What I am Reading

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Faithful Place Tana French You know those "cold case" TV shows that flash back to when the characters were young before interviewing their older, saddened selves? That's how the scenes of this book played out in my head. When her body is discovered right where he had expected to meet up and run away with her 20+ years ago, a Dublin undercover cop learns that his first love didn't run away without him after all. I figured out her killer in the early chapters, but that didn't dampen the book at all because it is really about his journey, re-framing how all the events that came after really fall into place. French has been on my To Read list for a long time and I'm glad a daily kindle deal helped me check that box...and I'll be looking for more.  June 13, 2019 
The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood The first time I read this--when it hadn't been out long--I thought the plot was riveting but ultimately ridiculous. Now that I am a (little) older and have experienced living in the south, it is becomes more realistic. More enjoyably, a second reading gave me a chance to slow down and appreciate Atwood's structure and technique. June 6, 2019 
Lilac Girls Martha Hall Kelly This book's saccharine title and cover art made me resist online recommendations for a long time. I don't know how it appeared on my shelf, but I'm glad I finally read it. Yes, another Holocaust story, but new ground. The book rotates around three main characters: a socialite in New York and Paris raising money for French war orphans and later camp returnees; a Polish resister who survived the entire war in Ravensbruck, where she and her sister were surgical guinea pigs; and the German doctor who performed the atrocities.  May 28, 2019 
Jake, Reinvented Gordon Korman So many mixed feelings about this Great Gatsby redux, setting the story in high school 2000. It does a lot and actually seems to have some fun along the way, but I can't help feeling it could have done even more to pick at some threads in the original. May 24, 2019 
Thunderhead Neal Shusterman Thank goodness for public library electronic checkout so I could quickly go to the next book in Shusterman's Scythe series. Now utopia has a double agent? So much genius going on in this. I'm leery of committing to series books, and now I'm disappointed the final chapter won't be released until next November. May 19, 2019 
Scythe Neal Shusterman Sci fi/fantasy books work best when they make you take a new look at your own world or question the foundations. In this case, it's the Big Idea of death and how it affects your purpose for living. What if people didn't die, didn't struggle? Society, family, work, learning, religion, all changed. May 18, 2019 
In Her Bones Kate Moretti I got this through a freebie box and it was a lucky grab. Better than Girl on the Train, a thriller with a possibly unreliable narrator. Summer-ready reading! May 11, 2019 
Internment Samira Ahmed In some ways, this book seems a little too on the nose...and perhaps that's the scariest part. Remember when leaders suggested a Muslim registry and that Japanese internment camps from WWII serve as a model? Ahmed's book shows us how that would play out, and once again, the youth lead the resistance and show the way out. I will be thinking of all of this when they start the next Census. April 22, 2019 
Dreamland Burning Jennifer Latham My first impression was that these characters would be shallow and the book had an Afterschool Special vibe, but the book is really more about events and there it shines. Narrators alternate between an upperclass Black girl in modern Tulsa, and a "half-breed" middle class boy who survived the Tulsa Massacre. The author highlights the two era's racism in a unique and compelling way. Once it really got started, I could not put it down. April 17, 2019 
The Marrow Thieves Cherie Dimaline The disastrous effects of climate change leads to members of various Canadian indigenous groups finding each other in the northern wilderness while they are escaping capture, torture and death. The reason they are hunted is somewhat mystical but symbolic. The stories of individual characters--especially the one that brings the book to an end and that I did not see coming--is a main ingredient of the book. But the part I carried with me when it was over is the question...in an apocalypse, does my culture have anything valuable worth saving?  April 13, 2019 
The Huntress Kate Quinn My bookstore impulse buy turned out to be a book I could not put down. Three women--a Russian Night Witch (WWII pilot), a German sociopath who used the war as an excuse to kill and the American who becomes her stepdaughter are all brought together in a post-war Nazi hunt. My descriptions cannot do it justice. March 31, 2019 
An American Marriage Tayari Jones Finally got this one crossed off my list. When a couple has not been married very long and the husband is sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit (a good deed went punished--and the book demonstrates how unfortunately common this experience is for black men in America), what odds does the relationship have? Insightful when giving both parties turns as narrators but a little confusing when a third was given a voice, still a book to make you ask "what would I do?" March 18, 2019 
My Sister the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite More of a novella than a novel, and one that makes me curious to read the story from other points of view. The two Nigerian sisters--one a "plain" nurse and the other one beautiful and sheltered from responsibility--share an interesting dynamic that seems to have been established at birth and ends unbroken. March 15, 2019 
Knock Out KA Holt A student in my third period class must be psychic. This time it was when he finished Holt's "House Arrest" and said "there needs to be a sequel!" Sure enough, later that day a tweet showed up on my feed alluding to this recent release. It's a quick read but should satisfy students who want to know how Timothy and his brother Levi are doing. March 13, 2019 
The Illustrated Man Ray Bradbury How have I not read this sooner? It is the perfect short story collection for Twilight Zone fans. And Bradbury may be right: children *are* creepy. March 8, 2019 
The Education of Little Tree Forrest Carter I read this book when it was recommended to me as a Native American voice. I found the memoir of a young orphaned boy being raised by his Cherokee grandparents in the 1920s-30s utterly charming; not stereotyped, and enlightening. When it was over, I quickly looked it up because I wanted to find out what happened to the boy when his grandparents died, and how he became an author. Imagine my shock and horror to discover that the book--originally sold as an autobiography--was really written by a KKK leader! Even with the new information, I see no warning signs in the text, and so I'm left wondering: how can these two very distinct and opposing views of the world exist in one brain? March 4, 2019 
Adequate Yearly Progress Roxanna Elden It's funny because it's true. Or maybe it will be funnier to some one who doesn't work in education. Looking forward to more "insider" writings from this author. February 24, 2019 
Allegedly Tiffany D. Jackson If I hadn't enjoyed Jackson's book Monday Isn't Coming, I wouldn't have known to expect things to be more complicated than they appear through the narrator's voice. This particular narrator--a teenage girl trying to go to college after her release from "baby jail" for actually killing a baby when she was 9--has a highly intelligent voice, and that's the real key to it all. February 17, 2019 
On the Come Up Angie Thomas The second novel from the author of The Hate U Give and my new favorite, because it is even more universal. The story has a lot to show about the music industry, pop culture, words, and using your own voice. February 10, 2019 
Writings on the Wall Kareem Abdul Jabbar If Jabbar hadn't been so good at basketball, he would have been an even better teacher (history was his first choice). This series of essays explains and illuminates issues including racism, news media, sports, gender, seniors, and more. I wish he had included a chapter on Education, because I really want to know what he would have to say. February 8, 2019 
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 ¼ Years Old Hendrik Groen I was hesitant in the early pages because it described too well the environment of an elderly home, where I do not have pleasant associations. But Groen won me over with his sassy attitude. January 19, 2019 
Field Guide to the North American Teenager Ben Philippe A black French Canadian teenager moves to Anderson High School in Austin. I loved his snark and attitude, which of course gets him in trouble. I loved his outsider observations, but I also appreciated that the characters that are at first stereotyped reveal more depth as he gets to know them better.  January 13, 2019 
The Underground Railroad: A Novel Colson Whitehead If the underground railroad was an actual tunnel and locomotive...but I'm worried that future readers may take it literally because it is presented with just as much realism as the many horrors of slavery that the book presents. Not a very uplifting read, but a valuable one. January 3, 2019 
