WHAT and WHERE should I read?

“When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes.” –  Desiderius Erasmus

Spring 2016 Reads!

Winter 2016 Reads! (BEACH READS!)

Summer 2014 recommendations!

The Martian by Andy Weir.     It’s a very cool “hard science” survival story about an astronaut getting stranded on Mars in the near future. It’s a combination of the journal of the astronaut along with the narrative of the NASA scientists trying to figure out how to save him.                         -GARRETT WILLIAM AUSTIN

 

Top Read Lists!

21 Female Authors you SHOULD be reading!

Ultimate YA lit. reads!

Omnivorous Reader Picks (From 2012)

Best Music Books of 2011 (Yep, from 2011!)

Freshest Reads of 2011 (Guess!  It’s from 2011!)

Best Music Books (From 2011)

Under the Radar Reads (From 2010)

Summers Best Picks (From 2009)

Rainy Day Picks  (From 2006)

Spy Fiction Bests (From 2005)

Best Music Books (From 2011)

Women’s History Month – March Picks (From 2008)

and more links to Womens’ History Month!

There are books that have been suggested, used, and listed as choices!

The Bear by Claire Cameron 

And the Mountains Echoed:  Khaled Hosseini, Historical Fiction (2013) 407 pp  Review: Siblings Haunted by the Past…

The Book Thief: Markus Zusak, Historical Fiction (2005 Michael L Printz Honor Book) 562 pp  Review: Stealing to Settle a Score with Life and movie review A Refuge Found in Pages
The Circle: Dave Eggers, Science Fiction (2013) 504 pp   Review: When Privacy Is Left
Death of a Naturalist: Seamus Heaney, Poetry (1966 Cholmondeley Award, the E.C. Gregory Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize) 64 pp Review: Interview
The Golden Notebook: Doris Lessing, Inner Space Fiction (1962 ) 593 pp Review: Doris Lessing’s Golden Notebook 50 Years On

Winter Journal – Paul Auster – Winter journal Review

Labryinth of Solitude – Octavio Paz

The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene

The Hummingbird’s Daughter – Luis Alberto Urrea

Best of 2013 list!

 

 

 

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Friday, October 14, 2016  Author Jennifer Smith  

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Hi Harry,

Thanks so much for your note, and sorry for the delay in getting back to you! This review made my day — I really appreciate it, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. That intense nostalgia over the time right before college and all it represents is really why I wanted to write that story — I’m old too (!!) and even years later, that night is so incredibly vivid. It’s been as much fun to hear from adults about their memories as it is from teens who are looking ahead to it. So thanks for sending this. It means a lot.

I’ve heard Adi (who is the best!) talk about that program at your school, and it sounds amazing. I’d love to come one year — but either way, l’m so glad to hear you loved the book, and I’m very grateful to Adi for recommending it. So thank you again. And happy reading!

Cheers,
Jen

 

~

An ASF student review of:

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May 14, 2014   The Juliet Spell by Douglas Rees  Review by P.M.

I had a hard time with this book. I tried to like it, I really did. However, it was not my piece of cake. Miranda had one wish, one dream; she wanted to play Juliet in her school play. You know how sometimes you get a feeling of desperation over something, well to Miranda it was this, but her audition didn’t go how she wanted it so, as anyone would, she conjured a spell to get her the part. This, also didn’t go as planned. She brought someone back from the past, she messed with time, and now she had one more thing (person) to take care of. Edmund Shakespeare appeared, the brother of The Bard himself. Edmund will help Miranda get her dream role and mess with people along the way. The book is fast paced and yet I took it slowly. This idea could have been developed better and yet was boring. A time travel story mixed with acting. Either way, Douglas Rees has a voice that sounds like a teenager, even more so when he is supposed to be from the 14th century, so it can seem real at times. It does get annoying however, Edmund speaks old English and makes remarks that make sense, however are not so funny.

–side note:
this could be both in middle or high school library although I think middle schoolers may enjoy it a bit less because their Shakespeare knowledge is not so extensive.

May 10, 2014   Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 3.40.44 AMThe Secret Diamond Sisters by Michele Madow

P.M. review (1st review)  Power usually comes from fitting in, having money and good looks always helps too. You always read a story about a girl or a group of siblings who get abandoned by a parent and then this one shows up. However, this parent isn’t usually the richest hotel creator per say in all Las Vegas, like it is in The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michelle Madow. Gossip is also huge. People like gossip because they can critique other people by making up stories that fit into the idea of who they imagine others to be like. After Mr. Diamond makes a huge donation to an elite high school in vegas and casually enrolls three girls, the word gets around and speculation grows as to who are these sisters. An inside view on what Las Vegas is for the legacy of the richest around. Underage clubbing is easier when your friends daddy owns the place and no one asks a question. Sex, rumours and drugs are always linked to those with the biggest bank accounts. Royals by Lorde takes its turn on Savannah, Payton and Courtney. How do the Diamond sisters go from nada to prada? Gossip Girl takes its turn on Sin City and the result is a guilty easy read, perfect for summer!

Review By: N.S.

The Secret Diamond Sisters by Michelle Madow is a story about the friendship and truly wild adventures that come across three unique sisters. This novel, unlike most, is written from four different perspectives, so you really get a different feel of the plot throughout the story. These perspectives are the characters of Savannah, Courtney, and Peyton; the three mystery Diamond sisters. The fourth perspective is from Madison, an ambitious and quite privileged character who causes most of the conflicts in the plot.

The Secret Diamond Sisters begins with these three siblings living in a harsh and difficult living environment. Their mother is sent to rehab, and their journey begins from there. The girls find out their dad is Adrian Diamond, a billionaire living in Las Vegas. You would expect these girls’ lives to rise from a zero to one hundred, but they are faced with their own drama the minute they arrive in this night-life city. The book mostly revolves around the sisters’ and Madison’s sub-conflicts. The story also has the same kind of vibe and lifestyle as some shows like Gossip Girl, which is what makes this story so addicting and enjoyable to read.

I believe the author has some kind of interest or connection with the city of Las Vegas, and the idea of this story sparked from there. Michelle Madow is clearly able to connect the story with the main attractions of Las Vegas; the grand hotels on the Strip, the busy casinos, and the wild nightlife. Madow is also able to describe the awe that comes from the characters as they see Las Vegas for the first time.

The result of Madow’s successful job at truly letting the reader experience life in Las Vegas is what makes the book so riveting. From boy drama to insane shopping sprees to loving sisterly bonds, the author is able to make The Secret Diamond Sisters a story that has it all. Even though the story takes place over a week, there is so much drama packed in that the book is quite challenging to put down.

This book can especially relate to readers who live in a life with sisterhood; I personally have two younger sisters, so I could completely understand some of these characters thoughts and the internal conflicts they struggled with. I think Courtney is the most relatable character to many readers, including myself, because she is right under the stress of school and studying; in other words, she has to face the challenges that an average person would have to deal with.

I am definitely hoping that Diamonds in the Rough, the next book, shows a little more of Adrian Diamond opening up to his daughters. I think many readers will want to see Savannah mature and Peyton open up to her father. The Secret Diamond Sisters is a book that speeds up like a never-ending rollercoaster from the very first page, with its intense drama and unique lifestyle, and hopefully the books to come will have an intense climax that the readers can be infatuated with.

From the author:

Michelle Madow
To Mesachdevn@asf.edu.mx
Today at 3:37 PM
Thank you, Harry and Nina! I shared the link for the review along with a quote on my Twitter and Facebook. I’m so glad you loved The Secret Diamond Sisters! 🙂

-Michelle

Michelle Madow
————————————-
michelle@madow.com
http://www.michellemadow.com
Twitter: @MichelleMadow

 

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Speechless  by Hannah Harrington — Review by P.M.

Teenagers, full of wild hormones, naïveté, rapid thoughts and no filter to their words; have a way to do completely mindless actions that in this case, could have had someone killed. If only shutting up were so easy? Chelsea liked, if not loved, gossip, I mean who doesn’t like hearing a juicy story about how someone’s best friend is hooking up with their boyfriend and taking pictures while at it? Admit it, as a teenager you probably did something not quite so legal, and it usually went wrong. After a night of binge drinking, Chelsea sees something, so tempting she just HAS to spill out (along with the entire contents of her stomach, too many jello-shots are not good for anyone).

Noah is gay, and homosexuals are not common in the tiny town she lives in. Warren and Joey, both disgusting jocks, decide to have a go at Noah. Next morning, the roughening up sent him to the hospital nearly dead. Words are powerful and that is what Chelsea just did not understand until she took a vow of silence. For once she would think things through before writing them out and them going into the world. We’ve all felt like outcasts at due points in our lives and we’ve all fought with friends leaving us with the question of who am I going to sit in lunch with, if they all hate me.

