Thursday, December 31, 2009
Young Adult and Intermediate Favorites:
The Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I was bound and determined I was not going to read this series. The gory description of the plot on the back of the book made me say, "Are you kidding? This sounds awful!" But after hearing so many people talk about how wonderful the writing was and being nudged by a librarian friend, I finally caved and listened to the audiobook over the summer. Am I ever glad I did! Catching Fire was not nearly as suspenseful as the first one, but oh boy did the last line of this book give me chills all over my body.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
As a dog-lover, I can't resist books about dogs. Not only is this a heartwarming, feel-good book, but it's nice to read a dog book that has a happy ending for a change. Most dog books require a pile of tissues by the time you make it to the last chapter.
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
Such a simple story about a teenage waitress, but beautifully written.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Not a shred of humor or lightheartedness can be found in this story about a girl struggling with anorexia, but the writing is haunting and lyrical.
Paper Towns by John Green
This was by far my favorite of John Green's books. The story and the characters were a perfect blend of mystery, humor, and teen-angst.
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Told as the narrator looks over her body in ICU after she loses her parents in a car accident. Keep your tissues handy with this one. Despite the tears, it is so worth the read.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
A teenage girl leaves tapes behind for the people who drove her to kill herself. A heavy, yet beautifully penned story.
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
Vivid and exotic. This book whisks you away to another land and time. Not only was this one of my favorite books of the year, it was probably my favorite audiobook I've ever listened to.
Columbine by Dave Cullen
Ten years after the tragedy, Cullen sets the record straight about what really happened that day in April of 1999. Just don't read this book before bed -- it will give you nightmares!
Finn by Jon Clinch
Throw away all you thought you knew about Huck and Pap Finn when you pick up this book. Jon Clinch weaves a new tale that will have you questioning everything you learned in tenth grade English.
My Life in France by Julia Child
Hunger pangs abound when you read this sumptuous tale of Child's life in Paris.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Stockett creates a story that sticks in your mind well after you put it down. I often found myself in the kitchen making dinner thinking about these characters as if they were real people.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A wonderful, feel-good book that just makes you want to sigh and smile at the same time. The only word that keeps repeating in my head over and over again when thinking about this book is just "beautiful."
Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- And How it Can Renew America by Thomas Friedman
We can't deny it anymore. Going green is not just helping the earth, it's going to help business in the long run and Thomas Friedman lays out an excellent case for why it needs to happen.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
* indicates audiobook
1) Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach
2) The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski*
3) Lessons That Change Writers by Nanice Atwell
4) Night by Elie Wiesel*
5) Behind the Bedroom Wall by Laura Williams
6) The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo*
7) Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine*
8) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
9) The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
10) The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston*
11) Bad Boy by Walter Dean Myers
12) The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau*
13) Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan*
14) Reality Shift by Christopher P.N. Maselli
15) Naming the World: A Year of Poems and Lessons by Nancie Atwell
16) Harlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance by Laban Carrick Hill
17) I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier
18) Schooled by Gordon Korman*
19) Selected Poems of Langston Hughes
20) Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney
21) Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom*
22) Looking for Alaska by John Green*
23) Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey by Perri Knize
24) The Bunnicula Collection: Books 1-3 by James Howe*
25) Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman
26) Sideways: A Novel by Rex Pickett*
27) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart*
28) Eat This, Not That! Supermarket Survival Guide: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution by David Zinczenko
29) Bad Dogs Have More Fun: And Other Tails of Animals, Life, and Family by John Grogan
30) The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau*
31) Eat This, Not That! Thousands of Food Swaps That Can Save You 10, 20, 30 Pounds -- or More by David Zinczenko
32) It's Okay to Miss the Bed on the First Jump: And Other Life Lessons I Learned from Dogs by John O'Hurley
33) Before Your Dog Can Eat Your Homework, First You Have to Do It: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog to a Young Boy by John O'Hurley
34) The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music by Steve Lopez
35) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky*
36) Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
37) Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis*
38) What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller*
39) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell
40) Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale*
41) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
42) The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau*
43) Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- And How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman
44) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson*
45) City Dog by Alison Pace
46) Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher*
47) If I Stay by Gayle Forman
48) Paper Towns by John Green*
49) Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen
