A Trip to Nonfiction Land

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A quick search on the library’s card catalog leads me an entire floor away from the Young Adult section I usually select my books from. I follow the book spines until I find 306.874 and pull out The Magic Room: A Story About The Love We Wish For Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow. The book comes as a recommendation, and I’m looking forward to trying something new.

In a small town in Michigan, its 1,100 residents are outnumbered by wedding dresses. That’s right—wedding dresses. The most prominent business is town is Becker’s Bridal. Handed down through several generations of Becker women, the business caters to brides searching for the perfect dress for their wedding day. Since the shop is in an old bank, the vault has been transformed into the Magic Room: a room full of mirrors where brides can envision themselves as beautiful brides. Author Jeffrey Zaslow (best known for co-authoring The Last Lecture with Randy Pausch) explores the inner workings of the business and its history, as well as the lives of the brides who venture into the store. The book shows readers not to judge someone by what they look like on the outside. Someone may appear to be a happy bride on the lookout for a perfect dress, but they may have a back story full of heartache. Death of a parent, divorce, and a terrible car accident are just a few of the tales the brides share with the author. Zaslow also focuses on the love parents and caretakers wish for their daughters. While reality television sometimes only shows an obnoxious view of brides and the bridal industry, Zaslow’s story shares a deeper, more loving side.

After reading the book, I know that nonfiction is still not my favorite genre, but I feel good about stretching my reading limbs. Next, I’m on to Ann Brashares’ The Here and Now…yup, back to Young Adult!

Do you have any nonfiction books to recommend?

A Satisfying Series

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The YA section may be flooded with trilogies, but honestly, I sort of love them. It gives readers more of the characters and the world that the author has crafted, yet is still a manageable amount of reading. There’s no need to wait years and years for the series to conclude (like Harry Potter), yet there’s not the let-down of a stand-alone book.

If you’ve enjoyed other dystopian trilogies such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched, I’ve got another reading recommendation for you: Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky. The books in the series are Under the Never Sky, Through the Ever Night, and Into the Still Blue. I read all three books in under a week and a half. I was caught up in the story and wanted to know what would happen to the characters. One night, I read 100 pages in bed before I decided I should put the book down and get some sleep!

The first book in the series introduces readers to Aria, a teenager living in a pod city called Reverie. She has never been outside because the Aether storms (violent, lightning-like storms) are too dangerous. Instead, she escapes to a virtual world. Her perfect, protected world suddenly collapses one evening when she and her friends venture to a powerless pod. Aria’s disobedience to the rules get her tossed out of Reverie. Luckily, she meets an Outsider named Perry who helps her survive the outer wasteland. Perry is a hunter for his tribe, and his life could not be more different from Aria’s. While Aria has lived with lots of technology and medical advances, Perry lives simply. His tribe has been living off the land, but now the Aether storms are destroying their farmlands and resources. Aria and Perry must find a way to work together to make sure the human race survives.

Why did I enjoy the series so much?

  1. Interesting Characters – The book has two narrators, Perry and Aria. While the dual narrators didn’t work for me in Allegiant, Rossi successfully voices two very different characters. You’ll find yourself caring about each of the narrators, as well as many of the other characters in the book.
  2. Believable World – The Aether storms reminded me a bit of the sun flares in The Maze Runner series, but weren’t quite as extreme. With all the recent weather-related tragedies happening around the world: typhoons, hurricanes, flooding, volcanoes—I can buy the idea that lightning storms could make life difficult for people. I can also buy into the idea that some people would look to technology to keep them safe, and that others would not be as lucky.
  3. Satisfying Ending – I hate it when I finish up a book and the ending feels incomplete, goes off topic, or feels forced. Rossi did a great job of wrapping up the series in a way that felt believable and satisfying.

Have you read the Under the Never Sky trilogy? What did you think of it?

If not, how do you feel about trilogies?

One Year Blogiversary

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I can’t believe it’s been a year since I started blogging. Based on the failed journals and diaries of my past, I thought it was something I’d try, but wouldn’t succeed at. I’m proud of myself for really giving the blog a chance—even during the summer slump.

