Tag Archives: Nook

When She Woke: Review

24 Feb

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan is a futuristic retelling of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. The novel is set in Texas, where separation of church and state is a thing of the past and Roe v. Wade has been overturned. Hannah Payne, the novel’s protagonist, has devoted her life to family and church. Aside from her ability to create beautiful garments by hand, Hannah’s life seems unremarkable. That is, until she makes a decision that changes her life forever. As the novel begins, Hannah finds herself lying on a table in a paper-thin gown, her skin dyed red. Hannah is now a Chrome – a criminal whose skin is genetically-altered to reflect the crime she has committed. Her crime? Taking the life of her unborn child, a sin that is unpardonable in pious Texas. Life for Chromes is difficult. Because their crimes are advertised on their skin, Chromes face daily discrimination and persecution. Yet Hannah doesn’t feel like a criminal – she made the decision to abort her unborn child in order to protect the baby’s father. When She Woke illustrates the process Hannah must go through to understand the decision she made and adapt to life as an outsider.

When She Woke addresses many sides of a very sensitive issue – abortion. Like Hannah’s family, I believe that all human life is sacred, including the lives of unborn babies. Yet in spite of my personal beliefs, I truly felt compassion for Hannah. Although the novel focuses on a very difficult topic, it is still an enjoyable read. Reading When She Woke made me want to re-read The Scarlet Letter. I read The Scarlet Letter in high school, and I remember being very captivated by the plot. I’m sure I would enjoy it even more as an adult.

Now, I’m on to my next book for the Mount TBR Challenge – The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde!



7 Feb

In her novel Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly weaves together the lives of two young women living in very different time periods – Andi Alpers, a modern-day teenager who relies upon anti-depressants to escape the pain of her reality, and Alexandrine Paradis, a heroic young woman in the midst of the French Revolution.

Andi Alpers is nearing graduation at a prep school in Brooklyn. She should be working on her thesis paper, a requirement for admission to Ivy League colleges. Andi, however, has decided to not write a thesis. Instead, she spends time playing her guitar, attempting to drown out the pain of her crumbling family. Her younger brother died nearly two years ago; her mother experienced a subsequent emotional breakdown. Unable to face the loss of his son and instability of his wife, Andi’s father focuses on his work as a geneticist. Andi is alone.

When Andi’s parents receive a letter from her school regarding their daughter’s poor academic performance, Mr. Alpers insists that Andi accompany him to Paris where has been hired to match the DNA of a heart believed to belong to Louis-Charles, son of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. While he works on his research in Paris, Mr. Alpers hopes his daughter will use the city’s wonderful libraries to research her thesis topic.

For Andi, being stuck in Paris with her estranged father is like a jail sentence. So she strikes a deal. If she is able to write an outline for her thesis and get it approved by her father, Andi will be permitted to leave Paris on the weekend. Her plans change, however, when she discovers a beautiful guitar from the 1700s with mysterious origins. While Andi adores the instrument, she is more interested in what she finds within its case: a painting of Louis-Charles and a diary belonging to Alexandrine Paradis. At first, Andi tries to ignore the diary. After all, she must focus on her thesis outline or she will never be able to leave by the weekend. However, the diary keeps calling her back. What happened to Alexandrine? And what happened to her young charge, Louis-Charles?The diary brings the past to life for Andi. Within its pages, she discovers the brutal history of France during the Revolution; she also discovers a kindred spirit within Alexandrine. Most importantly of all, Andi learns about the transformative powers of hope.

I loved this book! From the first page to the last sentence, I was riveted to Donnelly’s narrative about the French Revolution. Prior to reading Revolution, I knew very little about this time period in France’s history. However, Donnelly skillfully weaves fact into fiction, creating a believable story that has inspired me to learn more about the French Revolution. In fact, before finishing Revolution, I downloaded a book about Marie Antoinette to my Nook. 🙂

I LOVED the theme of this book! As the story begins, we are greeted by a hopeless Andi. Her family is a wreck. She is addicted to anti-depressants. She has no idea what she wants to do when she graduates from high school. To Andi, hope is a four-letter word, the “crystal meth of emotions.”  As the story unfolds, however, Andi finds a purpose. She starts to trust people, to let herself love. Although the world may be brutal and uncaring, Andi learns that she does not have to act in kind. She can let herself hope.