50) Persepolis 1: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
51) Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates*
52) More Ways to Handle the Paper Load: On Paper and Online edited by Jeffrey N. Golub
53) Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-Friendly Life by Linda & Tash Siversten
54) French Milk by Lucy Knisley
55) Angels and Demons by Dan Brown*
56) The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
57) The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri*
58) Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi
59) The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
60) The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin*
61) The Geography of Bliss: One Grumps Search to Find the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner*
62) What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire*
63) Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath*
64) Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson*
65) Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer*
66) The Woman Who Can't Forget: The Extraordinary Story of Living with the Most Remarkable Memory Known to Science by Jill Price*
67) Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf
68) Farewell, My Subaru: An Epic Journey in Local Living by Doug Fine*
69) In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson*
70) Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer*
71) Scat by Carl Hiaasen*
72) Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo*
73) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer*
74) Lost Boy by Linda Newbery
75) The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo*
76) Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell*
77) Things That Are by Andrew Clements*
78) Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides*
79) Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan*
80) The Boy Who Dared by Susan Bartoletti Campbell*
81) The Help by Kathryn Stockett
82) The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
83) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins*
84) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain*
85) My Life in France by Julia Child*
86) Finn by Jon Clinch*
87) Write Beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing by Penny Kittle
88) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon*
89) The Clique by Lisi Harrison
90) Columbine by Dave Cullen*
91) Cooked: My Journey from the Streets to the Stove by Jeff Henderson*
92) Schooled by Anisha Lakhani
93) A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher
94) Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech*
95) The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
96) Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech*
97) Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney
98) Thanks for the Memories by Cecilia Ahern*
99) The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech
100) Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman
101) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins*
102) Liar by Justine Larbalestier
103) Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers
104) Dork Diaries by Rachel R. Russel
105) Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen*
106) A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
107) Carlos is Gonna Get It by Kevin Emerson
108) I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous and Obscure
109) The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery*
110) What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell*
111) The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart
112) Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure
113) Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson*
114) Amazing Gracie: A Dog's Tale by Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff
This book was so heartwarming and full of love that you can't help but wish you knew Gracie personally. When you look at what a beautiful soul Gracie was, you immediately understand her name. Born deaf and albino, she was what her vet called a "little miracle" because not only did she die on the table and was brought back to life, but when Dan Dye "adopted" her, the breeder was planning on putting her to sleep because albinos are "a lotta trouble" and strongly cau..I am a dog person through and through so any books that are written about dogs, I'm gonna read 'em.
This book was so heartwarming and full of love that you can't help but wish you knew Gracie personally. When you look at what a beautiful soul Gracie was, you immediately understand her name. Born deaf and albino, she was what her vet called a "little miracle" because not only did she die on the table and was brought back to life, but when Dan Dye "adopted" her, the breeder was planning on putting her to sleep because albinos are "a lotta trouble" and strongly cautioned him that he was "probably not doing her a favor." Dye's interaction with Gracie's breeder just goes to show you that breeding dogs doesn't always mean you love them.
It was through the grace of Gracie and her finicky eating habits that he was able to come up with the idea for the Three Dog Bakery which now has franchises all over the country. She was the gentlest, most loving dog, but when it came to protecting her family, you didn't want to mess with her.
This book will make you smile, laugh, and cry, but in the end, you will be glad that you knew Gracie, even if it was just between the 250 pages of her life story.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
What disturbs me the most about this whole situation, however, is not that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was able to board the plane with these explosives (though that obviously disturbs me a great deal). No, what troubles me the most is the knee-jerk reaction that the TSA chose to implement immediately following the foiled plot. Passengers were quickly ordered to remain seated for the final hour of flight, not permitted to get up to use the restroom, retrieve items from their carry on luggage, or even use a blanket and pillow.
I find this type of reaction counter-productive. Future terrorists will not be looking to repeat this same plot; they will be looking to try something different. And by requiring passengers to remain completely still, denying them the simple right of using the restroom, what exactly is that helping? All it will do is cause the future Abdulmutallabs of the world to go into the restroom TWO HOURS before the flight lands instead of one.
