Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we are looking at books we loved before we started blogging. I started reading far more books to completion once I started blogging, since I was keeping track of them all. I feel like this has raised my standards on what makes a good book! I actually opened my blogging career with a list of my top favorites at the time, so this list is just a re-work of that one. Here they are, in order:
Top Ten Favorite Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger
[wow. a lot has changed in two years!]
1.) 1984 by George Orwell – Read in 9th grade, college, and after college, and it just gets better every time.
2.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Read in my first year as a librarian. Even though Catching Fire had just been released, it took everything in my power to avoid reading Catching Fire until Mockingjay came out so I could read them both back-t0-back. Totally worth it, since the ending of Catching Fire is a killer cliffhanger.
3.) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – Read in 12th grade, before I read Harry Potter. (Harry Potter isn’t on this list, since I love it more as a series than an individual book, but always compare it to Ender’s Game.)
4.) The Giver by Lois Lowry – Read in 6th grade. It put my eleven-year-old brain into overdrive, thinking about government and conformity and the ups-and-downs of life.
5.) Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer – Read when I taught 6th grade. It re-awakened my love for dystopia in all its many forms (including apocalyptic fiction). I found it very relatable to my current life, forcing me to ask myself what I would do if a crisis suddenly occurred and I was stuck in my house indefinitely.
6.) Looking for Alaska by John Green – Read in a YA lit class. Not my first dance with John Green (my second, actually), but this was the moment I feel in love with John Green.
7.) The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi – Read when I was in college. I don’t know what would have possessed me to pick up this book, but I flew through it in two days and told everyone I knew to read it. Charlotte Doyle is pretty kick ass.
8.) Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli – Read in high school, at a time when I was struggling with my own identity (to conform or not to conform?).
9.) Holes by Louis Sachar – Read in high school. One of the first books I read cover-to-cover in one sitting because Sachar’s story telling blew my mind! Who would have thought a book about digging holes could be so gripping?
10.) Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy – Read in fifth grade, and this is still one of my favorite books simply because it is kind of obscure, weird, and creepy. I actually think about it a lot!
Has your criteria for “loving” a book changed since you started blogging?
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we are looking at characters who frustrated us to no end!
Ten Seven Most Frustrating Characters Ever
[reading with clenched fists]
1.) Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – I love Harry Potter as much as the next guy, but this book was an angst-fest.
2.) Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games – I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in this.
3.) Katie Fisher in Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult – The Amish girl playing dumb in the face of a very serious accusation. I just didn’t like her and I felt zero sympathy for her. Was I supposed to?
4.) A in Every Day by David Levithan – Though it’s not A’s fault, it would be very frustrating to live a life where your body is not your own. It frustrated me just thinking about it.
5.) Jessica Darling in the Jessica Darling Quintet –By book three, I found her to be incredibly annoying and I was having trouble understanding her actions/choices. Especially quitting her internship after just a few days because she just didn’t like the people.
6.) Dr. Frankenstein in Frankenstein – He lost me when he abandoned his creation because he just couldn’t bear the ugliness of what he created. That did not ring true to me for a real scientist to feel that way. From that point forward, I just wanted to kick him. Team monster!
7.) Greg Hefley in Diary of Wimpy Kid – I rarely find anything redeeming in that book. I support it and buy it and recommend it to students, but I pretty much despise it on a personal level.
…and that’s all I could come up with. I know there were a few others that had me clenching my fists, but I can’t remember them. Maybe reading y’alls posts will jog my memory (grad student brain, I guess).
Which literary characters did you find the most frustrating?
Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publisher/Year: Blackstone Audio, 2007 (Original: 1925)
Length: 4 hrs and 53 mins
Format: Audio Book
Source: Purchased from Audible
[#72 in my 2012 75 book challenge]
In case you haven’t heard, this classic novel about the Jazz Age is being made into a movie staring Leonard DiCaprio. The movie comes out in May, so I got a head start and re-read the novel in anticipation of seeing it later this year.
The Great Gatsy is the Jazz-Age tale of a bunch of crazy people living in an Egg.
Or at least that’s my one sentence summary.
