Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Looking For Me

While I was reading Looking For Me by Betsy Rosenthal today several teachers commented on how good this book looked. If covers are any indication of a book's excellence, this one would get five stars.

Even better then that this book was totally enjoyable. Rosenthal's novel in verse covers life in the mid 1930s as Edith and her large family (12 children in all) grow up. Edith is the fourth in her family of twelve, looking for her place in life. She can quickly identify her siblings - her three brothers that hang out together, her baby sister, an older sister who doesn't ever stop playing- but Edith isn't quite sure who she is yet. However, she is aware of how their clothes are always hand me downs -as are their shoes, how there are too many people in the family to be invited somewhere for supper, and how they must sleep three to a bed. Times are tough, and the fact that they are Jewish further sets them apart.

Rosenthal bases this book on her own mother's childhood growing up in a large family. She has listened to the many stories of her aunts and uncles and her mother and managed to transform them into this amazing story. This is a fast read- I began this afternoon and finished just after supper. Students will easily relate to Edith and the stories of her youth. The text is easily accessible making it a perfect read for elementary students.

I'm adding this one to my school library's collection as soon as it comes out in April.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week's pick: Spring Fever by Mary Beth Andrews

Due out June 5, 2012

Product Description taken from Amazon:
The New York Times bestselling author of Summer Rental delivers her delicious new escapist novel about small towns, old flames, and deep secrets
Annajane Hudgens truly believes she is over her ex-husband, Mason Bayless. They’ve been divorced for four years, she’s engaged to a new, terrific guy, and she’s ready to leave the small town where she and Mason had so much history. She is so over Mason that she has absolutely no problem attending his wedding to the beautiful, intelligent, delightful Celia. But when fate intervenes and the wedding is called to a halt as the bride is literally walking down the aisle, Annajane begins to realize that maybe she’s been given a second chance. Maybe everything happens for a reason. And maybe, just maybe, she wants Mason back. But there are secrets afoot in this small southern town. On the peaceful surface of Hideaway Lake, Annajane discovers that the past is never really gone. Even if there are people determined to keep Annajane from getting what she wants, happiness might be hers for the taking, and the life she once had with Mason in this sleepy lake town might be in her future

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Whole Story of Half a Girl

A few days ago I saw Book Love's new post about The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani. I refused to let myself read her review since I still had the book sitting in my library stack but I did get the general idea that Katie totally loved this book. I would also agree. I love realistic fiction for middle grade and I loved the exploration Sonia goes through as she tries to determine who she is.

As half Jewish American and half Indian, Sonia is encountering the public school system for the first time. She had attended a private school, but after her father loses his job she and her sister are forced from their insular world into public school. Sonia begins to notice the way she is different from her peers. She isn't sure exactly where she fits in and goes between the popular crowd and trying out for cheerleading and another friend who is not part of the "in" crowd.

Aside from friendship issues, Sonia is also dealing with a father who is being treated for depression and is out of work.

Hiranandani does a good job of portraying Sonia realistically, allowing her to think and act like a true tween. I might not be quite as in love with this as Katie at Book Love, but I can't think of anything that I would change about this novel, either. For my oldest daughter who gravitates toward realistic fiction, The Whole Story of Half a Girl is one she will fall in love with. I have many readers in whose hands I can place this book.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Past Perfect

Past Perfect by Leila Sales is a cute young adult read. I thoroughly enjoyed this quirky little novel. Chelsea and her parents work at Essex a Revolutionary War era village as re-enactors. While this is her parents' life work, Chelsea works there each summer. Although she would rather find a job at the mall, her best friend Fiona convinces her to work at Essex one more year.

Across the street is a Civil War village, Essex's competition. The youth who work at each village take the competition a step further, declaring war on each other and pranking each other without the knowledge of the adults. Chelsea participates initially, and finds one of her competitors horribly attractive after she is kidnapped and taken hostage by him.