I honestly don't know what the answer to this dilemma is. Body scanners are clearly a breach of privacy with most people, but the minutia of these regulations is merely calling out a challenge to the future terrorists of the world. All I know is that treating every person on board an 8-hour flight across the ocean as if they're criminals is not the answer. That was clearly proven two days later when, on December 27th, the exact same flight from Amsterdam was interrupted by another Nigerian man, this time completely harmless, because he was legitimately ill and needed to use the restroom with great frequency. When I first heard about the December 27th story, I immediately thought it was due to the ridiculous TSA restrictions and not because the man was a terrorist.
As someone who loves to travel, if these restrictions continue, I don't know how often I'm going to be boarding an airplane in the future. I already had a very negative experience with TSA returning home from Vancouver this summer when they confiscated my boarding pass and passport for 15 minutes while they questioned me and patted me down THREE TIMES because they detected a substance on my laptop that is sometimes found in explosives (but is also used in perfumes). It was one of the most traumatic and humiliating travel experiences I've ever had, and one that I don't wish to relive again. So what I want to know is why I was exposed to scrutiny while Mr. Abdulmutallab was allowed to just pass right on through?
Friday, December 25, 2009
Last night we had the family over for Christmas eve dinner. I was in the kitchen doing my domestic diva thing when my sister-in-law calls out from the foyer, "Hey Beth, who's Leon?"
"Leon? What are you talking about?"
"Your thing in there says Leon."
I'm so very talented aren't I?
Merry Leon to you!
. . . Something To Think About
4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was , one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste, and people's priorities.
The questions raised:
*In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
*Do we stop to appreciate it?
*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made How many other things are we missing?
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
While I am lucky to not have experienced being stranded on the tarmac for an unreasonable amount of time, that is certainly one of my travel fears. Hopefully this new regulation will make airports and airlines more aware of travelers' needs for food, water, and clean restrooms. Saying the airport is "closed" is just not acceptable.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I had them write the story of this song in their journals and then we discussed it together as a class. I'm happy that most of them got the meaning and found it as moving as I did.
Oh, the snowflakes fell in silence
Over Belleau Wood that night
For a Christmas truce had been declared
By both sides of the fight
As we lay there in our trenches
The silence broke in two
By a German soldier singing
A song that we all knew
Though I did not know the language
The song was “Silent Night”
Then I heard my buddy whisper,
“All is calm and all is bright”
Then the fear and doubt surrounded me
‘Cause I’d die if I was wrong
But I stood up in my trench
And I began to sing along
Then across the frozen battlefield
Another’s voice joined in
Until one by one each man became
A singer of the hymn
Then I thought that I was dreaming
For right there in my sight
Stood the German soldier
‘Neath the falling flakes of white
And he raised his hand and smiled at me
As if he seemed to say
Here’s hoping we both live
To see us find a better way
Then the devil’s clock struck midnight
And the skies lit up again
And the battlefield where heaven stood
Was blown to hell again
But for just one fleeting moment
The answer seemed so clear
Heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s just beyond the fear
No, heaven’s not beyond the clouds
It’s for us to find it here
- Garth Brooks
If you've never actually heard the song before, this video shows a moving reenactment: (the song starts at 2:07)
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Last year for my birthday my husband bought me an ice cream maker so I could try relive our dessert experience at Otto. While certainly not as perfect as our olive oil gelato initiation we experienced in New York City, I have managed to amaze and astound many of my friends and family who initially believed that olive oil ice cream would taste repulsive.
This weekend my husband and I attended a birthday party of one of those friends who first thought she would hate olive oil ice cream and is now telling everyone she knows just how amazing it truly is. So I decided that her birthday present should be a vat of olive oil ice cream.
After I made the custard, I realized that I had a little bit too much for the freezing canister so I decided to try a little experiment. If olive oil flavor is good as a dessert, how would it taste a creme brulee?
So I dusted off the ramekins in my cupboard, prepared a water bath, and cooked the custard for an hour on 300 degrees. After chilling the the refrigerator over night, I busted out the torch and helped myself to one of these bad boys for lunch this afternoon.
Even though the custard didn't completely set, I have to say that the subtle olive oil flavor was almost more enjoyable than a traditional vanilla creme brulee. And of course, who can resist that very first crack into the hard, caramelized exterior?