Personally, I’m (once again) at that point in my life. That is what made Speechless so strong and relatable to me. Harrington has a way of writing that just goes, you no longer read, you flow through the book, because it just is so raw and real. We have all been Chelsea in one way or another and messed up, big time. Right now, I am so tempted to go into vow of silence, because the idea of actually thinking something before letting it out, seems scary; the repercussions it has are just far too vast. Either way, taking chances, and going against what you once thought was the correct thing to do, are valid and in the way, you just might find a tiny piece of yourself wondering, why didn’t I realize this before? Thought provoking and relating, the book will indeed, leave you Speechless.

Screen Shot 2014-05-08 at 9.45.51 PMMay 7, 2014 – Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid   –  Review by P.M.

Maybe it was timing, or maybe it was the way Leila was so relatable, or maybe it was just that fate is accurately scary in placing things in front of you. Maybe it was me trying to find comfort in something different than people, or maybe it was the way I was so done with everyone. It was about time I stopped looking for someone and started to find myself, or rather, lose myself. Maybe it was the way Leila was short, like myself, and had curly hair, awfully true in me too, and was desperate to make something out of herself, is this not talking about me? Are you sure? Maybe it was the egocentric idea of reading a book almost no one had read. Five stories intertwine because of a girl, who, bravely, stepped out of her comfort zone and started trusting, not others, not fate, herself.

Love, fear, reality, and death bind people together, in epic ways. I have always believed that there is more to a person than the story they are willing to take, it is also in the way they let others hitchhike in their car not knowing if they are crazy murderers, or the way tuesday is equally as exciting as friday, perhaps in the way they misplace things, and how they cope with each. In a way we are all trying to find a meaning in life, even if this is written among the sky, in the Northern Lights. So go on then, get lost in the book, because you will find a piece of yourself you thought you lost when that 6 year old grew up. Find yourself in a place of insecureness for you will always feel dared and risky; find yourself in a place where love is not easy to achieve, yet exists; find yourself seeking for nothing.

I truly didn’t know what to expect from the book, honestly, as a 17-year old girl I thought the cover was pretty. I never expected to find reason in the way Hudson realizes he doesn’t want to follow his Dad’s dream, or in the way Bree finds her misplaced love in running away, or in the way Elliot was too caught up in fantasy when reality hit him in the face, or how Sonia got in the trunk of a car just to carry two rings across the border. I can’t quite put to words the peacefulness I felt throughout discovering my real intentions and possibly, even discovered the meaning to my life. Who knows, maybe you will too.

 

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April 02, 2014       The Break-Up Artist   by  Philip Siegel

Review by P.M.

Everyone knows at least one couple they would break up in a heart beat either because they are too cheesy or snotty or just downright disgusting. What if someone actually charged to break these pairs up? “For just $100 via PayPal” she will. Rebecca has experienced heartbreak, not romantically, but through those who she considered her friends, much like her sister. But she decides to change that and destroy those love-sick zombies. She never expected however to have to break up THE couple at Ashland High. Huxley was Becca’s best friend until Steve showed up. Hux suddenly climbed the social ladder and Becca stayed at the bottom. To break these up she’ll have to revisit their friendship and destroy it, or Steve will not go to the college he should. She charged $300 dollars for the breaking of this couple. Meanwhile people start to try and unveil who this Break Up Artist is and whether it is an urban legend or not. Short and bittersweet, The Breakup Artist by Philip Siegel teaches us a lesson about how not to deal with revenge and the wrong ways to make money.

Review by So K.

As a girl, I admit that I look for romance when reading books. The moment the main boy and girl character comes out, I get eager to see how the love story will process and in the end, I am always disappointed to see that it was a cliche.I was up to the point where I didn’t want to read another cliche love story book. However, this book, from the moment I saw the title, I knew it would not disappoint. I can honestly say that this is one of the best love story books I have ever read in my 15 years of life.

It is first the concept that catches the eyes of many. Just by reading the title, one can interpret that it is going to be about a person breaking love, not gaining it. This concept should have been around for some time but lately, there has been too much cheesiness going around. While reading it and seeing how the main character leads the plot, it made my hand want to keep flipping the pages and see what happens next. Yes, there is a part where she starts to love someone but amazingly, the ending is not what I had expected, or that is to say, the ending is not the cliche ending i had expected.
Cliches are done in my lifetime. I do not want to read another story that involves a hot main male character who catches the eyes of many girls but only seems to see the lonely, bullied one who does everything she can to not get noticed but does. Books like The Break-Up Artist are exactly what needs to be in the best-selling section. This is the start to breaking the ‘Twilight’ zone.

The best part about the book was not only the amazing content inside it, it is also the fact that the author cleverly still put in that cliche love story but ends it with something completely different. It shows me that maybe creativity is still alive and it is not only people who use the same old story.
It is impossible to pick a favorite line the book. It’s like a person asking you to pick a favorite book when there are millions you love. I will be eager to see Seigel’s next masterpiece.

*NOTE
THIS IS MY OPINION AND I HAVE NO IDEA IF THIS COUNTS AS A BOOK REVIEW. IF YOU WANT TO CHANGE ANYTHING, IT IS OK WITH ME OR IF YOU WANT TO SEND ME A FORMAT ON HOW TO REVIEW, PLEASE DO FOR I DO NOT WANT TO BE A LOST PUPPY IN THIS. I WANT MORE BOOKS TO READ! 😄

From the author:

Philip Siegel                                                         Today at 8:08 AM
To Me 

Hi Harry,

Thank you for sharing this. I’m so glad she loved the book! It means a lot to me that other people are connecting with the story. I can’t wait to share more books with your students in the future.

Best,
Phil

 

October 17, 2013  Allen Zadoff’s Boy Nobody

Pushing forward. constantly moving forward. The character development, plot, and rhythm of this text by Allen Zadoff reaches out of the pages and does that as well to you, the reader. Nothing fancy at play here, simple chapters to mimic a simple line entered on the computer, yet I honestly think the simplicity of the plot, the simplicity of the characters revel a deeper side as the story moves forward. The reader is able to sympathize with a sense of isolation that “Ben” has, yet, we continue to move towards an element of siding with no one, yet giving every character a chance. Zadoff gives us a rare glimpse into what it could be like to be an adult in a teen’s body, make decisions that would ultimately make us grow up faster than we should, and he does it very well. It is very easy to get lost into the plot, story, and the characters, before they walk away. A very worthwhile time spent into the pages of Allen Zadoff’s text!

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October 16, 2013   Hollis Seamon‘s,  Somebody Up There Hates You

I love the acronyms, slang, hints, and references alluded to – this book is very in depth, personal, and a meditation initiator. I felt in places, the cussing was blatant and unneeded to get key points across but finishing in two days was a testament to how well this reads. Truly driven by a male ego and drive, the sense of respect for others is always challenged due to the sentence the main character, Richard has been dealt. Not wanting to address issues that come up, the main character constantly finds avenues to evade and often vocalizes difficult thoughts, causing the same feeling for the reader. It is refreshing to see there is a soft side to some characters that normally would not have one at all, and to see this, you need to dig deep, just as the characters of this novel have.

SEAMON, HOLLIS

To Me                                Today at 2:48 PM

Hi, Harry–Thanks so much for posting that great review of Somebody Up There Hates You and for taking the time to email to let me know about it!–Best, Hollis Seamon

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October 15, 2013  William Sutcliffe’sThe Wall There are some books that propel you in stages through the pages, some that propel you as fast as a speeding bullet, this is one of those texts. The deepening crevasse created from the relationships that range from Israeli, familial, and strained distant relatives comes to a head in so many places.  When you realize as a reader the little we see and know of the conflicts that occur in a world away from our own, you become even more drawn to this text.  This bok hands down becomes an education of itself and a launching off towards Palestinian Walks by Raja Shehadeh and Against the Wall, a collection by Michael Sorkin.  I am becoming more convinced that a good book draws you in, a great book pushes you to other sources for a knowledge for more.  This is a GREAT book.

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 10.45.22 AMOctober 13, 2013   Amy Herrick’s The Time Fetch              Having started this at the start of the school year, and being caught up in school tasks, I finally finished this on October 13th. Just as the Time Fetch drew the characters in, I found myself going back to finish this time and time again (no pun on the word time).  After reading the details that the author walks each morning with her dogs, it seems easy to pick out that many of the fascinating details of parks, borders, and the solstice came from her amazing mornings on these walks. The details draw you in, nothing is really expected in the plot, and the characters continue to evolve before our eyes.  I truly loved this story, and the details provided added even more amazingness to the reality of this text!  There are some definite morals in place that rely with family, siblings, friends, and the relationships that tie these all together and how that comes back to  the reader ; what the reader decides to do with that makes all the difference.  Definitely worth the read, this is a keeper!

