing the shelves! I rarely used the card catalog. (Remember those days?)
  • My uncle Dennis was another good reading role model. He took me to the bookstore often and talked about the books he had read. 
  • On family vacations, we would often take a few hours to visit famous libraries and bookstores close to our vacation spot.
  • In 8th grade, my teacher Mrs. Raab introduced me to literature about the Holocaust. Books about the Holocaust still fascinate me. 
  • In 12th grade, my teacher Mrs. Coats introduced me to one of my all-time favorite books, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • I majored in English Education and minored in Spanish. I was able to read many of the classics of American, British, and Russian literature along with some other world literature. Dr. Brown was a professor whose passion for literature was contagious. I took American literature and Shakespeare with him, and I realized that not only could I finally understand Shakespeare, but I could enjoy it as well. 
  • I studied abroad in England and loved being able to visit the places that famous authors came from...the Shakespeare properties in Stratford, Jane Austen's Bath, and William Wordsworth's Lake District. 
  • I studied abroad in South America (Chile and Argentina) and visited the homes of a famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. 
  • As an English teacher, I tried to help students appreciate the classics, but I also discussed current fiction with them. We sometimes borrowed books from one another. 
  • Working at the public library now, I love helping patrons find books that interest them through reference transactions, book displays, and our library's book blogs. 
What are some of the people, events, and books that have shaped your attitudes as a reader? Share in the comments or answer on your blog (leave me a link). 

May 27, 2010

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling, a class brainiac and track star, is crushed when her best friend Hope moves away from their hometown of Pineville, New Jersey. Now Jessica is stuck pretending to care about “The Clueless Crew” (her nickname for a group of shallow girls she grew up with) and their high school drama. Not only does she feel like she has no one to talk to at school, but she also feels like she can’t talk to her parents. She pours her thoughts into her journal, and this book is written as a series of journal entries with letters to Hope mixed in.

Jessica is a smart, witty, and sarcastic teen. Her journal entries capture the awkwardness of high school and the confusion of romantic relationships (or lack thereof) in the teen years. For instance, Jessica has no interest in the friend who has a crush on her. Meanwhile, she pines away for an older boy, Paul, who may not even know she exists. To top it all off, the mysterious Marcus Flutie keeps showing up in her life. She can’t figure out what he wants from her or how she feels about him.

This book is for anyone who ever felt misunderstood in high school or confused by the opposite sex. If you like Sloppy Firsts, you can read on in the Jessica Darling series to find out what happens to Jessica as she graduates high school, goes to college, and then joins the “real world.” (Other books in the series include Second HelpingsCharmed ThirdsFourth Comings, and Perfect Fifths.) This series is a fun read, and Jessica made me laugh out loud often.

Rating: 4/5

This review is cross-posted on Goodreads and my library's blog. 

May 26, 2010

Wednesday Web Wanderings (4)

This is a collection of interesting book-related things I've come across online recently. Check 'em out! 

Did you come across any good links this week? Share them in the comments! 

May 25, 2010

Review - The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

A high school student is first a hero and then a victim in this novel of intimidation and the misuse of power. "Masterfully structured and rich in theme. Well crafted, well timed, suspenseful."--The New York Times. ALA Best Book for Young Adults. (Description from

This book is considered a classic of young adult literature, so we read it as part of my young adult literature class. I had a hard time getting through it. The plot of the book is actually pretty simple: there's a chocolate sale at a Catholic boys' school to raise funds, and Jerry refuses to participate in the sale. Meanwhile, the Vigils, the school's secret society, bully Jerry psychologically and physically. I was not very interested in the story, and I couldn't relate to the characters very much. The violence upset me, and so did the ending. I realize not every book is going to have a happy ending, but I wish this one would have included a little more hope at the end at least. On a positive note, I think this book is still relevant today because of its themes of peer pressure, bullying, and abuse of power.It could create some great discussions among teens if studied in the classroom or during a book group. I also liked the author's writing style, and I liked that he told the story from several different characters' points of view. I can see why it's considered a classic, but personally, I did not enjoy it.

Rating: 2/5

This review is cross-posted on goodreads.

May 24, 2010

In My Mailbox (3) + It's Monday: What Are You Reading? (4)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. It's a time for everyone to share what books they acquired over the course of the week. I'll share what I received in the mail, bought at bookstores, or picked up from the library. 

