Thursday, June 7, 2012

Ronald Reagan: 100 Years

Synopsis from B&N:  February 6, 2011, marked the one hundredth anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth. Known as "the Great Communicator," Ronald Reagan combined the best of small-town values and remarkable virtues with the eloquence and charm that came from a life spent in the public eye. As governor of California, Reagan earned the respect of world leaders and the American public. But it was as president of the United States that his strength of character, leadership, and love of country were best displayed. His eight years in the Oval Office ushered in remarkable change domestically and brought international peace, prosperity, and freedom.

I’ll admit it, I was a toddler and in elementary school while Reagan was president.  So I don’t personally recall a lot of what happened; I wasn’t big into politics when I was 9.  J  However, every time I’ve heard something about him or watched bits of speeches he gave, I am inspired.  He was a true American leader; a president working for the people.  He believed in the power of the human spirit and in the greatness of our country.
I love that he came from humble beginnings and was not a career politician.  I knew that he had been an actor, but his careers in sports broadcasting, as governor of California, and as a host for GE and other television shows I was unaware of.
The book was both informational and entertaining.  It was easy to read, and I loved all the pictures.
And, while the book didn’t focus much on Mrs. Reagan, Nancy was one classy lady. 
After reading this I am interested to read both Reagan’s autobiography and his letters to his wife.
His terms as president was a good time in America’s history.  He accomplished what he had set out to do - in his governor role, as president, and in his personal life and goals.  And that in itself is an accomplishment.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Can I Have and Do It All, Please? - Christine Caine

Synopsis from  More than ever before, women are navigating through increasing amounts of responsibility, activity, scheduling and multi-tasking...and we need some answers about how to have and do it all in life!

A book I’ve had on my shelf for over a year now…and should have read when I first got it.  And should probably read at regular intervals throughout life.

Christine Caine provides some answers about how to have and do it all.  And is the first person I recall running across who says this is not impossible.  It’s all about balance and focus, perspective and seasons.

Her book is filled with both humor and grace.  There are questions to encourage regular analysis of your life and why you do what you do and what you really feel is important.

Here is my only challenge:  Caine, like many others, says that as long as you are walking in what God has for you and His plan for your life, you will find fulfillment.  And this I totally agree with.  My struggle is more how to find out His plan.  It is expressed that you should look at what you’re good at and find your passion there.  That is where my challenge lies.  I am good at many things (reading, writing, teaching, cleaning, organizing, pushing paper, hostessing at restaurants, answering phones, reconciling reports…really, I have yet to work a job I’m unsuccessful at.  And I don’t say that in a cocky sense but a frustrated one.).  And, really, I’m not sure I’m super passionate about anything these days.  Sad, I know.

So I will use the tips in this book to continue to look at and pray about my life and my path.  Despite my confusion and frustration, I know my God is faithful beyond anything.  And I need to trust Him that if I’m not on the right path, as long as I keep my heart in the right place, He is big enough to help me reorient despite myself.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dawn - Elie Wiesel

Summary from B&N:  Elisha is a young Jewish man, a Holocaust survivor, and an Israeli freedom fighter in British-controlled Palestine; John Dawson is the captured English officer he will murder at dawn in retribution for the British execution of a fellow freedom fighter. The night-long wait for morning and death provides Dawn, Elie Wiesel’s ever more timely novel, with its harrowingly taut, hour-by-hour narrative. Caught between the manifold horrors of the past and the troubling dilemmas of the present, Elisha wrestles with guilt, ghosts, and ultimately God as he waits for the appointed hour and his act of assassination. Dawn is an eloquent meditation on the compromises, justifications, and sacrifices that human beings make when they murder other human beings.

I jumped into this novel without really understanding what it was.  Each year, I read Night by Elie Wiesel with my eighth grade students in conjunction with them studying the Holocaust in social studies.  So when this year I ran across something that said Night was the first book in a trilogy consisting also of Dawn and Day I assumed it was a continuation of the author’s life story that began in Night

I was wrong.  Guess I shouldn’t assume things.  J

Dawn is a fictional story of a young Holocaust survivor who has joined the resistance movement in Palestine.  And it is a story that needs to be read slowly…and even then I’m not sure I took the time to truly reflect on the different nuances and challenges.  I have a feeling I’ll be chewing on the tale for days to come.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie - Jordan Sonnenblick

Synopsis from B&N:  Thirteen-year-old Steven has a totally normal life: he plays drums in the All-Star Jazz band, has a crush on the hottest girl in the school, and is constantly annoyed by his five-year-old brother, Jeffrey. But when Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia, Steven's world is turned upside down. He is forced to deal with his brother's illness and his parents' attempts to keep the family in one piece. Salted with humor and peppered with devastating realities, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie is a heartwarming journey through a year in the life of a family in crisis.