I definitely will be making this dessert again.
Friday, December 11, 2009
She dives in the river.
She swims in the lake.
She celebrates snow
from the very first flake.
She plunges through puddles
that lie in her path.
My puppy loves water
(except in a bath).
I tried with a washtub.
I sprayed with a hose.
But most of the water
went right up my nose.
And when we were done,
it was easy to see,
the only one getting a shower was me.
- Dave Crawley
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Carlos is a 7th grader with special needs and regularly has meltdowns at school. Instead of his classmates being compassionate about his issues, they take it upon themselves to ostracize him and plan a very elaborate trick on an upcoming overnight class trip.
The writing in this book is not brilliant, nor will it inspire you, but it is indicative of a junior high first-person narrator so I forgive the simplicity of the writing on that account. This book was clearly written to teach kids a lesson about treating people who are different with kindness and respect. Any teacher who has a special needs child or multiple special needs children in their classes, this would be a great read aloud or assigned class reading.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Went to the corner
Walked to the store
Bought me some candy
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more
Went to the beach
Played on the shore
Built me a sandhouse
Ain’t got it no more
Ain’t got it no more
Went to the kitchen
Lay down on the floor
Made me a poem
Still got it
Still got it
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
...hates that all my best writing ideas occur in the shower. They wash away down the drain rendering completely forgotten by the time I towel off, get dressed, and sit down at my laptop. My New York Times bestseller is being held hostage by my shower drain.
It was January of 2000 and I was in my second semester as a music student at Eastern Michigan University. I had just been reassigned to a different professor for my private piano lessons and, as luck would have it, I was assigned to the meanest, crotchetiest professor that ever graced the world of music. He treated all of his students like they were performance majors with plans for Carnegie Hall.
The first (and only) piece he assigned me to work on with him was Schubert's "Moment Musicaux No. 1". It only took me a couple of meetings with him to realize that this man was not a teacher, he was a berater and a spirit-killer. As I struggled with the syncopated beats and lack of distinct melody of the piece, this man boorishly proclaimed that I had no rhythm, no talent, and that I would never make music my career.
He talked to me like a performance major even though I was an education major. Mastery and perfection of the great composers was not my goal even though he treated it as such. I quickly found myself realizing that if the music world was one that required me be surrounded by people like this professor, then I didn't want any part of it. Prior to this experience, I had only been nurtured and encouraged. I never realized that there were people out there who treated music with such an iron fist. I knew that I was never the best pianist in the world, but I took pride in working on a piece of classical music and attempting to do it justice while still adding my own personal flair to it.
When I left my third lesson with him, I closed the door to his studio carrying my music bag along with my shattered dreams, and cried the whole way to the parking lot. I wrote him a letter detailing my dissatisfaction over the way he treated me, taped it to his door, and quietly dropped out of the music program.
In the meantime, my piano teacher of ten years who had worked with me since I was in grade school, attempted to pick up the pieces of my broken spirit. With her help, I mastered the piece that The Evil One said I couldn't, and received a third place trophy at the American Guild of Music competition. She helped me survive during that treacherous time in my life, but I feel like I let her down in the years that followed. After accomplishing my goal of proving this professor wrong, I lost the will and the heart to sit at the piano and learn a piece from awkwardness to mastery. Even though I continued with my long time piano teacher for a few more years after I dropped out of the music program, the piano never gave me that same joy and exuberance it did before I chose to go to school for it.
It's amazing what a combination of notes on some hammers and strings can do to bring a well of complex emotions bubbling up inside your very being. I listened to this piece and remembered how proud I was that I proved him wrong. But I also felt sad that I allowed this one man to dictate my life. He took away the joy I felt everyday when I sat down at the piano for those eleven years. He turned it into a chore, something to be perfected rather than savored.
Now I don't want anyone to think I'm sitting here writing this for you to feel sorry for me. In a way, I think the experience was a bit of a blessing because dropping out of the music program helped me to realize my true calling, which is teaching writing and literature. But at the same time, I just wish I hadn't come at the expense of my musical passion.
It's hard to believe this complicated web of memories and emotions that went whizzing through my head today all came from a piece of classical music that wafted through the speakers of my car stereo. The senses are a wondrous thing.