All the while Chelsea is still trying to get over her ex-boyfriend Ezra who just happens to have a job at Essex this summer. Sales makes some wise remarks about history and creating your own version of events that may or may not be historically accurate since it is tinged with your own perception.

There are lots of little history lessons in this book. How could there not be with characters re-enacting history every single day? A colleague and I had a conversation about how educational books seem to have become. And while I tend to agree with her, I also think it works really well, and young readers won't even notice they are learning something while being entertained. Sales manages to carry off this quirky little story. I entirely enjoyed the reading of Past Perfect from beginning to end.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Salon

Today is a windy, sunny winter day. I have tons of laundry to fold and lots of housework to catch up on. There has been progress on this front, but not enough to make me think that this coming week won't destroy what little advances have been made.
The work situation is still stressful. And to add to that, we just found out that my oldest daughter's best friend will be moving at the end of the school year. This might not seem like a big deal, but both my husband and I don't have any experience in losing a best friend, nor have we ever moved while we were growing up. I have always been thankful that these two girls had each other. They are truly a unique pair. While the other girls in their class are nice, and luckily all the teachers have even exclaimed over the lack of cliques at their grade level, L and E are just a bit different than the rest of the girls in their grade. They are academically ahead of the rest, and their relationship causes them to push each other to do better and more. A playdate for them might consist of sitting in my daughter's bedroom and reading comic books together. They just get each other. I don't know if a fourth grade friendship can endure through the years, but I am hoping that in some capacity it can. I am excited for the new adventures E and her family will have. But I am devastated for my daughter who may face some very lonely days as she tries to find some new old friends to hang out with (easier said than done when there are only 16 girls in her entire grade). Any advice on this front?
I have started tracking my calories on my new phone. I didn't do a good job of this during the weekend, but think I stuck well within my daily allotment. I'll be ready for school tomorrow and getting back to logging everything that goes in my mouth.

I will be starting the ABNA process tonight. Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award needed readers and I have the opportunity to be a part of this process. Very excited to get to work.

This coming week we have conferences at school. Should be a great chance to get some work done.

And reading? Well, I would love to tell you that I have tons of books that I've read just waiting to be reviewed, but that is not the case. I am still plodding along in a few different books, but have been easily distracted- first by work stress and now by my daughter's friend moving. I haven't given up reading, but it is slow going. I am finding it much easier to stick to middle grade or YA novels and get through them.

My oldest daughter has a big project - a poster about Massachusetts- due this week at school There are a few things she needs to fix and a lot of finishing up that needs to get done. That's what we'll be working on tonight.

How about you? How's your week shaping up?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Bell Bandit

My oldest daughter reads almost anything she can get her hands on, but she does have a few favorite series that are special to her. One of these is Jacqueline Davies' Lemonade War series. She has enjoyed the first two books, and was thrilled to see The Bell Bandit, a third installment coming out in May. Lucky for her, I was able to receive a copy through Amazon Vine and we have already enjoyed it.

While I will admit to not being entirely sold on The Lemonade War, I did enjoy The Lemonade Crime more than the first book, and was excited to see how things would develop in this newest title. The Bell Bandit could easily be a stand-alone novel, venturing away from the lemonade plotline. Jessie and Evan are going with their mom to visit their grandmother. Her house accidentally caught on fire after she left the stove on too long and their mom needs to be there to help out and find out what is going on. It is easy to see from book's beginning that their grandmother is no longer herself. She is easily confused and even forgets who her grandchildren are. Jessie becomes friends with a sixth grade boy next door, Maxwell. Maxwell introduces her to Get Smart, an old television show that he enjoys and the two decide to start doing some spying of their own. This is probably a good thing considering Jessie notices the big bell on her Grandma's property has been stolen. The bell has been passed down through the generations and rung on each New Year's Eve by the oldest and youngest resident to ring in the new year.