 

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August 12, 2013  Jaclyn Moriarty’s A Corner of White This was totally unexpected and I have to tell you. At first I couldn’t keep in the events of both worlds, but then when you stick with it, the advent of colors changing people’s moods, hidden agendas contained in hostile individuals that actually represent colors and communicating across worlds that help solve some deep-seeded dilemmas in lives, Jaclyn Moriarty’s  text becomes more realistic and amazing with the fantasy aspects.  If that makes any sense.  I came the imagination and creativity Moriarty uses in her text as she spins this tale of dreams, struggles, and overcoming some amazing odds as you grow up, and this carries into the adults of this novel as well.  This took me awhile to get through as much has been going on in my own life at the same time, yet it was worth hanging in there and figuring out as I went along.  I have respect for the books that are difficult for me to figure out, as long as they make me feel like this one did at the end!

 

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August 01, 2013 Lauren Myracle’s The Infinite Moment of Us Catching you off guard but making you realize this is what teens experience, feel, and work through is what Lauren Myracle’s text does from the very beginning. Yes there are situations with sex, no you can’t use the argument that it is too explicit as this is what teens deal with on a daily basis. I think any sense of uncomfortable-ness will be the fact that Myracle deals with issues that mold, change, and develop teens in many various ways. All the drama, all the emotion, and all the events that lead up to creating a new individual can be, and is, represented in her text. I felt that this does an accurate job of reaching out to teens and stating, this is a novel that will try to understand your trials, your accomplishments, and your temptations. I feel that this YA novel does justice to issues that teens need to work through, share, and experience. There are plenty of twists as well that keep the characters, as well as the plot, moving forward and making you want to turn the next page to see how the various events are resolved.

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 2.29.40 PM July 29, 2013  Natalie Standiford’s The Boy on the Bridge I was intrigued with the aspect of Leningrad and Russia weaved into the plot, you can almost feel the winter. I felt that this was told verbatim, with a major issue of love based on intrigue of a foreign location, but that was it. It was difficult for me to get into the feelings laura had for the male character from Russia, but not sure if that was me as a 41 year old male, or because I hoped for more out of some of the characters. I felt most of the time the love expressed was one way and not really reciprocated back to Laura, but that was just me as a reader. The fascinating aspects of a difference culture definitely come out in Standiford’s writing, it is just that I wanted more from the characters.

 

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July 28, 2013  A.J. Lieberman and Darren Rawling’s The Silver Six Overall, when I picked up A.J.Lieberman’s text, I had no idea it was a graphic novel.  That could be good AND bad, depending on the quality of the text and illustrations.  In this case, it was GREAT!  I loved the plot of discovery, intrigue, and yes, suspense.  There is so much to ground to cover dispelling the stereotype that graphic novels are just comic books, easy reads, or have little content.  Lieberman dispels those myths with his text, and Phoebe, the protagonist, has many episodes of conflict and resolution that pulled me in. VERY impressed with the graphics, the plot and scientific content when it comes to solving the mysteries behind her family and what becomes the Silver Six!

 

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July 28, 2013 Matthew J. Kirby’s The Lost Kingdom Mixing myth with lore, you realize, a book does not have to end with the last page. Author Matthew J. Kirby proves this in his text and I find myself wanting to research further the events and characters in his book. The readers of this book will find themselves in the same position. From legends, to Lewis and Clark expeditions to the roles of the Philosophical Society, they novel becomes a legend amid itself and worthy of a read, reread, and an exciting foray into American History. Let me take that back, English and French history with a portion of Welsh, so indeed, Kirby is able to go beyond the pages of what he has written. For that endeavor, he has been able to make writing more than reading, he has created experiencing history, as well as making this a top notch reason to research after the initial read.

 

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July 21, 2013   Dianne Salerni’s The Caged Graves Add Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, Salem’s Lot, modern day Nancy Drew, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and a few more novels I am grasping for but all mixed up and you have a historical fiction piece that has no problem holding your attention. The based on a true event aspect with the historical information provided by Dianne Salerni at the end provides a novel of of depth and intrigue. It was difficult at some points for me to get into the novel as a guy, but overall, I was highly impressed with the plot, characters, and occasional twists that did occur and include the male characters in this text. Definitely delving into the French/India War, and tons of history effortlessly represented, this novel is artistically written and will keep you interested from page one to the end, almost as if you are playing the game Clue trying to put together the pieces!

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 11.06.11 AM July 20, 2013  Melanie Crowder’s Parched Again, a spectacular look into the bare minimum ability to stay alive with the absence of something we take for granted, water.  Add freedom, add freedom from persecution, and personal liberties and you are only touching the surface of what Melanie Crowder is able to o in 154 pages.  I sat down walking my dogs in Mexico City committed to 5o pages for the morning and the book was done in one hour with me racing, no, galloping through it.  Sarel and Musa are 1% of what is going on in the world, and you will me motivated by how much we take for granted after reading this text.  Switching between characters and canines, the amazing sensory text that is used to draw you in, amid an already breathtaking beginning and plot, you have to read the first two pages to believe it, and I am still reeling.  I love that this comes with a resource guide here too!   From the Author: Hello, Harry!   Thanks for sending the link to your blog! I’m very happy you enjoyed my book, and I was also interested in your thoughts on Parched. I’ve been hearing a lot about that book lately! It sounds like something that would be good for my classroom.

Dianne

Dianne K. Salerni We Hear the Dead (Sourcebooks)

The Caged Graves (Clarion/HMH 2013)

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 10.58.10 AM July 19, 2013  Josanne La  Valley’s The Vine Basket Combining cultural geography, and themes of resistance, female empowerment, and so much more, this text by Joanne la Valley is a treasure because it conquers the culture, geography, and customs completely unfamiliar to me, and brings them to become recognized. Educating and keeping you on the edge of your seat, while introducing a partnership of business between the United States and Uyghur (pronounced WEEgur), who occupy East Turkestan, is amazing. The conflicts between this area and the Chinese, becomes familiar instantly after finishing this text. A little slow in places, but only a few, this makes you proud upon completion with the new understanding you have when you finish this text. I remember receiving a student from Tajikistan and never knowing anything about that country. After a year, I knew so much, and you will feel the same way after this text. This also is a lesson in how all books should be written, and they would impact students more on a personal level while becoming more informed. That is to say in the least and this opens your eyes to what education should be. I am drawn to multicultural texts anyway, and this without a doubt is one.

 

 

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July 18, 2013 Eric L. Gansworth’s If I Ever Get Out of Here THINK SHERMAN ALEXIE as a teen. This was an amazing book of character lessons to learn, a voyage into a myriad of pop culture, stereotypes, and literally, one of the BEST Young Adult, cultural texts I have come across. The depth and breadth of the issues in Eric Gansworth’s text are close to impossible to beat. This was certainly, certainly one of the best YA reads out of a popular list. From not fitting in, to bullying, peer pressure, learning one’s way in the word, and so many more topics that do not seem piled up on at all, this is a true winner in the YA (Young Adult) world of writing. WOW. I am much better for the reading of this and so will you be.

 

Screen Shot 2013-07-17 at 10.46.28 PM July 17, 2013  Gordon Korman’s  Hypnotize Me When you have a text that also has the deeper levels of a moral value, this makes the story more real to you as a reader. This is the case in Korman’s text. There is an underlying theme of morality and stream of consciousness amid others that can’t find their way to reach beyond events that benefit themselves the most. The selflessness is not lost on the reader they see Jackson Opus work through higher levels of maturity through his decisions and resisting peer pressure to do otherwise. That underlying maturity of a main character is refreshing. As an adult reading, it was difficult for me to get out of the plot and characterization of being geared to a Middle School audience, yet the importance of the values that come out in the text are certainly not invisible or transparent. Korman does a great job of imparting values on the reader through the characters and reactions of the plot. I found some parts a little sluggish, but overall, the consistent plot and value truly was there and sped up so that I could easily finish in one day and it held my attention and interest. Many good things will come from additional sequels to this series.

 

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July 16, 2013 Linda Urban’s The Center of Everything While you immediately delve into the history of a donut, as well as a dilemma of Ruby Pepperdine, the aloofness of something CONCRETE, something that is supposed to happen yet not finding what it is, you wonder, where is this story going? I am very impressed with the looseness of this plot, and most times I would be frustrated, yet, you realize… …when you come to the end of this text, you realize that Linda Urban has posed the many questions we forget to ask ourselves as we get older. To hold onto that youthfulness, as well as asking the questions that make younger people young, is what is essential to learning more about yourself. I love the innocence and youthfulness that does extend itself to some of the adults in this novel, and yet you see it escapes many as it does in our own world. What a wonderful trip through youthfulness, the real meanings of a quality life, and a small town;s treasure, Ruby Pepperdine. While geared to a Middle School audience, there is certainly so much in this text that any age can walk with a smile.

