Do these Count?

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I am not going to make my goal of 40 books. However, I did read a lot this year…I started books that I just couldn’t finish and I read a lot of short stories and poems. I wonder if they could count even though, they were only a page long in some cases. I thought I would list them and instead of giving a review – just a 1-5. 1 being don’t bother and 5, you should definitely read for yourself. In my completed section – I will just list the anthology that I read with the number of pieces. That will make three more books to before January 1st!

Short Stories 

“The Parable of the Prodigal Son” – The Bible  – 2

“The Story of an Hour” – Kate Chopin – 5

“The Lady with the Dog” – Anton Chekhov – 2

“Hills Like White Elephants” – Ernest Hemingway – 4

“A & P” – John Updike – 4

 “Paul’s Case” – Willa Cather – 5

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” – Joyce Carol Oates – 4

“The Lesson” – Toni Cade Bambara – 3

“Saboteur” – Ha Jin – 4

 “Happy Endings” – Margaret Atwood – 4

Poetry

“My Papa’s Waltz” – Theodore Roethke – 4

“Those Winter Sundays” – Robert Hayden – 4

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” – Robert Frost – 4

“Because I could not stop for Death” – Emily Dickinson  – 5

“I heard a Fly Buzz ~ when I died” – Emily Dickinson – 4

“Wild Nights–Wild Nights!” – Emily Dickinson – 3

“Acquainted with the Night” – Robert Frost – 3

“Out, Out~” – Robert Frost – 2

“The Road Not Taken”  – Robert Frost – 5 (re-read this one slowly – I promise it has a different meaning than you think)

“Loveliest of trees, the cherry now” – A. E. Housman – 5

Plays 

 Trifles – Susan Glaspell – 3

Sure Thing – David Ives – 2

Poof! – Lynn Nottage – 2

A Doll House – Henrik Ibsen – 5

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One perfect lie – Lisa Scottoline

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I love these kind of books – obviously. The mystery and intrigue keep me turning page after page until my eyes can’t see anymore. I usually finish them in a few days, neglecting  import things, like dishes.

In this book Chris Brennan is working as a high school teacher and coach. On paper, he looks like the perfect guy. However, Chris isn’t who he says he is. The story focuses around three kids, a loner, a rich kid, and a troubled teen all with their own secrets. There is a plot in place to cause some sort of destruction on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and Chris is at the center of it. Is he trying to help one of the kids do it? Is he trying to enlist one of them to help him? Or is he trying to prevent it? The reader is left wondering while lies and secrets come pouring in from all the families.

This novel, as I said, leaves you turning pages and wanting more. It is a fast paced, heart thumping novel and is a fine example of how wonderfully Lisa Scottoline weaves a story.

I would recommend to lovers of: Lisa Scottoline, Stephen King, Lisa Jackson…, mystery and fiction lovers as well thriller and suspense lovers.

Wonder – R.J. Palacio

My son was reading this book for school. He isn’t an active reader by any stretch. In fact, because of the time reading, forced reading and, I will admit, iPad generation that he is in, reading isn’t something he does voluntarily. There have been a few books that have grabbed his attention, The Weird School Series by Dan Gutman. The Dairy of  Wimpy Kid Series by Jeff Kinney. To some extent The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling – but those books tend to be a bit too dense. So, when I come home and see him reading instead of playing on his iPad, I feel the whole Earth has stopped. I want to buy the author dinner. Of all the books my son has read, he has never asked me to read one. He will tell about the books, the characters, if he likes them or not. But he won’t come into my room and cry on my shoulder because of something that happened in the book. This book did all that…and more. My son read this book night and day and talked about it when he wasn’t reading. When he was finished, he asked me to read it and I was happy to. I wanted to know the story that gripped my son so tightly. I wanted to know more about the story that I am sure will be THAT book, that he refers to when asked which book was his favorite from childhood. I am so glad I read it.