I love how Davies' books are easily readable by kids not ready for long chapter books. While I wouldn't want to accuse her of trying to teach anything in her books, each contains several topics that are great for discussion. The Bell Bandit could easily lead to discussions about autism, Alzheimer's disease and aging, and friendship. The more I read of the Lemonade War series, the more excited I am about these books. I am recommending them to students and teachers, knowing they will enjoy them a great deal.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Home Front

Kristin Hannah is one of those authors whose work I always read. And I am never disappointed.

In Home Front, Hannah's latest, Jolene is a mother in the Reserves, called up for active duty in Iraq. Her husband, Michael, a successful attorney has never been supportive of his wife's military service, and he is less than pleased to realize that he will be a single parent for the next year. Jolene grew up in an unhappy home, and her focus has always been on controlling herself and her emotions. She has provided a happy, safe environment for her children and even though she and Michael are no longer close, still loves her husband.

The deployment turns everything upside down. Jolene reassures her family she will be fine and Michael tries to ignore what is going on by burying himself in work. One bright spot is her relationship with Tami, also in her Reserve unit, a woman who is as close to her as a sister. The two put on a brave front for their families, not wanting to let on to the dangers they are facing on a daily basis.

Hannah throws in some tragedy and struggles for her characters, and also explores the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in soldiers returning from combat.

I enjoyed this novel, and especially the unique perspective of sending a mother off to war. While I know far more men who must leave their families for active duty, I do know a mom who has been deployed twice. I am always amazed at what she and her family go through with her departures and returns. Up until now, I have not read a novel with this perspective.

Fans of Hannah won't be disappointed, and while the story is a tad predictable, it was quite enjoyable and hard to put down.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Crafty Chloe

I love, love, love Crafty Chloe by Kelly DiPucchio. This one showed up in my mailbox yesterday and was quickly read and re-read and read again at bedtime.
Of course, having a Chloe in my house makes it an instant must read. But I also have some crafty girls. DiPucchio hit the nail on the head, declaring Crafty Chloe to lack interest in sports. My girls are much like that as well, but when it comes to creating something - whether it be from fabric, markers, or toothpicks they are all over it.

Chloe enjoys creating things and is good at it. When she must come up with a birthday gift for a friend and can't find the perfect present at the store (or when a friend has already chosen the perfect give to give), she decides to make a gift herself. Her creation is a hit, of course.

Crafty Chloe has her own website - still under construction- that will include different arts and crafts ideas from the book. This is a great girly book for those who love Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy.

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick: By the Iowa Sea by Joe Blair

Due out: March 6, 2012

The anticipated debut of an original American voice, By the Iowa Sea is a wrenching, unsentimental account of the heartbreaks and ecstasies of marriage, fatherhood, and small-town life in the Midwest.After his first cross-country motorcycle trip, Joe Blair believed he had discovered his true calling. He would travel. He would never cave in to convention. He would never settle down. Fifteen years later, Joe finds himself living in Iowa, working as an air-conditioning repairman and spending his free time cleaning gutters, taxiing his children, and contemplating marital infidelity. “Our history,” he writes, “gains more weight day by day. And the future seems more and more unlikely to be anything cool at all.” Joe believes it would take an act of great faith or courage to revive in him the passion and promise that once seemed so easy to come by. What it takes, he discovers, is a disaster. When the Iowa River floods, transforming the familiar streets and manicured lawns of his neighborhood into a terrible and beautiful sea, he begins to question the path that led him to this place. Exquisitely observed and lyrically recounted, this is a compelling and often humorous account of an ordinary man’s struggle to live an extraordinary life. Joe Blair lays bare the moving, hopeful story of a river that becomes an ocean and a love that is lost and found again, by the Iowa Sea.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sunday Salon

I will admit that not only has February been a slow reading month for me, but this week has been particularly atrocious. The literacy event our school had on Thursday with four authors and a Soul Food dinner went well. Now I just need to get the pictures from our principal's wife.