 

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July 15, 2013  Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold Story of the United States It is funny, looking at the self that was me before entering Mexico, and the self now after entering Mexico, I see a totally different me. Why? I actually have been lucky enough to have the gift of time. Time to reflect, time to think, time to introspect and time to see the things around me and make connections. I never had that ability in the states due to the amount of work I had to expend on my part to get by. Then I also saw the true issues behind immigration, and seeing how people in the street of Mexico are thankful for 5 pesos when given to them by someone exiting the metro. FIVE PESOS. After reading Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznik’s text, and hearing their wishes for a true telling of American History in textbooks, I aligned myself with the way I have changed since coming to Mexico and seeing a more worldly and unimperialistic view of things. Funny, as long as I have been in the United States, I have so much to be thankful for, my family, my education, opportunities to be where I am now. Yet in so many ways I am ashamed of being a part of a country that hides behind documents and actions made private and top secret, individuals being harassed and chased for releasing activities that belong to the general public after all, and those people that also help expose the truth are ridiculed. Why? Greed. When you come to another country, and not just as a tourist, you realize, when you get to see the areas that many do not go to on their own, countries outside of the U.S. deserve their chance to grow and expand and rule their own country, and not be lumped into an imperalistic want and need by the United States. When you see some of the comments, some of the chances the past government individuals had to make a difference and steer clear of this dominate and take over, and they turned their back on it, you too will first be shocked as I still am, and then wonder if you can ever go BACK to a country, living in a county where it makes you feel s your opinion will not make a difference because the government pushes their greed and despite for oil, policing the world, and trying to be the most powerful country, and well, everyone else is second best. But hearing and reading the comments and so many discrepant decisions made just is well, like I said shocking, yet, to not read this book, you go on thinking the thoughts that popular media and supporters would have you to think. It will take me a longtime to ever thing of the United States in the same light after this text that hits straight to the core of every American, hopefully enough to want to force a change.

IMG_6660IMG_6659July 13, 2013  Alice Walker’s The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness Into Flowers (New Poems) When you can read the calmness in the lines of a book, you also have, yes, winner…:) Seeing Alice Walker and talking with her, as well as having the chance for her to sign her book,  Alice Walker I feel in love with the way she can gently present words and have emotions and connections easily spill out. The same is true of her book mentioning events that are occurring around us, yet having the talent to want us to read the selections over and over. It is not difficult to see what she has had a tremendous flood of success, her words continue to be a revelation and a person one, time and time again.

 

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July 08, 2013  Devaughn Lilly’s   The Magnificent Life of Graavy Brown Receiving this book and meeting the author was a true gift. I had waited a few days to read it, not expecting to wait, but thinking I would get a chance to do so during the ALA Conference in Chicago where I had obtained this. Just as Bos and Graavy find their lives move faster than they can keep up with, the same occurred with remembering to get through this book. On a Sunday afternoon, I remembered, and dug through the books I had obtained for ASF in Mexico City and found it! I took the dogs out for a walk in Parque Luis Cabrella in Mexico City. That was 9:00 AM. By noon I was on page 153 and found I could not stop. I didn’t like the way at first the forced way that the shortened words were presented, seeming at first that it was forced. Yet, I read on and found, that was because I did not have the whole story in view. I fell into the story based on the perfect mixture of historical events that I often had only read or heard about int history books, yet, here there were intertwined with a story that grabbed your heart, and pulled even more as you turned each page to root for the success of the protagonist, who sometimes appeared to be Graavy, and then sometimes his Mama. Overall, the tragic story takes an unexpected turn, one I did not even see coming, and the onrush of the depth as well as the complicated twist of lives that occurred all run together at the very end of the story. I am not sure it had to take the unexpected twist it did to make these all gel together, I was so into the story by the middle point it just seemed the ending emphasized the depth and quality of the story. It took me a little to get used to the raw and pointed emphasis on things like accent, pronunciation, and more, yet you are thankful for it as a reader. Much time and effort has been put into this novel, and I feel this is geared towards a 9th grade and up age group. I always have been a fan of historical fiction and am even mores now, as this helps to speed the events of Devaughn Lilly’s novel, as well as pulling you in deeper. The events given want you to go back and research, or even ask, what elements specifically were based on real life events, with some you know, and others keep you guessing. That is the beauty and tragedy, that makes this novel so interesting.

 

 

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July 06, 2013     Mitali Perkin’s Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices  With a title such as Open Mic, who could resist? This causes anticipation for our own Open Mic’s again at ASF for the new year. Cracking open the first book of my ALA stash from 2013, if the books to follow will be this refreshing, eye-opening, and worthy of reading, I hit a gold mine. I read a fellow Good Read’s commentary the other day and seeing how he rated things, with a 5 being things you can’t live without, a 4 pretty hard to stop turning pages and put down, a 3 worthy of pulling off the shelf, a 2 wondering what happened, and a 1 why bother, in theory I feel this is a 5, but I wanted more content, so a 4. 🙂 When I do not want to donate the book to the library, that usually is a given 🙂 Since this is a galley copy, and due to come out in September, I do not want to give away but do want to read a shot excerpt from Naomi Shihab Nye’s selection, “Lexicon”, “Maybe we need a giant campfire, all the dry twigs of sad words piled on top. Light them carefully, say good-bye. Fold you hands as they sizzle and fly, ash into air. This will not be a fire to cook anything on.” I remember watching a video during my Slippery Rock University days, a gathering of men discussing race, and how adamantly Caucasian members stated how they were not racist in the least. By the end of the week, events and scenarios that defined understanding, of what other races had to face, brought a reality that many just did not learn to appreciate or realize. This book compiled by Mitali Perkins is a treasure, and the words within represent so many scenarios that can align for realization, and important ones at that. You see excerpts from the producer of the Family Guy, authors with backgrounds in immigration, as well as illustrators from the book American Born Chinese. This was a true gift to be able to obtain this and read, and ultimately, absorb.

Screen Shot 2013-07-03 at 10.09.54 PMIMG_6614July 03, 2013   Octavia Spencer’s The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit The depth of a Middle School novel, coupled with the depth of a star that does things that keep her grounded help say how much character Octavia Spencer’s book actually is. When I was lucky enough to have her sign a copy of this book for me let alone getting a copy, as well as hearing her speak about the process that went into this, you realize what a gem you have on your hands. The awesome but true appendix at the end, the complicated period where students struggle with identifying their identity, all is covered in the most genuine and believable style right here. Finishing this novel on the plane ride back to Mexico helped keep the energy and excitement I witnessed of Octavia Spencer on stage, and the same can be said of this upbeat thriller bringing mystery and Encyclopedia Brown-style sleuthing to your doorstep.  Following in the tradition of Scooby-Doo, Nancy Drew, and Inspector Gadget, as well as the previous mentioned approaches to thriller and mystery, Octavia Spencer brings viable mysteries to life through her newest novel. Prominent characters within the community, as well as a town’s past add to this exciting and motivating novel and one has to ask, what will happen next? Well done Ms. Spencer, your talents from the big screen, to your writing, to the many social issues you support combined, make this a must read knowing it is coming from your pen. A great bringing back the thrill of mystery to Young Adult Literature!

July 01, 2013 Jessi Kirby’s Golden (Originally Nothing Gold Can Stay) Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 9.46.16 PMFrametale.  I always liked the idea of a frame tale.  This is one for sure.  I started reading this novel by Jessi Kirby, having enjoyed her In Honor, and something I did not expect to happen, it riveted me even though the protagonist seems to be mainly geared to a female audience, captures you attention beyond belief.  Why ?  The interwoven plot isn’t something you can predict, and has you pulled in before you can turn the next page, I was taken by surprise each time.  Then I went out to take the dogs for a walk, came back and the puppies had taken care of the last 5 pages, I mean shredded even though I had taped a few but could not repair the last few. IMG_6571 I was leaving in the morning.  For Chicago and had no idea how this ended.  I did figure out that out when I went to a Barnes & Noble here, and sat down and finished the last few pages.  You know when deep down, you feel like a chapter in your life had been turned?  As Parker and Kat begin to turn pages of their lives and discover truths that do not appear immediately, so do you as a reader.  I felt a sense of contentment and satisfaction as I came to a close on Jessi Kirby’s book, and felt the trip of running through two books, was well with the journey to the last few pages.  You will feel the same as you find yourself completely absorbed in Jessi Kirby’s novel.  The discovery Parker makes for others around her, will infect you and sprout discoveries in yourself as a reader.  Drama, realistic themes of teenage experiences, mixed with the mid adult encounters that leave an impression.

Dear Harry,
 
Thank you so much for sending this along! I love your review–puppies eating the ending included! And I’m so happy you enjoyed it. 
 
Happy 4th of July!
 