This story is narrated by many different characters in the story. It follows the life of an extraordinary little boy named August. August was born with a birth defect, where his face is deformed. After years of surgeries and therapies, he is ready to go to a real school after being homeschooled by his mother. This would be a wonderful thing, if it wasn’t also the start of middle school. Middle school is, as some of us remember, quite the minefield. So if someone looks different, kids can be pretty mean about it. Some adults can be too, to be honest. Throughout this entire book though, you see August’s strength, his courage, his fears, his kindness, his compassion, his humor, and his desire to be just like everyone else. You see other kids compassion and kindness come out, because they know him. Because they have become friends with him and because he is who he is. You see a world you may not be privy to in your own life, and are able to feel for just a moment what it would be like in August’s shoes, or his parents, or his friends. There is one quote in this book that I think sums the entire thing up: “It’s like people you see sometimes, and you can’t imagine what it would be like to be that person, whether it’s somebody in a wheelchair or somebody who can’t talk. Only, I know that I am that person to other people.”

This kid knows he is differnt, he knows that when people see him they see his difference first, he knows people are thankful they don’t have it, or their kids don’t. Yet he is still so sweet, so caring, so brave, so beautiful. This book is a lesson in inner beauty and how, you may have won the genetic lottery on looks, but being kind is a choice, and being kind is much more beautiful than being born with pretty face.

I would recommend the book to everyone. Everyone should read this and everyone should have their kids read it. It was a beautifully told, wonderful story about love and friendship. Kindness and forgivness. About life and all the things that make us the same and the wonderful things that make us different.

The Girl who was taken – Charlie Donlea

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This was one of those stories that had you second guessing every single character right to the very end. I was so sure the antagonist was five different people at any one time. The author would expertly feed the reader clues and false trails so that by the end…well you will just have to read the book.

This is a story of two missing girls. Both go missing the same night, both go to the same school and are the same age. One makes it home and the other doesn’t. As the story unfolds you get insight from the one of the missing girls sister, Livia and insight from one of the missing girls, Megan. As Livia searches and searches for answers to help find her missing sister, she ends up going down a dark road that brings up more questions that it answers. The man she thought responsible is dead, and the trail for any other suspect is cold. Until she recruits some unlikely helpers and starts to piece things together. The answers she finds may not be the ones that she is ready to hear.

This story takes a few twists and turns, it grips you and stays with you when you are unable to read it, and it has a lot of great medical detail that I always enjoy. I would recommend to anyone who enjoys fiction, mystery and suspense.

 

Do not become alarmed – Maile Meloy

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I read this book in one day. Okay one day and a few hours. I could not put it down. I absolutely love books that suck you in and don’t let go and also end well. Often times I feel that when a book as such a gripping beginning and middle, the end seems to come up abruptly. You are left turning pages wondering what happened. This book delivered a gripping beginning, a thrilling and nonstop middle with a satisfying conclusion.

In this story, two families set off for a holiday cruise. They meet another family on the trip and the parents hit off as do the kids. The cruise line is supposed to be very safe, where the adults can do what they want and the kids have fun in the Kid Zone. However, it is made clear early on that, while security may seem like a number one priority, it isn’t always so. Kids easily go missing in the Kid zone for example. When they decide to participate in one of the land excursions, the families split up to make the most of the day. Some going zip lining while others go golfing. It is on this excursion that the parents experience every parent’s nightmare. What follows is fast paced account of what the children and parents are going through during the time. The story is actually narrated through multiple points of view, to give the reader a look into each person’s mind as they struggle with situation they have been thrown into. It is page after page of build-up, anxiety, relief and then repeat. It is chilling account of just how easy your life can go from snapshots of having fun to those same snap shots becoming final memories. I would say anyone who is a fan of mystery, family drama, horror, fiction, reading books about what could happen, or just love a fast paced book should read this one. I think I found another favorite author.

As a side note – have your trusty Spanish-English translator near by.

Always – Harry Potter Series J.K. Rowling

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It may seem like I have been slacking with my reading goal but I haven’t I promise. I started re-reading the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. I can’t tell you how many times I have read this series or how much I adore it. I actually wrote a collage essay about it. (shown below) I love all the underlying themes, the characters, the plots, the creatures, the imagery, the message. I love that when I read it as a teenager I felt one way and now, reading as a mother I feel a completely different way. I love that each time I read it, I feel happy, sad, triumphant, and thoughtful. I love that I find new things each time and I love that no matter how many times I read it, it still leaves me wanting more.