This was our book club book for May.  And I didn’t want to put it down. 

I don’t know if it was so appealing to me at this time because I have an eighth grade student recently diagnosed with leukemia, and I’ve seen a glimpse of their struggle.  Or if the appeal can be completely chalked up to the Sonnenblick’s writing style and the voice he gives to Steven.

Let me tell you, Sonnenblick is right on with how 8th graders think, act, feel, and talk.  I could easily see many of my students speaking the same way or doing the same things.  And the titles of the chapters made me want to dive right into each one.

Well done.  And one of my students saw me in the hallway, coming back from lunch with the book.  She added her seal of approval as well. 

The Mother-in-Law Dance - Annie Chapman

Synopsis from B&N:  Can two women love the same man and still get along? Absolutely! Annie Chapman believes that a mother–in–law and daughter–in–law can become friends—even close friends. However, this connectedness often takes years to develop. Now that journey can be a joyful one! Offering practical advice and biblical wisdom, this book helps mothers–in–law and daughters–in–law nurture their relationships.

Anyone who knows me knows that I seek information for all sorts of things from books.  And that I’m always trying to improve every area and relationship in my life.  (It’s the bit of perfectionist in me).  So when I came across this book in a blog I figured Why not read it?  I don’t have a bad relationship with my MIL.  However, there’s always room to grow.  At least I know I always have room to grow.

The book was good.  Interesting.  Encouraging.  And it was certainly full of biblical wisdom.  Where I found it lacking was in the “practical advice” part.  A lot of the information was more open ended and less specific.  Which makes sense on one level because the in-law relationship deals with two different people and there is no “one size fits all” solution to make that work.  However, on my 10-step check it off a list side, I would have liked more direction.

Wish You Well - David Baldacci

Synopsis from B&N:  Precocious 12-year-old Louisa Mae Cardinal lives in the hectic New York City of 1940 with her family.  Then tragedy strikes—and Lou and her younger brother, Oz, must go with their invalid mother to live on their great-grandmother's farm in the Virginia mountains.  Suddenly Lou finds herself coming of age in a new landscape, making her first true friend, and experiencing adventures tragic, comic, and audacious. But the forces of greed and justice are about to clash over her new home . . . and as their struggle is played out in a crowded Virginia courtroom, it will determine the future of two children, an entire town, and the mountains they love.

I have been a reader of Baldacci’s works for many years now.  I got hooked on him by reading The Christmas Train in a book club forever and a day ago.  And since then have read – and enjoyed - several of his political intrigue books. 

So when I came across this book and first started reading it, it took me a bit to really get into the plot.  It is SO different from what I’m used to reading by him.  And, quite frankly, I found the story a bit plodding at times. 

However, by halfway through the book I was pretty engaged with the characters.  I really enjoyed the depth of the elder Louisa’s character.  I felt compassion for Oz and was rooting for Lou.  Really, all of the characters were wonderfully written.  They certainly are the heart and soul of the story.

By the time the book was finished, I was sad it was ending.  And my conclusion is that while Baldacci writes amazing political/legal thrillers, this book was wonderful in its own way as well.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Loving - Karen Kingsbury

Synopsis from B&N:  The answers Bailey Flanigan once longed and prayed for are finally becoming clear. In Loving, the fourth and final book in the Bailey Flanigan Series by New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury, Bailey is planning a wedding and making decisions that will shape her future.

I both loved and hated this book.  I started out wanting one thing but by the end of the book was glad it was something else entirely.

This was my favorite book of the series.  It seems to be where most of the growth takes place in the characters.  And, of course, it tied up all the loose ends (last books tend to do that, you know).

However, it was more than that.  The book made me wonder and long and hope.  And remember that God does have a good plan for my life.  And when I get off track, He is still faithful to guide me back…when I listen to Him.  When I am faithful to Him and His word.

How Writers Work - Ralph Fletcher

Summary from B&N:  This book will show you how writers work, how you can become a writer, and how you can find a process that works for you.

This book was a basic, quick read.  However, there are some parts of it I want to read to my seventh graders tomorrow before they start revising their personal narratives.  And it has helped me solidify some of my ideas on how I want to revamp how I tackle writing with my students. 