I also really enjoyed the characters in Revolution. Jennifer Donnelly has captured the life of a teenager in a compassionate and realistic manner. Andi, depressed and withdrawn, is the type of teenager most adults would label “no good.” However, Donnelly’s account of the young woman’s personal turmoil makes us sympathetic to her plight. I found myself truly caring for Andi Alpers.

On a side note, I heard about this book via Dana Huff’s website, Much Madness is Divinest Sense. I probably wouldn’t have selected this book on my own, but Dana spoke highly of it so I thought I would give it a try. I love it when a book recommendation leads me to a book I truly enjoy!


3 Feb

*Sigh.* I just finished Mockingjay. I devoured the Hunger Games trilogy, impatient to discover what would happen to Katniss and Peeta. As I neared the end of Mockingjay, however, I deliberately slowed my pace, unwilling to say goodbye to the characters. It’s only been a day since I finished the book, but I already miss Katniss. Pathetic? Probably. But I have a feeling I’m not the only one …

After discovering the chink in the Capitol’s armor during the 75th Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen is rescued by rebels and becomes the unwilling symbol of the rebellion. Peeta, her Quarter Quell counterpart, is presumably taken captive by the Capitol. Katniss’s reluctant acceptance of the Mockingjay role hinges upon one important condition: that President Coin will grant immunity to all former Hunger Games victors.

Though she now lives in District 13, Katniss travels throughout the Districts shooting propaganda videos that endorse the rebels’ mission. At first, Katniss fulfills her duties as Mockingjay out of a sense of obligation; however, as she witnesses the unrest in Panem, Katniss realizes that she plays a pivotal role in the resistance. Katniss’s journey brings her to the Capitol itself with the intent of assassinating President Snow. While there, Katniss must make decisions that will affect not only her own future, but the future of Panem.

My thoughts are reeling after finishing this novel! I suspect the Hunger Games will stick with me for quite some time! One of my favorite aspects of the trilogy is the way in which Suzanne Collins navigates difficult moral issues. For example, her characters represent many differing attitudes about war. Gale, for instance, represents those who support war as a means by which to improve social conditions for the oppressed. Peeta, a pacifist, disagrees with Gale’s willingness to use the Capitol’s own violent tactics to bring it down. Despite their differences, Collins demonstrates how Gale and Peeta are both motivated by compassion. In doing so, the author refrains from endorsing her own political beliefs while challenging the reader to consider other opinions about war.

While I loved this novel as much as the others in the trilogy, I was disappointed with how abruptly Mockingjay seemed to end. Due to the exciting plot she created, Suzanne Collins certainly had a lot of loose ends to tie up; however, the ending of Mockingjay was less descriptive than the other two novels. The last couple chapters and the epilogue describe Katniss’s life after the Capitol is successfully overthrown. These chapters seem more like a list – first Katniss does this, then she does that … I would like to see more about how different Katniss’s life is now that the Capitol has fallen. I am, however, very satisfied with how the Katniss-Peeta drama resolved – I was  rooting for Peeta throughout the entire trilogy! 🙂

I suppose I should get back to real life now …

Catching Fire

24 Jan

Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy, begins after Katniss Everdeen and her male counterpart from District Twelve, Peeta, return from their fight for survival in the 74th Hunger Games. As victors of the games, Katniss and Peeta embark upon a customary tour of the districts where they are welcomed with hints of unrest. President Snow blames the resistance in Panem on Katniss’s inadvertant defiance of the Capitol in the games when she and Peeta threaten to eat the poisonous berries. Now, with the 75th Hunger Games approaching, Katniss and Peeta are prepared to serve as mentors to the new tributes. What they don’t expect, however, is that the rules of the Quarter Quell will require them to face off with other former victors in the arena. This time, Katniss’s survival is more precarious – after all, her opponents are people who have already won the games with their strength, quick wit, and desperate will to survive. It seems the odds are not in her favor. More importantly, however, is the survival of Peeta. Can Katniss manage to keep Peeta alive in a savage arena against fierce opponents?  

