• My 2010-2011 Reading List
    (during school)
    I am organizing by series, and by genre.
    I usually give
    Author, Title, Year of Publication
    Brief summary & rating
    Genre, Length, Dates I read the book
     
              If you look back at my summer reading list, you'll see how differently I move through books during school.  I am often too tired to read... after reading pages and pages of students' work.  I know you understand.  Making time to read is hard after all of your homework.  Yet, reading is the best thing you can do to improve your grades and your scores on those big, imposing exams.  And, oh.  If you find a good book, tell me about it.  Even better, lend me a copy.  I love finding books I would not have read on my own.
     
    Read for fun.
    Read challenging new authors. 
    Read in your favorite genre. 
    Read what's too easy, if you don't have the time and energy for more. 
    Read anything. 
    But READ.
     
     
    Jim Butcher The Dresden Files: Small Favor (2008)
    Jim Butcher The Dresden Files: Turn Coat (2009)
    Jim Butcher The Dresden Files: Changes (2010)
              If you look at my earlier reading lists, you'll see that I am entirely hooked by this series.  Harry Dresden is a private investigator who looks into odd crimes...which generally involve vampires, werewolves, evil magicians, demons and a war between various supernatural groups.
              OLD comment:  I hear this is a TV series now, and I'll check it out when I have read all the current books, but I find that books are always better than film adaptations.  I doubt the show can live up to the wit of the novels, and although they probably show the action well enough, I doubt they can give you an understanding of the "workings" of the magic Harry does.  If you watched the show and liked it, I recommend you read Butcher's novels.  Start with the first book, Storm Front.
              UPDATE: I checked out the TV series - I can stream it from that rental company, so it's easy to get - and it was TERRIBLE.  The show does not have the wit, the action, the intelligent plot, the character depth, or the mythological background.  Instead, they take maybe three details of a book and spin them into a 42 minute episode.  After an episode and a half, my husband made me promise not to make him watch any more.  A friend told me to tell you this: if you liked the show, you'll love the books; if the show sounded interesting but disappointed you, you'll probably like the books; if you read the books first, you'll probably hate the show.  So there you go.
              Small Favor, Book 10: Dresden must complete a task for a dangerous fairy queen who threatens his very soul. The task involves the usual crew of Harry's allies and some new enemies, including the Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Go ahead and laugh - Harry's friends do - but remember that those three defeated a vicious troll in the old story; they are powerful and intelligent, a dangerous combination.
              Turncoat, book 11: Morgan, Harry Dresden's old enemy, has been accused of treason, and Harry finds himself in the odd position of trying to help the man.  The case is particularly interesting for Harry's apprentice, who was accused of terrible acts herself and fears she may be doomed to be as bad as her crime.
              Changes, book 12:  Susan, Harry Dresden's old flame, appears with disturbing news: vampires have taken their daughter.  Their daughter, who has never even met her father.  This is the novel my friends were discussing when I learned about the series, and although I did not find it as tragic as they seemed to, it was still a good read.  Maybe knowing there was tragedy to come softened the blow, so I offer you the same gift here.  I'm not sure if this was meant to be the series ending or not.  Still, the title of the novel comes from the idea that the only thing we can count on is change.  Book 13 is out now, and everything will be different for Harry.
              Speculative Fiction.  Small Favor: 432 pages; Sept 29 to early October, 2010.  Turncoat: 432 pages; early October.  Changes: 438 pages; Jan 11-12, 2011.
    small favor   turn coat   changes
     
     
     
    Neil Gaiman The Sandman Volume Two (2007)
              Incredible series!  I am reading the collected books; this one is the second 25% of the series.  The Sandman is the Lord of Dreams.  When his sister, Death, tells him he has punished someone wrongly, he enters Hell to make it right.  Nothing goes as planned.  Originally published as magazines 21-39.
              Fantasy/Graphic novel.  616 pages.  Started Sept 4, 2010.  Waiting to get it back from the library - it is always requested somewhere, and my time was up.  Update in December: I got the book back last month, and never had time to read it.  Returned to the library again...I guess I shall have to wait for summer for this one.
    sandman  sandman 2
     
