Sunday, July 30, 2017

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age

Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age is by Sherry Turkle. READ THIS BOOK - I mean it, seriously, EVERYONE read this book. This book takes on our technology addiction and its consequences for society in a very readable and understandable way. Turkle does not want us to get rid of technology, but to use it in a way that doesn't destroy our ability to talk to and listen to one another. She provides quotes from students, business people, and others who really make you stop and think. This is a phenomenal read and one I plan to push on everyone I can. It is written in a way that even high school readers will be able to understand it and process the information. A Reader's Corner Highly Recommended Read.

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10.

Monday, July 24, 2017

When the Killing's Done

When the Killing's Done is by T.C. Boyle. Alma Boyd Takesue is a biologist for the National Park Service. She is leading the charge to remove invasive species from California's Channel Islands so that native species will have a chance at survival, and removal equals kill. Dave LaJoy is the head of a group who is trying to stop the government from killing the rats and feral pigs that are destroying the native species of fox and birds. This is a story of the battle between these two individuals to advance environmental causes in the way they each think is best. The story also flips back and forth in time to provide the backstory of Alma and other characters in the story. Although at times the writing is beautiful and the descriptions are exquisite, this novel just didn't do it for me. The story seemed fragmented and boring in places. As Auden would say, I can see it's good, but it's not for me. This should not discourage others from giving it a try.

Ratings: Adult - 2 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content) - V (violence).

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rip Tide

Rip Tide is by Kat Falls. The second book in the Dark Life series. When Ty's parents are kidnapped, he and Gemma must use all of their gifts to find them before it's too late. No one seems to care that his parents are gone or that entire townships are missing. Ty finds help from unlikely sources, but can any of them really be trusted and are they "really" trying to help him. If you enjoyed the first book, you will enjoy this one as well.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10 - V (violence).

The Brimstone Key

The Brimstone Key is by Derek Benz & J.S. Lewis. The first book in The Clockwork Chronicles series, which is a follow-up series to The Grey Griffins series. The Grey Griffins are now enrolled in Iron Bridge Academy, where "special" students learn to fight the forces of evil. Things, of course, are not as they seem and the Griffins must risk their lives to protect each other and the other students who are in danger from the dreaded Clockwork King. Fans of the first series will enjoy this one as well.

Ratings: 7th grade - 7 out of 10.

Alfred and Guinevere

Alfred and Guinevere is by James Schuyler. A strange, but fun, little novella about two siblings who have been sent to their grandparents' home for the summer. The story is told alternately by both children in various ways, including entries from Guinevere's diary and letters. This was presented as a children's book, but that doesn't seem correct. While the voices of the children are absolutely accurate for their ages, there are adult themes that run through the novel that are never fully explained. Their parents are having issues, but it is never clear why or if they are finally resolved. It sometimes takes concentration to follow who is speaking, but the banter between the kids is priceless and worth the effort. Anyone with a sibling will find at least one conversation they remember having.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath is by John Steinbeck. The classic historical fiction tale of the Joad family set during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl era. The Joads lose their farm in Oklahoma and with thousands of other families head for California where they believe they will find work. California, however, does not turn out to be the Promised Land of their dreams. While I don't like this novel as much as I do East of Eden, it is a must read classic. The story of the Joads is tragic from start to the horrifically sad finish. A Reader's Corner Highly Recommended Read.

Ratings: 11th grade - 9 out of 10 - AC (mature thematic content) - P (profanity).

The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust

The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust is by Lola Rein Kaufman. The true story of a Jewish child in Poland during WWII. After her parents were killed by the Nazi's, her grandmother arranges to smuggle Lola out of the ghetto and into the home of a woman named Anna who hides her. The book is written for younger readers so many of the brutal horrors of the War are glossed over, but readers will still feel for this small child who must struggle to find herself in a world that is not always a wonderful place. A good introductory novel of the Holocaust.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Adventures of the Greek Heroes

Adventures of the Greek Heroes is by Mollie McLean and Anne Wiseman. This is charming collection of the heroes of Greek mythology written for younger readers. It contains the stories of Hercules, Theseus, Perseus, Jason, and others. All have been edited for a younger audience. This is the perfect book to read to kids to introduce them to Greek mythology and its heroes.

Ratings: 5th grade - 8 out of 10.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Uncommon Reader

The Uncommon Reader is by Alan Bennett. This novella is a must read for anyone who loves reading. Bennett tells a charming fictionalized story of the Queen of England who by chance finds herself in a mobile library and feels compelled to leave with a book. She begins to read and evolves into a voracious reader, much to the chagrin of those around her. The way this book talks about reading will resonant with readers everywhere, and the humorous parts of the book that show how nonreaders view readers will be familiar to all voracious readers. The story also gives you an inside look at what it might be like to be royalty. You can read this novella in about two hours, which will be two hours well spent.

Ratings: 9th grade - 9 out of 10 - P (profanity).

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79

I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79 is by Lauren Tarshis. The tenth book in the I Survived series. A cute little historical fiction book that takes us back to ancient Rome. Marcus and his father are runaway slaves who just happen to find themselves in Pompeii on the day Mount Vesuvius erupts and destroys the city. This book may make young readers desire to learn more about the real incident and Tarshis provides a list of books to help the curious on their way.