I plan to buy it as a reference.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins

Synopsis from B&N:  Could you survive on your own, in the wild, with everyone out to make sure you don't live to see the morning?

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival

I was not necessarily intending on reading this book.  Although it’s been a hot topic at school since the year started and really ramped up in March with the buzz around the movie.  So I had thought about it, but it wasn’t high on my priority list.  This past week it got bumped clear to the top due to discussions on it in my home and the DH goading me into reading it by saying I couldn’t really speak to its content since I hadn’t read it myself (never mind the fact I’ve been in and around discussions surrounding it for months now and pretty much know the whole plot – and by this point had even received the student and coworkers run down on how the book and movie compare).  So Friday I went into school and borrowed it for the weekend.

First of all, the positives.  This book is extraordinarily well written.  The description and the emotion.  Amazing.  Suzanne Collins writes her characters in a way that you either love them and root for them or despise them.  I became quickly connected to Katniss.  She is smart and strong and determined.   
And The Capitol and their minions…are equally as abhorrent.

You are drawn right into the story and it is easy to just want to read “one more page”.
That being said, I stand firm in my thoughts that this book is not appropriate for 11 year olds, 12 year olds.  Really, eighth graders I’m on the fence about.  I expected the book to be violent.  But even with that expectation, I was shocked by some of the savagery.  And I didn’t expect the bits of sexuality at all.   So well written.  Engaging.   But not appropriate, in my opinion, for what has ended up being the target market.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Smart Stepmom - Ron Deal & Laura Petherbridge

Synopsis from B&N:  In today's complicated stepfamily, the stepmom often doesn't know where to turn for help. Let stepfamily expert Ron Deal and experienced stepmom Laura Petherbridge show you how to survive and thrive as a stepmom.

This was an encouraging book to read.  This book gave me hope.  It also gave me something much greater:  the freedom to let go, not try so hard to make everyone play nice, and some measure of peace.
It is full of practical advice and real-life stepmom’s perspectives.  The book addresses “yours,” “mine,” should we have an “ours,” adult stepchildren, and more.  It really does cover the gamut.  Which is nice.
My favorite line:  “…without the father’s support, trying to parent his kids is like – as one stepmother said – ‘Setting your hair on fire and putting it out with a hammer!’”  J
I knew stepmothering would be hard.  It’s well known in the family that I was not the ideal stepchild myself.  However, some of the challenges that have come my way I did not (nor do I think I could have in a million years) anticipate.
I’m glad for resources like this to help me along the road.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Summary from B&N:  When Alice Ozma was in 4th grade, she and her father decided to see if he could read aloud to her for 100 consecutive nights. On the hundredth night, they shared pancakes to celebrate, but it soon became evident that neither wanted to let go of their storytelling ritual. So they decided to continue what they called "The Streak." Alice's father read aloud to her every night without fail until the day she left for college.

The concept of this book completely intrigued me. 

I absolutely believe in the value in reading to your kids, other people’s kids, any kid you can get to sit still (or hold down) long enough to listen.  It broadens their horizons, helps them learn about the world, and is a great tool for connecting.

I was a “read to” kid.  And I partially contribute my voracious reading and love of all things literary to that.  I also started reading on my own at an early age…that no doubt has helped in both school and life.

In fact, I’m sad at the fact I haven’t been able to establish a reading routine with my step-daughters.  I tried.  They weren’t interested.  I figured it would be best not to push it – pick your battles and all that jazz.  So all of my collected books for my “someday children” sit on a shelf where I visit them occasionally.  Luckily I have had some nieces and nephews I’ve been able to trap for a story now and again.

Anyway, back to the book.  I loved the concept.  A father and daughter reading together for eight years…every day.  To make it that kind of priority.  Amazing. 

I was a little disappointed in the book because I expected it to be more about the reading – books they’d read, lessons learned from the books, connections over books, etc.  And it really wasn’t that.  It was more about the author’s relationship with her father and the dynamics of that.  You get vignettes of their outings and conversations with only snippets of their reading.

Still, huge kudos for creating and accomplishing such a goal.  Those books will connect them to each other and their world.