Monday's Not Coming Tiffany D. Jackson Should be mandatory reading for all teachers. The extra twist near the end was unnecessary and added confusion to what was already a deeply engaging mystery. Monday doesn't show up to the first day...and all the others...of 8th grade, but why? This is my first book of a new year and the bar is set high! January 1, 2019 
Prince Among Slaves Terry Alford Very well researched and documented--but not dry--true story of an African prince who was forced to take the Middle Passage and become enslaved in America. It is amazing that he was recognized here and eventually freed late in his life and able to return to Liberia with his wife. He didn't live there long but one of his sons was also eventually freed and sent to join his mother, which has me longing for their story. December 31, 2018 
Girl in the Blue Coat Monica Hesse There will always be new perspectives of World War II and the Holocaust to read, and this one shows a small part of the Dutch Resistance. It adds a unique element of a mystery, in the form of one missing girl among so many other missing people. It continues to reveal right up to the end. December 26, 2018 
What to Say Next Julie Buxbaum My new favorite YA book. The Rosie Project but in high school, where an autistic boy is discovered by a smart, cool girl who is recovering from a traumatic event. Could not put it down but didn't want to race and miss the details of the ride. December 11, 2018 
House Arrest K. A. Holt This free verse story plays out in the court-required journal of a 12 year old on house arrest for stealing a credit card to pay for his baby brother's medicine. I was gradually sucked in and surprised by the ending, which isn't happy for all. I did buy extra copies so my some of my students can experience it in lit circles. December 9, 2018 
Hillbilly Elegy JD Vance The memoir of a self-described hillbilly who beat the odds and graduated from Yale law school. In it, he attempts to explain the mindset of his poor-performing regional peers with family stories and reporting on academic research. While there are a few public policies that could help, in the end it comes down to breaking some bad cycles. December 2, 2018 
All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Remarque The book cover touting this as "the greatest war novel of all time" is not overselling it, because it is incredibly universal and impacting. For a war book, there is surprisingly little action. And yet deadly action is going on all around, all the time. It isn't until page 157 that we learn our narrator's name. This book should be required reading for all political leaders. November 28, 2018 
The Rest of Us Just Live Here Patrick Ness While some teenagers are sucked into life-threatening adventures with vampires, werewolves, etc. and the adults appear oblivious, what are the rest of the teenagers doing? Living their lives and still struggling. This story follows a group of friends in such a setting. I enjoyed the heavy realism of mental illness and family dysfunction balanced with the humor and absurdity of a battle with the Immortals being fought in the very-way-background. November 25, 2018 
Behind the Scenes at the Museum Kate Atkinson Atkinson continues to be one of my favorite writers. She sucked me in with some of her crime stories, but her lengthier sketches of characters connected by branches of family trees are rich. November 23, 2018 
Dorothy Must Die Danielle Paige I appreciate any revisioning of a traditional story and this was no different. If I loved it, I might have been happier to discover at the end that it was part of a much longer series. November 19, 2018 
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter Erika L. Sanchez Whenever I'm told I "have" to read something, I resist. I'm glad I finally gave in to this one. For the first time, I feel like I really read a book about my students. I hope some of them will like it too. October 30, 2018 
The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich The author's fixation on a murder trial reminded me of my experiences as a crime reporter, but my fascination came from the novelty of it, not familiarity. The murderer was a pedophile, which connected to the author's childhood trauma. There is no suspense in the outcome, just in the doling out of pieces of information. It is disappointing the author left practicing law solely because of her conflicted feelings over the death penalty, when there are so many other arenas she could have served victims. Perhaps her book will still reach some of the people who need it. October 23, 2018 
Moxie Jennifer Mathieu Yes I did cry at the end when the girls walked out of class. This is certainly a book for our #metoo times. Sometimes girls really do need to stick together to discover their true power. October 19, 2018 
Pride Idi Zoboi There are some good people in the world, and one of them anonymously sent me this book to add to my classroom library. It is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, set in a New York district. I enjoyed it much more than the Jane Austen original. (Sorry not sorry). October 14, 2018 
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Susan Cain My librarian is also my partner in introversion crime, and when she put this book in my hands it was no surprise how much I related to it. I most enjoyed the specific stories of where introverts gain a surprising upper-hand (in situations that are usually dominated by extroverts). I also enjoyed spending time in other cultures that value introverts. But after years of education training that requires classrooms to be extrovert-focused, it was good to be reminded that my instinct to protect my quieter students from these requirements is not wrong. October 9, 2018 
The Parable of the Sower Octavia Butler It was distressing to see the morning headlines (we have 10 years to fix climate change or we are screwed) after just reading this book, which shows exactly how messed up society can quickly turn. There were no zombies or supernatural elements, but I could only picture scenes from The Walking Dead in Butler's story of a group of people walking north to where they hope there is more water (and with it, civility). October 7, 2018 
The Invention of Wings Sue Monk Kidd My first assignment for a new book club, yay! It was especially appreciated because it is from one of my favorite genres, historical fiction. This one provides inside into the resistance movement of the 1800s: slavery abolitionists. A few famous historical figures showed up and I thought they were just to provide context, and it wasn't until I read the notes at the end that I learned the main characters were also true historical icons as well. I have so much history to learn. September 23, 2018 
Buck M. K. Asante Asante loves words and imagery, and this shines through his writing from page one. I will plead amnesia for some of the unsavory scenes, but I am also a realist and I'm sure many of my students would see themselves in this memoir. I could only hope some of my students are also able to find themselves in their high school class journals like Asante did. September 15, 2018 
Breaking the Line: The Season in Black College Football that Transformed the Sport and Changed the Course of Civil Rights Samuel Freedman I'll admit I had to skim through the descriptions of football plays, but I was stunned by descriptions of black life in the 1960s and have several pages bookmarked and underlined.  September 5, 2018 
The Walls Around Us Nova Ren Suma Girls in juvenile detention and a ghost story? Bring it! It continued to surprise me with new information, and the satisfactory ending was also a surprise. The writing imagery was icing on the cake. Read this in one day and wished I had the hard copy to pass around. Luckily our school library has it and I already talked one student into reading it. August 25, 2018 
The Garden of Small Beginnings Abbi Waxman The perfect book to end the summer. Witty, smart characters with dialogue that makes me know in my heart that if not born there, the author hangs out a lot with people from England. I read the whole book while my daughter ran around Schlitterbahn. At one point I put it down to go get on a tube and float a while, but when I saw the line, I decided I'd rather be reading. August 11, 2018 
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass Meg Medina This has been popular with students and I've been meaning to read it for a while, and I'm glad I finally did. One of my favorite aspects is that we never really do get to meet or know the title character. The moral of the story is that other people have their own issues, and may negatively impact your life, and sometimes all you can do is ask for help, and never lose focus of your own goals and priorities. Repeat. August 8, 2018 
The Rules of Magic Alice Hoffman A prequel to the book the movie Practical Magic was based on, the story follows 3 siblings during the 1960s and 70s. I enjoyed that the brother discovered he was gay and that despite the unfriendly time setting of this discovery, he was able to find and live a happy life with his true love.  August 1, 2018 