Jessi

June 24, 2013  Vicky Myron’s Dewey Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 6.40.56 AMThis 271 page book was not a plan for a one day reading, yet, the content lent itself to be taken in on one day for sure. if you have ever had a pet, now owned as surely Dewey could not be owned, but has the lucky pleasure of having a pet, then you will fall into stride with the content of Vicki Myron’s text. Could it be that we attached to this story while we found Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 6.56.53 AMour own cat, named Dewey, (our picture is on the header of this section looking over our computer in the library) at The American School Foundation here in Mexico City? Could be. Yet the history of small town Spencer only adds to the intrigue that Dewey brought to Iowa. The same can be said for our Dewey in Mexico City. You had football players that came in between classes to milk feed our Dewey, let alone hold her and keep the secret of a cat in the school library where cats were not allowed. The events that Dewey had on a daily basis a world away from Iowa coincided with Myron’s adventures and Dewey here in Mexico City continues to lead quite a privileged life. It was rewarding to see the life Dewey ReadMore Books had in Iowa, and the benefits he brought to people around the world. A read worth your time, and heartwarming all the same.

June 22, 2013  Shannon Hale’s Princess AcademyPalace of Stone When I first picked this book up I imagined, this will be difficult. Truly a girl’s novel and well, to begin I felt I was going to have to plough through as well, I am certainly not a princes, not a girl, and well, it would be hard to get into the characters. Not so on all accounts. As you make it through Shannon Hale‘s novel, you see there is a the mix of history, ethics, rhetoric, the studies and even a little mix of fantasy with the existence of linder stone and the existence of quarry speak. I thought briefly of Anne of Green Gables, and this heroine does fall amid plots, revolutions, and upheavals, and some involving stone. It is refreshing to see feminine roles that take on tasks that are usually stereotyped into male roles. Seeing women fill these roles successfully is refreshing and part of the quality that lends itself to this Young Adult Lit Novel. It will not be too hard to find something for readers int his text While geared for young teen girls, this novel has much more depth than the cover and title allows, which is what makes this a great read.

June 15, 2013 Matt De La Pena’s   Mexican Whiteboy IMG_6011 IMG_6012Everyone has heard of baseball.  Yet everyone knows the difference between the avoid fan who knows the averages, when players are “brought up”, and the rivalry that exists when heard on the radio announcements and watching the game, at the same time.  This was my plight in 1997, when interned for the Pittsburgh Pirates thanks to one Dr. McCarren and my education at Slippery Rock University.  I remember hearing one day in school about an internship that was offered at Slippery Rock University and my mind all thought this would be an interesting experience.  I never knew what would come out of that, it would change my life drastically. Such is the events surrounding Matt De La Pena’s Mexican Whiteboy.   You could have called ME that.  That is the point.  De La Pena’s appeals to such a wide variety of social groups, addresses issues of parents that are divided, racism, and avid interested in sports and those that are NOT interested in sports, as those wanting to change their positions in life.  Anyone and everyone can relate to this novel that further dives into issues of friendship, family, and recovering from hard times as well as making your way through them.  When I found myself breathless and anticipating the next hustle and faceoff when Danny faces down another batter, with his mind seemingly getting in the way, I know I had found a novel worthy of it’s pages for reluctant readers, and both in girls and boys.  Dialogue that is relevant to today’s youth (being a teacher helps) as well as events that are in no way far fetched, the perfect balance is truck between question individuals just beyond the border of Mexico and the way the female heroine is involved, and just in the novel as a secondary thought. There certainly is a perfect balance struck here, and just like Danny, Mexican Whiteboy is able to find the perfect balance between the no hit zone and a homerun, depending if you are the batter or the pitcher…in this case you can be both. This is another great aspect.  Someone that works at Karma Bagel here in Mexico City, a week LATER, when I returned, mentioned that they saw me reading the book, and repeated the title exactly to me, remembering seeing the book at my table and asked about it.  VERY cool.  I am lending it to him and see what he has to say about it, that is super cool!

June 14, 2013  Jessica Brody’s Unremembered IMG_6008 In coming into a novel dealing with futuristic elements mixed with a dyastopian world, I have been overwhelmed.  This year, at least from the ALAN aspect, there has been a ton of these themed novels, and I have seen a variety up to this point in narrowing down the reads I promised authors I’d read and review.  I think that plays a large in seeing this novel as a repeat of a lot of other similar themes that play alongside Unremembered.  The dialogue of learning phrases, concepts, and basic everyday elements over again provides some humor and a “taking things for granted” feelings along the way.  There is a good balance between technology and human society with Violet concerned (or is it really Violet that is the main character?)    The realization that this story has been Play Doh’ed, shaped, and doled out this year in many different versions had me about half way seeing this same plot previous. I wanted to see at certain times the answer to the question, “But what sets this apart from the other book that have a similar character?”  However, the story behind the individuals that give chase as well as a twist among what we would call the antagonists (sometimes it is not too clear in this story which also helps give chase to the plot) does carry some page turning effects as a results.   I like the Termintaor-like idea behind the character, yet, this is on a milder scale for sure.  With issues of friendship and everyday life, the issues presented have more to do with the main characters than escaping to outside of the pages of this novel.  While a good read, I do not think this is the best representation of a futuristic future that involves us as the audience with it.

June 10, 2013        Isamu Fukui’s Truancy IMG_5991 IMG_5992 Red Dawn the film came to mind, yet with a moral twist. Throughout this book, several lines catch your attention, indicating that not all students fit into the same mold that education lies in front of them. Taken to the extreme, this collection of events that presents education as the inscrutable dictator of a bleak future, does in fact set the tone for what education needs to be for students, meaningful. The idea that education is used as a weapon is a scary one, and does challenge the shortcomings of education that need to be achieved. The interwoven mysteries found in the plot that lead you to the next page also are an added plus, as the plot gets thicker and thicker with the theme of confrontation. Yet positive results are wanted by all and the realistic tone set that this could occur, among all the other above mentioned attributes raise this novel to a high level interest level, with plenty of adventure to keep you turning to the next page. The fact that this author is seventeen himself also sets an inspiration to other students.

June 07, 2013  Steve Brezenoff’s Brooklyn Burning Screen Shot 2013-06-07 at 9.04.37 PM Catcher in the Rye theme-packed, I felt so many times as if I was going to lose my very apartment as I felt I was inside the body of Kid as he wondered from place to place trying to find a place to sleep each night.  Steve Brezenoff is able to bring the wandering and restlessness of Kid outside of each page into the inner core of your very being if you let it.  Was it ironic that Alicia Keys’ “New York”  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PHOeXIPNZE) came on the radio a few minutes after I finished?  The memories of the streets I have walked with my students from Mexico became much more after feeling smelling, and seeing the scenes that Kid, Fish, Scout, and Konny, Jonny, and the martyrdom of Felix saw every day.  These wandering souls bring a new look to a city I have come to love with a group of students I have travelled with each year with, and Brezenoff’s book brings the reality of a life that often goes often unseen and unnoticed.  So many issues packed into this novel about acceptance, homelessness, and in general, belonging.   The author’s note at the end is so tasteful, it makes worth getting to the end to see how Steve Brezenoff has come full circle to bring so many issues to your fingertips. From the author:

Hi, Harry. Thanks so much for the kind review. I’m really pleased you found something valuable in Brooklyn, Burning.

Best, Steve

June 05, 2013 IMG_5681 Raina Telgemeier’s Drama   IMG_5683 I have been majorly impressed with the graphic novels I have picked up not knowing what to expect, and this certainly is no exception. I am reminded of my stagecrew days in Intermediate and the romances I had, as well as yes, the drama, and why does it always seem to revolve around stagecrew and plays? Yet it did! Raina Telgemeir captured the last minute events and burps that occur in a production, as well as the love of all things drama. An excellent novel and excellent illustrations. IMG_5684I loved the fact that Ms Telgemeier drew her character in the beginning of the book for us as we met in ALAN at Las Vegas. It is obvious she is passionate about the content of her writing as well as her knowledge of productions,and the plot never draws boring or waning in her novel. A VERY enjoyable read and able to get through in an hour, but packed with relationship, social, academic and more issues that you can imagine in a middle school, and due to the captivating illustrations and action that rises and falls with the drama curtain  🙂 From the author: Hi!  Thanks very much for your email. This is an auto-reply to let you know I’ve received it! I do read and appreciate every email I get, although I’m very bad about responding to them in a timely fashion. That’s because I’m always busy working on new projects! If this is a pressing matter, I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m able. Thanks very much for understanding. My upcoming graphic novel SISTERS was recently announced! You can find out more info about the book at this link: http://goraina.com/?p=1522  I update my blog periodically, so if you’re interested in updates on my work and appearances, keep your eyes on that! http://goraina.com If you’re looking for answers to questions about me or my work (for book reports, or just out of curiosity), there are a lot of them on my FAQ page:http://goraina.com/info.html If you’re writing to inquire about an in-person or Skype school visit, please contact Antonio Gonzalez at authorvisit@scholastic.com. Thank you again for writing!  ~raina —  Raina Telgemeier http://goRaina.com

June 05, 2013   John Claude Bemis’s The White City

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 7.29.09 PM If you can jump into a third book of a series and stay with it and be intrigued, captured, and mesmerized, then heck, it has to be good!  Such was the case with John Clause Bemis’ book.  This mix of the nostalgic, historical, and fantastical combined under one setting takes you back and forth to contemplate what past and future events could do to change the heritage known as America.  From Bill Cody, to the Chicago World’s Fair, this literal circus of events will carry you past the first couple pages of  “What’s going on?” and thrust you in this battle for what is right and pure in the world.  Unless you start with the first book, which probably will allow yourself to be more clear on the plot from the very beginning.   I have no urge to read the first two as I was completely content with the rich detail of this text, even though I am reluctant to start with the third book in a series again.  Kudos to John Claude Bemis and his accomplishment to pull you into a labyrinth of adventure.