Seriously, though, our protagonist, Nick Carraway, moves next door to this dude named Gatsby in West Egg (Long Island-ish). Gatsby lives in this fancy-pants new money house, totally playing up his mysteriosity while still having parties every weekend. Nick also hangs around with Daisy and Tom Buchanan, and everyone knows that ole Tom is cheating on Daisy with this lady named Muriel. These folks all live in the East Egg with the old money. Gatsby, the eternal social climber, wants nothing more than to be old money…and to get in Daisy’s pants. Infidelity ensues. Then a lot of people drive their cars around, a tragedy occurs, and the shit hits the fan. Cue curtain.
AND IT’S ALL A METAPHOR.
I get it, you guys, I do. In high school I read this book and I was fascinated by the Jazz Age, the social climbing, the affairs, and the dead people. I could relate to the story more than anything else we were reading that year (except 1984, my favorite book ever), so I decidedly enjoyed it. Round two? Not so much, even though I understand the layers a little bit better. I see the commentary on the American Dream and wealth, the metaphor with the damn green light and the colors. I don’t get it all, which is where I miss having a class to discuss it all with, but I get it enough.
FINAL GRADE: C I didn’t love it, but I’m glad I read it. Reading books as an adult that I read in my childhood is always a fascinating experience, and I don’t think I’m the only person who looks upon this novel differently now that I’m out in the real world. However, I also know some folks who adore this book and will praise it until the cows come home. I guess you have to decide that for yourself — at only 180 pages, you can read it pretty quickly and get back to me on what you think.
Assigned Reading: Read it if you love the Jazz Age, literary fiction, classics, or metaphors. Or if you want to see the movie. It’s really one of those novels that everyone should read, since it’s always being talked about. Maybe that’s what leads to the disappointment?
Recommendations: Librarians, you can buy it for the middle school library, but it’s definitely a must-have for the high school library (do I even have to tell you that?).
Did you have to read The Great Gatsby in high school? Have you read it since? Does it hold up to your test of time?
Since The Perks of Being a Wallflower is both a movie and a book (a mook), I’ll be doing a short review of both. If you are interested in more book-to-movie reviews, including another great review of this pair, you should check out the blog Mookology. And, as always, I hope you ALL pledge to always read the book before you see the movie for any mook.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
Review copy from publisher
Well this book is a throwback to my younger years! I read the book thirteen years ago, when I was the same age as Charlie. I actually bought it the day it came out after seeing a commercial for it on MTV. While I like it enough, I only read it once and it definitely never made any of my lists of favorite books. Charlie was a hard character for me to connect with, and I didn’t have enough life experience at the time to really appreciate everything going on behind the scenes in the characters’ lives.
My main criticism of the book was that it was trying too hard to be the Catcher in the Rye of the modern age, and I only sorta-kinda liked A Catcher in the Rye. The novel is popular because teenagers connect to the isolation Charlie feels. Charlie watches life from the outside. Every character in the novel is dealing with some really shitty stuff, while Charlie just describes what happens with a strange, detached, naive style. The story celebrates the weird kids: the gay kids, the former “sluts”, the Rocky Horror fanatics, and the Nobodies, to name a few. I guess that’s why it is adored, especially amongst actual teenagers and hipsters. Fact: hipsters love quotes from this book.
I saw the movie yesterday, and enjoyed it. Though I was expecting a more awesome soundtrack, I was generally pleased with how well the film stayed true to the tone of the novel. Parts of the story definitely came alive more on the big screen (such as the epic feel of riding in the tunnel), while others got lost (watching Charlie’s writing grow).
I think I liked the story better as a movie. I liked Logan Lerman’s portrayal of Charlie, and the way the movie captured both the darkness and optimism of the source material. And Emma Watson? I’ll watch her in anything. How is she so damn charming? I completely forgot about her British accent, too. Homegirl can play an American borderline-manic-pixie-dreamgirl like a boss.
So here’s the final lowdown: The book is okay, and the movie is good. If you are a YA fan, you are required to read the book and it is strongly suggested that you go watch the movie. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is basically canon YA lit, so it’s necessary to have read it if you are going to say you know/understand/love YA. Just please remember not to stand up in the back of any trucks while someone drives you through a tunnel. It just doesn’t sound/look very safe.
Have you read this book or seen this movie? What did you think?