There isn’t much to say about the series, most people have read it, watched the movies (please read the books too the movies do nothing for them), or have at least heard the general plot. If you are so inclined – read my essay about how I feel it should be a classic. If you haven’t read the series yet, I implore you do to so. It may not be for everyone, but I feel like this series is for most. If you enjoy fiction, fantasy, adventure, love, magic, interesting creatures, humor, good vs evil, family, friendship, mystery, and more, than I think you will love this series. My husband sometimes asks if I will continue reading this series year after year and I respond to him, Always.

Creating a classic

 

“This above all: to thine own self be true” (Shakespeare 22)

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” (Dickens 1)

“Not all those who wander are lost.” (Tolkien 170)

Famous words by some of the greatest masters in literature. Shakespeare, Dickens, and Tolkien, all masters in their craft. One could ask, why? Why after hundreds of years, do scholars seek out their pages, searching for wisdom? Why do educators continue to use them as teaching tools? And, is it possible for others to be added to this elite list? Is it possible that a new author can join the club and become as sought out as those before them. That is what I would I like to answer today. One author, I believe, has done just that. I also believe that this author’s works will live for hundreds of years, be searched for by scholars and used for teaching, if it hasn’t already. I am talking about J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter Series.

People can laugh that a children’s series has no place among great works like Macbeth or Lord of the Rings. What possible comparison could be made of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and a Tale of Two Cities? Some might even find it insulting to compare such books to the tomes of the past. However, I hope to prove that J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter Series deserve a place among them.

When people think of great works in literature, they think of authors such as the ones listed above, or others Jane Austin, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Homer, Herman Melville and Mark Twain. Really the list goes on. Why do these stories stay with us long after the last page is turned? Why do we discuss them in dark coffee shops over herbal tea and expensive espresso? Why, when we reference something happening in our life do we compare it to them? I believe it is because the tales they tell are universal and fluid. No matter the age or time period people will always experience love, anguish, joy and discord. We will always feel some sort devotion whether to family or country or something else entirely. That is one of the main reasons these stories live on. As many times as you read something, you will always find something new. You are never the same when you read something a second, third or even the hundredth time. Each day brings new challenges, new experiences, new thoughts, dreams, etc. Some of the people, who started reading Harry Potter when they were children, are graduating college or starting families. Worlds away from where they were when they were first reading them. Characters that mean something to a person might change or evolve when you pick it up again years a later. Someone who might have wanted to be Harry’s friend may now side with Molly or Dumbledore.

Each of the Harry Potter books has its own theme, its own life so to speak. That has all the elements of the classics from the past.  In The Philosopher’s Stone, you see a boy that has been abused his whole life to find out that he is in fact a wizard. A giant man comes and tells him of his true identity, of another world that he is a part of. Harry walks through the door of a run-down shack in the middle of the ocean, trusting this stranger more than he trusts the people he has lived with for 10 years. He walks through that door and into his future adventures much the same way the Bilbo Baggins walked through his hobbit hole door and followed Gandalf on their grand adventure. In the Chamber of Secrets, Harry and his friends discover a part of the castle that had been searched for by many. In this story, we see Harry risk his life for his best friend’s sister. We see Harry who, despite being abused and mistreated in his early life, has amazing compassion, empathy and love. He would throw his life down for a little girl and never think twice about it. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry is ever so briefly offered a better life than the one he has experienced so far. He could live with his father’s best friend, only to have that taken away from him. Yet again though, we see Harry’s resilience and compassion. As the books go on we see darker themes emerge. Death of school mates, death of loved ones, and the rise of an evil villain who seems to only care about the destruction of Harry. Harry, thinking that he will be taught or shown some particular way of destroying this monster for good, is told that they only thing he possesses that Voldemort doesn’t, is love. It takes Harry until the final book to realize that love is a lot more powerful than hate. Love is something you die for, something you live for, something you sacrifice for. Love is everything while hate is nothing. Harry goes and meets his death for his friends, his loved ones, and all the people who died before him. It is in that moment that as a reader, we realize that love and the human condition are really driving themes of this series. Love showed Harry the way in the mirror of erised, love was prevalent in the chamber of secrets when Harry sacrificed himself for Ginny. Love was finding a new link to his parents in Prisoner of Azkaban. Love was risking his life to bring a classmate home after Voldemort killed him in Goblet of Fire. Love forced Harry to again risk his life to save a loved one in Order of the Phoenix. Love was Harry avenging the death of mentor in Half-Blood Prince and love was what almost destroyed him in Deathly Hallows.

