Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, A Review

Dear Committee Members
Amazon          Goodreads          Barnes and Noble
Books-A-Million                    Book Depository

Book Description


Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the Midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby

In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies. We recommend Dear Committee Members to you in the strongest possible terms.

Review

I received an eARC copy of this book from the publisher. Here is my honest review.


I am always amazed at the ability of an author to tell a story through a series of letters. Dear Committee Members does so from the perspective of one letter writer yet still paints a pretty clear picture of Jason Fitger and the regrets and frustrations that he faces.  I found the writing to be humorous and as a teacher, see great value in this text for not only vocabulary building but also in discussions about what constitutes "professional" writing and how it differs from casual writing that seems to be used more and more by students.

I noticed one reviewer mentioned that this format could get tiring after just a bit.  I'll admit that about 20% in, I was wondering if the book would hold my attention.  Fitger's letters began to slip into inappropriateness rather quickly and became much more engaging; suddenly I found that I was almost at 90% and boredom was not a concern any longer.  I also found this an easy book to read alongside other books without confusing plot details or characters which typically happens when I read multiple fiction books at a time.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it

If you enjoy epistolary novels, I highly recommend Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn.

Dear Commitee Members
I like this cover version much better although I do see how the porcupine is a good fit on the cover above.   
Which cover would draw your eye?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Five Quick Reviews #1

I read quite a bit and tend to get behind in posting reviews.  This year, I will be posting "quick reviews" for books that I have read and want to share with you.  I hope you find something you want to check out as well.  

Refining Felicity (The School for Manners, #1)

Review
Source: Purchased

I read this series several times in high school and college. I remember thinking that the protagonists were spunky and brave and the two spinster aunts were adorable and funny. That still holds true after picking this book up last summer. I look forward to re-reading through the series this year.

I gave this book: 

The Practice Proposal (Suddenly Smitten, #1)

Review
Source: Purchased
I read this over the summer as well - it was a great summer read since the hero is a baseball player and for me, baseball is synonymous with summer.  It was a little kitchy with the "fake" proposal bit but it was pretty tame for a romance novel and the characters were definitely likable. 


I gave this book: 

Forever Dreams  (Montana Brides, #1)

Review
Source: Purchased
I read this in early November and rated it without making any notes; I don't remember a lot about this book to be honest.  I gave it two stars which means it  was okay -- I didn't hate it but I didn't really like it either.  I seem to recall being really annoyed by Gracie.  It gets pretty decent reviews on Goodreads so it must not have been for me.  In the plus column, there were some pretty significant plot twists in this story that I feel like were going to be delved into further in future stories in the series.

I gave this book: 

Lovestruck in London

Review
Source: Purchased -- It is still free for Kindle over at Amazon.
I super enjoyed this story. I read it in late fall and while I may not recall all the details in the story, I remember that I really wanted to know what happened next.  Romance is pretty formulaic and so while I enjoy them, I don't always feel pulled into the story.  Schurig was a new author to me and I really liked the characters that she created and for "new adults" I didn't find myself rolling my eyes at all.  Months later, I saw the title in my review pile and good vibes came back.

I gave this book: 

Until I Found You

Review
Source: Purchased
This is one of the best Christian romances I've read.  And one of the most satisfying.  Nick was completely likable; his strength and his growth touching and genuine.  Kate is also real and while she isn't perfect, she's not a weak whiner.  While they both have doubts about a relationship between them, it wasn't all angsty; instead it focused on who they were, who they wanted to be and how to mesh that with who they were actually becoming.  I will definitely read more by this author in the future.
I gave this book: 


That's it for today.  Have you read any of these books or these authors?  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Top 10 Recommendations - Bout of Book 12.0

Trees of Reverie is hosting today's challenge. 