     
    Cassandra Clare City of Bones (2007)
    Cassandra Clare City of Ashes (2008)
    Cassandra Clare City of Glass (2009)
    Cassandra Clare Clockwork Angel (2010)
              Book One, Two and Three of The Mortal Instruments series.  Remember my friend Holly Black who wrote several best-selling books?  Holly's friend Cassie wrote this series, and the publisher quoted Holly's review on the first front cover.  This is another story of magical and mystical elements set in the modern real world.  Clary lives in Brooklyn, a normal girl with an average life...until her mother disappears, a friend turns out to be not human, and Clary becomes part of the world of the demon-hunting Nephilim.
              Update in December: Next to read, according to Cassie, is Clockwork Angel, the first in a trilogy of prequels called The Infernal Devices, and then book 4 City of Fallen Angels.
              Clockwork Angel: Tessa arrives by steamship in London, expecting to be met by her brother - but Nate has disappeared and Tessa finds herself a captive of the Dark Sisters.  Life only gets more complicated when she meets other members of the strange other worlds of 1890's London.
              Speculative fiction.  YA.  City of Bones: 485 pages on Sept 9-12, 2010.  City of Ashes: 453 pages on Sept 12-15, 2010.  City of Glass: 496 pages on Sept 15-20?, 2010.  I had read the first two before, but I needed a refresher before reading the new one.  Clockwork Angel, on 13 discs, from mid-April through mid-May; I listened while driving home from work; the excellent reader does a variety of accents, and made me want to listen to City of Fallen Angels - but the library doesn't have it on disc; I will have to wait for summer when I have time to read.
    bones   ashes   glass  c angel
     
     
    Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier Zombies vs. Unicorns (2010)
              Holly and her friend edited this collection of short stories by a variety of excellent writers.  They take sides, heading up Team Zombie and Team Unicorn, and try to convince you that one side is better.  I can recommend the audio version, as several capable actors read different stories and make listening especially fun.  How good are they?  I listen as I drive to and from work, and I often stay in the car because I don't want to turn it off. 
              I have made a real effort to embrace zombie stories - see previous reading pages where I talk about The Walking Dead - and these zombie stories are fantastic.  I was always a unicorn fan, but so far, the zombies are winning.
              Fantasy.  YA.  432 pages.  15 hours or so, audio.  March 21 through mid-April, 2011.
    zombies
     
     
    Holly Black The Good Neighbors Book 1, Kin (2008)
    Holly Black The Good Neighbors Book 2, Kith (2009)
              Rue's mother is missing, and presumed dead.  The biggest suspect is her father - but he didn't murder his wife.  Unfortunately, he did break a promise to a dark and dangerous magical faerie, and now everyone is in danger.  Rue must deal with the increasingly complicated situation.
              Fantasy, graphic novel.  YA.  Sometime early in 2011.
    kin  kith
     
     
    Nancy Farmer The Sea Trolls (2004)
              You do know about the tradition of the clever character who goes on a journey, achieves unexpectedly great things and is named Jack, right?  This Jack lives with his parents and sister in a small Saxon village long, long ago.  He has become the Bard's apprentice and is happily learning magic...when the coast is invaded by the Viking "Northmen."  Jack and his sister are taken, to be sold as slaves; luckily his Bardic magical abilities keep them safe, at least for a time.  Farmer weaves history, legend and myth into a satisfying story. 
             This book was lent to me by Melissa Rechter, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Only 20% in, and reading at school.  2/1 update: still reading, still loving it; still my reward-for-getting-work-done-so-I-read-while-eating-lunch-sometimes book.  3/1 update: same; this may be my record for the longest time spent reading a book.  3/30 At page 315.  Mid-May - finished!
             Historical fiction; also speculative fiction.  YA.  450 pages. 
    sea
     
