It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Another week has passed and I still love my life with books. This week I read two very different books: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares and Sold by Patricia McCormick.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

sisterhood-of-the-traveling-pantsIf you didn’t read this in high school like me, I would say you are missing out. I have always wanted to pick this book up and read it, except I never felt like I had the time and I was always reading other “stuff”. However, there was always this thing about sharing a pair of pants with your best friend that intrigued me. In middle school, I was that girl that would go to the mall with her friends and buy the same matching twin outfit. Then proceed to wear it to school on the same day. Sharing clothes was also something we did. When I think back to those times and memories I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit.

This book offers a lot for young adult readers. There are four uniquely different character all struggling with life. No doubt about it, almost everyone that reads this novel can say that they connected with one of the girls at some point in their life.

Bridget suffers from a mom that has passed away and over the summer attends a soccer camp where she feel the need to “push the limits”. Lena goes off to visit her Grandparents in Greece leaving behind all of her friends for the summer.  Carmen leaves to visit her father who shocks her with a new fiance and two of the lady’s kids! Finally, Tibby stays home to work, but befriends bailey who is sick with Leukemia.

Sold

soldThis particular novel is written in verse. It may sound difficult, but it really isn’t! This novel pulls the strings of you heart and leaves you emotionally unstable. Even though this story is fiction Patricia McCormick  spent a lot of time researching and interviewing girls that had been sold as sex slaves.

We meet a young girl early on in the novel, Lakshmi, living on a mountain side of Nepal. Her family is poor and suffers from a loss crop. Her step father decides that the only thing they could do to survive was to sell Lakshmi as a maid. Lakshmi loves her family and is willing to go to the city to work for them. When she reaches the city however, she soon figures out that she will suffer great abuse and heartache. But she’s a fighter until the very end!

Because McCormick has done so much research on the topic, readers really learn a lot about this specific culture. These things happen and they’re tough to write about, but also great to read!

As always, happy reading!

-A.

Readers’ Bill of Rights

In almost every hobby, sport, or activity there are rules and rights that are both written and unwritten. Reading is no different. Recently I read an article that lists out every single right (there could probably even be more) that readers – no matter the age – can practice.

Here are a few of my favorite readers rights:

The right to not finish.

When I was in high school I used to finish just about every single book I started. I felt like a failure if I didn’t finish. I also felt like I owe the author this much to finish his or her novel because they took the time to write it. I would always hold out hope that maybe it will get better at some point, but the ones I just didn’t connect with never did.

Now that i’m older, I have made it a point to not waste my time on books that don’t satisfy my “reading needs”. I read for enjoyment. That means, I don’t want to waste my time reading something I don’t like because there are so many books in the world that I WILL like.

So it’s okay not to finish. Don’t feel bad if you decide to take it back to the library or return it to a friend. Pick up a new book and try again.

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Photo CC-By Makunin

The right to read at your own pace.

I’m such a slow reader. Actually, I was probably one of the slowest readers in my class. I remember in high school feeling overwhelmed about the timed ACT reading portion of testing to get into college. I also remember when my teacher would hand out a reading article and have us silently read. It never failed that I was one of the last readers to lift my head up from the pages.

But here’s the thing. We have the right to read where we are comfortable reading. Just because i’m slow doesn’t mean i’m not a good reader, because I am. I enjoy to read slow enough. Reading fast just proves that our generation doesn’t know how to enjoy the little things and SLOW down. Life isn’t a race and neither is reading.

So. Feel free to read at your own pace. It really doesn’t matter if someone reads slower or faster than you… no one is counting your pages.

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Photo CC-By Comfreak

The right to read books published for different age levels.

This one is really funny to me. When I was in high school I read a lot of adult fiction novels. Now that i’m in college and 20 years old, I am reading A LOT of young adult literature. So that flip flopped.

But then two days ago something profound happened. I was babysitting and while I was babysitting I saw a stack of Junie B. Jones books sitting on top of the little girls’ dresser. Without even thinking I picked one of them up and started reading. I loved those books in elementary… and I STILL love them.

In the end, as long as you are reading enjoy it. It doesn’t matter what you’re reading as long as you are! Life with books is so much better – trust me.

-A.

 

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

This week I read a lot, which is obviously a great thing! I’m so excited to share these great novels with all of you!

Forged by Fire

I finished Forged by Fire by Sharon M. Draper from last week when I left you all a little information about the book, but not much! So let’s dive right into discussion.

forged-fire-160This is the story about Gerald. Gerald is an African-American three year old boy when we first meet him. His mother suffers from substance-abuse addiction and is constantly leaving him home alone. After a terrible encounter with a burning apartment Gerald is sent to live with his loving, fun Aunt Queen and his mother is sent to jail. Gerald grows to forget about the past and his mother until one day, she returns to get him. It is at this moment that Gerald finds out he has a little sister, Angel, and a step-father Jordan Sparks. Gerald goes to live with them and tragedy continues to strike. Life isn’t easy living under a roof with an abusive step-father like Jordan, and it surely isn’t easy when their mom chooses to not see the abuse. The ending is one you won’t forget.