Looking at the stats, I’ve been visited by 675 viewers in 18 different countries and have almost 80 followers. While these numbers may seem small to some bloggers, I’m absolutely amazed! I’m glad I was able to post about topics that other people cared about as well. My top blog posts of the year were:

  1. No Love for Allegiant
  2. Banned Books Week 2014
  3. Literary (Temporary) Tattoos
  4. Entry #14 – Dream Cast
  5. Entry #1 – Where Your Books Live

Thanks to all of you in the blogosphere who have taken the time to stop by my blog. I appreciate the support.

Library Book Haul

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I’ve been on a reading roll lately! I’ve read seven books in just about a month (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Attachments, Bittersweet, The Impossible Knife of Memory, Under the Never Sky, Through the Ever Night, and Into the Still Blue) – so I’m hoping to get a few more books read before Baby arrives at the end of October. When I stopped at the library today to return other books, I found some really great reads. Here’s what I came home with:

1.  Catherine by April Lindner: I thoroughly enjoyed Lindner’s first novel, Jane, which was a modern-day retelling of Jane Eyre. I hadn’t even realized she had another novel out, so I’m most excited to read this book. It’s a retelling of Wuthering Heights.

2.  The Here and Now by Ann Brashares: Back in the day, I was a fan of Brashare’s Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants novels, so I’m hoping I’ll like this novel as well. Goodreads describes the novel as “An unforgettable epic romantic thriller,” so the style is going to be very different than her previous novels.

3.  Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige: I saw this novel on blogs and book lists and was curious about it. I’ve watched The Wizard of Oz, read Wicked, and saw the musical, so I’m interested to see where Paige takes the classic story.

4.  The Magic Room by Jeffrey Zaslow: This book was recently recommended to me, and I’m anxious to read it—especially because it was in the non-fiction section of the library. I don’t venture there very often! The book is about a family owned small-town bridal shop and the women who come into the shop to purchase their wedding gowns.

What books are you excited to read next?

Banned Books Week 2014

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- Banned Books Week is September 21-27, 2014 -

In honor of the upcoming Banned Books week, I encourage you to check out one of my earlier posts about banned and challenged books here. You can also visit the American Library Association’s website to learn more about Banned Books Week and to find lists of frequently banned and challenged books. You could also read my post about one of this year’s most frequently challenged books, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, by clicking on this link. Another great way to celebrate the week is to pick up a banned or challenged book at your local library. You’d be surprised at how many of your favorite books have stirred up controversy! Celebrate your freedom to read!

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A Wrap-Up of Recent Reads #3

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon:

I picked up this book at my grandma’s house and was instantly hooked. The main character is a fifteen-year-old boy named Christopher. Although not specifically stated, Christopher seems to be somewhere on the autism scale. He knows all the countries of the world and their capitals, the chapters are labeled by prime numbers, and he has no understanding of human emotions. If he sees five red cars in a row on his way to school, it’s going to be a Super Good Day, but if he sees a bunch of yellow cars—watch out—it’s going to be a bad day. At the beginning of the novel, Christopher finds his neighbor’s dog has been killed. Christopher puts his detective skills to the test and attempts to solve the mystery.

The book is a fast read, and I finished it in just two days. Christopher’s voice really comes through the novel and I found him very relatable. He reminded me of students I had worked with in the past. The book was unlike anything else I had read and I would highly recommend this novel.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson:

When I saw that Laurie Halse Anderson had a new book out, I was interested—but not interested enough to pay for it! So when I saw it on the New Releases shelf at the library, I snatched it up. Laurie Halse Anderson has been a leader in YA fiction with her novels Speak, Twisted, and Wintergirls, so I knew I was in for a good read. What I wasn’t expecting was how fast I was drawn into the novel and how fast I finished it. I had to know what would happen to the narrator and her father. This would be a great novel to use in a high school English class—it’s relevant and would spark some good discussions.

Senior Hayley Kincain is back at a public school after traveling the road with her dad and his semi for the past five years. They were constantly on the move as her father struggled with the memories and nightmares of his time serving in Iraq. Her dad wants to give her a normal life and decides they’ll move back to his hometown, but their life is anything but normal. He can’t hold a job, abuses alcohol and drugs, has a violent temper at times, and refuses to get help for his PTSD. In the meantime, Hayley struggles with memories of her own. She finds out that while her life isn’t perfect, neither is the life of many of her classmates and friends.

