Monday, February 29, 2016

Short, Fast and Furious Read: Life and Other

What it's about (from the publisher):
Libby Miller has always been an unwavering optimist—but when her husband drops a bomb on their marriage the same day a doctor delivers devastating news, she realizes her rose-colored glasses have actually been blinding her.
With nothing left to lose, she abandons her life in Chicago for the clear waters and bright beaches of the Caribbean for what might be her last hurrah. Despite her new sunny locale, her plans go awry when she finds that she can’t quite outrun the past or bring herself to face an unknowable future. Every day of tropical bliss may be an invitation to disaster, but with her twin brother on her trail and a new relationship on the horizon, Libby is determined to forget about fate. Will she risk it all to live—and love—a little longer?
From critically acclaimed author Camille Pagán comes a hilarious and hopeful story about a woman choosing between a “perfect” life and actually living.
 My take:

This is what adults call short chick lit, fast prose and furious circumstances. It is a formula, true, but the quick pace necessary for a short read makes it less formulaic somehow. You get to know Libby and want to root for her and everything happens fast enough that you don't get tired of her. She will seem familiar to the middle reader because especially in the beginning, she kind of acts like a middle schooler.

I guess I would call this a beach read, but I actually should create a different category. This is a plane read as long as you are able to create a translucent wall around yourself so that no one sees you crying (that is if you are a crying kind of person). I am not giving out a spoiler alert, so do not read too much into this comment. Still, at 250 Kindle pages, you can finish this book on a flight from Honolulu to Seattle.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Dystopian Sci-Fi: Transient City

Publisher: Bundoran Press Publishing (May 17, 2016)

What it's about from the publishers:
On a distant mining colony at the far reaches of a galactic empire, vast cities crawl across the surface of desolate planet looking for valuable minerals while their citizens struggle to survive. Victor Stromboli, a professional crime scene witness is nearly crippled by the brutal memories he can't control or forget. 

Now, he has to solve the mystery of a missing corporate executive. The only trouble is: the man is the husband of the love of his life. Stromboli has to overcome rogue miners, corporate intrigue and a pair of vicious psychopaths. Or die trying.

My thoughts:

This book, coming out in May, is a page-turning detective mystery, taking place in the dystopian future. It took me a little bit of re-reading to get into this world. It feels like a combination of Water World and Mad Max. Like Mad Max, the main character, Victor Stromboli, is sometimes overshadowed by over the top villains (politically connected Blaze and psychopath Chill) as well as minor characters who play large parts in keeping the "hero" alive. Stromboli is not the typical hero. He is neither young, stunning or physically strong. He is forgettable and powerless for most of the book and is often the unwilling pawn. His underdog status, though, are what make him so cheer-worthy. This will be a great summer read.

An advanced reading copy provided by for an honest review.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Self-Help Non-Fiction: Keynote Mastery

I initially questioned whether this were appropriate for a middle school student, but reading through Patrick Schwerdtefeger's story made me realize that sometimes even before middle school, we have an inkling of what we want to do and this is a great book on a very specific topic that could appeal to those students who have thought about working for themselves and getting better at a job that is not a mainstream occupation.

I do not think you have to be committed to being a professional speaker in order to gain insight from this book. The online worksheets and even the rhythm of his speech is a great way to really critically analyze craft and reveal one person's process in order to help your own process. One of the things he talks about is a kind of "go for broke" attitude that does not let lack of experience, lack of expertise, lack of education, even lack of money inhibit a person from pursuing their dream. What it does take is confidence, discipline, faith and bravery. I also think that the realistic journey, most evident by his credit card balances, shows the up and down trajectory of this kind of life. 

I am not aspiring to be a keynote speaker, although as an assistant professor  (the lowest rung of professors), I do need to get my writing out there and present at conferences in order to get funding to travel. The steps for someone like me to be a keynote, though, would still be very similar - authorship and international conferences being two similarities. 

Finally, what I most enjoyed about this book is the ability of the author to look at his own flaws and not hide from them, but work through them. That in itself is a kind of bravery that should be honored.

This book provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Yellow Crocus originally published in 2010 is a Kindle Unlimited option so I decided to read it again because I kind of just rushed through it the first time. 

