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ARCHIVE 2014 > ReGina's Book A Month Challenge

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message 1: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments So, I am a greater reader when I'm on vacation - that usually constitute 3/4 of the books I read during the year. I love reading, but I get consumed with work and don't allow myself the time. So, this year, I am committing to at least a book a month (I really would love to read 20 books this year, but I'm pacing myself) that include personal pleasure and children's books so that I can review them for my students. However, I want to lean more toward the personal pleasure as the kids' books still technically is work. Let's do this!!

message 2: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For January, I read Wonder by R.J. Palacio .

Excellent book, especially for read-alouds. Great demonstration of point-of-view, as the story is told from the perspective of several different characters. I also personally enjoyed it, which is always a bonus.

message 3: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For February, I read Divergent (Divergent, #1) by Veronica Roth .

My oldest niece recommended this one, and Science Fiction is not my forte. However, I did enjoy the concept of establishing dystopian societies and what traits on which those societies would be based. Not my favorite book, but it was still a good read.

message 4: by ReGina (last edited Apr 25, 2014 07:29AM) (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For March, I read Minnie McClary Speaks Her Mind by Valerie Hobbs , The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses , and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros .

March was Spring Break, so I was on a reading roll. Not only did I read these three, I started two more! I liked Minnie McClary, but I probably wouldn't make a general recommendation to kids - this is for very specific kids. The House on Mango Street was beautiful. I don't know that upper elementary can really appreciate the language of the book, but it would be great for read alouds. The Irresistible Bakeshop was also enjoyable. It's not the most moving book on the planet and it's not a gleaming example of literature, but it was interesting and kept me turning the pages. It was brain gum, but a really good kind like Trident Layers.

message 5: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For April, I read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green , Close to Famous by Joan Bauer , and David and Goliath Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell .

Unfortunately, I was able to read more in April for a not great reason. I spent a week and a half at the hospital with my dad, and I got a little reading in during visits (while he was sleeping and such). My niece recommended The Fault in Our Stars; I still can't believe how much I liked that book. It really is excellent in an unexpected way. Refreshing. I didn't enjoy Close to Famous. There might be a kid that I would recommend this book to, but it's too easy to get lost in who the other people in the book are and there's too much going on without enough reason. But it is well written. And I always love Malcolm Gladwell. His perspective is just so interesting, and David & Goliath doesn't disappoint. It's no Tipping Point, but it will definitely make you go hmmm.....

message 6: by Adriana (last edited Apr 30, 2014 10:08PM) (new)

Adriana | 3888 comments Hope your dad is all right. Glad you liked all the books you ended up reading in April.

message 7: by ReGina (last edited Jul 01, 2014 09:45PM) (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments Thanks Adriana! Even for books I don't like, I like reading enough to make up for it. And my dad is doing better; we're not out of the woods yet but I'm glad for the progress he's made!

message 8: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For May, I read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry , Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight , Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm , Sophie The Awesome by Lara Bergen , The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies , One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt , 501 Things YOU Should Have Learned About History by Alison Rattle , and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie .

I returned home in the middle of May to help take care of Dad, which has given me A LOT more time to read. I get to spend time with him and I'm reading more, so at least there is an upside.

I was heavier on the kid's books this month. However, I need to read about 25 kid's books, so I fully expect that trend to continue for the next couple of months.

For the kid's books, Number the Stars was amazing. Not only is it great to teach WWII history, it comes from a child's perspective in Denmark, a place most children wouldn't even think about being involved in the war. Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf is an interesting concept - it's not written as a traditional story with paragraphs. Instead, the story is told through report cards, passed notes in class, submitted papers, news articles, etc. I like the traditional structure better, but it's a good alternative for reluctant readers. Sophie the Awesome seems very juvenile for anyone who would be reading a chapter book. Maybe a good one for a high level second grader; otherwise, I wasn't super impressed. The Lemonade War, on the other hand, was written at a lower-level but was much more sophisticated and interesting. This is probably a third-grade level book, but I can see this holding the interest of fifth and sixth-graders as well. One for the Murphys was outstanding - the best contemporary book of the bunch I read. The protagonist is a kid that most kids can connect with and her story is interesting and unpredictable. Multi-layered experience that would be excellent for a read aloud.

For my adult experience, I read Reconstructing Amelia. I enjoyed this book. It's not great literature, but it's an engaging read with lots of twists and turns. I couldn't figure out what happened until the end. 501 Things You Should Have Learned About History is a great summary of World History. I don't know that it's meant to be read in one sitting, but it's a great reference book to have and the Fast Facts are really random but really interesting. Finally, Americanah. This was great literature. Adichie is an amazing, talented writer and her word manipulation resembles that of Toni Morrison. In addition to the story, some interesting and insightful sidebars on race and racism in America from a non-American black experience. So glad I read it and will definitely read more!