This book is intense. I read through it quickly and couldn’t put it down. In some places it was difficult for me to even read because it was so realistic. You will fall in love with Gerald. He’s an amazing young man. I recommend this novel to any person willing to read it!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The next novel I read was Sherman Alexie’s novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Alexie is a Native American author and the story suggests the true life of an indian. I know what you’re all thinking, “That is the longest book title”. But really this book is so amazing in so many ways.

We meet the character Junior, who lives on the reservation. Except he decides to go to true-diaryschool with the “white kids” thirty miles away from the reservation. The novel is all about how he struggles internally about who he is as a person. It also discusses how he struggles against the white power structure of his high school. When he is on the reservation he is considered “half-white” but when he is at school he’s considered “half-indian”.

It’s a heart-wrenching, eye-opener about the Native-American culture. This book will bring about questions such as where hope comes from, the definition of pain and death, the power behind a sober Native-American, and whiteness. I loved every minute and every page of this novel. HIGHLY suggest it to any and every person.

Ella Enchanted

ella_enchanted_book_coverI read Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. This is your typical fairy tale, with the fairies, ogres, and of course Prince Charming. We meet Ella from the moment she is born and her spell is cast down on her from Lucinda. What is her curse you may ask? Obedience. If Ella is asked to grab something out of the pantry she has to do it. If she is asked to walk faster, sit straighter, or talk quieter she HAS to do it. She has to be obedient.
Life wasn’t so bad for Ella under the spell until her mother passes unexpectedly and her father remarries. She then experiences life with an evil step-mother and her two step-sisters (I know, typical fairy tale). Ella falls in love with her Prince Charming, Char. She is determined to find Lucinda to break the curse that she has been living with.

It took me a little longer to get into this book. I definitely recommend it for those of you who like fantasy! Who knows, there might be a happy ending in store for you if you do decide to read. 🙂

Happy Monday and happy reading!

-A.

My Saving Grace

Have you ever wondered why we have such a thing as Young Adult (YA) literature? Like where did it come from and why is it such a big deal now?

Let me start by saying this.

Teenage years are those awkward years. You know… the time where you have no idea who you are or why you have 12 zits on your forehead. Girls are mean and boys are dumb. You all know what i’m talking about right? This is an experience we all go through.

How did you cope with the changes you went through during these years? How did you handle finding “your place”? When you made mistakes who did you relate to or run to for help? What was your saving grace?

My Saving Grace

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Photo CC-By Pexels

Books. Books. Books.

This was my ultimate saving grace from the teenage world I was living in. When I was in a bad mood I’d open a book. When I needed boy help I’d open up a book and read (not that I really learned anything from those fairy tales but it always made me feel slightly better). When I needed a friend, the characters in my books were my friends. And when I needed to get away, there was always an adventure inside a book!

And each book I picked up, I could relate to. The reason I could relate so well, is because it was written directed towards me, or towards teenager (young adults) like me. These books were written to help us grow as young adult readers and provide us with real life experiences that we possibly were going through ourselves. We connected so strongly to the characters because we almost felt like they were us somehow.

It makes me sad… and a little bit mad when I hear people that criticize young adult novels without also discussing the role that the story lines play for the reader. Sure they may not be everyone’s cup of tea or someone else may think they are all the same, but they help teenagers whether people notice that or not. And that’s what’s important.

I read an article today by Shannon Hale that discusses this very thing. She states:

“And let’s not send the message to teens that the books they love and the stories that resonate with them have no value or worth. They get that enough from some adults about their very beings.”

Let kids live! Let them experience the new golden age of young adult literature. Let them read the crazy, weird, dystopian novels! Who cares what they’re reading (as long as it’s appropriate) if it’s what interests them! No kid needs to grow up too soon. Asking them to dive into Adult literature is like asking them to forget about a great time to be a teenager and explore who they are as human beings. That’s what Young Adult Literature is all about, giving them that opportunity to explore and expand their horizons.

For me, I would say that I am an expertise when it comes to contemporary realistic fiction or dystopian fiction! I’m not as familiar with the fantasy or supernatural literature genres. But the cool thing is, is that other people like those genres! Everyone is free to like what they can relate to and what ultimately drives out that emotional feeling.

Also, I’m excited for this semester because I get the opportunity to expand my own horizons and dig deeper into those genres I don’t feel as comfortable with. I want to set a goal to read novels that I wouldn’t normally read. In addition to that, I would like to explore those novels that have been given awards. In doing all of these things, I am hopeful that my knowledge in Young Adult literature will grow greater than any of my expectations.

