Archive | July, 2014

Rereading Harry Potter: Book 3

31 Jul

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was, and still is, my favorite book in the series.  I think the main reason for this is because Sirius Black became my favorite character in the series.  I remember reading this the first time convinced he was in fact guilty, then BAM! JK Rowling flips it on you.  It was also the first glimpses into the wizard world before Harry and the lives of Lily and James. Characters develop more and more as the series continues to develop in and of itself.  

The number one thought in my mind as I read this was: They changed so much in the movie!  There was a good amount of time between my reading of this book and the release of the film.  Of course, I knew things were different and left out; I just did not realize how many things were rearranged or ignored overall.  I think those that have only seen the movies do miss out on quite a bit.  There is a lot of development and back story that the film ignored.  This was a beneficial reread as it reminded me of some points I had forgotten about.

I really enjoyed being reintroduced to my favorite character this time through.  I think the main draw to Sirius for me is the reminder that things are not always as they seem and much more meets the eye.  He is by no means perfect, but he is an extremely loyal person which shines through the most.  

I am moving on now to the much thicker books now.  Be sure to check back as I continue with the next four books!

What movie changed one of your favorite books the most?  Did you like the movie version of this one?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I own the most books of

29 Jul

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week they post a new list for bloggers to answer.  This week’s topics is Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books Of.  I am particularly looking at the authors I have the most books from in my classroom library.  As the majority of my collection is packed in boxes at school, I will do my best from memory with authors I know I have multiples of in my classroom library (in no particular order).

1. Laurie Halse Anderson 

I have copies of all five of her YA books, including multiples of some, plus her three historical fiction books in my classroom library.

2. Walter Dean Myers

Off the top of my head, I can think of 8 or 9 different titles I have from the great Walter Dean Myers.  His books really hit home with a number of my students and they love them.

3. John Green

I love his writing.  Students love his writing.  I keep copies of his different novels on the shelves for students to enjoy.

4. Jodi Picoult

I have read a few of her books myself and can always find her titles at book sales.  I have lost count of how many of her books are in my classroom library and they are pretty popular for students.

5. Ellen Hopkins 

She has 8 or 9 verse novels for young adults (with another on the way this year!) and I think I have at least 7 or 8 of them in my library.  Another popular author I like to keep stocked as so many students gravitate to her work.

6. Sarah Dessen

Sarah has many great books to choose from and she is one that is so popular I keep as many titles as possible on my shelves for my students.

7. AS King

I think I am at the point I will buy any book she writes.  I have four different titles from her, and they all go through the rounds among my students.

8. Patricia McCormick

Patricia McCormick deals with a number of different issues that are important for students to read.  I have copies of Sold, Cut, Never Fall Down, and Purple Heart by her.

9. Jo Knowles 

This is another author that deals with issues students want to read.  Her books are ones that keep my students glued until the last page.  I have four of her books.

10. Sharon M Draper

Draper is an author that has many books to choose from and again deals with topics students want to and enjoy reading.  I have at least 6 different books from Draper in my collection.

What authors do you have?

Rereading Harry Potter: Book 2

29 Jul

Last week, I completed Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in my reread of the series.  To be honest, this book was my least favorite in the series the first time through.  That is not to say I hated it; I just felt less of a connection with this one than others.  However, I had a feeling I might view it differently as the events in CoS prove to be very important later in the series.  I do appreciate this one more now than I did the first time through.  

That’s one of the beautiful things about this series.  A testament to the ability of Rowling as a writer is how closely related each of these books are, even if it may take three or four more books to show how.  To create such an amazing world and continuing journey in this way is a feat to be admired and definitely one of the greatest strengths of this series.  

I am almost done with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  I already have a lot of thoughts strewing in my mind on that one.  Expect the next post in the next few days!

What are your thoughts on this book in the series?  

Panic: A Review

24 Jul

Title: Panic

Author: Lauren Oliver

Format: Hardcover personal purchase

Release Date: March 4, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

There is something about Lauren Oliver’s writing that I just love.  Her way with words always blows me away.  While the plot of Panic does have suspense and kept me at the edge of my seats at times, it is Oliver’s writing that keeps me glued to her stories. This is another beautifully written novel that I found very hard to put down.

I found the whole idea of this Panic competition fascinating.  I wondered what it would take for someone to want to do it.  Heather and Dodge were strong narrators to follow in their journeys because they are both in the competition for such different and personal reasons.  They view Panic differently and their views give readers multiple meanings of what Panic and living in Carp really mean.  I am usually a big fan of duel narration and I really enjoyed both narrators and how different they were.

