I still have a blog?!

OK, so I didn’t blog this summer.

I was a lot busier than I expected.  I took a part time job which was a lot of fun but didn’t leave me with much free time.  When I wasn’t working, I was travelling, which was also delightful.  But I did find lots of time to read.

I’m trying to begin an independent reading program in my classroom this year, so I tried to (and am trying to) read more Young Adult titles.  I also listened to three audio books as part of my marathon training (which is going really poorly, thanks for asking!).  I had a few titles to re-read for summer reading and I was able to sneak in lots of books that just sounded interesting.  Since I’m already so far behind in blogging, I’m going to give a quick, few sentence review of each of the books I read.  I may end up expanding later on, but for now I’d rather move on to what I’m currently reading!

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

4/5 stars–I finished this book in one school day (when I should have been packing up my classroom).  I really liked it.  I liked that it was told from a boy’s point of view.  I don’t read many books from a male perspective, but I think this one was really captivating and well done.  I didn’t particularly like the ending.  I thought the onus of guilt and responsibility ended up being misplaced, but that’s all I’ll say about that.  Will definitely be a student favorite this year.

Two Kisses for Maddie by Matt Logelin

2/5 stars.  I really liked the beginning of this book.  I thought it was heartbreaking, and I wanted to feel terrible for Matt Logelin.  The issue was that I didn’t.  I didn’t like him.  I thought he was kind of a hipster jerk.  The beginning of the book was captivating and lovely, and the rest felt a bit lewd for the sake of lewdness.  Not my cup of tea.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

5/5 stars.  I loved this book.  LOVED it.  I’ve been a big Patchett fan since I saw her do a reading in 2005.  I think this is my favorite of her books.  It had everything I liked about Heart of Darkness and characters that felt realistic and complicated.  This is one I’ll write a full review of, because it was that delightful.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

3/5 stars.  My hopes were so high for this book and The Magicians, both of which were recommended by NPR as Harry Potter for grown ups.  Telling the story of a group of Classics students at a small Vermont college, this book had a lot of promise.  The biggest issue was that it was a murder mystery whose mystery was given up almost immediately.  There was never anything actually mysterious.  There was a moment when I thought the creepily involved professor might be playing a more sinister role, but the novel just fell short.  It was fun to read some of the allusions, but this was overall disappointing.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

4/5 stars.  My love of Malcolm Gladwell is no secret.  Outliers was one of the choices I gave students for summer reading this summer (along with Gladwell’s other books and a slew of other non-fiction titles), and I was excited to see how this compared to The Tipping Point and Blink.  I really enjoyed Outliers.  I think it was a lot quicker to read than Blink and, like his other books, it left me with a lot to think about.  My quibble would be that it was a bit repetitive and some of the revelations weren’t exactly earth-shattering.  Still, Gladwell once again caused me to think about something in a different way, so kudos to him.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (audio)

5/5 stars.  I loved listening to this book on my runs.  Telling the tale of Todd Hewitt, the last boy in Prentisstown on New World, Ness brings up issues of knowledge, power, identity and gender.  The characters were well-drawn and multi-dimensional; Todd’s dilemmas always felt real and motivated.  I’m listening to the second book in the trilogy now and I plan to get paper copies for the classroom.  I think they’ll be big favorites.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

2/5 stars.  Another NPR suggestion, and another disappointment.  The Magicians tells the story of Quentin who is a math prodigy obsessed with the Fillory books (a magical series that is a cross between The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter).  On the day he is supposed to interview for Princeton he is recruited to a magical college and discovers that magic and Fillory are real.  The premise was so promising.  Unfortunately, Grossman crammed multiple books into one.  He never really explained the rules of the magical society and things are too undefined for the fantasy to be realistic.  Plus, the characters are completely unlikeable.  Quentin pretty consistently reminded me of Ignatius J. Reilly, and I had to remind myself that he was supposed to be the hero.  I’m all for protagonists that are complicated, but Quentin was just boring and arrogant.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling

I listened to both of these with my husband as we drove to visit friends and ran.  I have obviously read them before, but he hadn’t.  It was really a lot of fun to listen to them with him and to get his reactions and questions as he went along.  It made me jealous that he got to experience them for the first time!  The experience also clearly made me want to reread the rest of the series.

So that was my summer reading!  With school starting next week, my schedule will hopefully become a little more regulated, allowing me to blog more often.  I’m currently reading (or listening to) several books, so be on the lookout for (hopefully) many new reviews!

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