Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Will Probably Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I wasn’t expecting ever expecting to see this as a top ten topic! It’s fun though because it’s not a topic I’ve ever really considered before. I’m so used to thinking about what books I want to read and how that list is never ending. Does anyone else participating this week feel the same way? Or have any of you who aren’t participating this week thought about books you’ll never read?

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck–Unless I end up teaching juniors, I don’t plan on ever reading this novel. The topic doesn’t interest me and I’m certainly not interested in tearing this book apart via literary analysis.

2. The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare–I’m a Cassandra Clare fan, but I haven’t really wanted to keep up with all of her spin-off series. It’s expensive and I’m happy sticking with The Mortal Instruments series.

3. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert–I don’t know that I have a reason, really, but I’m not interested.

4. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey–I always enjoy reading memoirs, but I don’t feel compelled to read a story that’s supposed to be true, but isn’t.

5. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult–Nope, I simply can’t read it. Too many tears will be shed.

6. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin series–The HBO series is too awesome. I know that if I read the series I probably won’t enjoy the show anymore and that will make me incredibly sad.

7. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman–I’ll occassionally watch the show, and I’m a fan of graphic novels, but I don’t know if I want to experience zombies graphically on top of watching the show.

8. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy–I suppose it would be cool to say I’ve read all 1,392 pages of this classic, but I think I’d rather spend that time reading more than just one book.

9. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen–This admission makes me feel like a horrible English teacher, but honestly, I’m just not interested in reading this. I might, however, read Sense and Sensibility since that’s my favorite Austen movie adaptation.

10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott–I remember trying to read this when I was in middle school and ultimately abandoning it. This is a book that’s cherished by many, but it doesn’t hold much appeal for me.

Book Trailer Thursday (157)–Taking Flight: From War Orphan to Star Ballerina by Michaela DePrince

Book Trailer Thursday

I love discovering new books. All it took was a simple YouTube search for book trailers and I found this video about Michaela DePrince’s memoir. I’ve never been a dancer, but I have dancers in my classroom, and I love a compelling memoir. I hope this one is as good as it sounds!

Taking FlightSummary (From Goodreads):

The extraordinary memoir of Michaela DePrince, a young dancer who escaped war-torn Sierra Leone for the rarefied heights of American ballet.
Michaela DePrince was known as girl Number 27 at the orphanage, where she was abandoned at a young age and tormented as a “devil child” for a skin condition that makes her skin appear spotted. But it was at the orphanage that Michaela would find a picture of a beautiful ballerina en pointe that would help change the course of her life.

At the age of four, Michaela was adopted by an American family, who encouraged her love of dancing and enrolled her in classes. She went on to study at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at the American Ballet Theatre and is currently a member of the Dutch National Ballet’s junior company. She has appeared in the ballet documentary “First Position,” as well as on “Dancing with the Stars, Good Morning America,” and “Nightline.”

In this engaging, moving, and unforgettable memoir, Michaela shares her dramatic journey from an orphan in West Africa to becoming one of ballet’s most exciting rising stars.

Review: Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

Rapture PracticeTitle: Rapture Practice

Author: Aaron Hartzler

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Release Date: April 9th, 2013

Interest: Memoir / LGBT

Source: Finished copy received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Aaron Hartzler grew up gay in a home where he was taught that at any moment Jesus might come down in the twinkling of an eye, and scoop his whole family up to Heaven. As a kid, Aaron was thrilled by the idea that each day might be his last one on planet Earth. He couldn’t wait to blastoff and join Jesus in the sky!

But as he turns sixteen, Aaron finds himself more and more attached to his life on Earth, and curious about all the things his family forsakes for the Lord. He begins to realize he doesn’t want the Rapture to happen, just yet; not before he sees his first movie, stars in the school play, or has his first kiss. Before long, Aaron makes the plunge from conflicted do-gooder to full-fledged teen rebel.

Whether he’s sneaking out, making out, or at the piano playing hymns with a hangover, Aaron learns a few lessons that can’t be found in the Bible. He discovers the best friends aren’t always the ones your mom and dad approve of, and the tricky part about believing is that no one can do it for you.

In this funny and heartfelt coming of age memoir, debut author Aaron Hartzler recalls his teenage journey to find the person he is without losing the family who loves him. It’s a story about losing your faith, finding your place, and learning your very own truth–which is always stranger than fiction.

If more memoirs were written like Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler, I would read more memoirs. His debut novel is humorous, heartfelt, and honest.

Something I like best about Aaron’s story is that it exposed me to a world I’m not very familiar with. I did have a friend in elementary school who was a very strict Baptist, but even her lifestyle wasn’t as extreme as Aaron’s. I grew up in a religious home, so I understand and appreciate the importance of it, but reading about Aaron’s family and their beliefs was eye-opening and also frustrating. I can’t imagine getting into an argument with my dad about whether or not I wore socks to church. My parents were strict about the music I listened to, mostly when I was younger, but I was never made to feel guilty or ashamed about it. Aaron Hartzler does a wonderful job helping the reader understand where his parents are coming from, but he also does a fantastic job making the reader feel for him. I can’t tell you how many times his parents made me angry while reading this memoir. I will admit, however, that I sometimes felt bad for being angry at them since I know they felt they were doing what’s right.