In the mail: 
Nothing yet. I will check with the front office of my new apartment complex soon because I'm expecting a book I won in a contest. :) 

From the library: 
Everything You Want by Barbara Shoup (for class)
Wish You Were Here by Barbara Shoup (for class)
Stranded in Harmony by Barbara Shoup (for class) 

From Half Price Books: 
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (for class)

What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey where bloggers gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

I finished: 
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

I am currently reading: 
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

Next up: 
Solace of the Road by Siobhan Dowd
Bog Child by Siobhan Down (audiobook)

What are you reading?

Contest Winner

Drumroll please...the winner (chosen by of a signed copy of The Giver is...
The Giver

May 20, 2010

YA Lit Class - Session 2 / Moving over the weekend

In the second meeting of my YA Lit class we discussed The Chocolate War (review coming soon). None of us liked it very much, but we all trudged through and discussed it anyhow. We were allowed to choose our second book, and I read Forever by Judy Blume along with a few other students. Some students read The Pigman and some read The Outsiders.

We had an interesting discussion about the themes in the books and why they have been so controversial. We also discussed how relevant these books are to today's teens. Finally, we talked about writing good discussion questions for teens and the different types of questions - factual, interpretive, and evaluative. Overall it was an interesting night of discussion, and I'm looking forward to next week.

Next week's theme is Contemporary/Realistic Fiction. Here are our assignments:

I will be taking a break from blogging this weekend because I am moving in with my boyfriend. He is not happy about all the boxes of books that we have to move! I won a book from Book Journey this week, and luckily I remembered to give her my new address. :)
This is how my weekend looks: 
Friday = finishing up packing
Saturday = moving boxes & furniture
Sunday = unpacking

I'll be back on Monday to announce my contest winner. Have a good weekend everyone, and happy reading! 

Review - Looking for Alaska by John Green

I know you're probably sick of hearing about John Green, but I'm not sick of talking about his books yet! This one is my absolute favorite of all his books. A few of you mentioned it in the comments from yesterday's post, so I thought I'd share my review:

Miles Halter, ironically referred to as "Pudge," is a teenage boy who goes to boarding school in search of the "Great Perhaps." As a collector of last words, this idea has always intrigued him. His life has been somewhat boring and predictable so far, and he seeks a great adventure.

What he finds is a new group of friends who are anything but boring. Included in that group is the attractive and mysterious Alaska, whom Miles immediately falls for.

I really like the way the book was structured. The first part of the book leads up to a big event, and the chapters are labeled as a countdown to that event. Then, the chapters are labeled by the number of days after that event. In our lives, sometimes things happen that are so life-changing that we can't help but think of everything in terms of whether it happened before or after that event.

This book is very moving and thought-provoking, and the characters feel very real to me.

This book has been challenged because of its contents. There is smoking and underaged drinking. The characters pull of a series of pranks that break the school rules. There is premarital sex. However, as John Green explains about the sex scene, "It is awkward, unfun, disastrous, and wholly unerotic..I wanted to draw a contrast between that scene, when there's a lot of physical intimacy, but it's ultimately very emotionally empty and the scene that immediately follows it, when there's not a serious physical interaction, but there's this intense emotional connection. The argument here is that physical intimacy can never stand in for emotional closeness, and that when teenagers attempt to conflate these ideas, it inevitably fails" (quote from this video). It's time to give teenagers credit for their ability to think critically about difficult issues. It would be a shame for anyone to miss out on this book!

Those who enjoyed 
A Separate Peace by John Knowles may also enjoy Looking for Alaska

Rating: 5/5

This review is cross-posted on goodreads.

May 19, 2010

Wednesday Web Wanderings (3)

This is a collection of interesting book-related things I've come across online recently. Check 'em out! 

Did you come across any good links this week? Share them in the comments! 

May 18, 2010

The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D

In a culture that values and rewards extroverts, it is tough to be an introvert. As I was growing up, I often felt like something was wrong with me because I tended to be quieter and more introspective. I preferred spending a lot of time alone and hanging out with smaller groups of friends. I would get tired overwhelmed easily in large group situations. I would freeze up when called on in class. People were always telling me to speak up. 

I read an excerpt of Laney's book online, and I knew I had to read the rest. Laney does a great job of explaining why people are introverted, how introverts and extroverts differ, and how to adapt to living in an extroverted world. She emphasizes that being introverted is not bad, it's just different. She explains the many strengths that introverts bring to the table and the ways in which introverts and extroverts can complement each other.

