Tuesday, November 2, 2010

City of Glass

     City of Glass is the third book in the series.  I absolutely loved it and couldn't put it down.  I have to apologize to anyone who tried to talk to me over the weekend, because I don't remember what you said.  :)
     The plot was somewhat contrived, and I knew who Jace and Sebastian were from the first pages of the book.  However, I was so in love with Jace, Clary, and Simon, I didn't care. 
     Alicante was an amazing setting and I visualized it much like Lothlorien in Lord of the Rings.  This beautiful setting helped me understand the motives of the characters.
     I loved the battle between the demons, angels, and assorted Downworlders.  The bigger themes of prejudice and sacrifice were very relevant to the modern world and gave me many things to ponder this week. 
     I loved the arc the characters followed throughout the three books and was satisfied with the conclusion of the worlds and the characters.  It's nice to know that love conquers all, at least in this world.

City of Ashes

     So, as I said, sequels are the best and worst part of reading for me.  Luckily, even though I was lukewarm about City of Bones, I decided to read the sequel.  I thought City of Ashes was a much better book.  The characters were more fully developed and the plot was more intricate. 
     My favorite part of the book was meeting all of the fantastical characters in the faerie realm.  I loved the way the faerie queen's trick on Clary moved the entire plot of the novel forward.
   I was intrigued with the Nephilium runes from book one.  The angels carve them into their skin to internalize the power of that particular rune.  A healing rune helps you heal quickly.  A fearless rune gives you courage in battle.  I loved this aspect of the angels, especially when Clary discovers that she can create new runes that no one has ever seen before. 
    I read the entire book in a weekend because I couldn't put it down.  Luckily I bought the third book, so I could immediately carry on with the series. 
    This is a great choice for a long weekend, especially if you love romance suspense, and fantasy.


     Sequels are the best and worst things about reading for me.  When I love a book, the characters become my lifetime friends.  Reading a sequel is like reuniting with longlost friends that I can't wait to catch up with.  Bad sequels are like highschool reunions.  I can't believe what has happened to the people I knew and loved.  Everwild is one of those sequels.  Don't bother!!!  Remember the characters as they were and write your own ending.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Thief of Always

     The Thief of Always is written by Clive Barker.  It is another one of my favorite books.  February is a hard time for Harvey Swick.  He hates the snow, cold, dark, and endless drag of school.  Luckily Rictus saves Harvey from despair by whisking him off to Mr. Hood's Holiday House. 
     The Holiday House is incredible.  Every morning at breakfast a warm breeze blows in welcoming spring.  By afternoon, summer arrives, allowing basking in the treehouse reading comic books.  Dinnertime brings Halloween and a room full of all the clothes and masks you can imagine, from any time period in history.  Once the snow flies in, you find a present under the tree that is the exact replica of what you were thinking of earlier in the day.  It is the perfect world, until you try to leave. 
    Harvey is an amazing boy.  Through his goodness and intelligence, he faces the battle of his life and the lives of all the other children who have lived and died in this house. 
     The author's illustrations are as amazing as the story.  I often wish to escape to a place of magic and celebration; Harvey taught me it can be a curse to be given what I wish for today.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


      Everlost by Neil Shusterman is an awesome book!  It is one of my favorite books, and Neil Shusterman is one of my favorite authors.  I have enjoyed every one of his books. 
     I read Everlost last year, but I reread it this weekend so I could read the sequel.  I was hooked from chapter one.  I forgot how much I loved this book until I started reading it again.  The language and descriptions are fabulous and I immediately got lost in this world.
     Everlost is the in-between world of being alive and being in heaven.  For some reason, kids are the only ones that get lost on their way to the light.  When they awake nine months later, they find a coin in their pockets and a blurry world where the living continues around them.  The only places where the children are safe are the places where a death has occurred.  Standing too long in any other place causes the kids to slowly sink to the center of the Earth.  Nick, Allie, and Lief begin their journey through this strange world, trying to understand the new rules of survival.
      The book has a very original plot and multi-dimensional characters that remind me of real poeople.  You can enjoy the book on those merits, but subtly woven over the top of the story are philisophical questions about life and death.  What does it mean to be alive?  Can we make up for our past sins?  Is it better to hold on tight to the ones we love or is better to let them go?  This book made me question my own version of life.
     My favorite part was the fortune cookies.  Fortune cookies all cross over to Everlost and all the fortunes come true.  It was an interesting way to add foreshadowing to the book.
      I love this book on many levels and definitely recommend this book to anyone over twelve.        