If you look even deeper into the series you will see that it isn’t all about Harry and his compassion and his ability to love either. J.K. Rowling shows us the complexity of humanity in multiple characters. How love could make Hermione erase her parent’s memories so they would be safe.  Hermione also showed us amazing strength of character, her fierceness, her heart, and her strength in the face of all that she faces in this series.  Love destroyed Snape, turning him into the villain we loved to hate, until we knew the depth of his suffering. Snape’s character is one of the more complex in the entire series. How unrequited love can literally destroy a person, turning them into a shadow of who they were. Love, compassion and a decent sense of humor drives the Weasley family in so many ways. Each character could really get their own paper because each one has a story to tell.

In an article from the Wall Street Journal Oona Eisenstaedt’s has this to say about why Harry Potter was a classic, “Insight into the human condition” ( De Visa, Daniel), and that is exactly why I think Harry Potter deserves its place among the great works of literature. It shares that common theme that Romeo and Juliet had, that Great Expectations and Moby Dick and Huckleberry Finn were famous for. Insight into the human condition. A theme that never grows old.

If the content of the books wasn’t enough, I believe the fans of Harry Potter have turned it into a classic. A story that, because of their devotion will be passed down for generations and generations. Even if the books themselves don’t get the prestige of “classic”. There have been stories about Harry Potter saving people’s lives, people finding strength they didn’t know they had because of Harry or another character in the series. The series deals with some heavy stuff; bigotry, bullying, love, hatred, revenge, death, and acceptance; each of these are things children and teens experience. They identify with Harry and the rest of the characters, find comfort and strength and the will to keep going. If one needs evidence of how deeply the Harry Potter series has touched its fans, I ask you to read an article written in the Telegraph shortly after the awful tragedy that happened in an Orlando nightclub. One of the kids that was murdered worked at Harry Potter World. A eulogy was held and fans turned out to pay their respects. They raised their wands like the wizards did after Dumbledore died, until the dark mark was no longer visible. A quote from Dumbledore was repeated there and in twitter and Instagram feeds that covered it: “”Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” (Alice Vincent)  Another testament to the fans devotion came upon the news of Alan Rickman’s death, the man who played the iconic Professor Snape; fans all over the world raised their “wands” to pay tribute. (Megan McCluskey)

Whether it is the stories themselves, or the way the people who read them relate to them, there is really no denying that Harry Potter has truly become a classic of its age. The reoccurring themes of all manner of human emotions is evident in all the classics from the past. From love destroying Romeo and Juliet, to compassion saving an old man in A Christmas Carol or simply finding friendships in the oddest of place like in Lord of the Rings. The Harry Potter Series possesses all those qualities and more importantly, insight into the human condition. That is why I believe it deserves to sit with great works from the past.

 

Unbreakable – Will McIntosh

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I really enjoyed this novel. I went through a few books that I started and just couldn’t finish, so I was so glad when I found out that this one was available for Kindle download.

The story follows Celia as she discovers that everything she knows about the world and her life has been a lie. She lives in a walled-in town called Record Village, where all the inhabitants have to compete to break records, like longest to go without sleeping, or holding your breath, or eating hot dogs. When you break a record you and your team get rewarded with food and lodging. If you don’t break the record, then its possible you and your team have to live in squalor. When Celia’s close friend, who has been like a mother to her, needs medication that Celia thinks she can only get beyond the walls of her village, Celia doesn’t think twice about. Problem is, no one has ever gotten out and come back to talk about it.

On her journey she finds new friends, the truth of her existence, her town, and everyone in it. The truth ends up being much more horrible than she could have imaged.

I think this is good novel for anyone who enjoys science fiction or dystopian novels. Will McIntosh is an excellent storyteller that leaves the reader excited for each new chapter.