My husband has been at the State Wrestling Tournament since Tuesday. He was planning on coming home last night, but I encouraged him to stay another night since they had five wrestlers in the finals and wouldn't finish until late. Their team won their division, so it would be hard to leave the celebration. He has volunteered for a few years, but this is his first year as a paid coach. (Even though I encouraged him to stay, now at 8 AM I am ready for him to be home).

Work has been particularly stressful. All the district teacher librarians were called in to a meeting with Human Resources at the end of the day on Friday. Ominous? They are planning on changing our jobs dramatically. Some of it is great. Some of it is horrible and makes my stomach hurt. And there is nothing I can do about it.

Because of the above - especially the last thing- I have hardly read at all. I just can't focus very well. I have managed to be up and on the internet at 3 AM and I certainly have not been sleeping.

Last night I watched Courageous and loved it. What a great movie. My oldest daughter was attempting to sleep next to me while I watched, and I woke her up laughing so hard at certain points. Overall, the movie is not supposed to be funny, but there are a few hilarious moments, and the message is great.

What else was I up to this past week?

* Playing old Whitney Houston music at school in the library

* Buying a new pair of Dansko shoes (retail therapy after the Friday meeting)

* Taking my girls to eat at Carlos O'Kellys

*Working on Saturday at the public library

*Running 8 miles yesterday after a long hiatus from the treadmill. Felt great during, but not great after.

The sun is shining. It's a beautiful February day. I'm not sure what I will do after church yet, but I plan to enjoy the rest of my weekend and maybe even attempt reading a bit.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Strength in What Remains

Deo, from the country of Burundi, has lived a life full of hardship, surviving the genocide in his country. His story is remarkable, as Kidder traces Deo's life from it's beginning to his eventual arrival in America. Once in America Deo struggles to find a way to eke out his existence, still finding sleep elusive as he dreams of the nightmare he has survived.

Deo's story is remarkable and inspirational. Many times he could have given up yet her pursues his dream of an education. There were people along the way who helped him, opening their homes and wallets to give him a chance. Deo seizes the opportunities he has been given, attending college and eventually medical school.

This book is one that everyone should read because there is much to take away from Deo's story. While Deo struggled daily to survive, I was participating in college life, unaware that around the globe so much tragedy was occurring. Reading his account of what he endured brings to light how important it is to be aware of world events, and ready to help those struggling as newcomers in our country. Deo's first job was as a grocery deliveryman, and his boss wrote him off as someone without any real prospect simply because Deo couldn't speak English. Seeing all Deo has achieved now, it is impossible to imagine him being written off. Although Deo's story is miraculous, it is not unique. There are thousands of refugees (maybe millions) who are looking for a chance to begin again. Seeing how Deo has accomplished so much, it should be easy to off support for others like him. I am hopeful Kidder's book will give voice to an important concept and that by featuring Deo, he has provided a human face to this issue.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tonight's the Night

After several weeks of planning tonight is the night of our family literacy night. We have put many hours into getting this event off the ground, and have high hopes that many of our students and families will show up.

Four area authors will be coming to speak:

Karen Thalacker, author of Knitting with Gigi and Gigi Knits and Purls is one of our authors. Karen is a friend of mine. An attorney, I had a job at her firm during my college years- copying papers, typing dictation, running errands. We have remained friends and even though we don't see each other as often as we once did, can pick up right where we left off. She will be showing the kids her book, but also giving a brief demo on knitting. I am expecting that many kids will be anxious to learn how to knit on their own. All our families will receive a kit from Thalacker that includes her book, knitting needles and yarn.
Ajla Dizdarevic, a student at Central Middle School, is another of our four authors. Although Ajla is only thirteen she has already published her second book of poetry. Her family is from Bosnia, and our student body is composed of many Bosnian families. When I have mentioned her name to my classes, my Bosnian students always perk up, recognizing the name as someone from their country. Stephanie Sorensen is the author of books about Flash the Bassett Hound. She has written several books about Flash, inspired by her own dog,

Our fourth author, Maribeth Boelts, has subbed for me in the past. She has written several books including Dogarella, Sleeping Bootsie and Those Shoes.