Thursday, October 14, 2010

City of Bones

     One of my students suggested I read City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.  It seemed like a perfect book for me because it is the story of God's angels (Shadow Hunters) fighting the fallen angels (demons) to protect humans.  Fifteen-year-old Clary finds herself in the middle of the battle after her mother is killed by a demon.  Clary moves in with the shadow hunters for protection and discovers she is not an ordinary girl. 
     Although there were sections of the book that I enjoyed, like the midnight scene with Jace on Clary's birthday, I was bored through most of the book.  I usually enjoy this genre, but found this book to be trite and superficial.  By throwing in demons, vampires, werewolves, angels, and shadow hunters, it became chaotic, rather than exciting.  It almost seemed like Cassandra Clare was trying to appeal to readers of Twilight, which made it lose credibility on its own merits for me. 
     City of Bones reminded me of a soap opera.  One part was straight from Star Wars when Darth Vadar reveals that he is Luke's father.  Jace and Clary have a touching relationship until they discover they are related.  I hated the plot twists because they seemed forced and unnatural for the characters.
     Rarely did I forget I was reading a book and escape into the book.  That was frustrating for me because escape is one of the things I love best about reading novels.
     Oprah chose it for her bookclub and Stephanie Meyer put a quote on the front of the book saying how much she loved this world, but I was disappointed by the hype and the book.  If you love fantasy books, you may enjoy this book, but I think there are far better choices to read in the genre.


     Deathwatch is an amazing book by Rob White!  I recommend it for 8th grade reluctant readers, especially boys.  The book grabs you from chapter one when it ends with a dead body.  Each chapter becomes more and more intense after that.      
     Ben is a college student on summer break.  He needs money for school, so he agrees to take Madec hunting for Bighorn sheep.  Madec is a bit crazy and shoots at anything that moves - and moving includes breathing - as the sleeping Gila Monster discovers.  He accidentally shoots a prospector and tries to hide it from Ben.
     Madec tries to convince Ben that they don't need to tell the authorities.  When Ben disagrees, Madec tries to bribe Ben with promises of money and a future job with the oil company.  When Ben still refuses, Madec shoots the prospector with Ben's gun to frame Ben for murder.  Amazingly, Ben still refuses to give in to Madec's demands, so Madec resorts to threats.  At gunpoint Madec forces Ben to give up his clothes (except for his shorts) and all of his supplies.  If Ben can survive the walk out of the desert without clothes, food, or water, Ben can turn Madec in.  However, Madec will be watching his every move and hunting him down so he can't survive the walk out.
     Ben is an amazing character.  If I was Ben, I wouldn't have survived the first shooting, and yet Ben continues to fight death in every chapter.  Ben is also very resourceful.  My kids were in awe at the way he dug woodpecker nests out of the Saguara cactus to use for shoes.  When those were gone, he wove sandals out of Yucca leaves.  It inspired us to take a test on desert survival.  Most of us wouldn't survive.
     By seeing through Ben's eyes, I gained a new appreciation for survivors.  I was always impressed with survival stories, but I did not truly appreciate the human spirit and the indomitable will to live.  I do not think I have the same determination. 
     Rob White has a talent for descriptive language.  When he describes Ben's tongue and body as it dehydrates, my kids moaned in agony with Ben.  The descriptions of thirst are so vivid, my students were constantly asking to get drinks.  If I wasn't so thirsty myself, I would have told them they weren't really thirsty, it was just the book. 
     This book is action packed.  The only part my students found boring was a few pages of description on how the desert was originally formed.
     The best part of this book was the fact the kids absolutely loved it.  One chapter ended on a cliffhanger and the kids begged me to keep reading.  I told them it was the end of the chapter and one boy yelled, "Just read four more pages."  Laughing, I said, "The bells going to ring in 2 minutes."  The kids groaned and one yelled, "Ms. Cooke, how could you do that to him?  Now he will be stuck there for four days!"  They were still grumbling as they left.  That's my definition of a good book!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Next Thing on my List