     
    Stephen King The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger (1982)
    Stephen King The Dark Tower: The Drawing of the Three (1987)
    Stephen King The Dark Tower: The Waste Lands (1991)
    Stephen King The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass (1997)
    Stephen King The Dark Tower: Wolves of the Calla (2003)
    Stephen King The Dark Tower: Song of Susannah (2004)
    Stephen King The Dark Tower (2004)
              At 19, King wanted to write an epic like The Lord of the Rings.  Well, this is an epic: seven novels and several other pieces, published over 22 years.  Otherwise, it is not like the Rings trilogy, not at all.  (Well, okay, as you read, you will see some motifs that are very Rings-like, but it doesn't read like that trilogy, which I also love, by the way.)
              Books 1 & 2: Roland is the last of the gunfighters on a world that could be our own distant future.  In the first novel, he pursues the Man in Black, who holds the key to how Roland can get to the Dark Tower, the place where all universes come together.  Along the way, he meets and loses friends, including the boy Jack who is definitely from our world.  In the second novel, Roland must cross time and space to gather the three companions he needs to accompany him on this journey.  All three - Eddie the heroin addict, Odetta the insane civil rights activist, and Mort the serial killer - are from NYC, and more links them than mere geography.
              Book 3: Roland continues his journey with Eddie and Susannah.  Along the way, he meets a few people who still maintain civility, and more who do not.  Doors open between his world and our own, as they always have, and so the party is joined by two new members.
             Book 4: The story of Roland's journey with his new friends is interrupted by the gunfighter's own tale, and we get to hear about the gunfighter at 16: already a leader, drawn into political complications where there ought to have been safety, and tangled in the complications of first love with a girl who belongs to another man.
              Book 5: The companions are called upon to help the people of Calla deal with a frightening menace that steals half of their children once a generation.  At the same time, our protagonist Roland must halt the destruction of the Tower by protecting a magical rose in another world: our own.
              Book 6: Susannah comes back to our world but she is not alone.  Meanwhile, her friends look for her in two different times and places.
              Book 7: The group comes back together, for a time, as they approach the Tower, at last.  A new child is anything but a blessing, and the cast list gets smaller.  Warning: after all this time and energy, after following Roland for 3800 pages, no ending could be truly satisfying.
              My husband got me started on these, and they will draw you in.  Be warned: these are not standard King monster stories like his other early books, but the human capacity for evil does not need monsters to manifest.  The novels are dark and sad, and so far, little redeeming joy is offered.  Save these for when you want to read something weird, dreamy and haunting - not for when you need a pick-me-up.
              Speculative Fiction.  The Gunslinger: 256 pages on November 26, 2010.  The Drawing of the Three: 399 pages, finished December 12.  The Waste Lands: 509 pages; I am mid-way through it on Dec 20; finished on Dec 25.  Wizard and Glass: 672 pages; I am mid-way on Dec 30; finished Jan 2, 2011.  Wolves of the Calla: 714 pages; finished maybe Jan 26, 2011.  Song of Susannah: 388 pages; I read a bit before grading midterms, and more after, then finished in March.  The Dark Tower, 864 pages; started 6/5/11 - I couldn't wait anymore; finished Jun 20 after a five day hiatus.
     
    gunslinger   drawing  waste lands  wizard
     
    wolves  song of s  dark t
     
     
    Charlaine Harris Dead Until Dark (2001)
    Charlaine Harris Living Dead in Dallas (2002)
    Charlaine Harris Club Dead ( 2003)
    Charlaine Harris Dead to the World (2004)
              Harris's Southern Vampire Mysteries series was developed into the not-very-faithful but awfully fun to watch True Blood series.  Since I don't have t.v., Netflix is not forthcoming, and I tend to prefer the original books of any adaptation anyway, I started borrowing these from another teacher.  I read the first two in the last week or so of May, and they are like candy.  The best part?  I looked up the author to write this entry, and she is not what I expected to see.  I love it when a writer baffles my expectations!
              Book 1: Vampires have come out of the coffin now that an alternate artificial blood source is available, and Sookie can't wait to meet one.  Unexpectedly, she ends up dating one.  That would be complicated enough, but when her small town is plagued by several murders, guess who the main suspect is?
              Book 2: Sookie's life is no simpler when vampire leaders in her area find out she is telepathic, and decide to use her powers to their own benefit.
              Book 3: Sookie's vamp boyfriend Bill disappears, and she must risk her life to rescue him -- though he may not deserve it.
              Speculative fiction.  Dead Until Dark, 292 pages in early June 2011.  Living Dead in Dallas, 291 pages in early June 2011.  Club Dead, 258 pages on June 21-22, 2011.  Dead to the World, 310 pages on June 22-?
    dud  ldid  club d  dttw
     
     
    Melissa Rechter Manuscript (2011)
                Evangeline is an average high school student ...  until a new flu vaccine turns her into a vampire!  Melissa, a freshman in my English class, finished her novel this spring and asked me to read it.  Vampires, clan wars, and a romantic triangle -- that is, all the fixings of a spicy and fast-paced novel.
              Speculative fiction.  YA.  200+ pages.  On June 22 2011, I am almost halfway through.  OK, yes, it needs work, but it is good enough that I want to keep turning pages.  Kudos to Melissa!
     
     
    Erin Bow Plain Kate (2010)
              Kate lives in a place that seems like Europe long ago.  Her father is a carver, and Kate has that skill, too - so much that some people claim it is magic.  This is not a good thing.  Superstitious people blame their troubles on witches, and burn them alive.  The main difference is, there really are witches.  Not all of them are dangerous, but one is ... and of course, that one finds Kate.  Luckily, Kate has some friends, and one stays loyal till the end.  Oh, and there is a talking cat.   
              This was an amazingly good story that I requested from the library by mistake.  I strongly recommend listening to it on CD; Campbell is one of the best readers I have ever heard.
              Speculative fiction.  336 pages, or about 10 hours on CD read by Cassandra Campbell.  Listened in the car during the last two weeks of May, 2011.  I often sat in the car when I had arrived, to hear some more - and that was during the awful heat wave.
    plain kate
     