As a bonus, there is an abbreviated reading list in the back.  Yikes!  More to add to the “to read” list.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

Summary from B&N:  When Alice tumbles down, down, down a rabbit-hole one hot summer's afternoon in pursuit of a White Rabbit she finds herself in Wonderland. And there begin the fantastical adventures that will see her experiencing extraordinary changes in size, swimming in a pool of her own tears and attending the very maddest of tea parties. For Wonderland is no ordinary place and the characters that populate it are quite unlike anybody young Alice has ever met before. In this imaginary land she encounters the savagely violent Queen, the Lachrymose Mock Turtle, the laconic Cheshire Cat and the hookah-smoking Caterpillar, each as surprising and outlandish as the next. Alice's adventures have made her the stuff of legend, the child heroine par excellence, and ensured that Carroll's book is the best loved and most widely read in children's literature.

What a wonderful bit of nonsense. 
Of course, I have long been familiar with the story of Alice’s adventures.  However, I do believe this is the first time I’ve ever read the book. 

I enjoyed both the prose and poetry.  The imagination Carroll must have had.

Definitely a good choice to read on an hour and a half plane ride.

Six Ways to Keep the "Little" in Your Girl - Dannah Gresh

Summary from B&N:  Studies show that the foundation for an emotionally healthy teen girl is built between the ages of 8-12 and that a good relationship with mom is one of the most important factors. So when the world wants girls to grow up too fast, how does a mother help her young daughter navigate the stormy waters of boy-craziness, modesty and body image, media, Internet safety, and more? With a warm, transparent style, Dannah Gresh shares six ways a mom can help protect and guide her daughter, including:

  • help her celebrate her body in a healthy way
  • unbrand her when the world tries to buy and sell her
  • unplug her from a plugged-in world
  • dream with her about her prince, and more
I think an excellent book for any parent of a tween – and the earlier you read it the better.
Dannah Gresch covers six key areas in protecting your daughter and guiding her in God’s way.  Some of the areas covered are modesty, media, and body image.  She pulls from both Biblical truth and secular studies as her basis.
She gives hope, encouragement, and guidance.  And prayer and connecting with your daughter(s) is priority throughout.  When you have connection and a strong relationship with your daughter, that helps you through the tween (and teen) years.
My application of the information is a bit of a challenge due to the nature of step-daughters and part-time parenting.  But I did have the “talk” and will continue to discuss values and guide where I can. 
My only complaint:  I added 13 new books that were mentioned in the text to my “to read” list.

Number the Stars - Lois Lowry

Summary from B&N:  This Newbery Medal Book describes how a ten-year-old Danish girl's bravery is tested when her best friend is threatened by Nazis in 1943.
I am getting ready to start the 8th grade Holocaust unit in conjunction with our social studies teacher.  Number the Stars is written on a fifth grade level, and I have not read it before.  It is also a book on my bookshelf.  So I read it on my flights to D.C.

I found it to be very…bland.  Probably because I have read so many other Holocaust stories – and most of those being survivor tales.

However, I do think this could serve as a decent introduction to the horrific time in history.  It tells the story of Annemarie, a non-Jewish girl in Denmark, and how the Nazis affected her and her friend’s life.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Venetian Affair - Helen MacInnes

There is no synopsis online for this book…it was published in 1963.  I’ve also owned it for a while (but not since 1963).  I think I picked it up at a local library about 5 years ago.  It was on the sidewalk in a box full of books marked FREE.  What can I say?...I’m a sucker for free books.
Basically this is a government espionage story set in during the Cold War with a little romance thrown in.
It took me a couple of chapters to get into it.  However, once I got into it, I read it in three days.  Okay, it probably helped that for those three days I was primarily in bed sick with strep and some other virus.  But, really, most of the time I felt too crummy to even ready.
While I enjoyed the story, the book is going into the “To Pass On” pile instead of returning to the bookshelf.  It’s not one I would see myself re-reading in the future.

Reaching for the Invisible God - Philip Yancey

Synopsis from B&N:  How does a relationship with God really work? How do I relate to a God who is invisible, when I'm never quite sure he's there? How do I know him? How do I communicate with him? How do I live my life growing in my understanding of him, living more and more with a conscious awareness of him, doing more of those things he indicates are good for me--and others?
Okay, first I have a very embarrassing confession to make:  I have owned this book for over a decade (bought summer of 2001) and have never read it.  This is part of my reason for my personal “read through the bookshelves” challenge.  And in good news linked to that goal, I only have ONE (yes, that’s right, 1) booked checked out from the library currently.  AND IT GETS BETTER…that book is my book club book for March.  So after a year or so of playing around with me goal, I’m actually forcing myself to read the things on my shelves.
The results…
Great finds like this book by Philip Yancey.  It was such an encouraging read.  I’m going through a season of life when God, quite frankly, seems not here.  And it’s been frustrating and I wonder what I’ve done to push Him away.  In this book, I found hope and answers.  We all go through seasons where we don’t “feel” God, but He’s still right there.  And I just need to keep doing what I know to do in life and keep seeking Him.  Keep the focus. 
A relationship with an invisible God is in many ways more challenging than with the visible people in my life.  But He’s much more gracious regarding my foibles and failed attempts to connect. 
I recommend this for any believer…or for anyone searching for if there even is a God.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Purpose Driven Life - Rick Warren