The Last of August Brittany Cavallaro Number two in a revisiting of the Sherlock Holmes family legend. By the end, I just really found it hard to care about any of the characters, and since the mystery was all about them, I didn't really care about its resolution. July 29, 2018 
The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate Jacqueline Kelly Summer near Lockhart, Texas, early 1900s. I can't resist sassy Calpurnia, the young biologist. In this follow-up, she discovers veterinary science as well as the misogyny of her father who doesn't believe a girl needs to be educated beyond the one year required to become a primary school teacher. The book also includes historical touchstones like the Galveston hurricane, and the beginning of the Texas oil industry. July 23, 2018 
All American Boys Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely When I read that cops in South Carolina petitioned to remove this from the school's summer reading list, I immediately bought a copy. Oh the irony! They complained the book made police officers look bad (perhaps like bullies?), so instead of NOT being a bully, they...well, whatever. The authors took a situation of racial brutality and managed to portray the humanity of all involved. Being a cop is not easy, and not all are cut out for it. July 19, 2018 
Faithful Alice Hoffman A rewarding trip that begins with a high school girl's traumatic event and takes you through the toll it took on her, but also through her recovery. There are coincidences that seem magical, not too surprising from the author of Practical Magic, but they do not detract from the story and instead increase the satisfaction. July 17, 2018 
in a dark, dark wood Ruth Ware A great summer page-turner mystery. None of the characters was truly likeable--except perhaps the final victim who made only a brief appearance--so it was a brain exercise instead of an emotional one. July 12, 2018 
Barracoon Zora Neale Hurston A newly published work by Hurston with her interview of the last survivor of the Middle Passage? I'm not going to wait for the paperback. No regrets, but I confess to being a little disappointed that it was such a quick read and felt like a surface treatment of a most interesting life. July 8, 2018 
We Have Always Lived in the Castle Shirley Jackson I can't resist dark psychology. I thought I was really late to this party (a good choice for Books I Should Have Read But Hadn't Yet), but it turns out I'm just in time for a new movie version of it to be released later this year. July 5, 2018 
A Twist at the End Steven Saylor History (Austin in the late 1800s), Crime (America's first serial killer), Arts and Literature (O. Henry and Elizabet Ney)...pretty much the trifecta for me. KUT Book Club gave a great assignment and I'm looking forward to hearing from the author at Book People later this month. July 2, 2018 
The Grave's a Fine and Private Place Alan Bradley Could I possibly be tired of the amazing Flavia de Luce? Apparently so. To be fair, much of my infatuation with this series is for Buckshaw Manor, and in this one Dogger takes Flavia and her sisters down the river to escape the pall of their father's recent and surprising passing. It was good to have more Dogger, but I also wanted more of her sisters as well and their scenes were too brief. Not sorry I read it, but not as anxious for the next installment either. June 23, 2018 
Today Will Be Different Maria Semple Semple does not disappoint in her ability to slip amazing insight into deceptively mundane scenes. A follow-up to Where'd You Go Bernadette, it is similar in setting (Seattle), character (married mother), and tone (frantic and WITTY), and so very satisfying. June 17, 2018 
Class Mom Laurie Gelman Still relaxing on light summer fare before digging in to weightier material. After getting past its clunky exposition, this story hit high notes when presented in the form of emails sent by the kindergarten class mom narrator to the rest of the parents. I DID laugh out loud. June 12, 2018 
The Girl From Everywhere Heidi Heilig Just another story about a teen girl whose mother is dead and she travels with her devastated father on his ship...but this time the ship can travel through time and space. Dad is obsessed with returning to save her mother, but she believes this will prevent her own birth. A fun read to start the summer. June 9, 2018 
Arcadia Lauren Groff Even while presenting the harsh realities, Groff write a dreamily of a community in upstate New York trying to create a Utopia.  June 3, 2018 
Shoot Like a Girl Mary Jennings Hegar My daughter plans on applying to the Air Force Academy, and I really hope she can request her commission letter from future Rep. Hegar. May 27, 2018 
The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown Ed. by Catherine Burns I love The Moth podcast, and this book did not disappoint. I have been savoring it slowly since December, and finally turned the page on the last one five months later. I hope there are more to come! May 20, 2018 
The Witches Stacy Schiff I love Salem history, and this weighty book has been on my wish list for a while. Written by a historian who has done a lot of research with primary sources, it may be the definitive volume. The lengthy index in the back is helpful if you want to look up specific people and events, because otherwise it reads very "stream of consciousness" of all she knows about it, loosely chronologically. There are many interesting side steps along the way that provide insight on Puritan living and the Puritan mindset. April 23, 2018 
Nothing But the Truth Avi A short story told through memos, dialogues, and diary entries that illustrates the messes that are created out of basic miscommunications. It also demonstrates how much is missed even when the media reports just the facts. There is no happy ending. April 12, 2018 
Milkweed Jerry Spinelli While some of my students are reading Maus, I'm also in the Warsaw ghetto, but seeing it through the eyes of a boy who has been an orphan so long he does not remember his first family, and instead makes one wherever he goes. Heartbreaking and well-written. April 10, 2018 
Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City Javier Auyero I dutifully checked this out from the library so I could join the KUT book club. I expected boring data, but instead I got engaging profiles of fascinating Austin residents I might not have met otherwise. April 8, 2018 
The Museum of Extraordinary Things: A Novel Alice Hoffman So it isn't my favorite Alice Hoffman novel, but still an enjoyable visit with good people living in the seedy underbelly of New York in the early 1900s. March 25, 2018 
His Bloody Project: Documents Relating to the Case of Roderick Macrae Graeme MaCrae Burnet CSI Criminal Intent meets a small Scotland village in the late 1800s. We know the subject killed three people, we just don't know two of the three victims and WHY. Can he escape the death penalty with an insanity plea? The story unfolds through his first-hand account and through the testimony of the villagers. I admit that once the story got through the initial trial, I was less interested in the penalty phase, but it was a fascinating read and a reminder of how little things actually change over the centuries. March 18, 2018 
Oreo Fran Ross This wins for most unusual book I've read in a long time. A young girl--half black, half Jewish--goes on a quest to meet her father. Taken from Greek mythology, the story also reminded me of a Coen brothers movie with all the unusual people and situations she encounters along the way. My favorite part is her clever mind and her family's love of words, because it was used for rich comic effect. I'm glad I had the kindle version so I could quickly look up vocabulary! March 13, 2018 
Yellow Don Lee Short stories about Asian-American men who all have ties to a small California town called Rosarita Bay. February 20, 2018 
The Secret History  Donna Tartt Written by the author who gave us The Goldfinch, I knew this would be a longer read. Luckily we had a snow day! Students studying ancient Greek at a small Vermont college have their morals tested when they "accidentally" kill a local farmer. More bad choices follow.  January 16, 2018 
milk and honey rupi kaur Students have been asking for this but I didn't get to read it until one graced me with the loan of her copy. This book of poems was a quick Saturday afternoon read and I can understand how it speaks to teenagers and young adults, but I think I've seen most of these statements in memes. January 13, 2018 
Middlesex Jeffrey Eugenides Beautifully written book about a narrator declared female at birth, but discovers he is male in adolescence. But that is only part of the story, as we learn the history of his grandparents from Greece and his parents in America. January 12, 2018 
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Ishmael Beah I first heard of this when Beah told a story on The Moth podcast. That story is not in his book, which tells the incredible story of what it is like when "soldiers" kill everyone in your town while you are at a school event, and you are left wandering the country and ultimately become one of the brutal "soldiers." December 27, 2017 