From the author: John Claude Bemis   I’m really honored, Harry! Thanks so much for reading The White City and for the review. I hope we get to cross paths again. Take care ~ John

May 31, 2013 Stacey Kade’s Project Paper Doll The Rules Screen Shot 2013-06-01 at 6.41.43 AM The Rules Stacey Kade When you walk away from a book feeling so many emotions that came through the pages to you as a reader, I feel the success of the book states itself. This book certainly did that. I was outside, walking my dog, and seeing people on a level that made me shy away from them after reading this book. Not that I had an instant phobia regarding people, yet somehow, from the characteristics brought out of Rachel, Ariane, Zane, and Jenna, the superficiality of people and their fronts, friendships, and overall demeanor were brought to my attention as if under a microscope. While being a fantasy of sorts the combination of both human and superficiality, the same as Ariane’s composition, comes out through every page, crystal clear. For this fact alone, author Stacey Kade did a five star job of transporting this text through the pages to the reader. From author Stacey Kade:

Hi Harry! 
Oh, my gosh, thank you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. I’ve always felt that stories with science fiction elements, like The Rules, have the opportunity to reflect something about humanity by showing it from the perspective of someone who is not completely human. 🙂 
 
Thank you so much for the review on your blog and Goodreads! And thank you for reading!
All my best, Stacey

May 26, 2013 IMG_4921IMG_4922Amy Gordon’s The Shadow Collector’s Apprentice I loved this for the deeper themes that might not be evident at first. The themes of family, devotion, and value of others comes creeping in as the shadow mystery also appears and disappears, excuse the metaphor. I see a blend of the Sorcerer’s assistant, Harry Potter, and elements of Narnia all wrapped up in one. The building of the relationship between Isabel and Cully is endearing and contagious, and yet, I never sensed Cully was above Isabella, while he did have admirers that followed him around disdainful of Isabel. I love the back and forth, give and take, that Amy Gordon provides in this Young Adult novel. There is a peacefulness and calmness that comes with this story. I wanted to rate it five, but I want more information about thew stories behind Cully’s aunts, his mother, and there is some limited info provided, but enough to want you to keep reading. Kudos to Amy Gordon, I finished this in 2 days as it truly is a heart-warming page turner. From Ms Gordon:

Dear Harry,

Thanks so much for making the effort to write about my book. I really appreciate your thoughts on it. enjoyed reading your blog, too. Sounds like you do great work with the kids you teach! Hope you are heading into a great summer.
 
Best wishes,

 

March 24, 2013 Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 1.21.01 AM

Harlan Coben Autographed

Harlan Coben Autographed

Having heard much about Harlan Coben, and seeing he was going to be AT Barnes and Noble Thursday – 7:00 PM, I wanted to see him while my students and myself were in New York.  However, I could not make it there in time, but, to my amazed surprise – my students generously bought the book for me and had it autographed for me – how cool was that!  What made this a priceless book to me was the fact that the students themselves autographed it and presented with a Tony Award for being a great teacher – that made my week.  Actually, the students made my week, they did AWESOME – but overall, on the plane ride back, yes, on the PLANE ride BACK, I finished the WHOLE book, I mean the WHOLE book.  I couldn’t put it down and wow, it was THAT good.  Not sure I can ever pick up another Coben book after this, as the expectations will be so high, but the perfect mix of mystery, suspense, drama, and a well developed plot around well developed characters, excellent read, EXCELLENT!

March 19, 2013 Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 6.12.38 AM Not to be disappointed, this is true Sherman Alexie style, broaching all topics, and reining them in with satire, true Alexie Style. Easy to read, and if you have read Sherman Alexie previously, this writing does not disappoint. Having the luck of including a chapter of Alexie’s in my thesis from his Tonto text, and meeting him at my college and sitting beside him, AND seeing him at NCTE Las Vegas, I am a major admirer of his work and satire. He is an author that keeps giving back – and this read does not disappoint!

January 26, 2013   Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 6.13.49 PMXavier Garza’s Maximilian: The Mystery of the Guardian Angel Lucha Libre – I have never seen it since the 2 years I have been in Mexico, so that is on my list for sure, so I was even more skeptical about a BOOK on luchre libre, yet, wow – I was impressed. The puzzled plot, that reveals itself in an interesting and intriguing way – is AWESOME – I was thrilled to have met Xavier Garza at ALAN in las Vegas – in 2012, and hearing his views of writing for younger audiences truly makes him a hero of the ring, whether he is a luchador in the physical sense, he certainly has captured a heroic tale in his text! Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 4.42.32 PM

Alan Gratz’s Prisoner B-3087 You know of Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, and Oskar Schindler, or do you? After attending a crucial seminar in the study of the Holocaust in Delaware, attending the Holocaust Museum, studying the Holocaust at the University of Delaware for a summer, and continuing to return to the very heart of why knowing about the Holocaust is so important, this text does not add any more depression to the theme of the Holocaust, it simply adds to the motivation to educate more and more generations about why this is crucial to be taught to future generations. Gratz’s tale of survival though so many consecutive camps is amazing, and yet this convinces readers to not lay this book down at all – and leads to further discussions on what type of education truly meets the core of students and their education on the world around us. This is a must read alongside some of the most historical fiction and biographical accounts of some very horrifying, yet important aspects of history.

Sharon G. Flake’s Pinned Screen Shot 2013-01-26 at 10.08.37 AM This text reminded me of a book ages ago, called Criss Cross, where different points of view literally criss cross. I have to admit, I had a hard time getting into this book in the beginning. Maybe because I am older, but I did not like the forced feeling that Autumn had of incomplete tense and it just seemed unnatural in the plot, hard to take in as being fluent with the overall story. Yet, somewhere, it clicked. Autumn’s plight was easy to connect with, Adonis’ impeccable expectations of all around him despite his own flaws, and the pressure of peers and their voices made a more personal appearance. The very aspects of the story I felt were impersonal became a close friend and had me pushing hard towards the end. I could picture home in Pittsburgh just with the knowledge that Sharon G. Flake was from Pittsburgh, as I read this on the back sleeve, aspects of the setting jumped out at me, and I became more closely connected to this plight of the fear of defeat, only to have it turn into a victory. Kudos to Sharon G. Flake for encouraging others to stick through things, despite a fear, uncertainty, or lack of confidence. it seems to always appear as her story unfolds this moral.

January 19, 2013 Screen Shot 2013-01-19 at 9.11.04 AMBenjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Once you are able to take in the quotes, and realize how powerful they are, you settle i on how strong, insightful, and powerful the life lessons are in this text.  While one character is not straight in sexual orientation, and one is on the road to discovery of this fact, this controversial (to some) topic takes a back seat to a more real realization – all individuals have aspiring dreams, motivations, and personal ghosts to work though.  HOW you do that is the key.  Benjamin Alire Saenz’s text is something that will remain with you for much longer than 359 pages, try a lifetime.   He took on a daring and controversial topic, and turned it into a topic about life that every person can connect with,  That is art. ________________ Thanks, Harry! Makes my day Benjamin. 

January 16, 2013 Girl of FireGirl of Fire inside pageThe plot and the characters, and EVERYTHING! I was completely lost in this book. THEN when you read the background about the author’s take on the way women are viewed, in the workplace, and out, I am just saying, READ THIS BOOK. I am so impressed, and the recipe in the back was awesome too, laughing. There is so much about this book that is right there is no room for any wrong. Awesome link tied to Ms Carson’s book…

January 14, 2013 Screen Shot 2013-01-17 at 10.54.42 AM ninja weenies insideI was skeptical going into this read!  🙂  However, I loved the idea of taking myths, urban legends, and even just wild ideas and turning them either into campfire stories that chill, or laughs that make you thrill!  A funny collection of stories that certainly deviate from the normal plot, and are sure to be refreshing in the read!  🙂   I never though of these serving as good campfire stories, yet these would fit perfect as well.

January 13, 2013 Maggie Stiefvater The Raven Boys 2013-01-14 10.39.24This was difficult for me to get into initially, but then by the middle, the three stars turned into a 4 to 4 1/2 start text.  The characters become intertwined, the plot becomes compelling, and the vocabulary has become familiar like an old friend.  I am hooked into seeing how the future of Ley lines, Blue, and the restoration of all things sought comes to fruition.  A mix of Lord of the Rings and Narnia, these characters are not afraid to reach out through the pages and combine a search for something as old as history itself.  Ley lines, lead on!