Synopsis from B&N:  A #1 New York Times bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life will help you understand why you are alive and reveal God's amazing plan for you---both here and now, and for eternity. Rick Warren will guide you through a personal forty-day spiritual journey that will transform your answer to life's most important question: What on earth am I here for? Knowing God's purpose for creating you will reduce your stress, focus your energy, simplify your decisions, give meaning to your life, and most important, prepare you for eternity.
My church has been going through this book via Sunday morning services and weekly small group meetings.  I read it before, when it first came out.

In the 40 chapters (designed to be read one a day for forty days), Pastor Warren covers the five purposes of our lives:

·         To worship

·         To be in a church community

·         To become more like Christ

·         To serve God through serving other believers

·         To share God’s love and salvation plan with the world

Having been raised in church and having a relationship with Jesus for all of my adult life, a  lot of what he says is basic and practical.  However, I know that I always appreciate the reminder.  Especially as I have a tendency to focus on one purpose (serving) that comes naturally and ignoring others (evangelism) that take more effort on my part.
It was a tune-up that was much needed. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Rosie Dunne - Cecelia Ahern

Synopsis from B&  From the bestselling author of PS, I Love You comes a delightfully enchanting novel about what happens when two people who are meant to be together just can't seem to get it right.

Okay, let’s just get it out of the way.  Why are European chick lit novels so full of profanity?  I just don’t understand it.

Whew!  Now that’s done, on to the rest…

I loved the format of this novel.  The whole story is told through a series of notes, letters, invitations, cards, emails, and chat.  You know, the way we tell our stories every day.  I loved the nuances and the misspellings and the quirkiness of it all.

I really was attached to the character of Rosie and was cheering her on…and groaning as she made various bad decisions.  I didn’t get as attached to Alex, but that is probably as the story has more of a focus on Rosie and her life.

It was a great bookclub choice for the month of love.  It was “enchanting”.   But, more than that, it was just plain fun to read.

Note:  This book was also published under the titles of Love, Rosie and Where Rainbows End.  Oh, and it’s slated to be released as a movie in 2013.  Hopefully they do a better job with it than they did Ahern’s P.S. I Love You (loved the book; the movie was just okay).

Sunday, January 29, 2012

When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You - Dr. David Hawkins

Synopsis from B&N:  Christians are called to be servants. But people who forfeit their God-given calling and identity in order to please others move from servanthood to codependency. How can they get back on track? Clinical psychologist David Hawkins offers a Christian perspective on healthy relationships and the pitfalls of being a people pleaser

Readers will resonate with the real-life illustrations of people who no longer know what they think, want, or feel. Suggestions for redirecting unhealthy relationships empower readers to rediscover their own value and personal contribution.

This book was so simple yet so profound.  People pleasing is something I have regularly struggled with.  And more recently I find myself swinging between pleasing and doing everything possible not to please.

There are definitely areas in life where I struggle more than others.  This book helped me to pinpoint that and reminded me that boundaries are a good thing – even when others don’t respond in a positive way to them.  However, I can’t enforce my personal boundaries unless I first determine what they are.  And that the boundaries can change during different seasons of life.

Definitely one to read.

A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Synopsis from B&N:  Sara Crewe, a pupil at Miss Minchin's London school, is left in poverty when her father dies, but is later rescued by a mysterious benefactor.

I love Sarah.  Frances Hodgson Burnett paints her as such a likable, precocious child.  You can’t help but fall in love with her and feel for her. 

The book is full of wonderful descriptions of London and its fog; the opulence and the poverty.

This story is definitely staying on the “keep” shelf.  Now if I could just get either of my girls to be interested in reading it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Longing - Karen Kingsbury

Synopsis from B&N:  While Bailey Flanigan wrestles with feelings for Brandon Paul, Cody Coleman's work coaching a small-town football team has brought him and his players national attention. In the midst of the celebration and success, Cody finds himself much closer to a woman who seems to better understand him and his new life. Even so, never does much time go by without Bailey and Cody experiencing deep feelings of longing for each other, longing both for the past and for answers before they can move forward.