How Not to Run a B&B Bobbie Hutchinson My husband and I daydream about funding our retirement by running a bed and breakfast on the Oregon coast. I'll let him do the heavy research while I enjoy books like this, which turn out to be interesting character studies of various guests and the friends who support the author. December 18, 2017 
Winter Marissa Meyer True confession. By now I'm so into this series that when I finished Cress, I immediately looked to Amazon for this last installment. One month away from the paperback release, and the hardback price hurt my penny-pinching tendencies. I should be cleaning the house for in-laws, but instead I'm on my way to Half Price Books. Which didn't have it. Back at home, I learn it is available electronically through my local library, but my card is expired and I don't know my pin. Yep, I'm back in the car on my way to the library. My card is up to date and I'm binge-reading through the holiday. I'll admit this one felt more like work after I raced through getting to know the crazy and fascinating Winter, but still rewarding. I'm done and the book-hangover has set it. November 25, 2017 
Cress Marissa Meyer The "princess" of this book is right up my alley, a smart and resourceful "hacker" who uses her unique skill set to complement her new friends.  November 22, 2017 
Scarlett Marissa Meyer Book 1 (Cinder) had enough of my attention to want to read this follow-up, and now I'm really hooked. Dynamic characters, with the allusion to fairy tales making them more feminine arch-types than gimmick. It would annoy me that every princess in the series has a prince, but these women are strong enough and their partners interesting enough that I'm just enjoying it. In this one, Scarlet is overshadowed by her "prince," Wolf. She's no girlfriend, she's his alpha.  November 15, 2017 
Cinder Marissa Meyer Recommended by my daughter years ago, finally reading. As a dystopian future spin of Cinderella, it was a little predictable. But the twists and details captured my interest enough that I am glad its sequel, Scarlet, is already waiting on our shelf. November 11, 2017 
Full Tilt  Neil Shusterman By the author of the gripping Unwind series. It took me a little while to get into it because sci-fi adventure isn't really my genre, but once the carnival-from-Hell took on a deeper psychological approach, I was hooked. November 3, 2017 
The Vacationers Emma Straub This was supposed to be a summer pool-side read, but I really needed to escape to Menorca this fall. A family and friends spends two weeks in Spain with their own problems and goals to work out. October 29, 2017 
All the Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr WWII is rich ground for exploring why people do what they do, and how they survive in surreal conditions. This story focuses on a young blind French girl and a young German orphan whose lives connect in a surprising and beautiful way. October 22, 2017 
The Witches of New York Ami McKay This book touches on various aspects of life in 19th century New York, but only touching. There were so many opportunities for the story to go deeper--both into specific characters and the underlying themes of misogyny--that it left me unsatisfied. October 15, 2017 
Everything, Everything Nicola Yoon A quick, well-written read about a girl kept imprisoned by her mentally ill mother, and the boy next store. September 17, 2017 
A God in Ruins Kate Atkinson A not-quite-sequel to an earlier book, it tells the life story of the brother. A completely new story, with comforting appearances of beloved family members I'd come to know from the first book. Atkinson remains one of my favorite writers. September 9, 2017 
The Hate U Give Angie Thomas I didn't think I wanted to read a book about police shootings, because I felt like I had already read enough in the newspapers. But this author has done a remarkable thing with her main character of Starr, who witnessed her childhood friend being shot. Thomas is able to convey all the nuances of these types of crimes. The book made me angry, but also made me want to spend more time with Starr's loving and funny family. August 2, 2017 
A Gentleman in Moscow Amor Towles I had to really slow down to enjoy this book, because the magic was in the sentences, not the chapter action. When Count Rostov is sentenced to live within the confines of the Metropolitan Hotel in Moscow after the Russian Revolution, you think his world will have gotten very small. But instead his daily interactions with his new "prison" mates go deep and reach far through the decades to come. I read even more slowly as the remaining pages got thinner because I did not want to check out. July 31, 2017 
Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve Ben Blatt If we are going to analyze literature, why not take advantage of technological advancements? This author takes the advice of famous authors and puts their novels to the test. Advice like don't overuse exclamation points, and that qualifying an adjective with "very" just demonstrates laziness over finding a stronger verb. This book will reveal the favorite words of famous authors, and that describing the setting with weather is a popular way to begin a book. July 19, 2017 
The Life We Bury Allen Eskens This story about a college student with baggage assigned to write the biography of a dying convict was a very satisfying read for a vacation. I cared about the characters, and the only disappointment was when the author strayed from what made it good in order to throw in some unrealistic peril, but I can forgive that. July 16, 2017 
To the Bright Edge of the World Eowyn Ivey Another one that was hard to put down once it started, and better than her first novel, Snow Child. Part journals, part letters, it tells the story of an Alaskan explorer and his intelligent and curious wife left behind at the Fort, with some mystical elements. July 9, 2017 
Kindred Octavia Butler Why did I take so long to read this? History and science fiction combine to shed more light on the enslaved and owner travesty. July 2, 2017 
Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd Alan Bradley Another short vacation with my favorite eccentric and dysfunctional family in the English countryside. Sadly, this latest in the series did little to move the characters along or address revelations in the previous book, but Flavia de Luce did get to find another body and uncover secrets, so there's that.  June 27, 2017 
A Man Called Ove Fredrik Backman Picture Clint Eastwood from Grand Torino, but in Scandinavia and not quite so dark, despite the old man's repeated failed suicide attempts. Crusty "old school" grumpy gentleman forced into society by his neighbors, with pleasant results.  June 26, 2017 
Before I Fall Lauren Oliver Now a movie I haven't seen and probably won't. This is Groundhogs Day for teenagers; a popular girl has to relive the same day over and over until she gets it right. I admit I got sucked in and was really enjoying the different directions the days took and the insights acquired, but the hurried ending made it all for nothing and ultimately unsatisfying. April 27, 2017 
Rules of Civility Amor Towles If Zelda Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway had a book baby together, this would be it. The writing is exquisite without being flowery, and the actions and characterizations are direct. I loved this visit to 1938 New York. April 16, 2017 
The Rosie Project Graeme Simpson A follow-up to the Rosie Effect, where a professor with Aspergers moves from Australia to New York with his new wife and they have a baby. Hilarity ensues. I am in love with this character but the second book still felt more obligatory than fun like the first. April 10, 2017 
Ready Player One Ernest Cline It must be well-written because this book took me into a world of video gaming virtual reality the way books take me into, well, just about any other reality. Lately I've begun to think it might be nice to put a visor on and mentally be some where else, just as these characters do to avoid the ugly earth and society that is this author's imagined 2044. I'm glad I read it before the movie comes out so I could experience it first-hand. April 4, 2017 
UnWholly Neal Shusterman Book 2 in the Unwind series, about a dystopian future where abortions are illegal until the child is 13-17, when their body parts have value. Once you pick this up, it is hard to put down. March 19, 2017 
The Price for Their Pound of Flesh Daina Ramey Berry A well-researched book by a UT historian about the profits taken from the enslaved, from before they were born until after their deaths. There are a lot of numbers, and there are also a lot of stories of individuals that make this a satisfying and enlightening book. March 16, 2017 
Fade Far Away Francess Lantz A quick read about a girl with a complicated, artistic family. It gives a surface treatment of art, being an artist, and family relationships. March 9, 2017 
The Art of Fielding Chad Harbach Just because I don't watch many sporting events doesn't mean I don't enjoy reading about them. Especially when the sports story is blended with literary references. This one has been on my list for a long time and I'm glad I finally found a copy to read. March 5, 2017 
