Blog Hop and Follow Friday (10)



Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted at www.parajunkee.com.

This week's question is: Do you judge a book by it's cover?


I hate to admit it, but I am guilty of choosing books based on their covers. The cover usually grabs my attention... I mean, that is why people in marketing and design have jobs, right? If it looks good visually, I'll read the synopsis. Ultimately, the story is what convinces me. If the story doesn't sound like it will hold my attention, I won't bother with it.

When I choose books for my classroom I make sure they look interesting. I know my kids won't touch them if they aren't "cool." It's really sad, but it's a fact of (classroom) life.


I'm going to the International Reading Association Conference!

I had to share this with someone. I am way too excited to keep it to myself. I figured book lovers would appreciate the level of awesomeness of this event. I went to the National Council of English Teachers conference in November (which is where I scored my entire TBR bookshelf.... still reading those). Now, I get to go to an International level conference. (squealing with delight here) I can't wait to see what books I'll score now. Last time I got Lost Voices, Delirium, Angel Burn, Haven, Cryer's Cross, Reckless, Eona, Numbers #2Anna and the French Kiss, Shine, Where She Went and a "few" others. Oh, and I met Lois Lowry and the Vladamir Todd author (by accident, but worth it). =)


This time I get to meet my son's favorite author: Jeff Kinney. He's going to be thrilled. Oh, and I get to go for FREE!!


Okay, all bragging is out of my system now. Thanks for indulging. Now, let the countdown begin. (I hope my car can carry it all back. I ran out of room last time.)


Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Carrie Ryan

Reading level: Young Adult


Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (March 10, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0385736819
Source: My own personal book



Synopsis from back cover: In Mary’s world, there are simple truth. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.


But slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.


Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death?


My Review: I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I can’t say that I loved it. In fact, I’m a little disappointed. I have been reading so many raves about this series, that I just knew it would be great. And the first half of the book was great. Then, I spent 100 pages feeling as if I was reading the same story over again. It was too repetitive for me. I almost put the book back on my bookshelf to finish at a later time because I had lost interest. Luckily, the last 50 pages or so were interesting enough to make me want to finish reading.


Since I have mixed reviews, I should tell what I liked and disliked about the book. On a positive note, there was ample character development. More than ample, actually. I really felt like I knew Mary. She was a complicated character, constantly changing throughout the story. I loved that she was conflicted for almost the entire book. She did not have a simple life or easy choices to make, and the author made sure we understood that. The love triangle that she found herself was very complicated. (Complicated is an understatement, actually.) I also liked the fact that Mary knew what she wanted for her life (for the most part). She never gave up on wanting to see the ocean, even when everyone around no longer believed it existed. That really shows her commitment and courage. She holds the hope that the others do not have.


Another character that I liked was Travis. He was the broody male figure throughout most of the book. While he didn’t say much, he shows that actions speak louder than words. It’s easy to see how Mary fell deeply in love with him. What really makes me appreciate Travis’s role is that fact that he is a broken man. He’s not the typical strong, healthy hero. He has a lame leg that limits much of what he can do, even the simple things like climbing stairs. If he were strong and healthy like the others I don’t think his character would have worked as well. There needed to be something physically wrong with him to help illustrate Mary’s strong and dedicated character. They were the perfect support—in many ways—for one another.


Along with the characters, the idea behind the story was decent. I’m not much of a fan of postapocalyptic literature, but I bought in to this book. The “zombies” walking around trying to kill the humans held my interest. It was an original take on zombies, at least with my reading experience. Also, I enjoyed looking for the subtle hints of our civilization while I read (i.e. references to New York, Coney Island, roman numerals, Shakespeare). It helped me understand just how far into the future the events in the book were supposed to occur. But that’s pretty much where my fondness ends. The plot (for me) was only so-so. It started strong, but it fizzled in the middle. I began feeling like I was reading the same thing over and over again: “Oh, the Unconsecrated are coming!” “We have to turn back.” “Why?!” I can only read those lines so many times before they become stale. I understand the purpose—the characters’ questioning of themselves and their situation is crucial to the theme in the book—but I really feel like it was over done. In fact, what started as a quick paced plot began to lag in the middle of the book because of all the repetitiveness. As I said earlier, I almost gave up on the book. Luckily things do turn around and the plot picks back up. As soon as Mary makes her final decision, the plot picked back up. Unfortunately, that was the end of the book. There were only around 20 pages remaining in the book at that point.


Overall, it was a decent book. I’ve read many reviews that scream of how great this book is, but I’m not as quick to call it awesome. I feel a little guilty about pushing this book to my students based on the awesome book trailer we watched on YouTube. I know I am going to have to help the kids that bought the book from our book fair make it through the book. As a reader, if I struggled and wanted to give up, I’m certain my kids will feel the same way. It’s not as fast paced as I thought it would be, which I know will present a problem for kids that don’t typically like to read. On a positive note… I did start reading the sequel which seems pretty good so far. (I wasn’t ready to dismiss the other books in the series.)


In My Mailbox (6)


In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.


I didn't participate last week because I was on vacation. This week my mailbox is pretty simple. I’ve downloaded a few new e-books from NetGalley: Bumped and Die for Me. (I finished reading and reviewing Die for Me in a day… enjoyed it much.)