Ready Player One
By Ernest Cline
Library Overdrive E-book
[#51 in my 75 Book Challenge]
In the year 2044, the world sucks. Most people live their lives in OASIS, an entire virtual world where players can do, buy, and play almost anything. When the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, dies, he leaves behind all of his wealth and control of the company to the person who can locate three hidden keys and open three hidden gates with in the virtual world he created. Our hero, Wade Watts, may live a crappy life in an Oklahoma trailer park, but he’s up for the challenge. He just may be the one to finally win Halliday’s challenge, but quickly he realizes he up against more than casual competitors.
Let the games begin.
If you love the 80’s or video games, you’ll love this book. Since Halliday was a child of the 80’s and was completely obsessed with 80’s culture, there are 80’s culture references and video games galore. However, I’m not obsessed with video games or 80’s culture and I STILL loved the story. While Wade is everything I don’t want to be (obsessive, reckless, and reclusive), I still had to root for him through the non-stop action. I loved the world building, both within OASIS and outside of it.
Essentially, this is a classic quest novel, just inside a virtual world. You have your hero (Wade), your hunting group of companions (fellow “gunters” Aech, Art3mis, Shoto, and Daito), the enemy (Sorrento and the Sixers, from a corporation that wants to own OASIS at all costs), and the grail (the final Easter Egg). Add in some techy gadgets, giant robots, teleportation, magical talismans…basically anything goes in this world. The novel is kind of like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, in way, and I think it can be enjoyed by more than just video game enthusiasts.
FINAL GRADE: A I’m on a good book roll this summer. I don’t know if it’s that I have time to really enjoy my books or because I’m just having a lucky streak, but Ready Player One had me ignoring people around me just to find out what happened next. Wow, you guys. I also see why Ready Player One has been recommended as an adult book for teenagers, since the content would definitely appeal to this age group. I would by it for my library for my more mature middle school students, and recommend it to my friends who like fantasy, sci-fi, and dystopian books.
Oh, and the book gets a GLBT tag, but I can’t tell you why. Just trust me that there is an awesome GLBT character and read the book to find out more.
I’d like to give a special shout-out to the bloggers and readers who reviewed and recommended this book, inspiring me to read it. Here are their reviews if you want to know more:
Lucy @ The Reading Date (she reviewed the audio book, narrated by Wil Wheaton)
Stephanie @ Misprinted Pages (she’s also a gamer)
April @ Good Books and Good Wine (she compared it to The Westing Game)
Alice on the Outside
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Checked out via Interlibrary Loan
[#33 in my 75 book challenge]
And now Alice starts to really experience some weighty issues…and there are so many more to come in this series! This one took me some time to find, since it is the one Alice book my school library doesn’t own. It is also the one book I didn’t buy when I bought the rest from Amazon. I think I was buying both library books and personal books around the time this one was no longer in print because it was up for re-release with a new cover. Now that I own #1-10 and #12-21, I just have a few more to buy so I can complete my collection on my shelf!
It’s the winter of eighth grade, and Alice doesn’t believe that prejudice exists in her town…until the entire school participates in a diversity awareness week. Students are divided and given privileges based on hair color and some interesting issues are brought to life. In addition, one of Alice’s friends comes out to her and Alice asks her cousin, Carol, what sex feels like so she can finally have this important question answered. The book ended with the eighth grade formal, which Alice has been looking forward to for months, and it brings both disappointing and fun surprises.
Prejudice. Kissing horizontally. Lesbians. Being left out. What sex feels like. Liking two boys at the same time.
Elizabeth, on Pamela: “What if she gets pregnant and stays inside all summer and never goes over to Mark’s pool and goes around in baggy clothes till September, and then she keeps skipping gym? And around Christmas, when everyone else is singing carols, what if Pamela goes out in the garage and has a baby in the backseat of her dad’s Chevrolet, and it’s a little boy, only she can’t stand the thought that he might grow up to be a rapist too like his father, so she…she’d go to prison for murder, Alice! You and I would have to go visit her every Sunday and take her fruit!”
“I wondered why people seem so afraid that someone who’s gay or lesbian might make a pass at them. All you have to say it no, just like you’d tell a guy who was hitting on you.”