1984 George Orwell Some world changes inspire people to buy guns; other people are inspired to buy books. I was happy to help put 1984 back on the bestseller's list. As a child of the 80s I do remember many references to it, but I think it has more to say now. It is helpful to have terms for things like "doublethink and "Newspeak." Or as the motto says, "Ignorance is Strength." I'm also glad I have seen at least one student voluntarily reading this book. February 5, 2017 
Maus: A Survivor's Tale (I My Father Bleeds History) Art Spiegelman Comics and graphic novels have never worked well for me; I just never seem to "fall down the rabbit hole" and into the story as I can with straight prose. This book is the new exception, and I have already ordered a copy of book II. I hope my students like it when we do Lit Circles. January 22, 2017 
The Paris Wife Paula McLain Better late than never to the party of this popular book. A well-written imagining of life with Ernest Hemingway and interacting with the rest of the Lost Generation hanging out in Paris. Now I will have to re-read The Moveable Feast. December 31, 2016 
No-No Boy John Okada I think this should replace Catcher in the Rye as required high school reading. In contrast to Four-Four-Two, this gives the perspective of a young man who answered 'No' to the two questions asked of eligible internees, and he went to prison instead of war. The book begins with his return to his family in Seattle, where he struggles to figure out who he is and what he does next. December 26, 2016 
Four-Four-Two Dean Hughes This tells the story of a boy whose family was sent to an internment camp during WWII, where he made the decision to enlist and become one of the soldiers in the 442, a regiment that sacrificed a lot to perform great services. December 20, 2016 
When the Emperor Was Divine Julie Otsuka I am previewing this as a possible Lit Circle selection next semester, and it did not disappoint. This tells the story of a family sent to a WWII Japanese Internment camp, from their different perspectives. December 11, 2016 
The Nightingale Kristin Hannah Every time you think you know a lot about WWII and the Holocaust, you read a book that adds a new layer. The Nightingale gave me a deeper understanding of what France went through as occupied by Nazis, and how their resistance efforts worked. This book did it through two main protagonists, sisters with very different personalities but each ending up making their own contribution. December 4, 2016 
White is for Witching Helen Oyeyemi Oyeyemi is one of my favorite new writers. Even her lesser works are poetic and fascinating. This is one of her earlier novels, and while a little hard to follow since it has at least three narrators with no introduction on who is speaking (and one of them is the house!), the writing is strong enough to make it worthwhile. The action and ending is unclear--is it a ghost story, crime story, or is it all mental illness? November 27, 2016 
Moloka'i Alan Brennert I love historical books, and this one took me to the island of Molokai in the early 1900s, when it served as a leper colony. It follows the main character as she was taken from her family at age 8, up to a reunion with her own daughter who was taken from her as an infant. The story took a leisurely pace that could have been cut down a little, but then again when you are on island time you should relax a little. November 21, 2016 
The Pearl John Steinbeck One of those "I should have read but haven't yet." Another Steinbeck downer but much shorter than Grapes of Wrath. November 12, 2016 
Unwind Neal Shusterman A favorite of some of my students, I finally caught on. As a parent and teacher, it was emotionally unsettling to read about a future when teenagers can be legally "unwound" with a parent, guardian, or state order-- body parts recycled in a thriving aftermarket. The idea is awful enough, and the close-up view of the hospital (think concentration camp) and procedure is horrifying. Not sure if I will continue in the series as this one had a satisfying conclusion, but it was indeed a book I could not put down until it was over. November 6, 2016 
Lexicon Max Barry Imagine a school like Hogwarts, but this one teaches a real magic of how to use words -- sounds, brain science, and psychology -- to be persuasive enough to have complete power over people. This book combined two of my passions: words and neuroscience. It took some effort to get started and understand what was going on, but totally worth it. November 4, 2016 
The Year We Disappeared: A Father - Daughter Memoir Cylin Busby and John Busby My daughter picked this one up at the bookstore, but I didn't pick it up until a student left a copy in my room. Then I couldn't put it down. A father and daughter take turns telling about how he was almost fatally shot in the face while working as a police officer. It tells of small-town, small-time corruption that got bigger, and how the family dealt with the treachery and trauma. The book's abrupt ending was a little jarring, but if I was looking for good role models of adulthood and parenthood, I would find it in this family.  October 27, 2016 
Reboot Amy Tintera When the bookstore owner found out I was a high school English teacher, he said I had to buy this one for my kids. It was written by a McNeil High School graduate and is set around Austin, post-virus and post-war. It offered a new take on the zombie apocalypse genre, with terminal virus teens "rebooting" and then being used as quasi-soldiers. I enjoyed it and I think my students will too. October 2, 2016 
Tell the Wolves I'm Home: A Novel  Carol Rifka Brunt I don't know where she finds them, but my "non-reader" daughter is the book whisperer with another great discovery. A story of sisters, family, AIDS in the 1980s, and art, very well written. September 26, 2016 
The Story of Land and Sea Katy Simpson Smith I don't want to give away any spoilers, but there were some things I did not see coming. That said, this is not an action book with twists and turns, but an interesting character study from post-Revolutionary War North Carolina. The ending was somewhat ambiguous but still satisfying; as in life, there are seldom clean endings, just scene changes. September 17, 2016 
Flora: A Novel Gail Godwin I downloaded this on my phone in a pinch for something to read, and then I could not put it down. The characters were rich and well-depicted by their complex narrator, a 10 year old girl living in unique circumstances at the end of WWII. The foreshadowing was enough to satisfy and intrigue at the same time, giving just the right information away. This story will linger with me. August 20, 2016 
Dangerous Girls Abigail Haas Ripped from the headlines. (American girls overseas, not all make it back). Interesting look at a resulting court trial, with a not so surprising revelation at the end. August 12, 2016 
Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham I'm a diehard Veronica Mars fan, so ordering this book for a beach vacation was a no-brainer. I was pleasantly surprised that it was more satisfying than the first book, partly because it did not include the seemingly obligatory scene of Veronica in imminent danger. All told, I guess I'm still the kid who never grew out of Nancy Drew.  July 31, 2016 
Snow Falling on Cedars David Guterson This murder trial story set in a Washington fishing town just after WWII not only took me to a cooler place during a hot summer, but helped me imagine my Washington-native WWII veteran grandfather. July 20, 2016 
Icy Sparks Gwyn Hyman Rubio This has been on my to-read list for a long time, but finally found a $1 copy that bumped it to the top. I enjoyed the writing and spending time with Icy and her small group of family and friends, but I'm not sure how long it will be remembered. Still, it offers a good glimpse into having Tourette's Syndrome. July 13, 2016 
Landline Rainbow Rowell Finally a Rainbow Rowell book I didn't love. I don't even know why. Moving on... July 1, 2016 
The Language of Flowers Vanessa Diffenbaugh A satisfying combination of realism (foster care and deep psychological scars) with friends and romance that are too good to be true. But I still want to hope there are few happy endings out there. June 19, 2016 
The Unraveling of Mercy Louis: A Novel Keija Parssinen Oh how I loved this book. The Crucible plays out with the girls' high school basketball team in a small Texas town. Very well written, with good characters. June 3, 2016 
The Circle Dave Eggers I think this book should replace Brave New World in senior English classes. Not because I don't like Aldous Huxley, but because it delivers the same message with more relevancy. May 29, 2016 
We Were Liars E. Lockhart I gave myself an early start at summer with a book that has been on my list since LAST summer. It did not disappoint. Rich in metaphorical description, it was also suspenseful and surprising. May 20, 2016 
Shakespeare: The World As Stage Bill Bryson I'm still not a fan of the plays, but I do love words and history so this book was right up my alley. It had a lot of interesting insights on life in Elizabethan times. April 17, 2016 