In addition to our authors, we are serving a Soul Food dinner to celebrate Black History Month. Fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, black eyed peas, corn bread muffins and desserts are being served to our families free of charge. There will be samples of Bosnian, Latin American, and Burmese food.

Last night I made cupcakes to take for dessert, and even though I wasn't very excited about my little cooking project, I felt even worse for my friend, Becky, who had to make 350 corn bread muffins.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll have pictures to share. I know that by 8:00 tonight I hope to be relaxing at home feeling quite relieved.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This Week's Pick: True Sisters by Sandra Dallas

Due out April 24, 2012

Product Description taken from Amazon:

In a novel based on true events, New York Times bestselling author Sandra Dallas delivers the story of four women---seeking the promise of salvation and prosperity in a new land---who come together on a harrowing journey.
In 1856, Mormon converts, encouraged by Brigham Young himself, and outfitted with two-wheeled handcarts, set out on foot from Iowa City to Salt Lake City, the promised land. The Martin Handcart Company, a ragtag group of weary families headed for Zion, is the last to leave on this 1,300-mile journey. Three companies that left earlier in the year have completed their trek successfully, but for the Martin Company the trip proves disastrous. True Sisters tells the story of four women from the British Isles traveling in this group. Four women whose lives will become inextricably linked as they endure unimaginable hardships, each one testing the boundaries of her faith and learning the true meaning of survival and friendship along the way.
There’s Nannie, who is traveling with her sister and brother-in-law after being abandoned on her wedding day.
There’s Louisa, who’s married to an overbearing church leader who she believes speaks for God.
There’s Jessie, who’s traveling with her brothers, each one of them dreaming of the farm they will have in Zion.
And finally, there’s Anne, who hasn’t converted to Mormonism but who has no choice but to follow her husband since he has sold everything to make the trek to Utah.
Sandra Dallas has once again written a moving portrait of women surviving the unimaginable through the ties of female friendship. Her rich storytelling will leave you breathless as you take this trip with Nannie, Louisa, Jessie, and Anne. This is Sandra Dallas at her absolute best.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Survival Kit

I enjoyed The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas a few years ago, and snapped up The Survival Kit when I saw it at the local public library.

This was a quick read - instantly engaging as I read about Rose and the struggles in her life. Rose is grieving the loss of her mother to cancer. There are lots of things she avoids now: football games, music, her friends, and even her boyfriend Chris has been shut out. Her father is not dealing well with his grief, often coming home drunk.

When Rose discovers a survival kit her mother made for her before her death, Rose begins exploring some of the different items in it, some that lead her back to taking part in things she once enjoyed.

A break-up with her boyfriend seems inevitable, but there is another boy, Will, who seems to be a good fit for Rose. His father passed away from cancer, so he is able to relate to Rose's own grief, even though he has not necessarily stopped grieving himself.

Although time has passed by book's end and Rose has made progress in the grief process, there is no easy answer or happily ever after to losing her mother.

This book was good and there were several points in the story where I felt as though I might be disappointed, and was happily surprised by the way Freitas dealt with different subplots. Chris, Rose's first boyfriend, at first seemed like the sterotypical jock, impatient with his girlfriend who was no longer the "fun" date. Yet, despite their break-up it was Chris who found it the hardest to deal with their break-up, and he who could not get over Rose. My initial impression of him was far off. This was a pleasant turn of events for me, and one not typical of most teen agers I know.

Anyone looking for a great YA realistic fiction novel won't be disappointed with The Survival Kit.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Forgotten Country

Catherine Chung's debut novel Forgotten Country was a random selection from this month's Amazon Vine newsletter. I love women's fiction and after reading the description I thought it sounded like a book I might like. Yet, I hesitated a bit wondering if I would enjoy it. I should not have worried at all. I fell lin love with this book from very nearly the first page.