The new golden age is upon us. And that simply means that more kids are reading Young Adult literature than before. More authors see the value and potential that young adult literature has. And that my friends is pretty cool if you ask me.

But then there are people like myself who are no longer in their teens but keep revisiting these novels. Why? Because they’re still relatable! They still have meaning and value to a lot of us, not simply because they were once our saving grace, but because they still offer us with some type of relatable emotion.

Check out the latest list of 2016’s best young adult novels!

Happy reading, friends!

-A.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Monday’s are my least favorite day of the week. It seems as though there’s just never enough time in my weekend to finish all that I want to accomplish. Anybody else feel that way, or is this just my college experiences bubbling to the surface again?

Moving right along…

This week I spent a lot of my time reading literature (enrolled in FIVE different literature judy blume.jpgcourses and loving every minute), but I’ve spent a great amount of time going back to Young Adult literature. Something i’ve almost put aside and forgotten about. But Young Adult Literature was my life for many years. It consumed my afternoons and evenings, car rides (before I had to drive to school myself), and any other free chance I had. I’m a nerd, I know. On a serious note though, I was able to read things like Judy Blume’s God, Are you There? It’s Me, Margaret and John Green novels like Looking for Alaska. As a young adult, not yet ready for the “real adult” literature yet, this was the stuff I connected to and wanted to read!

All I’m saying, is it’s refreshing to take a step back into these books. And with that being said, this past week I read Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie. Some categorize it in the Juvenile category others categorize it in the Young Adult. It definitely was an easy and enjoyable read.

Because of Winn-Dixie

winn-dixieThe plot to this novel is very captivating. It covers topics like friendship, what it means to lose a loved one, and a journey of finding oneself. India Opal Buloni is the preacher’s daughter, which also means that all eyes are on her. To make things more difficult her mother left her when she was just a toddler and left nothing behind, not even a simple memory for Opal to hold on to. Unexpectedly she befriends a stray dog that she names Winn-Dixie (after the town’s Supermarket). This is a friendship that exceeds all of the rest. It seems as though, when the two of them are together anything is possible. At a young age, it’s so important to value great friendships. Because of Winn-Dixie Opal is able to find who she is. The labels she’s been marked with make her a Preacher’s daughter and a girl abandoned by her mother, but there’s so much more in her heart than those two measly facts.

As I flipped through the pages of this book I couldn’t help but think about the purpose behind the story. Kids and Young Adults need to read these types of novels. I know it helped me as a young adult to figure out where I belonged and who my friends were. It’s easy to find yourself when you have relatable characters to read and struggle through life with. Books are so important for this reason alone.

Coretta Scott King Award

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An image of Coretta Scott King. She was a famous author, activist, civil rights leader, and Martin Luther King Jr.’s beloved wife. CC-By Lenora Peterson

Also, as many of you know, today is a national holiday! We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. and all that he stood for. As I began my next book I thought it would only be fitting to choose a book that has been awarded the Coretta Scott King Award. This is an award that is given to African American authors who have been able to share and incorporate their culture into an outstanding novel. Like i’ve mentioned before, literature is so amazing because it teaches us about other cultures!

For this reason, the second novel I chose to start reading at the end of last week was Sharon M. Draper’s, Forged By Fire. I have yet to finish it, so I want to save all of the details for my next blog post, but I’m a little over half-way done!

I do, however, want to leave you with a couple of lines from the novel to think about. And mainly to give you an idea of what it is i’m reading right now.

“I know what you meant. Since this kid is poor and black and his mother is living alone and unmarried, his father must be long gone. Well, I’m here to tell you that not all black men are like that. There’s zillions of black families with a mama and a daddy and two kids like the ‘average’ American family.” Aunt Queen’s shoulders dropped a bit then, and she said with resignation, “But unfortunately, this ain’t one of them. I don’t know where the boy’s daddy is. I just didn’t want you to assume. You coulda been wrong, you know?”

If you haven’t ever read a book that has been awarded this prestigious award, I highly recommend diving into one.

As always, happy reading friends!

-A.

Moments Spent With Books

The “Dead White Guys”

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This is a photo of Shakespeare (one of the “dead white guys”). He wrote a number of works and is known primarily in high schools for his plays. Photo Credit: Erin

In a recent read, How Classics Create an Alliterate Society by Donald R. Gallo, I had a flashback to my high school English classroom. Granted high school for me was just two years ago, but ironically even just two years ago I still had read the same thing my parents read thirty years ago – “the dead white guys”. We may laugh about that phrase, but it’s true, high school English classrooms’ curriculum consist of these classics written by famous, dead, white authors. Not much of a variety in literature and nothing has changed.

