Monday, July 7, 2014

June Reads

My goal for summer vacation was to read 20 books... so far I'm off to a pretty good start! Here's what I read last month:

1. A Lion Called Christian by Ace Bourke and John Rendall
A student loaned this to me at the beginning of the month. It's the true story about two men who adopted a lion cub in London in 1969. They named him Christian and he lived in their flat and in the shop the two men worked in. When Christian go too big for Londan, they began working to get Christian returned to Africa and his wild roots. A year after returning him to Africa, the two men went to visit. The youtube video of their reunion is stunning. While parts of this book were a little boring, the overall story of these men and their "pet" lion is incredible. There are some awesome picture inserts of Christian as he grew which gives you a huge appreciation of what it was like to keep a lion in the middle of a city. 

2. The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell
This is one of those random books that I found on my Overdrive app and decided to was a mistake. I know that this book is aimed at highschool/college girls, but it was just painful to read. So painful that I actually didn't finish it; and I NEVER give up on books. It just felt like page after page of girl drama and I just wanted to scream at Carrie to grow a back bone and get a clue. Clearly I have no patience for teenage girls.

3. Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall
This was another book on Overdrive that caught my eye, but I ended up enjoying it. It's the autobiography of Elissa Wall who grew up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Elissa tells about what it was like growing up in a polygamous family, being forced to marry her first cousin at the age of fourteen, and how she left the church eventually when she couldn't take it anymore. I found this book fascinating and repulsive. Like Elizabeth Smart's book, it's fascinating to see what others have gone through from their own perspective. It's eye-opening to see that these things can be happening right under all of our noses, and we are none the wiser. It's repulsive to think that there are people who claim to be prophets and subject young girls to abuse and rape in the name of faith. While parts of the book are slow and repetitive (she spends a lot of time discussion the tension that occurred between her father and his 3 wives), it's definitely a worthwhile read.

4.  The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
I love science fiction, and I love this book. I've read it before, but it's been years and I wanted to read it again. For those of you who haven't heard of it, Ember is a city that is slowly dying. The power keeps going off for longer and longer periods, food and materials are becoming scarce, and uncertainty is increasing for all. The people of Ember have been taught that they are the only city in the world, and believe that there is no way out of it's decaying infrastructure.  A young girl named Lina dreams of city that is clean and not falling apart. She works together with her friend Doon to try to find a way out of their city and bring hope to the people of Ember. I love this book because it's well written, the characters grow and change and it's thoughtful. My students love reading this book every year and it's a book I always recommend.

5. Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix
I've mentioned before that I love Haddix's books. They're well written and thoroughly engaging. This book I started reading as a read aloud to my 5th graders, but we ran out of time before school ended. As dismissal was going on the last day of school, I had 4 or 5 kids frantically skimming the last couple of pages because they HAD to know what happened. Personally I thought the first half of this book was phenomenal and the second half was okay. In the beginning there is all this mystery, uncertainty and suspicion that pulls you in and keeps you reading. However, once you start to get the answers, it doesn't have the same pull. Still interesting, but it becomes a little far-fetched and anticlimatic. Still a great read overall, but not the ending I was looking for. 

6. Heat Wave by Nancy Thayer
A women who I went to a breastfeeding support group with when Fynn was a newborn recommended this book on her blog. Her name is Katie and you'll probably love her blog. Anyway. This is a perfect summer, beachy read. It's full of romance, drama, and the unexpected. Carly appears to have the perfect life, until it all unravels in an instant when her husband suddenly dies. As she slowly puts her life back together and figures out what she wants out of life, you see all the things she was missing in her "perfect" life before. 

7. The One by Kiera Cass
I'm pretty sure I squealed when I got the e-mail from the library that this book was waiting for me. I've been on the wait list there for almost 2 months and dying to read this, the 3rd and final installment of The Selection series. (Read my review of books 1 & 2 here). At this point, Maxon is down to 4 girls who are vying for his love (and the crown). America Singer, one of the four girls, has discovered that she does love Maxon, but she's not sure how to say it without risking everything. Meanwhile the king does not approve of America after several stunts that have won her favor with the people, but not with him. I read this entire book in less than a day, because I just couldn't put it down. I loved the development of Maxon and America's relationship as well as the tension created by the two sets of rebels who keep breaking into the palace. My favorite part of this whole book was that it didn't end how I had expected. I mean, yes, some parts were predictable, but there were elements that I never could have foreseen, but that still made perfect sense to the story line.

8. The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
*Spoiler- don't read this if you don't want to know what happens at the end of The City of Ember*
This is the second in the Ember series. In this book the people of Ember have emerged from underground to discover... well, not much. They travel for days before reaching the settlement of Sparks. Initially they are greeted warmly and provided and food and shelter. However, as their stay continues, the people of Sparks start to worry about food supplies and whether their community can handle and influx of 400+ people who don't know much about the world. Tensions build and it appears that war between the two groups of people may be inevitable. I like The People of Sparks a lot, but it's not as good as the City of Ember. I found myself unable to put down Ember, but Sparks was something that I had to remind myself to read at certain points because I wasn't enjoying it as much. I liked seeing what happened to the character of Ember, but if this was a stand alone book I probably wouldn't have read it. 

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