Janie, the older sister in a Korean American family, must live up to the expectation of caring for her younger sister, Hannah. In each generation in their family a daughter has been lost, making Janie's job more important than ever. As the book opens, Hannah has cut herself off from her family, refusing to talk to them or even let them know where she is. Janie's father is diagnosed with terminal cancer and must go to Korea to try a new form of treatment. Janie recollects portions of her childhood that were meaningful, giving glimpses into what may have gone wrong with her relationship with Hannah.

This is truly a story based on characters and their development, a type of book I love. Despite her anger with her sister, Janie decides to locate Hannah and uncover the secrets of their past. I loved the Korean setting for a portion of this story and also the way in which Janie and her family moved to the United States and became acclimated to American culture and way of life.

Both before and during reading I felt hints of Amy Tan's work, high praise for Chung's debut novel.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Fault in our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars is a book I have been worried about reading. With experience as a cancer mom myself I wasn't sure I could handle reading a book about teen-age cancer patients. It is a topic I have steered away from in my reading for several years now. But I have been so tempted because of all the fabulous reviews that have made me feel like I would be missing out if I didn't give this book a chance. Ironically, Green is an author I always intend to read and I own his other books but have yet to read them. This title, the only one I don't own, is now the only one I have read.

Thankfully, I didn't find this book an emotional read for me. That's not to say that reading about two teenagers, Hazel and Augustus, is not a bit sad. Both of them are battling different types of cancer- Hazel a Stage IV thyroid cancer that has metastasized to her lungs, and Gus is in remission after losing part of his leg to osteosarcoma. They meet at a support group - the one place where other people totally "get it." And then they fall in love. But unlike other kids their age, their future seems limited with cancer being the one thing they know they can't get away from.

Green's writing is amazing and it makes me want to go and dig out his other books. I loved the witty and sharp dialogue. Not only was it good to read, I think it also took some of the trite-ness or cliche-ed-ness away from a story that could have been very sappy and predictable.

At first when I finished reading I wasn't sure if I loved this one as much as my friends who have been pretty much raving about it. But, as a bit of time has passed, I am aware of how these characters have stuck with me and how I am continuing to think of them again and again.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Katherine Boo's book Behind the Beautiful Forevers has been garnering quite a bit of attention. It is narrative non-fiction at its best, as Boo writes of life in Mumbai for the city's poorer residents. Annawadi is a settlement next to the Mumbai airport, full of makeshift homes and residents struggling to get by. Abdul picks and sells trash trying to earn money to help his family make a better life. Asha, is a kindergarten teacher who plots and schemes about ways to make easy money, and who has sent her daughter Manju to college. Fatima "One Leg," another woman in the community, has set herself on fire and died, her family accusing the Hussains of her death. Each person has dreams and desires, but their life circumstances make them nearly impossible to achieve and for many their lives are cut short.

While I was reading I had to constantly remind myself that this was a work of non-fiction. The goings-on seemed storylike and in some ways unbelievable. The poverty in India is not news to me, but Boo has put a human face on the lives of Annawadians.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is such an amazing book - both for its content and its writing. Even readers who do not normally enjoy non-fiction would be hard pressed not to find this book a brilliant read.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.
This week's pick: The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D'Agostino

Due out March 20, 2012

Product Description taken from Amazon:

Calvin Moretti can't believe how much his life sucks. He's a twenty-four-year-old film school dropout living at home again and working as an assistant teacher at a preschool for autistic kids. His insufferable go-getter older brother is also living at home, as is his kid sister, who's still in high school and has just confided in Cal that she's pregnant. What's more, Calvin's father, a career pilot, is temporarily grounded and obsessed with his own mortality. And his ever-stalwart mother is now crumbling under the pressure of mounting bills and the imminent loss of their Sleepy Hollow, New York, home: the only thing keeping the Morettis moored. Can things get worse? Oh, yes, they can.Which makes it all the more amazing that The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac is not only buoyantly fun but oftern very, very funny. In this debut novel, Kris D'Agostino has crafted an engrossing contemporary tale of a loopy but loving family, and in Calvin Moretti, he's created an oddball antihero who really wants to do the right thing-if he can just figure out what it

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Obamas

Jodi Kantor's book, The Obamas, has been met with a bit of publicity -a normal occurence when you are writing about the current president and his family. As far as First Families go, I find it hard to resist any book about a First Family. Life in the White House fascinates me.