From Amazon:
Moments after Lisbeth is born, she’s taken from her mother and handed over to an enslaved wet nurse, Mattie, a young mother separated from her own infant son in order to care for her tiny charge. Thus begins an intense relationship that will shape both of their lives for decades to come. Though Lisbeth leads a life of privilege, she finds nothing but loneliness in the company of her overwhelmed mother and her distant, slave-owning father. As she grows older, Mattie becomes more like family to Lisbeth than her own kin and the girl’s visits to the slaves’ quarters—and their lively and loving community—bring them closer together than ever. But can two women in such disparate circumstances form a bond like theirs without consequence? This deeply moving tale of unlikely love traces the journey of these very different women as each searches for freedom and dignity.

My take:
What struck me on reading this book again was that as a reader, I sometimes forget that I am living in a different reality and I try to judge the story and the actions of the characters by my own values living in these times. This time, I just let it unfold and I did not judge. Louise Rosenblatt, in the book Making Meaning with Texts, selected essays writes:
“The reader brings to the work personality traits, memories of past events, present needs and preoccupations, a particular mood of the moment and a particular physical condition. These and many other elements in a never-to-be-duplicated combination determine his response to the text.”  
I believe that is always true. I think re-reading the same book at a different time in my life gave me a different read of the book. I was not in the middle of working with my social studies colleague to create a slavery unit for our 8th graders. I am just reading a story to read a story, so the combination of memories, present needs, preoccupations and my mood at the moment created a different enough combination so that I could just enjoy the journey and look on as a fly in the wall as the story unfolded. I am happy to have met Mattie and Lisbeth.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tween Tuesday: Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho
Publisher: HarperCollins
Pages: 208
Publication date: April 25, 2006
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5
Synopsis: from
The Alchemist presents a simple fable, based on simple truths and places it in a highly unique situation. And though we may sniff a bestselling formula, it is certainly not a new one: even the ancient tribal storytellers knew that this is the most successful method of entertaining an audience while slipping in a lesson or two. Brazilian storyteller Paulo Coelho introduces Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who one night dreams of a distant treasure in the Egyptian pyramids. And so he's off: leaving Spain to literally follow his dream.
ReviewThe Alchemist is a unique and extremely exhilarating tale about the lengths that man will go to to achieve a goal, no matter how far fetched it may seem, and how the path to realization can yield more than just wisdom. I have to say that this extraordinary book is, in fact, my favorite book so far in my life.
My favorite character is the Alchemist, an all-knowing, philosophical individual who believes in the "Soul of the World" and all that speak the "Language of the World." I think that men like the Alchemist have intriguing persona. I can't help but wonder what's going on inside his mind.
"Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself," the alchemist replies. "And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity." - the Alchemist
I recommend that those with a more mature taste in books and who enjoy the more allegorical type of story to read this novel. I was, and am almost absolutely sure that others who read this book will be, touched by the story within this story of discovery.
In a sentence...
A story of true discovery and life altering realization.
Posted by: Pono 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Missing by Melanie Florence

As a middle level reading specialist, I am often on the lookout for Hi/Lo YA (high interest/low reading level young adult) books that will appeal to the students and not be childish or look like something that is embarrassing for them to carry around.

This is by Lorimer Books out of Canada and they focus on books for reluctant readers. What caught my interest was the title. Right away I know it is going to be about someone that is missing, so a mystery, and the picture is the missing girl. The potential reader has to make inferences, that is what makes it mysterious. The other reason I want to read this is because this is an Indigenous or First Nation or Aboriginal girl that is missing. I am gathering that from the inset picture, but also the girl looking for her is named Feather. A little heavy handed, but it's a beautiful name.  Right there in just the cover, the publishers provide enough information for even the reluctant reader to "read" enough to make a decision on the book. Reluctant readers do not read the synopsis on the back, but they do "read" the cover, so they did a good job on just the cover. I'm hooked.

Description from the Publisher
Will Feather find Mia . . . alive?After a girl she knows from school goes missing and is found dead in the Red River, Feather is shocked when the police write it off as a suicide. Then, it’s Feather’s best friend, Mia, who vanishes — but Mia’s mom and abusive stepfather paint Mia as a frequent runaway, so the authorities won’t investigate her disappearance either. Everyone knows that Native girls are disappearing and being killed, but no one is connecting the dots.
When Feather’s brother Kiowa is arrested under suspicion of Mia’s abduction, Feather knows she has to clear his name. What Feather doesn’t know is that the young serial killer who has taken Mia has become obsessed with Feather, and her investigation is leading her into terrible danger. 

My thoughts:

This book delivers on the promise without reverting to unrealistic sap. It is definitely a "stay up all night even if you have to wake up early the next morning" kind of read. Mia as the main character is brave, but not heroic. She is still scared and unsure. She is still a teenager, and that makes this story even more compelling. As a teacher, what I like is how easily this book can transition to an I-search project on Indigenous issues with young people. 