I hope some of my students will read Rapture Practice. First, it will most likely be an eye-opening experience for them just as it was for me. Second, I want them to read more memoirs and this is a great book to get them started and help them understand what a memoir is. Third, Aaron Hartzler’s story will probably resonate with many of them. Even if they aren’t living in a strict religious household, I’m confident many of them are questioning religion, rebelling against their parents, figuring out where they  fit in the world, etc. They’ll likely find a piece of themselves in this book.

I do, however, wish Rapture Practice included more about Aaron realizing that he’s gay. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to read his memoir. Unfortunately, this part of his life is brought up, but it’s not as fleshed out as I wanted. I’m assuming his real revelation happened after this book ends, but I’m not entirely sure about that. I’d love it if he chose to write a second memoir which goes into more detail about his self-discovery and how that affected his life and family. I’d read another one of Aaron Hartzler’s books regardless of what it’s about.

I know our reading lists are long, but I recommend taking the time to read Rapture Practice. It’s easy and enjoyable to read; it’s written very well. Aaron Hartzler is an author I’ll be looking out for in the future.

Flash Reviews (11)–Graphic Novel Edition

I’ve been wanting to read more graphic novels, but I really didn’t know where to start.  After some recommendations from trusted resources like Paul W. Hankins and John Schu, I was on my way and reading excellent graphic novels.  The idea of reviewing them is foreign to me, so I’m trying it out as flash reviews because even though I don’t feel confident reviewing them fully, I still want others to be aware of what’s out there and worth reading (in my opinion).

Stitches by David Small

Summary (From Goodreads): Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award and finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards: the prize-winning children’s author depicts a childhood from hell in this searing yet redemptive graphic memoir.

One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.

In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.

Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.

Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statement.

A silent movie masquerading as a book, Stitches renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again. Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award (Young Adult); finalist for two 2010 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards (Best Writer/Artist: Nonfiction; Best Reality-Based Work)

Flash Review:  This is one of the first graphic novels I read.  It’s a memoir of David Small’s life, his very tragic life.  I don’t know if I would have been able to read it as a novel of prose, because it is certainly haunting.  David Small’s mother didn’t express emotion, which left Small without an outlet to express himself.  His cancer, which horribly goes ignored for far too long, leaves him without the ability to express himself well vocally.  These two circumstances would make one feel helpless, but David Small discovers art and is able to express his feelings and thoughts through this outlet.  Stitches is at times mature, but it’s an excellent example of a survival story and memoir.  The images say so much more than words can express.

Page by Paige by Laure Lee Gulledge

Summary (From Goodreads):

Paige Turner has just moved to New York with her family, and she’s having some trouble adjusting to the big city. In the pages of her sketchbook, she tries to make sense of her new life, including trying out her secret identity: artist. As she makes friends and starts to explore the city, she slowly brings her secret identity out into the open, a process that is equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Laura Lee Gulledge crafts stories and panels with images that are thought-provoking, funny, and emotionally resonant. Teens struggling to find their place can see themselves in Paige’s honest, heartfelt story.

Praise for Page by Paige
“Gulledge’s b&w illustrations are simple but well-suited to their subject matter; the work as a whole is a good-natured, optimistic portrait of a young woman evolving toward adulthood.” –Publishers Weekly

Flash Review: I’ve read some great graphic novels, but I think Page by Paige is my favorite.  Paul W. Hankins introduced me to this graphic novel when we posted the book trailer on Facebook; I wanted to read it immediately.  The images are compelling and draw the reader in to Paige’s story.  I couldn’t help but feel for Paige as she discovers herself and how to express herself.  It’s hard putting yourself out there, whether it’s to make new friends or open up a secret part of yourself.  Teens will connect with Paige and understand what she’s going through.  The images are in black and white, but they are beautiful, creative, and unforgettable.  Page by Paige is a must read!

How I Made It to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story by Tracy White

Summary (From Goodreads): How do you know if you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown?  For seventeen-year-old Stacy Black, it all begins with the smashing of a window. After putting her fist through the glass, she checks into a mental hospital.  Stacy hates it there but despite herself slowly realizes she has to face the reasons for her depression to stop from self-destructing.  Based on the author’s experiences, How I Made it to Eighteen is a frank portrait of what it’s like to struggle with self-esteem, body image issues, drug addiction, and anxiety.

Flash Review: I suppose I enjoy memoirs more than I realized, because Tracy White’s graphic novel is based on her life, hence the character’s name, Stacy Black.  She admits that much is changed for the sake of the story and her friends and family, but she suffered much like Stacy.  Too many of my students, and teens in general, deal with low self-esteem, body image issues, addictions, depression, etc.  Many times all of those issues are connected.  Tracy White’s images are very simple in design, but they are clear and convey an important message.  Stacy is suffering and doesn’t really know how to help herself.  The readers gain insight to her life through testimonials from her friends, both past and current.  This story is mature in theme.  Considering the content, I think readers who enjoy Ellen Hopkins’ novels will enjoy

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