The Rundown- December ’17/January ’18

Okay, so technically the challenge book I read was in December. However, since it was the first book of a trilogy, I read the other two into January, hence the late post!

 

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (new read)

514NAoyOMFL._SX307_BO1,204,203,200_Where to begin? This is another book and author I’d never heard of before this challenge. However, you may recognize the author from my review of A Monster Calls.  That should get you excited.

This book is part of the “Chaos Walking” trilogy, which is technically science fiction, but it reads like a dystopian novel. A group of settlers have moved to another planet and set up a handful of new communities. In this world, everyone can hear each others’ thoughts, including animals. They call it “noise.” As you can imagine, being completely unfiltered causes lots of problems! Todd is our protagonist and he tells the story in this first volume as he flees from his settlement to escape upcoming turmoil.

Although the first few chapters were a little slow for me, it quickly picked up and I frequently stayed up too late so I could find out what would happen next! Ness is a master at suspense and keeping the reader guessing. He knows when to keep your heart racing, and when to give you a rest.

Besides the uniqueness of the story itself, so many different themes are addressed in this book (and the others) in an organic and intelligent way. There are many opportunities to see characters in one light, and then question what you’re thinking.

I’m not really sure why only the first book was included on the list, as I couldn’t imagine anyone being able to stop after finishing it! Even though this is technically sci-fi, it has such a broad appeal for anyone, in my opinion. I hesitate to say this, but if you’re on the fence, they are making these into movies, so you could get a sneak preview if you wish.

**The other two books are called The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men. I think the quality is just as strong in those as the first. My mind did have to work a little harder as it went on though, as the second book increases to two narrators, and the third to three!

VERDICT: This is a pick that I wholeheartedly agree with. I do wish they had recognized the entire trilogy, but, oh well. If you decide to read them, make sure you have lots of time on your hands: the first book comes in at over 400 pages and by the third one, it’s over 600! Each book also has a short story at the end that you gives you some more insight, which I really enjoyed. Highly recommend!

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The Rundown- December ’16

Thank you winter break for giving me time to read both of my books this month 🙂

the-wind-in-the-willowsThe Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (new read)

Okay, this is, by no stretch of the imagination, a young adult book. It is absolutely a children’s book. In addition, I think a book that plenty of people have heard of, but I doubt many have read.

To be honest, you aren’t missing much. I’m glad I had plenty of time to plod through this narrative, which could be quite boring at times.

The book’s chapters don’t always seem to connect with one another, even though they contain the same characters: Mole, Rat, Badger, and Toad. They act like people, but also retain traits of their animal selves, which is an interesting hybrid. The animal foursome has adventures, but some are of the “don’t try this at home variety.”

***SPOILER ALERT***

For example, Toad steals a car and when he is imprisoned for it, manages to escape by dressing like a woman and steals the same car again. What??!!

VERDICT: I don’t think this would appeal to any young adults that I know, and I really didn’t see the great appeal. Therefore, I would not include it on the list.

 

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (new read)Hobbit_cover

I have a confession: I was scared to read this book. When I think of Tolkien, I think of hundreds of made up names and places that I can’t pronounce or keep track of. I purposely read it during my break though so that I could have all the time I needed. I am happy to say that it wasn’t as difficult as I thought!

I actually really enjoyed this story of Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit who accompanies a band of dwarves on their quest to reclaim treasure from the evil dragon Smaug. It chronicles their journey and all the challenges they face along the way. It even continues past the point where I thought it would end! Tolkien really has a way of pulling the reader into the story when it’s least expected.

If you enjoy fantasy, you will like this book. Not only is the story itself excellent, there are so many fantastical characters: hobbits, dwarves, dragons, goblins, trolls and even elves!

VERDICT: This was a perfect selection for the list. It’s a great book about self-discovery on top of everything else.

**If you’re worried like I was, you might want to try watching the first movie (it’s a trilogy) to see if you can follow it. I can’t wait to go back and watch the whole trilogy and see what they added!

