30 Day Book Challenge: Day 28 – Favorite Title

Studies show that people only have seven seconds to make a first impression.

I think it takes maybe two seconds for a book to make a first impression. The first things a reader notices about a book are its cover and title. Those two pieces can hold a TON of information and function to draw readers.

That’s why titles have to be memorable!

For that reason, I chose Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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Goodreads Summary:
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I LOVED this book! I hope I get a chance to teach it in my classroom. It’s wonderfully written with a balance of humor and heart and honesty.

Some teachable topics for this book:

-Identity, especially for minorities

-Graphic novels

-Banned books

-American history

-Discrimination and prejudice

I think it also appeals to those reluctant readers because the novel is accessible and relatable. It brings home a serious, thought-provoking message without sounding preachy. There are also PICTURES! Like this one!

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I hate the assumption that pictures in books are meant for children. There is an ever-growing audience for graphic novels that are renowned for their literary content. The pictures in this book add to the story and make it more diary-like.

Finally, this book with an amazing title has recently been banned in New York which, as many readers can attest, makes a book even more interesting!

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 16 – My Favorite Genre

Young Adult Literature

I’m an English major so I read a wide variety of works. I’ve been introduced to so many genres in the past few that I didn’t even know existed! It’s good to read things from every genre, but I keep going back to YA.

Why I love YA:

It’s interesting that YA, compared to other literary genres, is relatively new in the world of words. It is believed to have grown in the 1920s and really started flourishing in the 1970s and 1980s when it became clear that there was a serious demographic gap between juvenile lit and adult lit.

I, like many other YA readers, don’t consider myself a “young adult” in the strictest term, although the age limits are loose and constantly fluctuating throughout generations, but I still enjoy reading the genre. I think it’s because being a young adult is such a defining period in our lives. You start to grow up and figure out who you are. This is super difficult! We all remember the struggle. And at any age, we can all relate to feeling like we don’t have everything figured out. (Do we ever feel like we do?)

YA appeals to me because we can always be reminded how much we can change and how the world can be a scary and beautiful place. No matter how old I get, I will sometimes feel like I don’t fit in. I’ll deal with serious issues. I’ll remember what it felt like having a crush or falling in love. I’ll know what it’s like to have that one best friend or inspiring teacher or that girl you hate. I’ll relate to being frustrated with my parents or my hair.

Maybe we never really grow up, or maybe we’re always growing up. Either way, young adult literature is there to help with stories and characters and words.

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 15 – My Five Favorite Characters of All Time

For this post, I wanted to write about characters I haven’t really gotten a chance to write about yet. As always, it was hard to narrow it down!

1. Kate from Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew
Katherine is amazing because she is all sass and backbone. She has the best lines in the play. Her banter with Petruchio is genius. When I read the play in high school, I was like all I want is a Petruchio to my Katherine! It’s awesome to see such a developed and prominent woman in classic literature.
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2. Eric Northman from the Sookie Stackhouse books
Eric MAKES these books. I don’t care if you shipped Sookie with someone else or whatever your views on vampire politics are. Eric is the sexiest. He’s hilarious, has the best lines, is ruthless, and has a soft spot for Sookie. Eric is described in the books as having a joie de vivre or zest for life, and I think this makes him such a fun character.

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3. Dumbledore from  Harry Potter
Obviously there are a billion Harry Potter  characters to love, but I picked Dumbledore because we never really know everything about him. He’s wise, funny, mysterious, brave, and kind. He goes from being this infallible mentor to being a normal human being who doesn’t know all the answers (you know what I mean). He has so many layers and genuinely cares about his students. Also, he has a birthmark shaped like a map of the London underground. If that’s not handy, I don’t know what is.
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4. Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones
Listen up, everyone. If you don’t know Daenerys, you don’t know nothing ’bout being a badass. I’m scared that I’ll spoil something for people who haven’t read/ watched the series, but I can tell you she is one of the most awesome characters of all time. She’s well developed throughout the series, evolving as a person and a leader. She’s Mother of Dragons. SHE HAS THREE DRAGONS. She uses her heart and her mind to rule, and that’s the most badass thing anyone can do.

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5. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables
Anne Shirley is great because she is irrefutably herself, no matter what. She is a true romantic. She loves nature and poetry and romance. Her adventures are hilarious. She’s a loyal friend and daughter. She stands up for what she believes in, even when her hair is different or things don’t go her way or she falls off a roof trying to prove a point. She holds her head high and sees the beauty in the world.