Come on June - bring it on!!

message 9: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For June, I read Heads in Beds A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky , Al Capone Does My Shirts (Al Capone at Alcatraz, #1) by Gennifer Choldenko , Unwind (Unwind, #1) by Neal Shusterman , The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty , Who Is Michelle Obama? by Megan Stine , My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish (My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish #1) by Mo O'Hara , Dork Diaries Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life (Dork Diaries, #1) by Rachel Renée Russell , Sugar Plum Ballerinas Plum Fantastic (Sugar Plum Ballerinas, #1) by Whoopi Goldberg , Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper , Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog by Tom Watson , Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Peirce , Let's Pretend This Never Happened (Dear Dumb Diary #1) by Jim Benton , Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn , and The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 (I Survived, #1) by Lauren Tarshis .

This was my best reading month so far this year; I'm hoping July will be equally as good because that's all I have for the summer! Then, we're probably back to one book a month (maybe two!).

The majority of the books I read this month were kids' books as that's what I'm focused on this summer. I really liked Al Capone Does My Shirts - well-written and gives kids some historical perspective as well as talks about something not often thought of - kids (and others) living on Alcatraz with the prisoners. Who is Michelle Obama is a great way to introduce bios to kids. I didn't like My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish, but I can see some kids liking it. Dork Diaries was much better than I thought it would be, as were Stick Dog and Big Nate Strikes Again. Dear Dumb Diary was just okay. I'm having to rethink my views on graphics in books. I enjoyed Sugar Plum Ballerinas, and Out of My Mind was a great POV book from a vantage point most kids would never consider. I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic was disappointing; I thought it would have more factual information and less syrupy fictionalized story with it. Overall though, I've got some great recommendations to make to kids.

But this was a much better month for my adult books. I read Unwind and The Husband's Secret for my group reads (2014 Reading Challenge and Mocha Girls Read). I wouldn't have picked up either of these books on my own, but I'm really glad I did. Unwind was much more of a sci-fi book, introducing the concept of "unwinding" kids between 15-18 but ensuring they live on by using donating all of their body parts. Fascinating concept and really good story. The Husband's Secret was the very weird intertwining of three women's lives and the revealing of one husband's really big secret. This one dragged on a little bit, but it was still really good. I wasn't as impressed with Heads in Beds; it was too much pointless profanity and it wasn't that funny either. Quick summary - if you want good service in a hotel, tip like there's no tomorrow. And I just finished Gone Girl, which is the craziest books I've read lately. I do get scared about how my mind works because I was with this book for far too long, but then it even left my demented state and went far beyond that. Some have commented about the kinds of statements this book makes; I just saw it as a fabulously entertaining story about one crazy couple in the middle of Missouri.

So, hopefully, I can top my reading number in July. I have already changed my reading goal twice - I would love to beat 50 for the year (and what a comparison to my original goal of 12 - I beat that in this month alone!).

Let's dance July; let's dance.

message 10: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For July, I read The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt (Judy Moody & Stink, #2) by Megan McDonald , Spellbound by Janet McDonald , Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo , The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1) by Suzanne Collins , Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk (Book #7) by Megan McDonald , Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2) by Suzanne Collins , Recruited by Suzanne Weyn , Judy Moody Was In A Mood by Megan McDonald , Guardians of the Galaxy The Junior Novel by Chris Wyatt , Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3) by Suzanne Collins , The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Origami Yoda #1) by Tom Angleberger , Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling , and Stargirl (Stargirl, #1) by Jerry Spinelli .

I definitely was more heavily weighted in the kids' books this month, but I'm glad there was a least some balance. There were a lot of okay books this month, so I'm just going to comment on the great reads (I have reviews for every book I read posted). I thought Because of Winn-Dixie was a solid read. It is very clearly spelled out for you, so I would not go higher than 4th grade on this one. However, it has cross-gender appeal and a story that is easy to relate to. I also really enjoyed The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. This is not a book to discuss story structure, but it is a great book to get kids interested or excited about reading. Judy Moody is always solid. Stargirl was also an interesting read; I would recommend for upper grades with some discussion about kids feeling the need to comply and go along with what everyone else is doing.

On my side of the fence, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy. Great commentary on how power and privilege can corrupt our basic human connections of compassion, love and empathy as well as the cost of revolution and change. Peeta is now my second favorite contemporary novel boyfriend (Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars is my favorite). Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me was funny and engaging. There were a few sections where she went on and on; if you didn't know the subject area, it just seemed endless. But if you're in to pop culture, you'll enjoy this book.

So, I upped my goal to 52, and I have eight more to read. I think that's manageable. We'll see what the school year this way blows....

message 11: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For August, I read Better Than Okay by Jacinta Howard .

I'm back to the madness of school, so I was back to a book a month. I really hope I can do better for the rest of the year. Better Than Okay is an impressive debut for Jacinta Howard. Initially, I had prepared myself for a one-note story that would occasionally go flat or sharp. However, Better Than Okay takes some unforeseen turns that give layers to this story, creating a true melody. A story about whether friends can become lovers has to manage the things that life throws our way, whether we have the ability to juggle them all or not.

I wonder why this wasn't written in first person, but I was still able to keep up with the protagonist, Destiny, and her emotions pretty well. At first, it was hard to keep straight who all the men were, but that became crystal clear just a few chapters in. Brian has to have the patience of Job; I was looking for him to have enough much sooner. But it all works together and provides a really engaging, entertaining read. I will be looking forward to seeing with Ms. Howard brings us next.

message 12: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For September, I read Stick Dog by Tom Watson .