The Obamas is about more than just life in the White House, but it does touch on that, as well as the transition from life in Chicago to being in the public eye constantly. Kantor addresses some of the criticism both Barack and Michelle have endured. While I doubt this book will change anyone's mind about what they think of the Obamas, it does present criticism and praise where both are due.

By book's end Kantor shares the way in which the Obamas have changed and come to terms with their public lives. Anyone who enjoys presidential biographies, First Families, or reliving recent events in history will appreciate Kantor's book.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Train in Winter

It has been several years now, but I remember a time when I was just sick of Holocaust books. I felt like I had read so many that I was just done with them. And then I started reading them again and have been amazed by nearly every one. There are so many aspects to World War II and the Holocaust that I didn't know about. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay created an awareness of the French experience during World War II. This weekend I read A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorhead. This book further educated me about the goings on in France during World War II. Moorehead has done extensive research to be able to write this book, and focuses on 230 women of the Resistance - those who opposed the German take-over in their country- who were taken by train and sent to Auschwitz. Of the 230 women, only 49 survived the years in prison and concentration camps. Moorehead has met with some of these survivors, now elderly, and written their story.

While some women were actively involved in defeating Hitler, others that were arrested and sent away were condemned for something as small as a comment in a letter stating they didn't feel the Germans would win. For that one opinion, their lives were jeopardized. The women arrested were both young and old, mothers and wives. They had such an inherent desire to do what was right that they risked everything in order to live their ideals.

While I have read other accounts of life in the concentration camps, reading about the women's own experiences was heartbreaking. I admired their will to survive and the way they looked out for each other, but it is no wonder that those who survived to see the end of the war and the liberation of the camps were forever changed.

Although I know that not only the German Jews were affected by Hitler, this book is a good reminder of how other countries were affected and changed by this madman. It is also an example of how ordinary people rise to meet challenges set before them.

A Train In Winter was not a book I breezed right through. There is a lot of information that Moorehead conveys, including the names and backgrounds of many women. I had a hard time keeping everyone straight in my mind, knowing that they may be referred to again so that I could learn what had happened to them.

This is a great piece of non-fiction about World War II, a title I will be recommending to many.

Sunday Salon

Is it wrong to be looking forward to the Super Bowl so I can have some uninterrupted reading time? No one in our house is all that excited for today's game since we are a bunch of Packer fans, although I do have a group of girls who are anxious to watch the commercials during the game.

Before then my oldest daughter is at the mall with my in-laws, my middle daughter has a birthday party, and my youngest daughter is waiting for my oldest daughter to get home at which point she will get to go to her grandma's house.

I have a lot of clothes sitting in piles in my bedroom and my husband has mountains of laundry he has been accumulating. That is what I should tackle next, despite the fact that I would rather just hang out and read.

I did take the girls to the library yesterday and picked up a large bag of books to read. However, I have noticed that lately I have not been getting many ARCs sent my way. I still keep signing up for them on Shelf Awareness, but since December I have only had two things arrive in my mail box. Not complaining because I certainly have plenty on my TBR stacks, but curious as to why the change. Another friend noted the same thing, so I don't feel entirely alone in this.

This week looks fairly normal and busy. I do have one late night on Wednesday, but the weather is holding at slightly above normal for February and life is good.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Mini Reviews

There are several books I just have not found time to write reviews for. I don't write a review for every book I read, but these titles are ones that are good enough to share with others.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith - a nice little YA romance. Girl and boy meet on an airplane on the way to girl's father's wedding in London. Lose each other in airport. Reconnect later. What could have been entirely too cheesy for me was not, and I quite enjoyed it.