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 13- My Favorite Author

Meg Cabot. (Rhymes with “rabbit,” just an FYI)

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Reasons I Love Meg Cabot:
-We’re very similar! We’re both from southern Indiana. She attended Indiana University, and I did too for a while. We both love to draw. We both have cats. The list goes on.
-She writes SO much! Once I got to meet her (which was a pinnacle of my existence), and I asked her how on earth she is so prolific. She essentially told me that she knew no other way. She just did it all the time. This is awesome because I can always look forward to a new book and have so many others to go back and re-read.
-She started out under the pseudonym Patricia Cabot and wrote a series of period romance novels which were my first introduction into the romance genre. I used to dream of writing books like those. Maybe it will happen someday.
– I love her characters. There’s never a character who I can’t relate to on any level. Seriously, I couldn’t even pick a favorite. I always find myself thinking that I would react the same way her characters would. Her female protagonists are so endearing because they’re humans who have flaws, for better or for worse and have character and heart. I want to be them or be best friends with them!
-Cabot herself is awesome. She writes a great blog which she updates regularly. I love reading her take on everything from books to pop culture.
-She supports good causes, often writing for anthologies when the proceeds go to charity.
-She has often said that she never sets out to write The Great American Novel or the next War and Peace. She just wants to write to entertain and make people happy. I think this is what all writers should aspire to do with their stories.
-Her sense of humor is spot on. I constantly laugh out loud while reading her work!

She gave this sage writing advice:
“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.”

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 12 – A Book I Used To Love But Don’t Anymore

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I know several people have been posting this book for this day, but I couldn’t think of a better example than Twilight. I randomly picked the book up at Barnes and Noble the same day my best friend did. We gobbled it up and made the rest of our friends read it. It was like a drug. Our entire school (at least those in the know) were constantly talking about the books. We’d discovered them right before Breaking Dawn came out and were ravenous for more.

I loved this book. I fell hard. Twilight was like my high school boyfriend. I became obsessed with it in a short amount of time, constantly thinking about it. It was the only thing I wanted or even was able to talk about. I could go on about Edward Cullen FO DAYZ! Talk about a teen crush.

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Then came the fan fiction.

Veteran fan fic nerds, scoff all you want, but Twilight was my introduction into the fan fiction universe. This, of course, only added fuel to my fan fire. I read EVERYTHING, bad and good. I learned the lingo. I even wrote my own which, not to brag, became pretty popular on twilighted.net and got some good reads on fanfiction.net. I was in deep. 

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Yet, as with all good things and young loves, it came to an end. The Twihards became this cultural movement. I went to the book release party (which, I mean, who doesn’t love a book release party?). I bought the fan gear. Then the movies came out. I was too much of a rabid teen to admit how terrible they were at first, but even I knew how ridiculous they were. (The spidermonkey thing. Really?! I’m still not over it.) But… Robert Pattinson… so I kept watching.

Then the eventual backlash hit.

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I was starting to realize that Twilight was indeed a true stand in for a high school boyfriend. The initial fires died out. I began to see its flaws, how one-dimensional it was. The book and I had a run, but I’d outgrown it. The book was never meant to be an eternal love. It was just a fun fling.

Twilight will always have a place in my heart, as early loves always do, but I’ve moved on to better relationships.

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 11- A Book I Hated

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I read this book on the recommendation of a youth librarian at my local library. She asked me how old I was and pointed me toward this book. This is a reason that I resented some of the librarians in my childhood. They assumed that every person in an age group or gender enjoyed the same books. Book recommending is a tricky practice, but I would have appreciated some more thought.

Anyway…

I didn’t like Prep for several reasons. I couldn’t relate to the protagonist, Lee. I found her annoying, dumb, and way underdeveloped. The books spans Lee’s four years at Ault boarding school, but she remains the same. Even after she graduates, she’s emotionally stunted. She’s so ruthlessly self-centered that I wanted to punch her, and not in a character I love to hate way. I also didn’t think any of the other characters throughout the novel were likeable or believable. It felt like such a stretch to imagine that they could exist. Maybe that was the point? I don’t know.

I was also freaked out by so much of the “adult content” in this book, not because I was too young but because the author writes with no finesse. The book has no soul. The plot goes nowhere. The pacing is glacial. There isn’t anything there for me. It’s a pretty lengthy book, and I remember forcing myself to chug through and read it. I have no idea why.