FINAL GRADE: B+ I don’t think I remember reading this one at all. The lesbian characters show up in the other books, but I don’t know that I ever actually read the book where Alice first learns this information about her friend. What I liked best was how Naylor writes Alice’s character’s response to her friend coming on to her. Alice is a bit confused and surprised, but handles the situation well and honestly. I was in the ninth grade when I really first interacted with a friend who was openly gay, so I think Naylor’s timing for this event in Alice’s life was perfect.
Do remember the first time someone came out to you? How did you handle it?
Outrageously Alice (#9)
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Purchased from Amazon Marketplace
[#31 in my 75 book challenge]
Alice is going to be a bridesmaid in her brother’s ex-girlfriend’s wedding, and she’s feeling very grown up. In between learning all about weddings, wedding parties, and wedding nights there’s also a lot going on at school. She decides to join a club, trying both the Explorer’s Club and the Camera Club. She also get groped in a closet at the Haunted House, dyes her hair green, accidentally dyes some clothes pink, accompanies her father to the emergency room, and gets some unwanted attention from an older boy. It’s just another few months in the life of Alice McKinley.
Wedding nights, lingerie, wanting to be different, navigating physical relationships with boys, make-up, laundry, joining clubs.
“I guess the kind of person you really are will win out in the end; it’s not something, like green mousse, you can just apply.”
FINAL GRADE: B While I do remember this one from reading it years ago, I only remembered the hair dying and the lingerie…and that’s most likely because those two scenes are featured on different versions of the book. However, in reading them back-to-back in order like I have been lately, it’s kind of forgettable. There’s usually one or two major events in each book that stand out, and the rest is the general progression of Alice’s life. She gets a little less awkward, a little more knowledgeable, and a little more confident in each book. Sometimes she takes a step or two backward, but mostly she’s slowly moving forward. Within one book this may not be noticeable, but by this book it is obvious that Alice has come a long way over the course of nine books and two years. And she still has a looooong way to go!
What crazy things did you do as a teenager to get noticed or stand out?
The Good, The Bad, and the Barbie: A Doll’s History and Her Impact on Us
by Tanya Lee Stone
Viking Juvenile, 2010
Library copy from Junior Library Guild
[#36 in my 75 book challenge]
I guess you could say I was a Barbie kid. I had maybe ten Barbies and multiple outfits for each. I had Skipper and Stacie and maybe even Kelly and Krissy (I don’t remember). I had a Barbie pool, little hangers for my Barbie clothes, and lots of shoes. While I enjoyed playing with my Barbies, I never really gave Barbie much thought. But by the time I was a teenager, I was well aware that there are many Barbie lovers and Barbie haters out there. Barbie causes a lot of controversy across America, it seems, which is what intrigued me to read this book.
Stone tries to cover all things Barbie in an objective way, and this book is written for the young adult audience. I thought it did both of those things quite well, while also providing an overview for adults. I’m sure there are books out there going into crazy detail about Barbie, but I was happy with the 124 page overview. Topics and sections include:
- History of Mattel
- Ruth Handler, creator of Barbie
- History of Barbie
- Barbie as sexist/unrealistic/harmful
- Barbie as a fashion icon
- Barbie as a career woman
- Multicultural Barbies
- Mutilating/destroying Barbies
- Sexual play with Barbies
- Barbie in art
What I realized from my reading was that what kids think of Barbie does not seem to be the problem — it’s what adults think. Moreover, it’s what adults perceive about children’s behaviors and beliefs. A good portion of the book includes personal stories and memories that real people sent in to the author about their time with Barbies. It was interesting to see how other girls and boys felt about the doll as kids and adults in these reflections.
FINAL GRADEL: B This is a fascinating little book, and I’m glad it’s in my library. It’s informative and interesting, with lots of great photographs and quotes through the pages. The sexual discussions are all very tame, mostly mentioning how Barbies have no genitalia and how kids wanted Barbie and Ken to sleeping the bed together. Real Barbie enthusiasts will probably want to skip it, as I’m sure there is nothing new for them to learn. But for everyone else, I’d highly recommend it.
Did you play with Barbie as a kid? How do you feel about her now — love her, or loathe her?