*You can read Ashley’s review HERE*

October/November/December ’15 Update – Ashley

Yeah, so…. clearly, my “free time” during the school year is very limited, hence the lack of reading.  😦

** A second note… This draft has been saved since December…  Guess I should probably publish it…

* Monster by Walter Dean Myers (new read) – This is one of the books from the list that was immediately intriguing to me.  I hadn’t heard of it before, which surprised me because it was published in 1999 and won  several notable awards.  The premise of the story also appealed to me, as do so many stories of social injustice and civil rights.  Despite being attracted to this book from the beginning, it was the onslaught of recent events involving black teenagers and police officers that really inspired me to finally open the book.

Monster-Walter-DeanSteve Harmon is sixteen, black, and in jail facing a murder conviction.  Monster follows Steve’s trial through two unique perspectives – one, journal entries recorded by Steve throughout the trial and two, a movie script Steve is writing about the trial in order to help him process what’s happening.  Steve maintains his innocence in the crime, despite a number of other participants who claim his involvement.  His journal entries and movie script flashbacks provide additional background information, while also moving the plot forward.  The most riveting aspect of the novel for me however, was Steve’s self-reflection throughout the process.  He is labeled a “monster” by the prosecutor and begins to wonder if that’s how he is seen by the world.  He relives particular moments leading up to the murder, seemingly trying to decipher his own actions and evaluate his every move.  Even at the end of the story, after the verdict is handed down, Steve’s journey of self-discovery is continuous.

My Take: An important book to read, for sure.  I think the content is incredibly important now, in that it challenges some notions that need challenging in terms of social justice and our legal system.  I can see this book as an excellent starting place for classroom and/or dinner table discussions.  I also think the book is worth reading for it’s unique format alone.  As a teacher, I want students of all ages to understand that not all books look, feel, or sound the same.  Walter Dean Myers chose to write this book this way for a reason – it really provides some humanity to a character labeled as a “monster” from the outside.  As the reader, we get exclusive access to Steve’s thoughts, fears, worries, and self-doubt.  The irony is that this is the part of Steve that the jury deciding his fate never gets to see, yet it’s also the part that makes him more relatable and raw, which made me believe in his innocence far more than any evidence provided by his attorney.

** Look here for Tiffany’s review of the same book. **

The Rundown- December ’15

Yes, I know it’s February. This school year has been a little rough, what can I say? I read both of these books during Christmas break and haven’t finished one since 😦

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers (new read)

51CAsHD9YfL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_I didn’t really know quite what to expect going into book. We watched Saving Mr. Banks this summer, so I did have some background that the movie painted Mary Poppins in a different light than her original portrayal.

Everyone knows the basic premise of the story: Mary Poppins comes in as the nanny for the Banks children. They go on lively adventures, and along the way, meet all sorts of interesting characters.

The premise is one of the few things that is actually the same in both places. Turns out, Mary Poppins is not actually a very pleasant person. She’s snooty and full of herself most of the time. She has strange acquaintance that are sort of creepy. There’s also three additional kids in the book, including a set of twins! She has supernatural power of some kind that leads her to be called “The Great Exception.”

While different than I expected, it was still enjoyable. I think it transcends age and gender, and provides quite an escape. Such fantasy!

VERDICT: Honestly, the verdict is still out. I think it’s good, but I feel like the movie is more of a classic than the book is. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

 

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (new read)

Here’s another fantastical read that was an interesting deviation from the norm.51C67Y0JT3L

The only book I’ve ever read by DiCamillo is Because of Winn Dixie, which is a completely different kind of story, realistically speaking.

Edward Tulane is a china rabbit. We first meet him when he is owned by Abilene, a little girl who loves him dearly. However, he is soon lost. The remaining pages follow Edward’s journey and road to redemption.

One of the most intriguing things about this story is that, while Edward doesn’t talk aloud to any other characters, the reader gets to “read his mind,” so to speak. At all times, we are privy to his thoughts and desires, as if he were a real person. I don’t want to give away the ending, but it was very satisfying… and I may have teared up a little. Don’t judge.

VERDICT: I don’t think I’ve ever done this in the same post, but I can’t decide on this one either! It was a very well written book, and the story was original. I just don’t know if years from now it will be considered one of the best ever. I was actually surprised that one of DiCamillo’s other books, The Tale of Despereaux, was not included instead.

Help me out guys! Have you read either of these? What do you think about their inclusion?