One thing that did bother me about Panic was I kept asking, “Where are the adults?  They have to know about it by now.  Why does it keep happening?”  Maybe that is just a sign of my age now, but I I found myself asking that over and over.  Despite this, there is enough tension along with Oliver’s writing to keep readers intrigued and wanting to know what will happen next.  The tension at the end had me trying to rush through pages to see how it would all work out.  This was a stay up late to finish type of ending.

I know there has been some comparisons out there to The Hunger Games.  While I can see where some comparisons might be made with this type of competition, I think when I do share this book with students I am going to shy away from that comparison.  A book can be enjoyable on its own, not just because it is the next whatever.  I will focus on the tension and suspense that comes with this plot as opposed to it being another Hunger Games.

Overall, Panic was an enjoyable read and paced just fast enough to keep me reading and waning to know what will happen next.  I can see it being popular in the classroom.

4/5 stars

Rereading Harry Potter: Book 1

23 Jul

I few months ago, I talked about my love for the Harry Potter series.  I mentioned that this summer I wanted to reread the series.  As I am still battling a bit of a slump (I will have bursts of reading a lot for a couple weeks then find nothing to hold my interest), I decided there is no time like the present.  I am so happy that I did!

I finished book 1 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone the day after I started reading it again. I was immediately drawn right back into Harry’s world.  One great thing about reading these again is that there was so much I forgot about!  There are small parts of the plot that the movies left out and it was really felt like reading the book again for the very first time.  Plus, with the knowledge of the entire series, there are many little clues and hints I pick up on that meant nothing the first time around.  It really is an interesting feeling to feel both like reading for the first time and going through with a “expert eye,” if you will.

I think one of the parts that mean the most to me is the character of Snape.  He was always one of my favorites and I was full of theories about him from the very beginning.  In general, he is such a complex character, much like we are all complex people.  It is nice to look at one of my favorite characters again from the beginning to experience his development once again and being aware of those tiny nuisances that will mean so much.

I will drop shorts posts throughout the rest of my reread about what stood out to me or how my feelings have changed over time.  I am looking forward to see where this part of my reading journey takes me.

Are there any books or series you reread again and again?  Have you reread the Harry Potter Series before?  I’d love to hear some thoughts on your favorites you always go back to.

My Last Kiss: A Review

22 Jul

Title: My Last Kiss

Author: Bethany Neal

Format: Personal purchase hardcover

Release Date: June 10, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss–the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died–is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend.

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made–good and bad–that led to her last kiss.

Bethany Neal’s suspenseful debut novel is about the power of first love and the haunting lies that threaten to tear it apart.

I actually got to meet Bethany through a friend at an author event earlier this year that we had both attended. I was very bummed that due to a crazy schedule, I did not get to go to the release event for My Last Kiss. However, as soon as I had my birthday gift cards in hand, My Last Kiss was the first book I grabbed off the shelf at the bookstore.  I finished it in two days.

The very first page pulled me in Cassidy’s story.  My Last Kiss begins just as Cassidy realizes she has died – though it takes her some time to accept she is dead and learn what exactly that all means.  She has no memory of not only the night she died, but the weeks leading up to it as well.  She tries to figure things out by visiting her family and friends.  Through flashbacks that suck her into those memories and a connection with her boyfriend, Ethan, Cassidy is trying to piece it all together to find out what really happened, who her true friends are, and who is her killer.

I really was intrigued by the flashbacks Cassidy has.  What I found interesting is that they do not come in order.  They alternate between the night of her death and moments from those weeks leading up to her death.  It was an engaging reading experience to be right along with Cassidy as she tries to connect each event to the ones she had before and understand the bigger picture.  I also loved some curve balls thrown into the plot; there were times I thought I knew exactly what had happened only to find out I was pretty wrong.  While I was starting to piece it all together the end, I still was surprised by the whole reveal.

I appreciate how real the characters are, even when dealing with an after death plotline.  The characters are flawed, Cassidy especially.  A number of characters besides Cassidy make decisions that they later regret and have to live with the consequences.  I think there are situations that teens can relate to even with the suspense/mystery added to the characters’ lives.

There were just a few parts, mainly in the beginning, where the plot felt a little “jumpy” and I was confused about what was going on.  However, the suspense kept me in and I wanted to continue reading to know what would happen next. I am definitely looking forward to sharing this title with my students in the new school year.

4/5 stars