So will it ever change? Does it even matter if it doesn’t change?

Here’s the thing, I liked the classics, I still like the classics. Even now I find myself loving English Literature course reads (British, dead, white guys). Except what about the rest of the students sitting in the classroom, even my high school classroom? What about those who didn’t connect to these authors, or find any real value to their works? Shouldn’t they be allowed to read more contemporary works that would leave them feeling satisfied?

Another thing.  No matter what era we pull a literate work from we can find the same topic of discussion (usually) in today’s literate world. So, why does it matter? Why not teach more contemporary novels versus The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mocking Bird? 

Why not teach an audience of students what they are interested in? Would it be a shame for students to enjoy reading and maybe continue on with it the rest of their entire adult life and then go even further and pass this passion of reading on to their children?

It’s important for students to connect with reading. Every student deserves that revolutionary moment where they can understand and appreciate the value of a book or story. Books have the ability to educate and entertain readers at the same time. On the other spectrum, as authors, it gives them an opportunity to express beliefs, values, interests, and ideals. This literate world we have the privilege to be a part of is truly outstanding.

I’m not saying omit the classics completely because they do have value. What I’m saying is, we need to focus on the students first and what excites them and then sprinkle in a few of the classics.

Five Revolutionary Book Moments for Me in High School

I want to share the love of books and literacy with the world. Some people are on the same understanding level as myself, some are above me and some haven’t had their revolutionary moment yet. For those who haven’t felt a spark, I hope you give it a try and pick up a book or story and then another, and another until it becomes a habit.

First Moment

a-thousandMy Senior year of high school our history teacher assigned us the novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, by Kahled Hosseini. I was not sure what to expect as I began reading the novel. Kahled Hosseini is an Afghan-American author who chooses to write about culture in the middle east. In this particular story that is exactly what I got, culture, which was very different from my own. I found out quickly that I differed in several ways from this culture, but I loved learning about it through a story. I became educated while being entertained and that is revolutionary. This book had meaning, knowledge, and opportunity for me to grow outside of my comfort zone and travel into a new culture without having to actually travel. Literature offers that type of experience and it’s great because i’m a poor college student who hates flying over any type of water.

Second Moment

I have a thing for laughing. What makes me chuckle you may ask? A good Ironic story. I know it’s probably considered a classic, but this is one that even got the “reading haters” to laugh. Kate Chopin’s, “Story of an Hour” has an ironic twist where a character “dies from a broken heart”. It’ll make you laugh. Trust me. Read it – it’s short. In this moment, I knew I loved reading, because it offers me an opportunity to laugh and laughing is just the best.

Third Moment

My freshman year of high school, a friend told me I needed to read the Harry Potter series, because i’d never read any of the books (gasp). I started reading it, and to my surprise I quickly found out why I’d never been intrigued by it to begin with. It just wasn’t my thing. BUT I learned some value from this book. I learned that I have a choice to read what I like in my spare time. The fact that I don’t have to like what everyone else likes is OKAY. Being my own reader and knowing I can “abandon” a book was revolutionary to me.We all like different things and that’s why there are so many genres out there to choose from. So I would say, don’t be discouraged if you haven’t found what you like yet! There’s something written for every type of person!

Fourth Moment

the_giving_treeWhen I was a little girl, it seemed that every story had a lesson. I remember my Mom and Nana reading me, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the storyline the tree would always give whatever it could to the little boy and even as he aged into an old man. The moral became quite clear about giving, trust, and dependency on others.

Now, in my sophomore year of high school, I read the book My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (one of my favorite authors). In this plot there are two sisters. Kate has leukemia while her sister Anna is conceived primarily to become a bone marrow match for her sister.  Anna gives all she can, until she desires to be more than just a person who gets poked with needles constantly.

my-sistersI remember being emotional (bawling my eyes out basically until I could no longer read the words) because I have two sisters. At this moment, I couldn’t believe that a book in itself could make me feel such heartache and consume me with such emotion. I kept reading and connected it to The Giving Tree. I found that it’s so cool that literature can have the same lessons in each age group or genre. Like everything just snowballs and becomes even greater.

Fifth Moment

My last favorite moment is more like an experience over time. As I’ve gotten older this experience has become such a huge part of my life. That experience is what I like to call community. There is a large community of readers in the world, which makes it super easy to connect with others. My favorite thing ever is when I get to tell my friend about a good book and they get to tell me about a good book… AND THEN we get to read them because we both love the same books 9 out of 10 times. Connecting with people over literature is a feeling that becomes rather fulfilling. These types of relationships last forever and that’s revolutionary.

book-club

Photo Credit: Hill Creek Pictures

I hope if you’re not an avid reader you may aspire to be some day. Set some goals. Start small. Put yourself out there and define your own moment(s).

-A.