Bailey and Cody…the saga continues.  This story took some twists I did not anticipate. 

I was sad for Bailey that her run on Broadway ended…and a little disappointed that she gave up on Broadway so soon.  Brandon still seems a bit too good to be true to me.  But perhaps that’s just my cynical side talking.  And, of course, I’m always rooting for Cody. 

Although this story was really good at revealing some of Cody’s flaws and showing more of his self-actualization.

As always, I enjoyed the glimpses into Baxter family life.  And the dynamic between the characters. 

Waiting for the next one, Loving, to come out in March.  I think I know who Bailey decides on in the end…but I could be wrong.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Burn - Ted Dekker

Synopsis from B&N:  The past Janeal thought had burned away is rising from the ashes.
Years ago, the Gypsy Kumpania where Janeal Mikkado lived was attacked by outsiders. With her best friend about to be consumed by a fire, Janeal had two options: try to save her friend--at serious risk to her own life--or disappear with the million dollars that she had just discovered .

But the past is quickly coming back to haunt her. Both the best friend and the boyfriend that she was sure were dead have reappeared in her life, as has someone who knows about the money. There's a debt to be paid for the money she found, but there's an even greater debt she must face--and if the chaff isn't burned from her own heart, it will consume her.

I am a pretty decent Ted Dekker fan.  Not as much as my husband (who I had read one of Dekker’s books while were dating), but I’ve read – and been fascinated by – most of his allegory works. 
The story in Burn was engaging.  I read it quickly and enjoyed the story and the characters.  I could feel Janeal’s struggle throughout the text.
I was a little disappointed by the end.  If you are a fan of Dekker, you know there is always a big “reveal” that ties everything together and explains the allegory.
I had set myself up for the disappointment, though, by not remember it was a co-authored book with Erin Healy.  As she describes her stories, they are more “fables”.  That is, stories that explore a character’s choices.  And had I kept that in mind, I would have avoided the slight disappointment.
I appreciated the story and the true life lesson that undergirded it all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Bystander - James Preller

Synopsis from B&N:  Eric is the new kid in seventh grade. Griffin wants to be his friend. When you’re new in town, it’s hard to know who to hang out with—and who to avoid. Griffin seems cool, confident, and popular.  But something isn’t right about Griffin. He always seems to be in the middle of bad things. And if Griffin doesn't like you, you’d better watch your back. There might be a target on it.

As Eric gets drawn deeper into Griffin’s dark world, he begins to see the truth about Griffin: He’s a liar, a bully, a thief. Eric wants to break away, do the right thing. But in one shocking moment, he goes from being a bystander . . . to the bully’s next victim.

Starting third quarter, we will be reading through this book with our Advisory classes.  So I figured I should probably read it first.  And I was pretty impressed with this.

Preller doesn’t take a one-dimensional approach to his bully characters.  They are complicated, just like real people and real life are.  You feel sorry for Eric.  And mad at Eric.  And mad a Griffin.  And a little bit sorry for him too. 

I also like that he tackles the bystander issue as well.  Some people are outright bullies.  But it is just as wrong (and contributes to bullying) when others stand around and do nothing.

And there is no true and final conclusion.  Because, again, bullying in real life just isn’t like that. 

I think that it is a great approach that looks at all angles of the “bullying problem”.  I see a lot of potential for good dialogue with the students in class. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Synopsis from Barnes & Noble:  Wuthering Heights is a novel by Emily Brontë published in 1847. The title of the novel comes from the Yorkshire manor on the moors of the story. The narrative centres on the all-encompassing, passionate but doomed love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys them and many around them.

If you’ll recall from my reading of Jane Eyre, I had the plot confused with Wuthering Heights.  Well, there should be no danger of that happening in the future as I just spent the last two weeks slogging through Wuthering Heights.

I understand it’s a classic.  But I really don’t get the “timeless love story” of a lot of the reviews.  I think that Bronte does everything in her power to make you dislike all of her characters.  Yes, all of them.  There was not a single character that I felt empathy or kindness towards.  They all seemed to either be spoiled or evil…sometimes both.  Also probably part of my prejudice is I’m not big on ghosts and such. 

Cathy loved Heathcliff.  I’m pretty certain she would have married him if he would have approached her regarding it.  Clearly their love for each other was deep and abiding.  Heathcliff was wrong to run off; Cathy was even more wrong to marry someone she didn’t love.

Their love was all-consuming as was the desire and carrying out of revenge. 

The story was dark and depressing.  But at least now I won’t get the two novels confused.