A Night Divided Jennifer A. Nielsen I remember when the Berlin wall came down, but I knew very little about when or how it went up. Apparently it happened rather suddenly, leaving some families divided. This book tells the story of one family caught in that dilemma. April 13, 2016 
Zodiac Romina Russell The first book in a sci fi/fantasy series. It is an interesting mix of astrology, cultural myths, and a high tech advanced, futuristic society in an alternate universe. The heroine's mission to save the world while choosing between two male leads is reminiscent of Katniss. April 10, 2016 
The Girl with All the Gifts MR Carey I was lured in by a girl genius locked in a science lab, and tricked into reading a zombie book. The unique ending is what makes this book noteworthy and worth discussing. Soon to be a movie with Glenn Close. February 25, 2016 
Animals in Translation Temple Grandin This book truly combines all of my top interests: autism, neuroscience, and animals. It isn't for everybody, but for me it was a page-turner. February 14, 2016 
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Harriet Jacobs A riveting story that is more intriguing because it is true. I immediately looked up the author to find out the rest of the story for her and her children. February 6, 2016 
Fangirl Rainbow Rowell Initially won over by Eleanor and Park, I am now a confirmed fan of Rowell. I was not Cather or Wren in college, but following them in this book took me back and everything felt familiar. January 18, 2016 
The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man James Weldon Johnson The fictional character is as interesting as the author. I read the book before its introduction by Henry Louis Gates., Jr. January 10, 2016 
Stolen Lucy Cristopher This is a particular favorite of a student. The style is jarring because it is in the form of a journal telling the story of a young girl's kidnapping and imprisonment, as written to her captor. "You" did this, "you" did that...Lots to think about, especially since I at first criticized it for romanticizing the kidnapper, or is that the Stockholm Syndrome lens? January 3, 2016 
Flight Sherman Alexie Almost read this in one sitting, could not put it down. Alexie was born to write about teenage boys. December 23, 2015 
The Silkworm Robert Galbraith I had hoped for another book to spend time with JK Rowling's detective, but this one felt like work to get through it. It might have been a sophomore slump but I will let memory fade before I pick up book three. December 21, 2015 
Paintings from the Cave: Three Novellas Gary Paulsen Resourceful kids in bad circumstances, dogs, and art. Yup, this book got to me. December 11, 2015 
The Bullet Mary Louise Kelly This would have made a powerful short story. As novel, it dips into cliches. The hot, creepy doctor thread might have served as a red herring for a potential conspiracy, but instead panders to the romance crowd and could have been eliminated. Still, no regrets for time spent reading this intriguing story. December 4, 2015 
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry Gabrielle Zevin "Silas Marner" for the modern age, and really makes me want to own a bookstore. November 29, 2015 
The Sandcastle Girls Chris Bohjalian Difficult and powerful story about the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Sometimes hard to read, even harder to put down. Humanity goes on but sometimes I wonder if we deserve to. November 24, 2015 
Song of Achilles Madeline Miller I didn't think I was that "into" this book until it was over. So I have to use the adjective "affecting" to describe this version of the Trojan War as told by Patroclus, lover and friend to Achilles. November 19, 2015 
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Rachel Joyce Winner of most appropriate title. The main character walks to the mail box to send a letter and instead just keeps on walking across England. The book is full of likable characters and it is rewarding to see their walls come down. November 16, 2015 
All I Have In This World Michael Parker One of the more unusual books I've read in a while, it was a little unsettling as I tried to figure out where it was going...and that's ok! The story puts together two random people who meet on a car lot looking at the same used Buick. I was left grateful the author defied convention and let them develop as unlikely friends instead of making it a romance. November 5, 2015 
Once a King, Always a King Reymundo Sanchez Just trying to keep up with my peeps. This is a sequel and my students tell me I have to read the first one to understand, but I think I've got it. It was rewarding to see the author finally make good choices and find his true strength. November 3, 2015 
Dark Places Gillian Flynn Ripped from the headlines, The Perfect Storm...well-written page-turner about a murdered family and the two survivors: the youngest sister with little memory of the night, and her brother who is in jail for the crime. October 5, 2015 
The Rosie Project Graeme C. Simsion If Sheldon wrote a book about his views on life and his search for a wife, with added Australian humor. Naturally, the Aspergers angle brings it especially close to home. October 3, 2015 
Fist Stick Knife Gun Geoffrey Canada Eye-opening personal story that helps explain violence in kids and certain neighborhoods. The author has dedicated his life to solutions but as a reader, I'm not left feeling optimistic. October 2, 2015 
In Real Life Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang A graphic novel that shows how gaming and the internet can make the world a lot smaller. September 10, 2015 
The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins Another great example of a book that begs the question "how much can you trust your narrator?" This is a suspenseful thriller that has been fairly compared to Gone Girl. August 29, 2015 
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams Phew. I just managed to fit in my summer annual "Should Have Read but Haven't Yet" book. It was a quick, humorous read. I should have also known more about the book's background, but I looked it up when I was done. Before it was a book (and then a 5-part trilogy), it was a radio show. I haven't found where to download or stream it, so I have the CDs sitting in my Amazon wishlist for my next indulgence. August 11, 2015 
iBoy Kevin Brooks Another one I had to buy after hearing a student presentation on it, and it made a great summer read. When an iPhone thrown from the 30th floor hits a 16 year old boy in the head, a superhero is born. Don't think too hard about this one, just enjoy the ride. August 3, 2015 
The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Alexander McCall Smith A fun, fast read about a woman in Botswana who uses her cattle inheritance to open her own detective agency. She reminds her doubters of Agatha Christie, but I'm picturing a younger, darker Angela Lansbury who uses a quiet charm and sharp intelligence to solve mysteries with grace. July 31, 2015 
The Grimm Legacy Polly Shulman Goes along similar lines of The Librarian TV movies and show, but with teens working the stacks. Wouldn't you like to check out an invisible cloak? July 23, 2015 
Go Set a Watchman Harper Lee I liked but did not revere To Kill a Mockingbird. Perhaps TKAM was the book that was needed in its time...Go Set a Watchman is what we need today. I read that computer analysis believes Truman Capote and other editors disrupted Lee's voice in the original, but the new one is all her. And now I finally join those who wish she had written more in her lifetime. July 21, 2015 
Little Brother Cory Doctorow A great warning about sacrificing liberty for security. I was surprised my hacker son hadn't raved more about it after he read it (before me), but he said he was annoyed by technical errors in the computer programming explanations. July 18, 2015 
I Am the Messenger Markus Zusak Somebody please tell me this is being made into a movie. July 11, 2015 
The Cuckoo's Calling Robert Galbraith I respect JK Rowling for writing under a pseudonym just so she could write what she wanted without pressure. I couldn't put this book down, partly because it was a good mystery, but also because I liked spending time with these characters. I hope she finds time to make it a series! July 7, 2015 
Veronica Mars and Philosophy Edited by George A. Dunn The show and movie are over, but I can still revisit Neptune and brush up on philosophy by reading this insightful selection. July 6, 2015 
Out of the Dust Karen Hesse Life in the 1930s Dust Bowl as told in verse by a young girl who loses almost everything in it. June 21, 2015 
Feed MT Anderson Cell phones offer us constant entertainment, customized advertising, and a ready source of information. What if this resource could be fully integrated into our brains? Feed introduces us to a group of teens who demonstrate what this future might look like. June 16, 2015 
Keeper Mal Peet I'll admit I was only half-listening to the student presentation on this one, expecting it to be a rather predictable young adult sports story. Luckily I caught on quickly, and it was in my Amazon cart before the student sat down. This book gave me a new appreciation of soccer, but it is also a ghost story and a nature story. June 9, 2015 