I also got a poetry book filled with poems about famous icons. Starbucks, eBay, Amazon, Uggs… Good stuff. It was a fun read. See the review here.  


Not sure if this counts as “new” books, but a student finally brought back a ton of my books that I had loaned her in the beginning of the year. I haven’t read any of them yet, so I count them as new. Two that look good are Missing by Catherine Macphail and Cloudy with a Chance of Boys by Megan McDonald. (Yep, the Judy Moody author.)

Review: Iconic Poetry

Iconic Poetry: Poems on Life’s Favorite Icons
Sara Lauritzen

Paperback: 68 pages

Publisher: Sara Lauritzen (March 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0983328609
ISBN-13: 978-0983328605
Source: Printed book from the author


This collection of poems makes you remember that poetry can be found in all aspects of our daily lives. I loved playing a guessing game with some of the poems, trying to guess which famous icon was being described in the short rhyming stanzas. In a typical review I give a short summary of the plot and talk about characters and such, but that doesn’t work for poetry. Instead, I’ve decided to write about the poems I enjoyed the most. After all, good poetry makes you ponder… and that’s exactly what I did while reading.


I enjoyed the poems in this collection for many different reasons. Some inspired the teacher in me to think of new ideas for teaching my students poetry, other poems made me think about myself and my kids. The poems weren’t lengthy and they also rhymed, which added a sense of whimsy to the writing. I must admit, there is something about a rhyme scheme that makes a poem fun to read. Also, I appreciate the mature command of language and the unique writing style evident in the poetry. This collection of poems is worthy of shelf space in my library.

Like literature, poetry that can make you connect to the words on paper is powerful. My first connection was with the poem “Face on the Wall.” If you can’t guess from the title, the poem was about Facebook. I’m fairly new to the social networking market myself, but I could relate to the poem wholeheartedly. The description of “posting” in the poem was humorous (to me at least). I could picture the people I know having a battle to post the most thought provoking or random remarks possible in order to get comments back from “friends.” It’s like a cyber popularity contest. The social networking market is not limited to just Facebook. We certainly can’t forget about Twitter, the new wave of connectedness. Don’t worry, there is a poem about that as well. “A Little Bird Told Me” is dedicated to the power of Tweets. With the new wave of cell phones on the market, it’s easier than ever to have access to the internet at all times of the day. We are no longer bound to check in from a computer. (Hence the power of Twitter and the like.) In one instant your day can be made or ruined via the equivalent of note passing for the 21st century. As the poem states, “make sure you’re good with the bird on all fronts/ The bird tweets the way, and the bird can be blunt.” I just loved that line. For me, it proves the power behind texting and all forms of social media.

Other connections I had with the poems came from “Drink of All Times” and “Cheesy Delight.” Now personally, I’m not a fan of sodas or macaroni and cheese. My metabolism protests both culinary delights. But my family, however, does not feel the same way. My husband is addicted to carbonated drinks, his favorite being Coke. He hates Diet Coke because he says it has no taste, but he raves of Coke Zero. Naturally, I chuckled when I read the lines “Along came Zero to out-do Diet/ But I need my sugar or I’ll cause a riot.” In two simple lines his philosophy of life was captured. The poem “A Drink of All Times” fits him perfectly. “Cheesy Delight” was a poem suitable for my youngest son. The only thing he wants to eat is macaroni and cheese. Although I’m not a fan of the snack, the wonderful descriptions of my toddler’s food of choice made my mouth water. I could almost imagine macaroni being a gourmet dish at a five star restaurant! Finally, “Fairytale Wishes” spoke of my sister-in-law. She is in love with all things Disney. (This is something we share, actually.) We always joke about how we would spend all of our spare time at Disney if our families would allow us. It only seems fitting that the lines “If that brave Prince would kiss me/ I’d live happily ever after at Disney” remind me of my sister-in-law. They were penned for her it seems!

While most of the icons in the poetry were well known, there was one poem that featured a less known monument: The Burj Al Arab in Dubai. I admit, I had to look up an image to fully understand the descriptions. I instantly recognized the building, but I never knew the name. However, that’s not what impressed me with the poem. The descriptions of the Burj Al Arab were phenomenal. Lines like “An interior surreal, luxurious and bold/ Colors vividly aqua, blue and gold” were just some of the descriptions that helped me picture this magnificent piece of architecture. Honestly, this is the poem that kicked in my “teacher mode.” As I was reading I thought this would be the perfect poem to read aloud to my students to practice visualization. I also thought about using it to teach descriptive writing and poetry. How fun it would be to have them take a well known icon and describe it in a poem! Even though I have no personal connection with this poem, it was one of my favorites because it holds a real-life purpose for me. The other poems were fun, but this one has a lasting impression since I can use it in my classroom.


Overall, Iconic Poetry was a quick and enjoyable read. If you enjoy whimsical poems, you would enjoy this collection. I laughed at some of the descriptions in the poems because they reminded me of myself and people I know. Finding elements of myself in the poems (like the addicted eBay shopper) was great. It shows me that poetry can be found in all aspects of our lives. Maybe the next time I’m at Wal-Mart or waiting in traffic I will remember this and pen my own little bit of iconic poetry.







 

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