When I told my students that I had begun reading Catching Fire, a few of them remarked that they did not like this book as much as The Hunger Games. When I asked them why they were less than impressed, their response was unanimous: the plot of Catching Fire, in their opinion, was slow and boring. I disagree! As with the first book in the trilogy, I found myself devouring Catching Fire. This book focuses more on the heightening unrest in the Capitol, whereas the plot of The Hunger Games centers on the action in the arena. Perhaps my students thought the tour of the districts was not as exciting because it lacked the drama of the previous book. In contrast, I appreciate this aspect of the novel because I thought the victory tour communicated the country’s heightening tensions. I also thought the picture of Panem’s unrest highlighted the citizens’ need for a leader like Katniss. Speaking of Katniss, I continue to enjoy her character. She is an unwilling symbol of the rebellion, a reluctant leader. She feels unequal to the responsibility and admiration the citizens of Panem are so willing to attribute to her. Though she used to hush Gale when he spoke of the Capitol’s flaws, Katniss is beginning to question their authority as well. She’s feisty, yet her actions are ruled by her compassion for others. I find Katniss’s character to be believable and lovable in spite of her flaws (and perhaps, because of her flaws). I’m already afraid that I will miss her when I finish Mockingjay.

On a side note, I think I will have to re-read the Hunger Games trilogy. Right now, I’m speeding through the pages to find out what happens to Katniss and Peeta. I think another reading will allow me to truly enjoy the plot.

Reading for Fun

18 Jan

Life is busy! Between teaching full-time and having a four-month old baby, every moment of my day is spoken for. I always encourage my students to find time to read for pleasure, no matter how busy their schedule is: “If you have only five minutes, read a few pages of a book.” I admit, my advice is hypocritical; I rarely have time to read for pleasure. When I do read, I am usually focused on the novels I teach or lesson preparation. This year, I am resolving to do more pleasure-reading. While this will certainly preserve my sanity, I think it will also make me a better teacher. After all, how can I encourage my students to have a rich literary life if I don’t nurture mine as well?

In my attempt to do more enjoyable reading, I recently started the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy. My students have been raving about this novel for nearly a year; however, I was hesitant to give it a try. I am usually not a fan of adolescent literature. I know that probably makes me a bad Language Arts teacher, but I just can’t “get into” most stories with a teenage protagonist. Today I finished The Hunger Games, and OH.MY.GOSH! I am so glad I persevered through my reservations and read this book!

Katniss Everdeen , the sixteen-year-old protagonist of The Hunger Games, lives in District 12, a coal-producing region in the country of Panem. Existence in District 12 (and most of Panem, for that matter) is marked by starvation and desperation. After her father’s accidental death in a coal mine, Katniss must use her hunting prowess – a skill punishable by death – to support her mother and sister. Almost 75 years before the book begins, District 13 upsets the control of Panem’s ruling body, the Capitol, by inciting a rebellion. The Capitol responds to this insurrection by leveling the insubordinate district and creating a deadly competition called the Hunger Games. Each year, the remaining twelve districts must provide two tributes to participate in the Hunger Games. These tributes, a boy and girl between the ages of 12 and 18, serve as a painful reminder of what can happen when Districts disobey the Capitol’s absolute authority. When the 74th Hunger Games commence, Katniss knows the odds are not in her favor – the tributes are chosen by lots, and Katniss’s name is on many of the eligible slips. What she does not expect, however, is that her 12-year-old sister Prim’s name will be drawn instead. In a desperate attempt to save Prim’s life, Katniss volunteers to serve as a tribute in her sister’s place. As she enters the arena and faces the brutal challenges that await, Katniss must find the will to survive and return to District 12 as a champion.

I lost sleep over The Hunger Games! I found myself saying, “Just one more page,” until I could no longer will my eyelids to stay open! As I mentioned before, I am not usually a fan of adolescent literature – I often dislike the self-focused, one-dimensional characters included in today’s teen books. But I really enjoyed Katniss Everdeen! Suzanne Collins does a remarkable job of demonstrating Katniss’s strengths as well as weaknesses. I was touched by Katniss’s compassion for Prim and Rue, yet I found myself chiding her in her exchanges with Peeta. Collins also portrays Katniss’s internal conflict realistically as she fights for her life in the arena. Many teen books seem to oversimplify complicated issues, but Collins acknowledges the inner turmoil her protagonist faces as she makes crucial decisions in the game. Katniss doesn’t want to kill her competitors; however, if she doesn’t defend herself, she won’t make it out of the arena. Like the saying “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” the extreme conditions in the arena force Katniss to do things she wouldn’t ordinarily do.

On a side note, this is the first book I read on my Nook. Before I finished The Hunger Games, I made sure to download Catching Fire. I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting to read the next book in the trilogy – even if I only had to wait for the book to finish downloading!