The Challenge: You’ve just started to work at a bookstore (or library) - what are your top ten go-to book recommendations?
I'm pretending that I work in a bookstore, perhaps one called The Shop Around the Corner.  I've been asked to put together a collection of 10 books for my customer to take to a literary baby shower.  Here are ten books I'd recommend to start off any child's library.
32929Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale98573
1. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown simple, repetitive text, gorgeous illustrations that invite children to "read" the pictures.
2. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell sweet story set around the birth of Jesus
3. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson encourages imagination
825377Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!820274
4. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds encourages art and believing in oneself youTube video reading
5. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems silly and fun
6. It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw encourages spatial thinking
9677870Mix It Up!How to Catch a Star (The Boy, #1)
7. Press Here by Herve Tullet interactive, works for readers of ALL ages
8. Mix It Up! by Herve Tullet interactive, science
9. How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers darling illustrations, sweet story
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
 10. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. Classic book, great for alphabet awareness
This was a super fun challenge Sarah!  Thanks for hosting!!  Be sure to swing over to her blog, Trees of Reverie and see other readers takes on her challenge.

Bout of Books 12.0 Updates

Progress
Monday, January 5, 2015:
Completed: 1 book
Books Read: 2 - Summer of My German Soldier and The Red Scarf
Pages Read: 140
Challenges: Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt
Total Books Completed: 1
Total Pages Read: 140


Summer of my German Soldier PB  The Red Scarf

Tuesday, January 6, 2015:
Completed: 1 book
Books Read: 2 - The Red Scarf and The Magician's Nephew
Pages Read: 142
Total Books Completed: 2
Total Pages Read: 282

The Magician's Nephew

Wednesday, January 7, 2015:
Completed: 0
Books Read:  The Red Scarf
Pages Read: 80
Challenges:
Total Books Completed: 2
Total Pages Read: 362

Thursday, January 8, 2015:
Completed: 0
Books Read: The Red Scarf
Pages Read: 167
Challenges:
Total Books Completed: 1
Total Pages Read: 529

Friday, January 9, 2015:
Completed:
Books Read: The Red Scarf
Pages Read: 66
Challenges:
Total Books Completed: 1
Total Pages Read: 595

Saturday, January 10, 2015:
Completed: 1 book
Books Read: The Red Scarf and Number the Stars
Pages Read: 149
Challenges:
Total Books Completed: 3
Total Pages Read: 744
Number the Stars
Sunday, January 11, 2015:
Completed: 1 book
Books Read:  Number the Stars
Pages Read: 62
Challenges:
Total Books Completed: 4
Total Pages Read: 806

Final Thoughts:
As I thought when the week started, I was very busy and so didn't have as much time to read as I would've liked.  While I may not have read as many pages or finished as any books as other participants, I am happy with what my outcomes.  This was another fun round of Bout of Books and I look forward to BoB 13.0!  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, A Review

Summer of my German Soldier PB

Amazon          Goodreads          Barnes and Noble
Books-A-Million                   Book Depository

Book Description


A 1973 National Book Award Finalist, an ALA Notable Book, a New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year. When German prisoners of war are brought to her Arkansas town during World War II, twelve-year-old Patty, a Jewish girl, befriends one of them and must deal with the consequences of that friendship.

Review

I read this book several times when I was growing up.  It is one of the few books that I clearly remember reading as a young girl.  I picked it up as an adult not sure what my response would be.  Certainly I had a connection to it when I was younger and having finished it today I can say that the connection remains.  My heart aches for Patty and there were several times when tears welled up in my eyes.  This book is set during World War Two and explores the themes of racism (not just black/white but also American/German), patriotism, family, and abuse.  As a teacher, I believe in the power of pairing literature with historical events and this book would work so well in the classroom.  I remember being surprised to learn that there had been POWs on American soil during the war and even more surprised to learn about Japanese Internment camps - two facts that are never mentioned in history textbooks (some high school texts may now reference internment camps).  
That being said, the age difference in this book was shocking to me as an adult.  I don't recall thinking anything about it when I was a child.  Patty is twelve and Anton is certainly older. His age isn't specified but at least he is 18 probably older but no more than 20.  As an adult, that's a really big age gap and seems weird. So that would need to be acknowledged as would the use of slang language that is no longer considered to be appropriate.