Ripper Stefan Petrucha A student's book report on this one captured my interest. This story imagines that the Ripper's crimes in London stopped because he came to America to find his son, who is living in an orphanage. The Ripper hides by being a detective with the famous Pinkerton Agency. There is also a touch of Steampunk. What's not to like? June 7, 2015 
Flora & Ulysses Kate DiCamillo A newly-made Super Squirrel is placed in the charge of a young girl who is surrounded by interesting people. A sweet story that sneaks in a few great lessons on literary terms. June 5, 2015 
Life After Life Kate Atkinson I have always loved this author, and her British detective Jackson Brody series especially. This one was different and a little challenging, about reincarnation and a women who kept coming back for multiple trieds to get it right. Among other things, readers get to relive the London bombings over and over. Would she kill Hitler and prevent the war that took such a toll on her and her family?  May 5, 2015 
Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition Karen Blumenthal An easy and interesting non-fiction account of the people and ideas behind the prohibition movement and its ultimate repeal. April 24, 2015 
The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler This book and others of the same author and era are what fill my father's bookshelves. The language and attitudes are unmistakably distinct for the genre and offer an interesting step back in time. April 14, 2015 
Suite Française Irène Némirovsky A very well-written, close-up view of the Nazi invasion of France. It is a sad topic made sadder knowing it was incomplete because the author was rounded up and later died in a Nazi concentration camp. The book somewhat satisfies by including letters written by her family and friends working first to find her, and then to help hide and provide for her two young daughters. April 3, 2015 
I, Tituba Maryse Conde There isn't much in the historical record about the first person accused in the Salem witch trials, so there is room to imagine who she might have been and what might have happened to her. March 27, 2015 
Slaughterhouse Five Kurt Vonnegut I first read this in high school which is almost the same as not reading it, so I picked up a new copy. The years have only improved it. March 19, 2015 
Popular Maya Van Wagenen I loved this book about a Brownsville middle schooler who finds an 1950s self-help book on teen popularity. She decides to experiment and discover if the advice is still relevant. We will hear from this author again, perhaps when she finishes college. March 16, 2015 
Labor Day Joyce Maynard I didn't expect the happy ending in this book about a boy and his mother who bring home an escaped convict for the weekend. March 11, 2015 
Six Women of Salem Marilynne K. Roach A detailed and documented non-fiction account of the Salem witch trials, with all the names we became familiar with in The Crucible. And now I can tell students that several accused DID run away to escape. February 2, 2015 
As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust Alan Bradley A fun update to a series. Flavia de Luce is shipped to a girls' boarding school in Canada, which happens to be a cover for a spy training operation. Naturally a body appears and Flavia solves the crime. January 10, 2015 
Spare Parts Joshua Davis Sought out this book after seeing the movie trailer over Christmas. I can already tell the book is better because it is all about the students, not the teachers, and it goes beyond the Hollywood ending of students-least-likely beat MIT at underwater robotics. I cried in the trailer and I cried reading the book. There. I said it. And then I bought more copies so it could be a lit circle option! January 4, 2015 
Siddhartha Hermann Hesse This book is a regular on high school reading lists, and yet it somehow remained on my list of "books I should have read but haven't." That has now been remedied. The story about a young man in India seeking spiritual enlightenment is made more interesting when compared to the background of its author. January 1, 2015 
The Magician's Land Lev Grossman A very satisfying final book in a trilogy that steals from Narnia and Harry Potter to create something modern. The first book was being filmed as I read. December 28, 2014 
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free Héctor Tobar I ordered this to participate in a national conversation started by the NPR book club. Tobar manages to write with journalistic objectivity while humanizing an event I only knew from the headlines. The job under normal circumstances is a nightmare for a claustrophobic like me, and yet these 33 men lived under the worst of circumstances for 69 days.  December 23, 2014 
Hush Jacqueline Woodson When her policeman father breaks the blue code to testify against other cops, his family goes into the witness protection program. Told from the youngest daughter's point of view, the story shows what it's like to have your world turned upside down. December 10, 2014 
The Icarus Girl Helen Oyeyemi I bought this one because I liked the author's Boy, Snow, Bird. An interesting story about two cultures - English and Nigerian Yoruba - and the allure of twins and doppelgangers. December 7, 2014 
My Lobotomy Howard Dully Dully writes a memoir about his teenage lobotomy. But the lobotomy is just a sidenote to his messed up childhood and a stepmother who had him spend his high school years in an insane asylum. November 21, 2014 
The Accident Elie Wiesel A short--but far from light--read about how the body can survive a horror like the Holocaust, but something important inside still dies. September 13, 2014 
Boy, Snow, Bird Helen Oyeyemi My daughter found this one; I loved it, she didn't. It is the title I can never remember but I won't forget the book and how it blended fairytale elements into a very real human story anytime soon.  September 8, 2014 
Serena Ron Rash I wanted to read this before the Bradley Cooper/Jennifer Lawrence movie comes out. From the first death on page 10, the bodies begin piling up like a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy. There is even a chorus to add tension and foreshadowing. Didn't put this one down until it was over! August 12, 2014 
My Lady Pocahontas Kathleen V. Kudlinski My classes read a selection from Capt. John Smith's version of the story, but here it is from the Powhatan point of view; specifically, that of Pocahontas and her friend Neetah. I never felt immersed, but I still appreciated the insights and effort to show "our" story from another perspective. August 6, 2014 
The Elegance of the Hedgehog Muriel Barbery Translated from its original French, this is a philosophy book disguised as the sweet story of the unlikely friendships of a middle-aged Paris apartment concierge, an intelligent and suicidal pre-teen tenant, and a wealthy retired Japanese businessman. August 4, 2014 
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells Andrew Sean Greer An entertaining if slightly shallow "what-if" in which a young woman (shut up, 30s is still young!) rotates in time, providing glimpses of the AIDS epidemic in 1986, WWI in 1918, and WWII in 1942. When you live greatly impacts how you get to live your life. The end was not predictable and her final choice was an interesting one. August 1, 2014 
The House of Seven Gables Nathaniel Hawthorne A must-read before I went to Salem where the story is set. I think it really shows how our reading tastes have changed and we aren't so leisurely: intriguing action in the first chapter followed by many chapters of well-written tone and setting, and then action in the last chapters for a satisfying (and relieving) resolution. July 29, 2014 
The Journal of Best Practices David Finch There is what we are born with, and then there is what we do with it. David Finch found out as an adult that he was born with Aspergers, which explains his odd sense of humor and social challenges. Empowered with his new insight, he reacts by researching it and keeping a journal of his discoveries and notes on how he can relate to his wife and the world better. The result - this memoir - offers a lot of information on how society works but I might have been laughing too much to catch it all. July 13, 2014 
Vernon God Little DBC Pierre If you think all adults are clueless idiots, this satire will only reinforce your views. Vernon Little's best friend just opened fire and killed 16 of their classmates before killing himself, and the town needs a scapegoat. The media is ready to help them. Very modern writing style with a satisfactory, almost mystical, ending. July 3, 2014 
The Autobiography of Malcom X As told to Alex Haley I have new knowledge and respect for this self-educated man who had tremendous curiousity and an insatiable appetite for knowledge. June 28, 2014 
Farewell to Manzanar Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James Houston I bought enough copies for a class Lit Circle! This book answered a lot of my questions about what Japanese Internment in our country during WWII really looked and felt like. Not our best moment! June 13, 2014 
