Archive | December, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays: The Devil in the White City

13 Dec

I’m really excited about the book I’m reading this week! During a recent trip to Barnes and Noble, I picked up a copy of The Devil in the White City. As I mentioned in my Musing Mondays post, I usually shy away from nonfiction books – I prefer the interesting plot and engaging characters depicted in fictional narratives. Yet in The Devil in the White City, author Erik Larson describes a historical event – the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago – with the drama and excitement most often present in works of fiction.

In The Devil in the White City, Larson weaves together the story of two men involved in the 1893 World’s Fair – Daniel Burnham, the architect who designed the “fair that changed America”; and Henry Holmes, the serial killer who preyed upon those drawn to the fair’s extravagance. I haven’t gotten far in the book yet – I just started it yesterday. But I’m already hooked! The beginning of the book focuses on the events that led up to the fair – Burnham’s success as an architect, Chicago’s bid to host the fair, and more. Larson then shifts the focus back and forth between his two main “characters” – Burnham and Holmes – by discussing their connection to the fair in alternating chapters. Here is an excerpt from the author’s note:

“Beneath the gore and smoke and loam, this book is about the evanescence of life, and why some men choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible, others in the manufacture of sorrow. In the end it is a story of the ineluctable conflict between good and evil, daylight and darkness, the White City and the Black” (xi).

Sounds interesting, right!? I can’t wait to read the rest!


Musing Mondays

13 Dec

This week’s Musing Mondays prompt asks: “What kind of books do you like to read? Why? Provide specific examples.” I love reading fiction! More specifically, I love reading historical fiction. History has always interested me, yet I don’t enjoy reading nonfiction. Biographies, textbooks, and other nonfiction texts tend to TELL rather than SHOW the reader about the historical event or person being discussed. That’s why I like historical fiction. Novels in this genre weave historical events into interesting stories. Some of my favorite historical fiction novels – both classic and contemporary – include To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

Theme Thursdays: Happy

8 Dec

This week’s Theme Thursdays prompt focuses on the word “happy”. I’m currently reading The Book Thief, a fictional novel written by Markus Zusak about Nazi Germany. It may seem as if a novel about the Holocaust would not lend itself to the theme of happiness. Yet Zusak creates glimpses of sunshine throughout this dark story of life under the Hitler regime. In this novel, Liesel and Rudy find a “solitary corroded coin” lying forgotten on a Molching street (155). They are elated by their discovery and rush immediately to Frau Diller’s store to purchase mixed candy. Their lonely coin is  enough to purchase one sweet treat, which they share by alternating licks. This passage from The Book Thief shows Liesel’s and Rudy’s happiness as they enjoy their sugary treasure:

“‘This,’ Rudy announced at one point, with a candy-toothed grin, ‘is the good life,’ and Liesel didn’t disagree. By the time they were finished, both their mouths were an exaggerated red, and as they walked home, they reminded each other to keep their eyes peeled, in case they found another coin. Naturally, they found nothing. No one can be that lucky twice in one year, let alone in a single afternoon. Still, with red tongues and teeth, they walked down Himmel Street, happily searching the ground as they went. The day had been a great one, and Nazi Germany was a wondrous place” (155-156).


Lessons in Manliness from Atticus Finch

7 Dec

It’s no secret that Atticus Finch is one of my favorite literary characters. Since I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school, I have admired the lawyer from Maycomb County. I think my appreciation for Atticus Finch has grown as I have gotten older. As an adult, I aspire to demonstrate the commitment to integrity and compassion shown by this fictional character. Because of my admiration for Atticus, I was so excited to discover the article “Lessons on Manliness by Atticus Finch.” In this article, the authors demonstrate how Atticus exemplifies many important characteristics of manhood, even though he may not be very “‘manly,’ at least when measured by the modern rubric for manliness.” The article refers to Atticus’s moral character, empathy, commitment to justice, and “lead by example” approach to parenting. The characteristics of manhood mentioned in this article contrast with our culture’s definition of manliness (which seems to be more in line with Two and a Half Men). In the words of Flannery O’Connor, it seems “a good man is hard to find.” If you haven’t read this article, check it out right away!

Teaser Tuesdays: The Book Thief

6 Dec

For this week’s Teaser Tuesdays response, I’m including a passage from The Book Thief, a Markus Zusak novel I am currently re-reading. I LOVE The Book Thief! The first time I read the book, I was devastated when it ended because I didn’t want to say goodbye to the characters. This year, I am teaching the novel in my eighth grade Language Arts class. Not only is it a pleasure to have an excuse to re-read The Book Thief, but it is also very exciting to see my students get into the book as well!

Here is a snippet  from the very beginning of the book:

“It’s just a small story really, about, amont other things:

  • A girl
  • Some words
  • An accordionist
  • Some fanatical Germans
  • A Jewish fist fighter
  • And quite a lot of thievery”

If you have not read the book, you really MUST go get it right away!

Back in the Saddle Again

1 Dec

It’s been a while since my last post. Months, actually. I could blame it on how busy I’ve been – which is true – but really, I just haven’t prioritized writing on this blog. BUT I’m back in the saddle again, and I’m determined to provide updates more frequently. I have read more books than ever in 2011, and I think that’s due in part to the blogging I did earlier in the year. I see this blog as my personal reading journal – a record of the novels I have read. Writing about what I’ve read holds me accountable. I also love connecting with other readers online!

As I mentioned, I have read many books this year. Since I haven’t reviewed all of them on this blog, I thought I would make a list to document this year’s reading accomplishments.

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire by Rafe Esquith
  • An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aiden
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  • Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen
  • Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
  • The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey

I also had the chance to reread some old favorites this year including To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

The Paris Wife and A Moveable Feast were my favorite books of 2011! I picked up The Paris Wife based on a friend’s recommendation, not realizing it was a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage. I had never read anything by Ernest Hemingway (gasp!), but The Paris Wife changed that! Paula McLain’s novel focuses on Hadley Richardson (Hemingway’s first wife) and her marriage with the famous American author. As I read the novel, I became immersed in Hadley’s world and obsessed with all things Hemingway. Before diving into his fiction, I decided to read Hemingway’s autobiography A Moveable Feast … and I was enchanted! I love Hemingway’s writing style. I also loved how A Moveable Feast felt like an intimate glimpse into the life of a celebrated literary icon. I purchased a copy of The Sun Also Rises immediately after finishing Hemingway’s autobiography. I might have a slight literary crush! 🙂 Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to reading many more Hemingway books in the year to come!