I remember why I thought this was such a great book growing up and think that it should be more widely read.

I gave this book: 

★ = I did not like it     ★ = It was okay     ★ = I liked it    
★ = I really liked it     ★ = I loved it


Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt - Bout of Books 12.0




The Year of Living FamouslyThe Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories100 Cupboards  (100 Cupboards, #1)Driving Lessons: A NovelHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)Parallel



I'm playing along with my Goodreads bookshelves.

1. Find an author with the same initials as you
The Year of Living Famously by Laura Caldwell.  My initials, just reversed
2. Find a book with the color yellow on it
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan
3. Find an author’s name with the letter “S” in it

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson 
4. Find a book with a female protagonist
Driving Lessons by Zoe Fishman
5. Find the longest book you own

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
6. Find a book with a map in it or on it

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
7. Find a book with a face on it (photograph or illustrated)

Parallel by Lauren Miller

Bonus: Find something on your shelf that isn’t a book.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Bout of Books 12.0

Bout of Books

It is time for the January Bout of Books 12.0 read-a-thon.  This week corresponds to school being back in session and my son's birthday at the end of the week so I don't have as much time to dedicate to reading as I normally would.  Last year I know I didn't get close to my goals at all so the new "no goals" version debuting this week is pretty awesome.  Of course, you can set goals if you want but I'm just going to read and attempt to play along in some of the challenges this week.  Be sure to sign up so that you have a chance to win the grand prize!

I have a few books from the library that I need to finish up so those are the books that I am listing here. Again, I don't think I'll be able to get through all of these, but these are the books I'll be picking from.  Even though there are no goals and I've not set goals - rigorous or easy - I'm still going to track my progress at the end of this post.

(Finished. See my review here

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top Reads in 2014

I wanted to share the books that were my top reads from this past year.  I knew that I read - a lot - but I am shocked by my book count.  This is the first year that I have kept track of the books I read; I don't feel like I read more or less this year than in the past so it is a pretty accurate look at how much I read.  You can check out the books I read in 2014 here on Goodreads.  Of the 200+ books I read, 30 are picture books or early reader books, which skews the count since they are such fast books to read.  I didn;t include the Percy Jackson books in that count; while they are technically juvenile fiction, they are lengthy and advanced reads.

I also have a Goodreads shelf that lists my "best of" books from 2014.  I would add books to this shelf after I read them when I really, really enjoyed them for the purpose of helping to create this list.
I am only going to share the top picks from the shelf because I can't list 50+ books here.  Check it out if you have a moment as I do recommend any of the books on that list as really great reads.  The books I'm sharing here are in no particular order.  I'm not very good at picking just one favorite; that being said, my favorite book from 2014 is The Art of Arranging Flowers

The House We Grew Up In  If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)  Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)  Driving Lessons: A Novel

1. The House We Grew Up In

2. If I Stay/Where She Went dualogy

3. Driving Lessons

You Don't Know Me (Deep Haven, #6)  8667848  11559200  16054217

4. You Don't Know Me

5. All Soul's Trilogy:  A Discovery of Witches/Shadow of Night/The Book of Life

The Art of Arranging Flowers  The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)  The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, #1)  Better off Friends

6. The Art of Arranging Flowers

7. Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus series

8. Better Off Friends

A Paris Apartment  Alphabet Weekends  The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand (The Ninja Librarians #1)

9. The Paris Apartment

10. Alphabet Weekends

11. The Ninja Librarians


And a few of the best Picture Books I read in 2014:

The Pigeon Needs a Bath!  Moo!  The Most Magnificent Thing  

1. The Pigeon Needs a Bath

2. Moo

3. The Most Magnificent Thing

                         17659588  138070

4. Flotsam

5. The Man with the Violin