Friday, January 31, 2014

Best Books of January

My New Year’s resolution was to start using my Goodreads account for more than just stealing summaries and pictures of book covers.  I’m trying to review the majority of the books that I read this year.  Here are my three favorite books that I read (or reread) in January.  The summaries and covers are from Goodreads.  The reviews are mine.



Different Seasons by Stephen King

A collection of four novellas by the bestselling master, three of which became the basis for the hit films "Stand by Me," "The Shawshank Redemption," and "Apt Pupil." So varied in tone that "you have to compare King to Twain, Poe-with a generous dash of Philip Roth and Will Rogers thrown in." -Los Angeles Times.

Review:  This book contains four of King's most famous novellas: "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," "Apt Pupil," "The Body," and "The Breathing Method." Most people are familiar with these stories because all but "The Breathing Method" became movies. My favorite story was "Apt Pupil." The tension was amazing. I flew through it. I had to find out what happened next. My second favorite story was "The Body" because the young characters are more realistic than the young characters in many other books. I also love the movie "Stand By Me," which was based on "The Body." My least favorite story was "The Breathing Method." It felt like it took a long time to get going, but the end was great (and bloody). Overall, I think that some of King's best writing is in these novellas.



Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.

That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.

Review:  This was one of the books that changed my life as a child. I just reread it as an adult for a grad school essay, and I still love it. It's probably one of my favorite books of all time. It's an entertaining story with relatable characters for children, but it also has a lot for adult readers to think about. The book explores the issues surrounding poverty vs wealth and innovation/change vs tradition. The book shows how some parents relate differently to female children and male children. It shows the difficulties of male/female friendship in elementary school. It confronts issues about gender and how society believes that boys and girls should behave. Best of all, it shows that imagination is important, fears can be conquered, and belief in yourself is essential.



The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

The Blind Assassin opens with these simple, resonant words: "Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." They are spoken by Iris, whose terse account of her sister's death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura’s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story told by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist. Brilliantly weaving together such seemingly disparate elements, Atwood creates a world of astonishing vision and unforgettable impact.

Review:  Ten days after the end of World War II, Iris's sister, Laura, drove Iris's car off a bridge.  Now, fifty years later, Iris is telling the story of what really happened to Laura.  

I don't know why it took me so long to get around to reading this book.  I've read almost all of Margaret Atwood's books, and this one is now one of my favorites.  This book totally deserves its Booker Prize.  Only a massively talented author could write a book with a structure this intricate.  Margaret Atwood also develops characters better than any other author I've ever read.  This book is long (643 pages), but it felt as if the plot moved faster than the plots in some of Atwood's other books.  I really enjoyed it.

All The Things = 12 books.
I’m currently reading Expecting Armageddon: Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy edited by Jon R. Stone.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Project For Awesome 2013 Winners

The winners of the 2013 Project For Awesome have been announced.  If you’re looking for a good charity to donate to, please consider one of these.

The following charities will each get $50,000 from the Project For Awesome.

The Harry Potter Alliance – Harry Potter fans who find creative solutions to help the environment and stop poverty and genocide.

This Star Won’t Go Out – gives financial help to the families of children with cancer.

Not Forgotten – partners with local ministries to help abandoned children in Peru.

Save the Children – works to improve the health and safety of children all over the world.

Liberty in North Korea – helps refugees in North Korea and empowers the North Korean people to make positive changes within their country.

Child’s Play – gives video game systems to hospitals to improve the quality of life for children in hospitals around the world. – provides safe drinking water and sanitation systems for people all over the world.

The Thirst Project – builds wells and provides safe drinking water for communities all over the world.

Partners for Mental Health – improves the way that people think about and treat mental health problems.

Techo – works to end poverty and promote positive community development in Latin American and Caribbean slums.


These charities will split whatever money is left in the Project For Awesome fund.

To Write Love on Her Arms – helps people who are struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.

The Office of Letters and Light / NaNoWriMo – organizes events that help children and adults get excited about writing.

The World Food Programme – fights world hunger.

Feeding America – feeds America’s hungry through a nationwide network of food banks.

The Wayne Foundation – spreads awareness of child sex trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Pencils for Kids – provides classroom supplies, educational programs, schools, and libraries for communities in need.

Women for Women International – helps women survivors of war rebuild their lives.

First Book – gives brand-new books to children who need them.

Kiva – gives loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Doctors without Borders – provides medical aid to people in nearly 70 countries.


Thank you to everyone who participated in last year’s Project For Awesome.  I look forward to participating again this year.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Catching Fire

I’ve been a huge Hunger Games fan ever since the first book came out.  When I heard that the books were going to be made in to movies, I got a little nervous because good books do not always make good movies.  However, I loved the first movie.  It followed the book as well as a movie could.  It had all the intensity that I wanted, and I really liked being able to get out of Katniss’ head and see the Games control room.

Honestly, I didn’t like the Catching Fire book as much as The Hunger Games book.  I thought that the beginning was rushed and the rest was too similar to Hunger Games.  (It was Hunger Games All Stars, if you haven’t read it).  I was surprised that I liked the Catching Fire movie more than The Hunger Games movie.  Like the book, I thought that the beginning was rushed, but the world building in the movie was awesome.  In addition to The Hunger Games All Stars, we get to see the revolution starting and how Katniss’ role in her world has changed.  I also appreciated the satirizing of our celebrity-obsessed culture, especially our celebrity-wedding-and-celebrity-baby-obsessed culture.

Even though Mockingjay was my least favorite of the three books, I’m looking forward to the next two movies.