Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Harry Potter

I was 13 when the first Harry Potter book came out. Although I heard people talking about it, I never got into it. Even after the second and third and fourth etc came out, they just never really interested me.

It has now been 18 years since the first Harry Potter book came out and I am just now reading them for the first time. Many people, throughout the years, have told me that I should read Harry Potter, but it was my 10 year old niece (who is currently reading the books too, but she's farther along) that was the one that finally convinced me that I should read them.

I have now finished the first four books and have started the fifth book and I love them! J.K. Rowling is an excellent writer. Every time I pick up one of the books to read, I feel as if I am transported to the world of Hogwarts and Privet Drive and that I am experiencing what Harry is going through with him.

I think out of the four books I've finished so far, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite, although Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a close second. Basically what I'm trying to say is that if you've never read Harry Potter, you should. They're well written and you will experience the magical world of Hogwarts with Harry, Ron and Hermione.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Summer Reading

Summer is the best!  It's been great having so much extra time to read.  Here's what I've been reading the past few months:

1) Enchanted, Inc. series, by Shanna Swendsen
This was my "guilty pleasure" series for the summer, because it was lighthearted, fun, and didn't require me to think too much.  The series follows the adventures of Katie Chandler, a girl from small-town Texas who moves to New York to pursue her dreams.  Katie believes herself to be so normal that she is hardly above notice, but when she start seeing some abnormal things, such as people with fairy wings, she learns that she has a special gift for seeing the magic around her.  Recruited by a company called MSI (Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc.), she finds herself swept up in the magical world, and swept away by a dashing wizard.  I recommend this to those who enjoy a good, lighthearted romance book with a bit of magic.

2) Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
I loved To Kill a Mockingbird, so I knew I had to read this new book by Harper Lee.  I bought it right away, but I confess that I put off reading it till the end of the summer, because I had heard mixed reviews about the content.  I finally got around to reading it last week, and I'm glad I did.  It provides an insightful perspective on the difficulties of Southern transformation during the civil rights era.  I also appreciated the depth and complexity of Scout's feelings as she came to see her hometown and her father in a new, less-idyllic light.  This book not only provides a powerful glimpse into history, but also an important lesson about family and the experiences that shape our lives.

3) The Rent Collector, by Camron Wright
This is one of those powerful books that caused me to really pause and think about all the privileges and blessings I enjoy.  The book is set in the Stung Meanchy dump in Cambodia, where Sang Ly and her husband spend their days foraging in the dump for recyclables to sell so that they can buy food for their family.  One day, Sang Ly finds a book in the dump, which she brings home for her son. When the surly, drunken rent collector comes to harass her about the rent, Sang Ly is surprised to see the woman shaken by the sight of the book.  The moment becomes a turning point in which Sang Ly finds new hope for the future, and the rent collector finds a renewed purpose.  Based on the true story related in the documentary, River of Victory, The Rent Collector is a sad, yet beautiful story of hope, determination, and the power of reading.

4) Emma, by Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith is one of my all-time favorite authors, so I was thrilled when I learned that he was doing a rewrite of one of my all-time favorite Austin books.  I enjoyed this modern-day retelling of the classic Emma story.  McCall-Smith stayed true to the heart of the original story while adding some new twists and his usual wit and charm.

5) Princess of the Midnight Ball (Twelve Dancing Princesses, Book 1), by Jessica Day George
Growing up, one of my favorite fairy tales was that of the Twelve Dancing Princesses.  Princess of the Midnight Ball is a wonderful retelling of the classic tale.  I recommend it to anyone who loves a good fairy tale!

6) The Truth about Twinkie Pie, by Kat Yeh
Gigi has been raised by her older sister, DiDi.  Their lives are dramatically changed when DiDi wins a national cooking contest, enabling them to move from a trailer park in South Carolina to New York.  As Gigi struggles to fit into her new private school and life in New York, she uncovers family secrets which shake her understanding of who she really is.  A thoughtful middle-grade novel.

7) The Secret Hum of a Daisy, by Tracy Holczer
Grace and her mother have always been on their own, constantly moving from place to place.  But when her mother dies, Grace is forced to live with the grandmother from whom her mother had run away.  Grace believes that her mother has left her clues to guide her to where she belongs.  This is a sweet, thoughtful story about grieving, family, and finding a true home.

8) Dexter The Tough, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
This middle-grade novel is about a boy who is struggling to adjust to a new school.  His first day doesn't go well, leading him to punch a boy who is already crying in the bathroom.  When his teacher asks him to write a story, Dexter writes that he is "tuff" and that he hit a boy in the bathroom.  As his teacher helps him to revise his story, Dexter is forced to think about his own feelings as well as those of the boy he hit.  He and the boy, Alan, gradually become friends, and Dexter learns a lot about himself in the process.

9) No Talking, by Andrew Clements
I really enjoyed this middle-grade novel.  Dave Packer and his fellow fifth-grade classmates are so loud and talkative that their teachers and administrators have nicknamed them, "the unshushables." One day, however, the principal arrives at cafeteria duty to find that the students are eating in almost perfect silence.  Inspired by his research on Mahatma Gandhi, Dave had instigated a "no talking" contest between the boys and girls.  This is a terrific book about the power of words.  I can't wait to share it with my own "unshushable" students this year as one of our Battle of the Book selections


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Speaking from Among the Bones

Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley is the fifth book in the Flavia de Luce series. If you haven’t met Flavia yet, you are missing out. I love these books so much that I ration them, so that I always know there are one or two left for me to read (seven have been published, so far).

Flavia is an eleven-year-old amateur chemist (using her great uncle’s abandoned lab) and sleuth living in the village of Bishop’s Lacey in 1950s England. Recently, a number of dead bodies have turned up in the village, and of course Flavia must help the police solve the murders. All this is against the back drop of her life with her tormenting sisters, her father’s financial problems, and the family cook, Mrs. Mullet’s dreadful food. I particularly liked the scene with Flavia and her father in the kitchen.

In this latest installment, it’s been 500 years since the death of St. Tancred. In honor of the occasion, his tomb in the church will be opened. Not wanting to miss anything, Flavia is there to see the action. But someone has beat them to it, and when Flavia looks into the tomb, she finds a dead body. With her trusty bicycle, Gladys, Flavia sets out to solve the mystery and meets some interesting characters along the way.

Chapter 17, begins with an excellent description of writing.
“Back home at Buckshaw, I hunched over my notebook in the laboratory. I had found by experience that putting things down on paper helped to clear the mind in precisely the same way, as Mrs. Mullet had taught me, that an eggshell clarifies the consomm√© or the coffee, which, of course, is a simple matter of chemistry. The albumin contained in the eggshell has the property of collecting and binding the rubbish that floats in the dark liquid, which can be removed and discarded in a single reeking clot: a perfect description of the writing process.”

I’m seriously considering not waiting months and months before reading the next book, but I will try to resist the temptation. The very last line of the book made me really want to know what happens next.