Ratings: 5th grade - 7 out of 10.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes is by Edgar Rice Burroughs. The first book in the classic Tarzan series. Unless you have been living in a lead mine you know the story: Lord Greystoke and his pregnant wife are marooned in Africa. They die, but a "great ape" takes their child and raises it as her own to replace her own child who has died. Tarzan is raised in the jungle and becomes its ruler. When another group of Brits are marooned in his jungle, he falls for the beautiful Jane Porter. You will need to willingly suspend your disbelief at Tarzan's ability to teach himself to read and write English, though, of course, not to speak it - but all in all it's a quick and fun adventure read. If you have never read the book and only watched the movies, you need to read the book.

Ratings: 7th grade - 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Poor Clare

The Poor Clare is by Elizabeth Gaskell. This gothic novella is the story of a cursed girl and the lawyer who loves her. It is set during the social and political turmoil of Victorian England. It uses a family curse to demonstrate the harshness of class in English society and the tensions between Catholics and Protestants. When a gentleman kills the dog of a poor old woman, she utters a curse on his family that will come back to haunt her as well. A creepy, but powerfully written, story.

Ratings: 8th grade - 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Seafaring Lore & Legend: A Miscellany of Maritime Myth, Superstition, Fable, & Fact

Seafaring Lore & Legend: A Miscellany of Maritime Myth, Superstition, Fable, & Fact is by Peter D. Jeans. A rollicking romp through maritime history and legend. The book covers explorers, sea monsters, famous sea battles, mermaids, mutinies, fabled lands, and all manner of maritime superstition and lore. This would be a great entrance for boys into nonfiction, though girls will find it fun as well. The book is well-researched and footnoted, and ends with a lengthy bibliography for interested readers to pursue further.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke

The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke is by Theodore Roethke. A wonderful collection of Roethke's beautiful poetry. Some of his poems are funny, some are serious, all are worth reading. Some of his poems about nature are exquisite.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Denise Levertov: Poems 1960-1967

Denise Levertov: Poems 1960-1967 is by Denise Levertov. A very good collection of Levertov's poetry; fans of Levertov will love this collection. Those who have not yet experienced Levertov's poetry could do worse than starting here.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology is by Neil Gaiman. A wonderful collection of Norse mythology. Gaiman takes the tales from the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda, and makes them understandable and easy to read. We learn of the beginning of the gods, various stories of their adventures, and the end of the gods when Ragnarok comes. The stories of the strong, but not so bright, Thor; Loki, who is nothing but trouble and still manages to save the gods numerous times; and all the other gods of Norse mythology. A beautiful rendering of the stories central to Norse myths and legends.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10 - AC (some mature thematic content).

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Uprooted is by Naomi Novik. A fantasy tale based on Eastern European fairy tales. Agnieszka lives in a village next to the Woods that constantly try to destroy the humans who live near them. The villages close to the Woods rely on the wizard Sarkan, the Dragon, to protect them from the evil in the Woods. However, to assure this protection they must not only provide supplies, but every ten years they must also provide a young woman to serve him. Everyone in Agnieszka's village believe Sarkan will choose the beautiful Kasia, but he makes another choice instead, one which will change everything.

Ratings: 10th grade - 7 out of 10 - AC (some mature thematic content).

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Displacement: A Travelogue

Displacement: A Travelogue is by Lucy Knisley. The author of French Milk and Relish is back with another graphic memoir. This time Lucy is heading off on a Caribbean cruise with her 91 and 93-year-old grandparents. She wants them to have fun, but can she keep up with their needs. Her grandmother's memory is mostly gone and her grandfather's health is tenuous as well. Knisley weaves the story of the cruise with passages from her grandfather's journal written about his experiences in WWII. The memoir is sad and funny, and a reminder to all of us that mortality is never as far away as we would like. It also reminds us of the power of love and family. The artwork is beautifully drawn and the text is well written.

Ratings: 9th grade - 8 out of 10 - P (profanity).

The Elfstones of Shannara

The Elfstones of Shannara is by Terry Brooks. The second book in the Shannara series. The Ellcrys is dying; the Ellcrys is the magical tree which has protected the land of the Elves from the demons it's magic has kept banished for thousands of years. Even as the Ellcrys makes her Chosen aware she is dying, the Forbidding weakens and a few powerful demons break through determined to make sure the Ellcrys and her Chosen are destroyed forever. When the murder of the Chosen is discovered, the mysterious Druid Allanon returns to inform the elven king that one Chosen still lives; Amberle must be found and must embark on a quest to restore the Ellcrys. Allanon must stay behind to help the elves hold off the demon armies, so he sends Wil Ohmsford (grandson of the famous Shea Ohmsford and possessor of the magical Elfstones of Shannara which only he can wield) to protect Amberle on her quest. If you enjoyed The Sword of Shannara, you will enjoy this adventure as well. Lovers of Lord of the Rings will also enjoy this epic fantasy series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.