Laney's analogies really helped me understand myself. One example is the ways in which people gain energy. Introverts are like rechargeable batteries in that they need to rest and be alone for awhile to regain energy. Extroverts are like solar panels in that being out and about makes them come alive.

Laney includes a lot of scientific information about the biological differences between introverts and extrobers, and honestly, I was a little bored during this part. However, she does include a lot of pictures and diagrams to make the concepts easy to understand. I took a undergraduate neuroscience class way back in 2004, so the concepts were a little fuzzy for me, but the diagrams helped.

The book is organized well. I like that each section and chapter has a quote to go along with it. I also liked the "Points to Ponder" at the end of each chapter that summarized the main points from the chapter.

The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World should be required reading for introverts, and it may be valuable for extroverts to read as well so that they can better understand their friends and loved ones. Laney has also written books called The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child and The Introvert and Extrovert in Love

Rating: 4/5

This review is cross-posted on goodreads.

Just for fun...are you an introvert or an extrovert? 

May 17, 2010

It's Monday: What Are You Reading? (3)

Don't forget to check out my first contest
What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted over at Book Journey where bloggers gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. I'm really excited because I just found out I won this week's Book Journey contest! Woo!

I finished: 
Love Is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian about Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles
Love is the Best Medicine: What Two Dogs Taught One Veterinarian About Hope, Humility, and Everyday Miracles by Dr. Nick Trout

My review: I am a dog lover, so I was interested in reading this book as soon as I first heard about it. I was excited to win this book through a Goodreads "First Reads" giveaway. Dr. Trout is a veterinary surgeon, and we get to follow him behinds the scenes at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. He cares deeply about his patients and their owners, and in this book he describes a few special cases that have had a profound effect on the way he lives and works. One of these dogs is Helen, an older cocker spaniel rescued from a life on the streets by a caring couple willing to pay any expense to keep Helen healthy. Another dog is Cleo, a young min pin prone to broken bones. Dr. Trout tells these true stories in a way that makes the book feel almost like a novel. He really made me care about these two special dogs and their devoted owners, and he characterized them well. There were stories of other animals interspersed throughout the book, but I found them a little distracting. So much time was spent setting up the stories of Helen and Cleo that I really just wanted to find out how everything turned out for them. I would recommend this book to any animal lover. It really gets to the heart of the bond between pets and their owners. I read this book with my dog curled up in my lap.

Rating: 3/5

Forever . . .
Forever by Judy Blume

I read this book for my young adult literature class during "Early YA Books" week. This book was first published in the 1970s, and it is popular even to this day. However, it has also been banned and challenged countless times because of the sexual themes in the book. Katherine is a high school senior who finds herself incredibly attracted to Michael, a boy from another school that she meets at a New Year's party. Katherine and Michael become a couple, and their relationship progresses quickly. Pretty soon, they are sure they are in love and that it will last forever. Michael pressures Katherine to go further and further sexually, and Katherine struggles to make the decision of when they should have sex. Yes, there are sexual themes in this book, but it's not promoting teenage sex as some critics have suggested. I think it actually shows a teenager who makes a responsible decision about whether or not to have sex after she has educated herself and given it plenty of thought. It's not as if Katherine and Michael jump right into bed immediately after meeting. Katherine's parents and grandparents are involved in her life, and they educate her about the consequences of sex-both physically and emotionally. One of Katherine's friends deals with the consequences directly. There is discussion about different methods of birth control as well. (The author also includes a note to the reader about HIV/AIDs, which was not a concern when this book was written.) Katherine spends a lot of time weighing the decision of when is the right time to have sex, and she is clear with Michael when she tells him what she wants and does not want to do. Katherine and Michael are believable characters. They are both completely consumed by their first love, and it is all they think about. I wasn't very emotionally invested in either character, though. I just don't feel like I got to know the characters well enough to care for them. They seemed kind of flat. This was a quick read for me, and I liked it but didn't love it. I'm glad I finally got to see what all the fuss was about, though!

Rating: 3/5
These reviews are cross-posted on goodreads.

I'm currently reading (still): 
This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us Allby Marilyn Johnson
Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach
Theodora's Diary by Penny Culliford

I also just started The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier for class. 

What are you reading? 


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