I think Sittenfeld is capable of writing, if she was writing about something other than a thinly veiled memoir of her boarding school days.

Goodreads summary:

Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel.

As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of–and, ultimately, a participant in–their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is both drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

Ultimately, Lee’s experiences–complicated relationships with teachers; intense friendships with other girls; an all-consuming preoccupation with a classmate who is less than a boyfriend and more than a crush; conflicts with her parents, from whom Lee feels increasingly distant, coalesce into a singular portrait of the painful and thrilling adolescence universal to us all.

 

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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One of the most buzzed about books in the past year! I was draw to this book for some shallow reasons: I love the name Eleanor; I loved the cover art; I love red hair; I thought it looked like a super cute love story. Though these were superficial attractions, the heart of the book drew me in.

I was going to summarize this one for myself, but the Goodreads blurb is PERFECTION.

A stunning debut young adult novel about cassettes, comic books, misfits, and the incredible experience of first love.

Bono met his wife in high school, Park says.
So did Jerry Lee Lewis, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be, she says, we’re 16.
What about Romeo and Juliet?
Shallow, confused, then dead.
I love you, Park says.
Wherefore art thou, Eleanor answers.
I’m not kidding, he says.
You should be.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

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What I liked:

  • I AM SO STUPIDLY IN LOVE with Rowell’s characters. I love how endearingly and realistically human they are. They have flaws. They’re stubborn. They make mistakes. But they’re funny, kind, brave, and loving.
  • I love that Eleanor is not a size negative three. I feel like I either read books about characters who are reed thin and tall and lanky, or they’re overweight and suffer because of it. Rowell makes it clear that Eleanor isn’t skinny without making the character’s identity revolve around her weight. THANK YOU! It is so refreshing! She’s not super beautiful or super hideous (in her mind). She’s just a girl, and her world doesn’t focus on her appearance, even when people make fun of her or call her “Big Red.” She wears what she wants and isn’t afraid to be who she is.
  • I love that Park is part Korean. Rowell manages to orchestrate a humorous and interesting family dynamic between Park and his family: his younger, more masculine brother, his white father, and his cosmetologist Korean mother. There are moments when the family is light and happy, but there are also moments that really touch on important issues like parents’ expectations of their children, being mixed race, and having family problems that are bigger than what to have for dinner.
  • Eleanor and Park don’t hit it off right away. They bond through reading comics on the bus.
  • The story manages to be sensual without being over the top. It’s extremely appropriate in the best way possible.
  • The plot is great and full of little twists and turns. I couldn’t stop thinking about it as I went through my day, and I devoured the book because I needed to know how it ended.
  • It portrays people and circumstances in a real way. I don’t want to give anything away, but Rowell does a great job of giving each person layers and real emotions.
  • It portrays young love (or any love for that matter) as it is: beautiful but sometimes difficult and awkward with great moments mixed in.
  • There are righteous nerdy references.
  • It was written in third person which presented a unique narration and perspective on the characters that I enjoyed.
  • The ending is amazing. I like Rowell’s style. Many people have said that they’d like to see a sequel to this book, but I think there’s something to be said for a good, solid stand-alone book that doesn’t necessarily wrap everything up with a perfect little bow.

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What I didn’t like:

  • If I had to pick something, I would have liked to have read more about Eleanor’s family situation.

A Love Letter to Rainbow Rowell:

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Thank you for being you. Eleanor & Park was fantastic, but learning more about you has made it all the better. I love that you interact with your fans (including me!) on your personal Twitter. I love that you’re not afraid to be wacky and write about real things, but you also have a great romantic streak. Your cover art for your books is awesome, even if you had nothing to do with it, it still reflects well on you. Thank you for writing this article about Eleanor’s weight and why Park is Korean. Your website is super cool. I can’t wait to read your other books: Attachments, Fangirl, and Landline. Finally, your name is Rainbow, and that is pretty freaking awesome.

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30 Day Book Challenge: Day 7- Most Underrated Book

Day 7- Most Underrated Book

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I’m not sure if underrated is the right word, but I feel like no one is talking about Generation Dead by Daniel Waters, maybe because it was written in 2008. I was once again reading this book in a post-Twilight world where EVERYTHING was about vampires and werewolves. I love a good vamp/wolf story, but I was ready for something new. I read it a few years ago, and thought it was so timely and smart and entertaining. It’s a clear allegory for race or sexuality or anything that makes people different. BUT WITH ZOMBIES! It’s great because (before warn bodies hit theaters) it seemed like zombies got no love. For obvious reasons, they are seen as The Abject because they’re basically just walking corpses and aren’t all seductive and mysterious like vampires.