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Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore:

This book was popping up on summer reading lists, so when I found out that the price had been reduced on Amazon, I quickly bought it for my kindle. While I wanted to like the novel, it was unsettling and I don’t know how I really feel about it! I feel pretty confident that I wouldn’t recommend it to any of my friends though. One problem I had with the novel was the setting: when does the story take place? Judging from the character’s names (Mabel and Genevra), the fact that they attend a posh, East Coast school, and go to an event where a Degas painting is gifted to the school (and they have dresses made for it), I thought the book was taking place during the 1950s or ‘60s—like Mona Lisa Smile era—but then one of the girls mentions her cell phone and the fact that they won’t have cell or internet service up at their summer cabin. Wait, what?! Cell phone! That totally threw me for a loop. You’ll have to take your chances with this novel.

Mabel Dagmar, a scholarship student at an East Coast college, finally befriends her wealthy roommate Genevra (Ev) Winslow. Mabel is thrilled to be invited to Ev’s summer cottage in Vermont, but she soon finds that this charmed life isn’t quite what she had pictured. There seem to be a lot of secrets surrounding the Winslow family. Why are there heavy locks on the doors? How did the Winslow’s come into so much money during the Great Depressions? Why does Ev’s aunt want Mabel to look into the “blood money” and expose the truth? Are any of the Winslow’s trustworthy? Mabel must choose whether to expose the family or keep their secrets and become one of the Winslow’s.

What books have you read lately?

(Far, Far into the) Future Reads

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Have you ever stumbled across some of your own writing from the past? Perhaps a funny story you wrote in elementary school, or a sappy poem from your pre-teen years, or even a forgotten story beginning from your more recent past? Could you remember why you wrote it or the frame of mind you were in? Was it worth sharing with anyone else? Can you imagine what it would be like to have someone come across your writing 100 years from now?

If we look back 100 years to 1914, Charlie Chaplin is a big movie star, Woodrow Wilson is the President of the United States, Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, Babe Ruth plays with the Boston Red Sox, the Panama Canal is inaugurated, Harry Houdini is a famous escape-artist, and authors James Joyce, L. Frank Baum, H.G. Wells, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Frost, and Ezra Pound are all being published. So while 100 years ago seems like a long time, these events and names are all known to us. We may have even read something from this group of authors.

I think that’s why a fascinating article on The Guardian titled “Margaret Atwood’s new work will remain unseen for a century” sparked my interest this afternoon. Scottish artist Katie Paterson, founder of The Future Library project has created an unusual literary artwork focusing on the passage of time. The Future Library project asks authors to write a manuscript that will be locked away for 100 years. The authors are not allowed to share their work with anyone. In 2114, the works will be published. In addition, a forest of trees planted near Oslo, Norway, will provide the paper on which the texts will be printed. There will also be a printing press stored with the manuscripts to make sure that the technology will exist for the books to be printed. Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Blind Assassin, is the first author to join the project. She said she’s “finding it very delicious,” to not have to tell anyone what she’s writing—or to find out what people think of her work. She has, however, “bought some special archival paper, which will not decay in its sealed box over 100 years.”

If you scroll down to read the comments below the article on The Guardian’s website, you’ll find a lot of pessimistic attitudes. “Gimmick” declares one reader. “Egotistical” declares another. “Pretentious twaddle. The only value in a book is it being read, and who knows if a hundred years from now literacy will even exist, or English be a living language or whatever. Horribly gimicky ideas devalue art and devalue humanism” writes yet another reader. To me, these readers have missed the point. How could people be upset about a time capsule of literature? They’ve taken a unique project and blasted it for being creative. I think it’s rather exciting to imagine what life will be like 100 years from now—will we still be bothering with printed books or will everything be digital by then? Will future readers care about this project at all, or will they be unimpressed that a new Atwood novel has been released?

How about you? Are you intrigued by The Future Library project or do you see it as “pretentious twaddle”?