Me and Jack by Danette Haworth- set in the Vietnam era, Jack and his father move to a new town where Jack tries to find friends, and the two experience some hatred because of Jack's father's job as an army recruiter. Their new dog, a rare breed, is also accused of acts of violence against other animals in the neighborhood.

My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson - Edwardson writes a novel based on her own husband's experiences at a boarding school far from his Arctic home. Luke's Iñupiaq name is impossible to say to outsiders, but that is what Luke feels like as he is forced to leave home and attend school. Eventually the people that Luke meets form a close bond, almost like family.

January Recap

The first month of 2012 brought plenty of good books my way. I still would like to review a few of them, but am knee deep in school work preparing for a four author visit literacy night. The reviews may have to wait.
Here's list of January books read:
1. Louise's War by Sarah Shaber
2. Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
3. Defending Jacob by William Landay
4. R My Name Is Rachel by Patricia Reilly Giff
5. Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr
6. The Lost Saints of Tennesse by Amy Franklin-Willis
7. You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon
8. When Life Gives You O.J. by Erica S. Perl
9. War and Watermelon by Rich Wallace
10. The Absolute Value of Mike by Katherine Erskine
11. I Got This by Jennifer Hudson
12. Jack and Me by Danette Haworth
13. Friends Like Us by Lauren Fox
14. One Small Boat by Kathy Harrison
15. Unmeasured Strength by Lauren Manning
16. Love's Enduring Promise by Janette Oke
17. The Underside of Joy by Sere Prince Halverson
18. The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
19. The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
20. Eddie's War by Carol Saller
21. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
22. Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis
23. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer Smith
24. My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson
25. An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff

5 of these were non-fiction, 20 fiction

5 were written by male authors, 20 by females

12 were middle grade/YA books 13 were adult

9 were book I owned, 16 were library books

1 was read on my Kindle
Although February is off to a slow start, I just finished A Train in Winter this morning - an excellent book that I will be thinking about for quite some time.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Blast From the Past

Ten Years Ago This Month:

I chuckled over Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Ten years ago my husband, our neighbor Esther and her daughter Salome formed a neighborhood book club. Things Fall Apart was Esther's pick, and we read it reluctantly. Looking back I feel bad about how little I wanted to read this title and the lack of effort put forth. I wonder if I would appreciate it more now.

Bias is one of those titles that still looks interesting to me, but I remember none of it. I usually can remember a snippet or two from most books, but this one eludes me.

Nickel and Dimed....this might have been the second time reading it, I'm not sure. I think there is lots to think about and discuss in this title. Occasionally I still recommend this book to people.

And the Babysitter Club first year of teaching (1998-1999) I read almost the entire series. I was so busy with new teacher stuff and keeping my head above water, these were the books I could handle. Apparently I must have missed a few books along the way or was perhaps still acquiring title to finish my collection. And, despite my distaste for fantasy, I did read Shadow of the Hegemon of my own free will - and I liked it!

What about you? What were you reading ten years ago? Last year? Do you keep track of the books you read?

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week's pick: Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile and Love Reclaimed by Leslie Maitland

Due out April 17, 2012

Product Description taken from Amazon:

Leslie Maitland is an award-winning former New York Times investigative reporter whose mother and grandparents fled Germany in 1938 for France, where, as Jews, they spent four years as refugees, the last two under risk of Nazi deportation. In 1942 they made it onto the last boat to escape France before the Germans sealed its harbors. Then, barred from entering the United States, they lived in Cuba for almost two years before emigrating to New York. This sweeping account of one family’s escape from the turmoil of war-torn Europe hangs upon the intimate and deeply personal story of Maitland’s mother’s passionate romance with a Catholic Frenchman.Separated by war and her family’s disapproval, the young lovers—Janine and Roland—lose each other for fifty years. It is a testimony to both Maitland’s investigative skills and her devotion to her mother that she successfully traced the lost Roland and was able to reunite him with Janine. Unlike so many stories of love during wartime, theirs has a happy ending.