Typhoid Mary Anthony Bourdain An interesting look at life in the early 1900s and society's attempts at managing infectious diseases. June 10, 2014 
Make Lemonade Virginia Euwer Wolff On our shelf now! Free verse keeps the story moving along. Fourteen-year-old LaVaughn is determined to go to college, and to earn money she gets a job babysitting for Jolly, a seventeen-year-old single mother with two kids by different fathers. I love how age is no limitation to one's power to change another person's life. April 11, 2014 
Speak Laurie Halse Anderson On our shelf now! This book is getting a lot of recent attention in acknowledgement of its 15th anniversary. This is my first time to read it. Very well-written first-person story about a freshman trying to make it through her first year of high school after becoming a victim at a summer party. I didn't know it was also a 2004 movie with Kristen Stewart in the lead role! April 6, 2014 
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  Sherman Alexie On our shelf now! Another example of a good book made better by characters who don't fit a mould. I want to spend more time with Junior, who leaves his Spokane reservation to attend the "white" high school. March 7, 2014 
Colin Fischer Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz Sherlock Holmes as a high school freshman with Aspergers (we already knew that about Holmes though, didn't we) who, among other things, diagrams the complicated high school social scene and solves a mystery. There are no words for how much I enjoyed this book! March 2, 2014 
Along for the Ride Sarah Dessen On our bookshelf now, thanks to the recommendation of a 1st per. student. This author is prolific and I will have to read more of her YA titles. I appreciated how characters were developed beyond their stereotyped exteriors. March 1, 2014 
Eleanor & Park Rainbow Rowell I had another book by this author on my wishlist but bought this when it went on sale. Lucky me! Two students most unlikely to fall in love, do. And now I know the book I had wanted will be worth full price. February 22, 2014 
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches Alan Bradley Oh I hope this is not the end of the Flavia de Luce stories, but this one was most satifsying and did answer a lot of questions! February 8, 2014 
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee More suspenseful than the Super Bowl. I had forgotten how well-written this book is, and I had also forgotten how it ended. Time well-spent! February 2, 2014 
Where'd You Go Bernadette Maria Semple This made for a quick read that my family was glad I finished, because they were tired of hearing me laugh out loud. Quirky characters (and you could probably count Seattle as one) doing surprising things, a bit of mystery and a happy ending. What's not to love? January 25, 2014 
Bless Me, Ultima Rudolfo Anaya There are so many good books to read, somehow this one escaped me all these years. Just one more perq of the job! I look forward to talking about this with the lit circles who are reading it now. January 20, 2014 
Uglies Scott Westerfeld In this dystopian series, citizens are promised surgical perfection and prettiness on their 16th birthdays. They also get the side effect of mental "bubbliness," which further removes individuality but also removes angst and discontent. What's not to like? January 12, 2014 
Monster Walter Dean Myers To help get through being on trial for felony murder, a teen keeps a journal in the form of a movie screenplay. It is an intriguing literary device that provides many insights, but just as many questions. Can't wait for some one to find it on the class shelf to read so I can talk about it...! January 3, 2014 
Little Bee Chris Cleave Would you cut off a finger to save a stranger's life? An amazing story about a Nigerian refugee in the UK, told with amazing style. I think I have a new favorite author. December 31, 2013 
Close Your Eyes Amanda Eyre Ward By an Austin author and with a lot of Austin details, the story of a woman whose father is in jail for killing her mother. When her brother goes missing in Iraq, she finds his research on the case. December 28, 2013 
Rats Saw God Rob Thomas This Veronica Mars fangirl had no idea Rob Thomas had written a book, so when I saw it on our list of spring semester reading possibilities, I had to get it. I'm sure quite a few of you will like it so look for it on our class shelf in January! (you're welcome). December 27, 2013 
The Goldfinch Donna Tartt Sorry I couldn't grade essays until I was finished with this one. I can understand why it takes Tartt 10 years to write each book, and why they hang out so long on the bestseller lists. December 21, 2013 
freaky green eyes Joyce Carol Oates Now available on our class bookshelf! Another one that is hard to discuss without giving away spoilers, but this story shows how a family can look healthy and prosperous from the outside but be rotten inside.  November 10, 2013 
Orphan Train Christina Baker Kline A 17 year old in the foster care system discovers she has something in common with the elderly woman she was assigned to help. The stark story of her experience on the "orphan train" earlier in the century shows some problems are timeless, but happy endings are also always a possibility. November 2, 2013 
Allegiant Veronica Roth Had to get the final book of this triology (movies are in production). It is difficult to discuss without revealing spoilers. It is far from perfect but if you can ignore the questionable science, and train yourself to note the chapter headings so you can tell who is narrating (perspective routinely switches, but the voice/style does not), it is still a satisfying conclusion. October 24, 2013 
Paper Towns John Greene On our class bookshelf now! Greene - of youtube Crash Course history fame - is also a master of teen dialogue. October 13, 2013 
The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir Domingo Martinez An amazing book about a boy growing up in Brownsville, and how he escapes to live the life of a writer in Seattle. It's a true talent who can take such dreary material and make you laugh when you want to cry. September 28, 2013 
Catalyst Laurie Halse Anderson One of the newest additions to our classroom resource shelf. A quick read, but a good one! Kate Malone - a very driven student with high goals and lots of family responsibilities - is a narrator I wish I knew in person. The book takes some surprising turns as she navigates her last year of high school. September 17, 2013 
Tales of the Jazz Age F. Scott Fitzgerald I have always been a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald (author of The Great Gatsby). And then I discovered the writings of his wife, Zelda! But right now I expect to be a little busy planning lessons and keeping up with my new students; short stories are the perfect fix for when I need something good to read but can't commit to a novel! August 18, 2013 
Divergent Veronica Roth Jumping in before the movie comes out. So much is lost when people divide into cliques and can't bring their strengths together. What if you belonged everywhere, and nowhere? August 10, 2013 
Tintin in America Herge My reward for finishing Moby Dick. Not my favorite since Captain Haddock didn't appear, but a conversation-starter on the plane with another Tintin fan, and that's some one you probably want to talk with. July 22, 2013 
Moby Dick Herman Melville My summer to-do list includes reading Books I Should Have Read But Haven't Yet. Checked this off my list! I won't lie and say it was a "couldn't put it down," but it had its moments of food for thought. July 5, 2013 
Code Name Verity Elizabeth Wein One of the best books I've read this year. Took a day or two to get over before I could pick up something else. In this WWII spy novel, layers of the characters' small actions and conversations accumulate and all lead up to one unforgettable moment. July 2, 2013 
Speaking from Among the Bones: A Flavia de Luce Novel  Alan Bradley I can't get enough of Flavia. Imagine if Nancy Drew lived in an old English manor equipped with a chemistry lab, and she had two older mean sisters. These books stand alone, except for this last which had a stunner ending sentence and has me counting down to the next book. June 24, 2013 
Little Women and Me Lauren Baratz-Logsted Another way to revisit a well-known story: what if you could go into the book and change it? This book's protagonist becomes the fifth March girl in order to get Jo and Laurie together. June 17, 2013 
Tiger Lily Jodi Lynn Anderson I am a sucker for a story from a different point of view, and this delivers with the story of Peter Pan as told by Tinkerbell. Naturally, there's a lot more to the tale. June 10, 2013 
The True Meaning of Smekday Adam Rex Soon to be a movie with Rihanna and the Big Bang Theory's Sheldon (perfect casting). An off-beat story of alien domination with lots of snark and giggles.  June 3, 2013 
Secret Life of Pronouns James W. Pennebaker A UT professor and his research team can tell a lot about you by analyzing your writing. I am now very self-conscious about how much I use "I," "you," or "we!" June 1, 2013 
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