Publication date: September 1, 2016

NetGalley and the publisher provided an ePub copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Tween Tuesday: Eddie Would Go

The Eddie Aikau big wave tournament is supposed to be a go tomorrow at Waimea Bay on Oahu, Wednesday 2/11/16. The contest has not been held since 2009 because in order for it to be an Eddie, the waves need to be 25 feet according to Hawaiʻi standards, so 30 plus feet as they measure it now,   and the waves need to peak during daytime hours, so the moon, the tides, the waves need to align perfectly for at least 8 hours of competition.  Whether the contest happens tomorrow or not, Eddie Aikau's story is a great one to read.

Author: Stuart Holmes Coleman
Publisher: Bess Press
Pages: 227
Publication Date: 2002
Genre: Autobiography/Biography
Rating: 5
Synopsis: From
Eddie Would Go is the only biography of one of Hawaii’s greatest heroes. A shy and humble man by nature, Eddie Aikau became larger than life in the ocean. As a surfer, he rode the biggest waves in the world; as a lifeguard, he saved hundreds of lives from the North Shore’s treacherous waters; and as a proud Hawaiian, he sacrificed his life to save his fellow sailors aboard the voyaging canoe Hokule'a. But more than a biography of a courageous waterman, Stuart Coleman’s Eddie Would Go also tells the story of modern Hawaii and Eddie’s role in the Hawaiian Renaissance during the 1970’s. The book is based on numerous interviews with his family, friends and many of Hawaii’s leading watermen and scholars. Coleman weaves together their memories in an exciting and informative story. By exploring his legendary life and legacy, this book will show why Eddie has become such an enduring icon in Hawaii and the surfing world.
Review: Eddie would go is a very adventurous book that inspires people. This book is about a young man who never gave up on his dream.
The characters are real people who actually lived way back then and lived that old Hawaiian life style. Eddie, the main focus, is a person who is so nice and down to Earth like his loving family.
The most exciting part is the big wave surfing contest. This part gives me an adrenaline rush and makes me get pumped up about surfing. It's so exciting, and it's a page-turner.
So this is a great book for surfers and people who are just starting. This book will really inspire those people and also teach them the history of a great Hawaiian surfer and his legacy.
In a sentence...
Eddie is a man who became larger than life in the ocean and an enduring icon.
Posted by: Aukai

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tween Tuesday: Knights of the Lunch Table

This is a new series, but I have a bunch of book reviews by my former 6th graders that need a place to be useful to others so I am giving them Tuesday on this blog. Hope you enjoy. I gave them a format (because I am a teacher after all) but the editing is very light on my part. Enjoy their books in their words. 

Author: Frank Cammuso
Publisher: GRAPHIX
Pages: 144
Publication Date: 2008
Genre: Graphic novel
Rating: 4
Synopsis: from
“Artie King’s first day at his new middle school is terrible: his nasty older sister ensures he misses the bus; a couple of geeky kids are friendly, but the school bullies smell a new victim; and the principal is a horror who hands out detentions and dire warnings as she peers out from behind her horn-rimmed glasses. Artie has muddied the waters a bit himself by boasting that he’s a dodgeball pro—when he’s really not.”
This book was the kind of book that made me want to keep reading. It had a mysterious and funny side to it. It showed how Artie really wanted to fit in. But this kid, Artie took it too far. He told a lie that gets him in big trouble. I find this funny because he goes through a lot to make things right again.
Artie is not exactly athletic material. At his new school he is faced with dodgeball problems while dodgeball is taken very seriously. Even the principal thinks so, so then she makes dodgeball everyone’s first priority. I think that the principal is the cause of why the school is so messed up. If it wasn’t for her the school would be fun. But she makes the story more interesting.
What I did not like about this book is that it did not end like I wanted it to. I was hoping that Artie would solve his problems in a different way. I wanted Artie to get special powers before he faced his worst nightmare. It would have made the story more surprising then it was to other readers.
The characters I don’t like is the Hordes. They are the bullies of the school. They are mean and take dodgeball very seriously. They then learn their lesson at the end of the story when a big surprise heads their way. Another character I don’t like is the principal. She does nothing when the Hordes do something bad. She is also very strict and unfair to the other students.
What then rewards Artie is very mysterious and helpful in his later challenges. He finds a way to get back at the Hordes at school and humiliate them. This was my favorite part of the book.
In a sentence. . .
For Artie telling a lie may be okay at first, until trouble kicks in and you find out how it affects everyone around you.
Posted by: Lexie


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