I love this book. I think it’s a great read, and I can even see myself teaching it in the classroom. Pick it up and give it a read. PLEASE!

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Goodreads blurb:

Phoebe Kendall is just your typical Goth girl with a crush. He’s strong and silent…and dead.

All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren’t staying dead. But when they come back to life, they are no longer the same. Feared and misunderstood, they are doing their best to blend into a society that doesn’t want them.

The administration at Oakvale High attempts to be more welcoming of the “differently biotic.” But the students don’t want to take classes or eat in the cafeteria next to someone who isn’t breathing. And there are no laws that exist to protect the “living impaired” from the people who want them to disappear—for good.

When Phoebe falls for Tommy Williams, the leader of the dead kids, no one can believe it; not her best friend, Margi, and especially not her neighbor, Adam, the star of the football team. Adam has feelings for Phoebe that run much deeper than just friendship; he would do anything for her. But what if protecting Tommy is the one thing that would make her happy?

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 6- A Book That Broke My Heart

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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I’ve been wanting to write a post about this book for a while, and this is the perfect opportunity. I read a borrowed copy of this book on a road trip to New Orleans for a Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society convention (It was a blasty blast). The trip was half a day long; I had gotten almost no sleep; I was in a car with people I barely knew (but they were very kind and awesome). So I start reading this book, and I finish it within hours, and I’m just sitting in the backseat of this rental car with tears pouring down my face, trying to sob quietly so these people who barely know me don’t think I’m psychotic. They saw me, but thankfully they’re English majors too so they understood.

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This book breaks my heart because I just really wanted a happy ending, even though I knew there couldn’t possibly be one. I loved the characters so much that I wanted a miracle to happen. I wanted literary proof that bad things don’t happen to good people, especially when they’re young and in love. Green’s writing in this novel is so beautiful and meaningful that it filled my heart with warmth, even after all the tears. Yes, it broke my heart, but, in the end, I was ok with that because, like the characters, I found that the experience was worth the pain.

 

My other posts about John Green: Looking for Alaska    An Abundance of Katherines 

Friday Five: Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading

1. Every Day by David Levithan

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About: There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

 Why I’m looking forward to it: Someone in one of my young adult lit classes read it for a project, and she absolutely loved it. It’s been getting rave reviews everywhere I’ve looked online. I’ve read Levithan’s work before, and the concept is extremely interesting and original.

 2. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

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About: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas.” As her family lay dying, little Libby fled their tiny farmhouse into the freezing January snow. She lost some fingers and toes, but she survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, Ben sits in prison, and troubled Libby lives off the dregs of a trust created by well wishers who’ve long forgotten her.

The Kill Club is a macabre secret society obsessed with notorious crimes. When they locate Libby and pump her for details—proof they hope may free Ben—Libby hatches a plan to profit off her tragic history. For a fee, she’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club…and maybe she’ll admit her testimony wasn’t so solid after all.

As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the narrative flashes back to January 2, 1985. The events of that day are relayed through the eyes of Libby’s doomed family members—including Ben, a loner whose rage over his shiftless father and their failing farm have driven him into a disturbing friendship with the new girl in town. Piece by piece, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer

 Why I’m looking forward to it: I read Flynn’s Gone Girl (Read my review here), and I fell in love with her style of storytelling. I’ve heard her other books are even better. I’m going to test that theory for myself.

 3. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

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About: Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

 Why I’m looking forward to it: I got this book for free from NetGalley a while back, and I’ve been seeing it everywhere since then. I think the story will be really interesting, and I’m ready to see if it lives up to all the hype.

 4. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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About: In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most.

Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page

 What I’m looking forward to: I read Hosseini’s The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns in high school and became a fan. Recently he came to my hometown for a community-wide book discussion and keynote, and I got him to sign my copies (OMG moment). His stories are powerful and life altering. I can’t wait for him to transport me to another world again.

 5. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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About: In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck…A sophisticated, layered, and heart-achingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make, and ultimate choice Mia commands.

What I’m looking forward to: EVERYONE loves this book. It’s gotten so many accolades and great reviews. My interest is piqued because I thought it was just another drama-junkie YA novel, but I’ve heard the writing is beautiful and that the book changes your life.