Jessi Kirby’s In Honor 2013-01-14 10.18.56 In Honor autograph If you came to page 125 and it was missing and the next page was 157, and page 157-188 was printed twice, what would you? Yet, I plugged on and realized, this book captured so much emotion, so much characterization, and carried so much about REAL LIFE, I think 30 ore pages could have been missing yet, it would have made me stick with whatever pages I was lucky enough to get my hands on. AN AWESOME AWESOME book, and Jessi Kirby should be your new favorite author. In Honor – certainly an honor to read. Cool, notes from the author, check this OUT!  🙂

And Waaaaaay cool, the author wrote back!  AWESOME!   🙂
From: Jessi <jessi@jessikirby.com> To: Harry Brake <harrybrake@yahoo.com> Sent: Monday, January 14, 2013 10:30 PM Subject: Re: 🙂

(I am not sure she would want the email public, but I think it is AWESOME to have such quick feedback from teachers!)

January 11, 2013 AWESOME Review here… Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 10.17.28 PMMost Worthy of Our Tears. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Penguin). As Schrefer puts it, “Two teens with cancer fall in love. You will not make me cry, Mr. Green. You will not manipulate my emotions, Mr. Green. You will… wait, I’m crying. And I didn’t feel manipulated at all.” This is my own personal favorite for the year as well, and all I can say is, read it, read it, read it. It is pretty damn near perfect, with moments both funny and heart-wrenching, sometimes both at the same time, and I second Schrefer’s opinion: You do not feel manipulated, because it’s simply not manipulative. Veronica Rossi, author of the Under the Never Sky trilogy, adds, “Green can make you laugh and cry in the span of a sentence and he’s at his very best in Stars. An unforgettable read.” And Sandie Angulo Chen of Teen Lit Rocks agrees, too, saying, “My favorite book of the year is, like most serious readers of young adult literature, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Anyone who misguidedly claims that adults should only read adult books has never had the unmitigated joy and heartbreak of reading the expertly crafted, transformative words of Green’s characters Hazel Grace and Augustus …  It’s almost a shame that the novel came out in January, because it set the bar so impossibly high for the rest of the year.” –Tracy Miller|Center for Teaching Excellence Coordinator

January 09, 2013 Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song When I met Nicolas Sparks at ALAN in Las Vegas 2012, I knew the name, the books, the fame, etc….When I finished the book January 9, 2013, I overlooked one thing…The deepness that can come past the emotions Nicholas Sparks adds into texts is subtle.  It is too easy to classify Mr Sparks as the author that can play the harp strings of females – he does connect well, but know this especially after reading several of his books and finally, The Last Song, 2013-01-10 12.45.232013-01-10 12.45.13 I saw the beginning of my years in elementary, phases of being a country boy, to a city boy, to a college student, experiencing the struggle of life without my Dad toy seemed to know the world, and help the world, my life moving to the coast, to Mexico, creating pang strings of emotion with the students I came to love, and after the tears, yes, tears, laughter, and amazing roller coaster ride I travelled in this text, I found myself looking at the last page – and seeing Columbia University ending this book.  I just had come full circle with my students in Mexico, relived the amazing moments with my dear dear families I made in Seaford, and has encompassed my whole life in one book – yes, this book was that powerful. YOUR last song might be a short story that gets published, a marathon you place  and win for someone, a challenge that relights a memory of someone that never disappears from your life, but as this book makes clear – everyone has their own last song. Review from Good reads: “I stand corrected after going through a snapshot of my life, so many emotions – and reading this in two days because I WOULD NOT STOP – this book, one of many, define so many people that have touched my life and I realized – Nicolas Sparks does the emotional thing for sure, yet, there is more substance to him than just picking emotional strings, there are memories you can take back with you if you look deep enough.  Fittingly enough, Columbia University ended this novel, and my former essay on things coming full circle – this book shook me by the shoulders and made me realize this all over again.  Certainly, this novel can define a person, and the letter that came with this book, explaining the need to add SAT, ACT, sample essays and so many more student guided materials that go along with the novel – AMAZING. ”

January 08, 2013 Screen Shot 2013-01-08 at 8.50.21 AMdan wells autographed pageDan Wells’ I am NOT a Serial Killer Wow. I just finished reading a graphic novel from Jeffrey Dahmer’s classmate, and this was a second Young Adult Lit book from ALAN, the section on authors who write about the theme of serial killers. Wow is for how realistic an author can make parts of a fictional character/event seem real and this novel does just that. Much research goes into the development of the study of writing about serial killers and research of past serial killers is mentioned and are non fiction in the text. The ability to weave fiction alongside much non fiction in this text is one of several writing talents Dan Wells brings to the table in writing in this genre. I have to admit, it seemed so realistic I need now to go out and experience some light hearted activity as Dan Wells is able to take readers to dark laces and have their heart race through the zig zag puzzles of his plot. Unsettling is definitely an aspect of Dan Wells’ writing, yet, that is part of the success as a writer in this text.

January 03, 2013 Derf Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer Dahmercover dahmerinside Graphic novels often are included in the comic book category.  This is a misnomer, as graphic novels are not just anime, they tell about immigration, restate Shakespeare visually, and put poetry and prose into a new perspective, which is what many students need, as I, myself am a visual learner.  This graphic novel surprises you and uncomfortably in the timing, shows behind the scenes of truly, how family affects and affected incidents of destruction, in this case of Jeffrey Dahmer.  We are lucky enough to have a teacher’s kit and lesson as well that goes with this text.  You will be surprised and unsettled to see the inner workings of a student that went to school with Jeffrey Dahmer, and amazing brings information to light that is not news sensationalized, yet unsettling just the same.

January 02, 2013  Hold Fast by Blue Balliett 2013-01-03 01.17.54 2013-01-03 01.18.15 If you never thought a literary mystery could be interesting, then Blue Balliett’s novel will change your mind. Her involvement of Chicago, Langston Hughes, and very real and immediate causes/issues that every one of us can change with some creativity, and in the middle of this, a story that will leave you wanting more – much in this novel will catch you unawares and that is the beauty of this story!

December 30, 2012 Smashed by Lisa Luedeke 2012-12-30 22.14.40 2012-12-30 22.15.25 In looking at Smashed by Lisa Luedeke, the interview we had with this author came alive.  Going into a Young Adult Lit novel without knowing the plot, and gathering pieces of the action, then reading the text, it is similar to anticipating a film.  This novel holds nothing back and rewards the reader with all the true dilemmas, maybe not all, but many of the dilemmas that face individuals in high school on a day to day basis.  Despite the “station” or “position” someone has in high school, thanks to the categories created by so many in those years of learning who you are, everyone has a character in this text that they can relate to.  Everyone.  From best friend, to envious of another, to the  reluctant partier, to the intellectual and constant friend, the roller coaster never stops in this novel.  Yet, there is a way out even when there seems to be no more politically correct answers or solutions. I found this novel accurate, inspiring, and motivating, as well as a true lesson passing read, that lived up to everything Luedeke tried to do to reach teens.  Excellent, excellent addition to any young adult lit. novel.

December 29 2012 Screen Shot 2012-12-29 at 2.36.11 PMThe Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls WOW.  Given to me by a student, Alison Schwinn, I sped through this in 2 days.  The writing is so deep, personal, and involved, you go through the emotions of frustration, anger, disappointment, sadness, and a feeling of banging your head against a wall, as the children survive amid a creativity that surfaces from parents, yet never reaches reality.  Yet, can you see the success of these young children, that go without running water, food, and basic clothing that reaches back to the children?  Are the parents responsible?  I would say, the choice to detach from parents as they become older, is only one of three to four other stories that go on above the plot of survival as each of these children will go on to become successful, but never forget the less than accommodating circumstances they experienced growing up.  I found myself in the middle of all of these emotions due to the talented writing of this text.

December 26, 2012 2013-01-03 21.26.34 2012-12-31 23.40.25 The PERFECT combo of prose and poetry – the inner workings of what perseverance and dedication means, that comes from a younger girl and dog, through MUCH experience in being displaced, sends the reader on a page turning excursion thanks to this book. Unable to put this down, you will understand the power of YA lit after reading this heart-wrenching, yet exhilarating tale from Joan Bauer. Skinny cover

Donna Cooner’s Skinny   Skinnyinside The conversations that occur subconsciously carry the momentum of the plot in this text. When confronted with a constant barrage and challenge to stereotypes, friendships, and relationships, as well as an awareness of self among others, amid the great theme and topic of weight and identity combined,  you receive a myriad of issues that need to be addressed.  Finishing this on Christmas Day, you realize the best gift is that of coming to terms with yourself.  An excellent adventure through self-awareness and gifting back to oneself. 201Burningbluecover

Paul Griffin’s Burning Blue    Burningblueinside Wow!  The look into the fall from grace popularity, that actually existed more in the mind of others surrounding Nicole adds depth to the high school experience, whether you are in college, high school, or not yet.  First person adds to the intrigue, mystery, and jealousy that often comes with success in a high school world yet author Paul Griffin is able to each out and show there is much more here than meets the eye.