I have Fall Break in October, so I hope I can actually knock out the rest of the books for my challenge. Being able to only read a book a month is a little frustrating.

However, I did enjoy Stick Dog. I read the second book in the series first, which I think I liked more. However, this book is still charming in its wit, sad but funny drawings, and interesting story line that on a base level any kid can follow and more advanced kids can pick up the sarcasm and complexities of the relationships and plans. I highly recommend this book series for upper elementary students. This will have a lot of appeal to a lot of different audiences.

message 13: by ReGina (last edited Oct 31, 2014 11:22PM) (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For October, I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1) by Michelle Hodkin , Looking for Alaska by John Green , Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen C. Lundin , The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee (Origami Yoda #3) by Tom Angleberger , Jesus > Religion Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough by Jefferson Bethke , The Evolution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #2) by Michelle Hodkin , and Piranhas Like S'mores by J.Z. Bingham .

I completed my challenge!! I adjusted it up several times, going from 12 books to 52, and I actually made it! Thank God for Fall Break. I was able to knock out seven this month - and a very different seven.

So, my niece recommended The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. I finished it and tackled the sequel over the break (she failed to mention to me that the third book in the series doesn't come out until Nov!). I wouldn't consider myself being in to YA paranormal, but this was definitely an intriguing storyline. It's not in your face paranormal (esp. the first book), but it is fascinatingly weird and holds interest.

I read Looking for Alaska, which is definitely not as good as The Fault in Our Stars, but it still drew me in. John Green does have a way of writing characters you can care about, even if you can't share in anything else about them.

For kids, I read Secret of the Fortune Wookie and Piranhas like S'mores. The Fortune Wookie is the third in the Origami Yoda series, and this is a series you really should read in order. Big things happen in each book, and you can get a little lost if you don't read them in sequence. Still entertaining with Harvey sarcasm and cute drawings. Piranhas was also good - we're going to discuss it in our Upper Elementary group as well. The title is accurate, which definitely made me want to read the book; it didn't disappoint.

Then I read Jesus>Religion and Fish! I identify more with the type of theology presented in this book. Too often, I think people plaster the name of Jesus on top of their own agendas and Christianity has to bear the brunt of hatred, prejudice, and bigotry. Lots of good points and challenges to the conservative Christian right - great food for thought. Fish was similar in that it looked at changing culture in organizations through some common sense practices and techniques. While the story seemed way to easy, it was a quick read and definitely had some good pointers on restructuring or rebranding an office.

I can't wait to see how many books I can get finished this year! Since I still have Christmas break, I might be able to truly knock out a respectable number!

message 14: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For November, I read The Retribution of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #3) by Michelle Hodkin and If I Stay (If I Stay, #1) by Gayle Forman .

So, I guess November was YA month for me. I completed the Mara Dyer series, which was a significant turn from the first two. This one was much more steeped in paranormal and had a much darker tone. Still very interesting, but not where I would have thought the first two books would go. I'm glad I have resolution, but it's nowhere near the resolution I expected or wanted.

If I Stay posed similar challenges for me. The structure of the story makes sense and the resolution in the book make sense; it's just so unfulfilling. The back story created a need for more (at least for me), and I just didn't get it. From what I read of the next book, it doesn't provide it either.

So, overall, it was relatively enjoyable, but I expected to be thrilled. This was store-bought pound cake and a cup of lukewarm coffee.

In the middle of some interesting books to round off the year. Let's see how many I can knock off in 2014!

message 15: by ReGina (new)

ReGina (regifabulous) | 268 comments For December, I finished out the year with Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan .

These books are both interesting in how I discovered them. For Me Before You, there was a sale on e-books (which I rarely read since I have to read them on my phone) and I vaguely remember somebody (no idea who) saying it was a good book. I checked a couple of my reliable reviewers, and it was a mixed bag of opinions. I decided to risk it anyway. Then, for Crazy Rich Asians, I kept seeing it in airports and nowhere else. That fact was so weird that I decided I needed to check it out. Glad I did on both counts.

Me Before You is an intriguing character study into characters I don't particularly care for initially and about a topic of which I try to stay clear. But for some reason, it works here. The main character, who tells most of the story, for the most part is too wimpy and indirect, and that gets all over my nerves. But by the end of the book, I'm rooting for her and sympathizing with her. Will, who is just an ass for a significant portion of the book, somehow aligns you with his feelings and viewpoint, even if you don't agree. This is definitely not a Harlequin romance, but it is an interesting story that doesn't go where one might expect.

Crazy Rich Asians is a world I have no knowledge of and little interest in knowing. I don't understand this level of money or the decisions and struggles of this class. However, I do get being an outsider and how discriminating relatives can jack you up. The opening story in the book was brilliant, and the issues that follow are interesting. Not the best book I've ever read (because I hate name dropping and fashion/luxury kinds of things bore me), but a solid read.

Here's hoping 2015 will bring me some great reads as 2014 did!

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