     I picked up this book because I could relate to the title - The Next Thing on my List.  I am a list keeper: to do lists; store lists; bucket lists.  As soon as one thing is finished and crossed off, I'm on to the next item.  I don't take time to celebrate the accomplishments.  I don't even give it a conscious thought anymore.  I, too, move on to "the next thing on my list."
     When we meet June Parker, she is slowly recovering from a car accident that killed her passenger, Marissa.  June and Marissa were not friends; they were barely acquaintances.  The women had just met at a Weight Watchers meeting.   June finds a list of twenty things Marissa wanted to do before she turned 25.  Plagued by guilt, June decides to complete the list before Marissa's birthday. 
     Some of the items on the list were stereotypes and could have dragged the book down into cliches.  However, Jill Smolinski never let the characters or plot follow the predictable route. 
     I enjoyed the characters and found their flaws made them more lovable.  Although the ending was a bit abrupt, I enjoyed the conclusion of the list. 
     Since finishing the book last week, I have been thinking about what would be on my list and how someone else would go about finishing it in their own way.  Interesting thoughts to ponder. 

19 Varieties of Gazelle

    This is a book of poems written by Naomi Shihab Nye. She is an Arab-American writer.
     Her poetry is moving and eloquent. She captures images like a camera stopping time. She also has a unique perspective on the world that I haven't read before.
     The poems about her experiences in America after September 11, 2001 were powerful and uplifting, even as they broke your heart with the prejudice.
     I love poetry, but Naomi's poems were especially sensitive and emotional. They can be read on several levels, so anyone can find their own truth in her words.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week

     This week I finished up That Crumpled Paper was Due Last Week:  Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life by Ana Homayoun.
     Once again the title grabbed my attention and I had to read it because I happen to know lots of disorganized and distacted boys, including my son.  Nick's backpack is always full of crumpled up pieces of paper no matter how many folders or organization ideas we put into place.  Since I am dreading another year of helping him survive school, I was looking for pearls of wisdom.
     The book is very organized and looks at multiple aspects of the problem, along with ways to fix them.  Nick and I talked about several ideas in the book and are putting them into place for the new year. 
     The first idea was cleaning his room and getting rid of all of the things he doesn't use or need anymore.  We moved his desk to a new part of the house where he will be near everyone, but not in the middle of things to get distracted.
     One hard thing to read was parents often sabotage disorganized boys by pushing them to achieve or getting mad at their disorganization.  Guilty, as charged.  I am going to back away and let Nick do it so it isn't a control issue for him.  I let him go to the store and look at the organization systems they had.  He picked out the one that he thinks will work best for him.  Hoping he's right about that!
     The rest of the ideas will go into place next week, starting with the first day of school.  I'll have to let you know how it goes.  I am hopefully optimistic.  If nothing else, at least his room is still clean.  :)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Life on the Refrigerator Door

     Okay, I'll admit it...this book had me bawling in the waiting room at the doctor's office yesterday.  Everyone thought I was there for bad news.  After reading the ending, I could honestly tell the doctor I was doing great. 
     The title caught my eye first, but when I saw the pages were notes between a mother and daughter, I had to read it.  Claire is a teenager struggling to define herself in a life of divorce, friends, boys, and school.  Her mom is also struggling as a single mother raising a daughter and working.  They rarely see each other.  Their lives are recorded by notes on the refrigerator.
      The writing is engaging - especially as the word choice and tone change as their lives change.  The characters were so believable, I could see them as I read, even though the author never describes their appearance.
     The best part of the book was being able to relate to the characters.  As a teenager, I found it difficult to communicate with my mom.  Now I have a teenage daughter.  A few years ago we put a white board on the fridge to remind everyone of important messages, shopping lists, etc.  My daughter began to use it as a way to talk to me about things she was feeling or thinking but couldn't say out loud.   Her messages made me laugh, and often made me cry, but kept us connected through the dark days of adolescence.  Alice Kuiper captures that same connection and love between Claire and her mom.  This is a must read book - especially if you have a daughter.