     
    Mitch Albom the five people you meet in heaven (2003)
              "The End," the book begins, and we hear about the last hours in the life of an old man named Eddie...but his story is just beginning.  We follow Eddie into the afterlife, where he meets and learns from five people whose lives were linked to his - although he may not have known it at the time.  A friend lent me the CD's, and to be honest, I wasn't sure I would like it ... but after only one ride home, I was hooked.
              Speculative Fiction.  198 pages, or 10 hours on CD.  Started Monday, June 6, 2011.
    5 people
     
     
    John Barnes tales of the MADMAN underground (2009)
              Karl just wants to make it through his senior year.  I started this book on the recommendation of a student who wanted to use it for PCR in connection with The Catcher in the Rye.  After twenty pages, I am hooked.
             YA.  Realistic fiction.  532 pages.  Started Oct. 5, 2010.  Update December: I had to return it to the student since it was a library book, but I hadn't finished since I was snatching a few pages here and there at school.  I must get a copy of this one!
    madman
     
     
    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Purple Hibiscus (2003)
              Kambili lives in post-colonial Nigeria, a country still struggling to establish peace and fair government.  Her difficult and demanding father runs the only politically outspoken newspaper and contributes financially to many worthwhile causes, but does not allow for freedom of thought within his own house.  Everything changes when Kambili and her brother visit their aunt in another town in the midst of nation-wide political upheaval.
              This is an amazing first novel that I immediately wanted to recommend to all my students.  I was pleased to see it is now on many AP and International Baccalaureate course lists - other people see its value, too.
              By the way, this novel provides a good reminder never to read the Wikipedia information on a book to see if you'll like it.  Their "Plot Introduction" tells the whole story, which would have ruined it for me.  I understand some people are looking for a way to avoid actually reading, but if you like books, you have to let the book unfold as the author meant it to.  Discovering the story for yourself, making predictions, being surprised - this is why we read.  Don't let some online summary rob you of the joy of experiencing the books you read.
              Realistic fiction.  YA character, but it doesn't read like a book "for teens."  307 pages.
    purple h
     
     
    Cesar Milan Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems (2006)
              After a shopping trip to use a bookstore gift card, I have several new books.  One of them is Cesar's book on training dogs.  You know him from the Dog Whisperer show.  He really is one of the best trainers out there - and that's because he knows that he has to train the people.  I work very well with my dogs, but I know I can always learn more.
              Nonfiction, instructional.  298 pages.  Feb 26-Mar 3, 2011.
    cesars
     
     
    Gwen Cooper Homer's Odyssey (2009)
              Gwen had two cats and no money, yet she took in a blind kitten.  How could she have known he would be a brave and loyal friend?  Or that he would teach her how to be a better, and happier, person?  Since I am an animal lover, you won't be surprised to hear that I love the book.  You will, too.
              Nonfiction, memoir.  304 pages.  End of March, 2011.
    homer's odyssey
     
     
    Bill Bryson A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail (1999)
              Bryson, a travel writer, decided that hiking the 2000+ miles of the AT and writing a book about it sounded like a good idea, so he bought lots of equipment and set out with an old friend.  Neither had any experience, and the trek turned out to be significantly more difficult than anticipated.  Luckily, Bryson turns each travail into a humorous anecdote.  More importantly, Bryson does not set out a specific account of their hiking, but rather, uses the hike to provide a springboard for commentary about American history and environmental issues.  Personally, I think this book is a must-read for anyone studying American literature, especially as a follow-up to Thoreau's Walden and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
              Nonfiction, memoir.  304 pages; April into May, 2011.
    a walk
     
     
    James Herriot All Creatures Great and Small (1972)
    James Herriot All Things Bright and Beautiful (1974)
    James Herriot All Things Wise and Wonderful (1977)
    James Herriot The Lord God Made Them All (1981)
    James Herriot Every Living Thing (1992)
    James Herriot James Herriot's Dog Stories (1993)
              Dr. James Herriot, an English country vet, tells stories of the animals he has treated, and their eccentric and sometimes frustrating owners.  His voice is both warm and humorous; no deep philosophy or heart-rending drama here, although there are some sad moments.  Each chapter is a stand-alone story, so his books are especially good for readers who will take long breaks between reading sessions.  Just finish a chapter every time you pick one up.  Herriot's works are perfect for animal lovers, especially for anyone interested in veterinary medicine, but the snapshots of human nature make them a good read for almost everyone.
              I know I read the first, and I read most of the others, some time ago, but I have not yet read All Things Wise and Wonderful, his account of serving in WWII.  Book 5 gave me something to do while I had quiet time in the library with our new dog, Artax.  I read a chapter or two on each visit.
              Nonfiction, memoir.  Every Living Thing: 342 pages; December, 2010.
     
Last Modified on November 14, 2012