AWESOME Book Review site at a perfect little library in Delaware http://whatwevebeenreading.blogspot.mx I like the library in Lewes, DE, as I first volunteered there when I moved to DE, back in 2005.  Think of a library full of skylights, that resembles a glass parlor where they make glass, and surrounded by gardens, and you have the Lewes, DE library!

James Patterson‘s I Funny

Patterson combines the genuine passion to draw readers to read, he succeeds. Funny, committed, and graphically as well as plotfully interesting, this is worth reading, picking, up, and passing along. The hook near the end grabs your heart and will not let go, as it takes you by surprise, James Patterson style.  Since he has a contest that he is currently doing with the glasses, of course, this makes this cool to wear comedian glasses.  🙂 Throw in a staff of funny people and what do you have?  🙂  Many I Funny! Ifunny The first two from ALAN at NCTE 2012 – 2 of MANY!

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles. Okay, aside from containing my name, (a good reason to choose this) – from hearing the author at NCTE, talking with her briefly, and getting her view of the excerpt, I started reading before I boarded the plane in Las Vegas and had all 311 pages finished before I landed back in Mexico.  I could not put it down.  Knowing there was a parallel story in the author’s own life as well brought some interesting inquiry as I read.  I found myself tearing up and shocked – SHOCKED – at the turn of events halfway through, I truly never saw it coming, not even a little. Sure, it is Young Adult lit but the wrapping up of family members that occurs, the twist that comes after I thought everything was okay, but was a close call, and yes.  It did take me back to the things I dealt with and faced in high school.  I love this book.  This certainly will capture the hearts and attention of adults, teens, and anyone that loves ice cream  🙂  Jo Knowles, you did an AWESOME – AWESOME job with this novel!  WOW.  Instantly one of my favorite books as of late – and using my name?  Brilliant (laughing).

The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez  Alan Lawrence Sitomer After hearing Mr Sitomer talk about his books for young boys in the U.S. this story certainly veers off of his books like HomeBoyz and Hip-Hop High School. I am amazed at how easily Sonia’s personality, guarded and sharp-tongued with everyone, and already certain about all boys from what she has seen, come off in her choice of words, few needed to get the picture. There are a few pretty sexually connected and sharp/biting comments made, yet, I have never met a teenager that has not thought or said the same things Sonia has put into words.  The mix of Spanish and American is well done, and slowly increases and is easy to read thanks to the ease and placement. I love the stereotypes that are addressed, overcome, and dealt with on a daily basis, truly reflective of a Spanish/Latino instead of entertaining just the popular myths, though those are in there too.  The high pressure on students, stereotypes placed on students from various cultures, as well as the challenge to stay above the drowning tide of homework, are just a few scenarios that come up in what seems to be such a short time, yet 312 pages of pure bildungsroman, keep you, the reader riveted.  Just when you can predict and see something happening, poof! – something unexpected occurs in Sonia’s life.  This was a 2 day read with breaks, but easily falls into a one day read, as this is very intense in places, and Alan Sitomer does a GREAT job in representing a population that seemed to not be getting his attention previously.  (Hearing the background of this book at NCTE, ALAN’s talk BLEW ME AWAY!)  We have some pretty awesome books this year that are coming out, targeting and capturing Young Adults’ attention, yet, adults can get just as much, of not more out of these novels.  Two great starts to a pile of books that leave you in admiration! When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. Desiderius Erasmus

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

I had my Mom actually read this and wanted to hear her opinion, so here is her review.

“The one on the corner of Bitter and Sweet was a hard  read. Lots of sadness regarding the relationships of two people. Dealing  with a hotel that was once a beautiful hotel before being destroyed or at least damaged during the war. People being sent to concentration camps,, being sent from  one camp to another – Parents not surviving the camps, and just so much horror as Hitler ruled.  The two people that survived, finally came back to the hotel, wanting to restore it and possibly find belongings still in the basement of the hotel. It was really a hard book to read because of the horrible things that families had to go through.”

And catch a cool chance to hear the author of this text here.

Jamie Ford House of Silk Anthony Horowitz WOW. As I kid, I remember reading Nancy Drew. There, I admit it. Not the Hardy Boys, not sure what that was….but she was more interesting. I never picked up a Sherlock Holmes novel. Now I will. Anthony Horowitz was seen by me at NCTE with James Patterson, and it was awesome to see and hear his commitment to boys reading. He is able to flux from Middle School to adult just with a flick of, “Once again the game’s afoot…” and this novel begins with a great new adventure of writing through the Conan Doyle Estate. I am searching for the very first Sherlock Holmes novel now…A Study In Scarlet. Anthony Horotwitz is definitely committed to the craft of interesting others in reading, this will definitely do it!

First Stop in the New World – Mexico City, the capital of the 21st Century http://davidlida.com/?cat=28 by David Lida is excellent! It is so cool that he was walking in the very area where I live, but alot of the neighboring colonias are easy to see. Excellent modern interpretation of Mexico, the people, the society, the government. Easy and interesting read! Down and Delirious http://www.amazon.com/Down-Delirious-Mexico-City-Twenty-First/dp/1416577033 Doing all the things some would and would not do, this clear and vivid description lets you feel uneasy about the events that are our of your comfort zone, yet, these adventures give you the up’s, down’s, and all arounds of Mexico City. 🙂

Need that mix between James Dean and Catcher in the Rye? http://www.macobo.com/essays/epdf/CAMUS,%20Albert%20-%20The%20Stranger.pdf I stumbled across the book, The Stranger by Albert Camus. Wow. I walked away a different person, and honestly, I am not sure what that means, except the ability Camus has to impact mood is amazing, shocking, and a little disturbing. Well worth the read if you have not seen this text yet!

HUNGER GAMES series Excellent series, yes. The Running Man with a heroine that kicks, thinks, and draws you right to the last page, the last book. The film should be exciting. I could burn through this in 2 nights with extra things going on, friends have done so in one night, lol. Excellent for teens and adults as it is never in our library!

Games of Thrones series I just finished the third book, Storm of Swords, by far the best of the series so far. Onto the fourth and then the newest, the fifth! Excellent series, Narnia in adult version, one drawback I noticed in the first two, too much time on physical scenes between characters that are not needed, yet, the plot thickens and stays active all the way through. 🙂 This is like a a marathon, you stay in for the long haul, and it surprises you at certain turns…:) This is essential as well! More to come…:) Add your reviews by emailing me at harry brake@yahoo.com!

Book Cover Image
Pam Munoz Ryan’s  Esperanza Rising
Although I have not delved into this yet, the excerpts are amazing.  The passion for the land, hearing the heartbeat of the earth as well as thing being based on the author’s grandmother in a working camp – this all makes a YA book something suitable and attractive for all reader, despite age!  If you go to the following at Teacherbooks.net, and sign up (free for 14 days) you can hear excerpts from this book!
Please check out further lists of reads I am embarking on at goodreads. com, I am keeping a running record of these as I find them!  Thank you!

GREAT SOURCE for Reading about Mexico!

FOUR Great ENGLISH/Spanish Bookstores!

Libros Libros Libros S.A. Monte Arat 220, Lomas Barrilaco 11000 Mexico D.F. 5202 0825, 5540 4778 www.libroslibrosmexico.com Free gift wrap, cookies (YES!) and awesome magazines, with thousands of books!

Under the Volcano Books! Cerrada Chiapas 40-C, Col. Roma Norte, Del. Cuauhtémoc Distrito Federal, MEXICO 06700 Any books you might want to donate, see the Under the Volcano books! Awesome and cool place!

A site to see regarding bookstores in Mexico: Libreria Rosario Costellanos I know some people think this is too formal, cold, but when I walked in and heard a singer with the children, then they were being so involved with the reader, a small pond and water fountain, and just the expanse, it was easy to see this used to be a former theatre but it is AWESOME 🙂 I loved the vast amount of texts available, and certainly a chance to be motivated to read more Spanish! 🙂 Also, only one stop away from Chilpancingo! 🙂

El Pendulo Atmosphere, food, music, gifts, this is a great place to unwind and enjoy a list of scheduled concerts! Overall, this is a nice place to hide away and enjoy the day, afternoon, or evening!

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4 Responses to WHAT and WHERE should I read?

  1. Pamela says:

    Subject: Books and reading
    Occasion: i’m not sure on what are we supposed to put here
    Audience: Readers who are interested in finding new books (adults mostly)
    Purpose: To inform about the books that he has read and wether they are good or not
    Speaker: Mr. Harry Brake
    Tone: Happy, excited

  2. Jerry Raisley says:

    Awesome Blog Harry! It gave me
    a listing of books to read!

  3. Pingback: See You ay Harry’s and The Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez | PAVEing a Blog

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