Sunday, December 12, 2010

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen: Book Cover

Product Details

Pub. Date: September 2010

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Format: Hardcover , 562pp

Sales Rank: 22

Series: Oprah's Book Club Series

ISBN-13: 9780312600846

ISBN: 0312600844


One of the New York Times Book Review's Top 10 Books of 2010

Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter's dreams. Together with Walter—environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man—she was doing her small part to build a better world.

But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz—outré rocker and Walter's college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become "a very different kind of neighbor," an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street's attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom's characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.

This book was a monster. I had to challenge myself to read an adult novel, and in recommitting to watching the Farewell season of the Oprah show, I wanted to tackle her first Book Club selection of the year. It happened to be this almost-600 page book with barely-there margins and a negative-size font. Or at least it seemed like that, compared to the young adult novels I'm used to reading. It was a difficult road to stay committed to reading this book and not giving up, given the number of other books I had slowly stacking their way towards the ceiling of my bedroom in my "To be read" pile of books. But I stuck with it, and I'm glad I did! It was a beautifully written novel.  The language and wordsmithing was a delight to read.  The amount of time it took to read this book seems trivial compared to the amount of time it must have taken to write it.  What a labor of love for him.  I hope to someday find that commitment to my own writing. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bonechiller by Graham McNamee

From B&

Danny’s dad takes a job as caretaker at a marina on the shore of a vast, frozen lake in Harvest Cove, a tiny town tucked away in Canada’s Big Empty. If you’re looking for somewhere to hide, this is it.

It’s the worst winter in years. One night, running in the dark, Danny is attacked by a creature so strange and terrifying he tries to convince himself he was hallucinating. Then he learns about Native American legends of a monster that’s haunted the lake for a thousand years. And that every generation, in the coldest winters, kids have disappeared into the night. People think they ran away.

Danny knows better. Because now the beast is after him.

Wow.  I've read one other novel by McNamee, and they were both high-interest thrillers.  Bonechiller plays to everyone's nightmarish fear of being chased and unable to get away from....something.  In this case, a huge white beast capable of infecting its victims and getting into their dreams and eventually into their waking minds.  I would keep this book on my classroom shelf, but may only recommend it to my capable, but unmovitated readers.  There is some profanity and sexual details, but the overall story could get reluctant readers started into this genre. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Let's all go the movies!

After hearing that Matt had never been to a drive-in movie, I knew I had to step in and correct this.  I remember going to the now-demolished drive-in in Aurora when we were little and loving the feeling of being outside on a warm summer night with snacks and a couple of shows. We found one on Rt. 34 in a town called Earlville, which is usually a stop on the Ripp's bar tour, but had no idea there was more to Earlville than Jake and Ellwood's Bar (site of the infamous cell phone in the bar sink incident).  As you can see, Earlville's drive-in has stuck true to drive-in form.  Screen, speakers, parking spots.  Nothing fancy.   I'm glad that the owner didn't (or couldn't) remodel and add unnecessary luxuries.  I wanted Matt to get the real drive-in experience.  As you can see from the sunset, the rain we almost got washed away in on the way there subsided to a beautiful sunset while we waited for the movies to start. 

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Ben Wolf has big things planned for his senior year. Had big things planned. Now what he has is some very bad news and only one year left to make his mark on the world. How can a pint-sized, smart-ass seventeen-year-old do anything significant in the nowheresville of Trout, Idaho? First, Ben makes sure that no one else knows what is going on—not his superstar quarterback brother, Cody, not his parents, not his coach, no one. Next, he decides to become the best 127-pound football player Trout High has ever seen; to give his close-minded civics teacher a daily migraine; and to help the local drunk clean up his act. And then there's Dallas Suzuki. Amazingly perfect, fascinating Dallas Suzuki, who may or may not give Ben the time of day. Really, she's first on the list. Living with a secret isn't easy, though, and Ben's resolve begins to crumble . . . especially when he realizes that he isn't the only person in Trout with secrets.Deadline was a book that I wanted to read as soon as I saw it on the shelf.  The cover and description grabbed my attention right away.  I finally got around to reading it when I checked it out from the library about a month ago.  It was sitting on the shelf with my other checkouts, waiting to be read.  I almost gave up on it, weighed down with the guilt of the "required" reading I still had to do with a month left in the summer.  I'm glad I didn't return it unread.  I renewed the book with about 4 days left until the original due date, but it turns out I didn't have to. I read it in three sittings.  The main character was really likeable.  I thought his dialogue and internal thoughts were realistic to a high school senior.  My impression (or hopes) before reading the book were that he would look outside his small town and try to see the world before the end of his life, but it turns out that there was a lot going on in his own hometown that taught him about life.  Some of the issues and events are more mature.  I'm still debating on putting this on my classroom shelf because of the mature content, but it was definitely an enjoyable read for me, and I definitely recommend it for those interested in seeing the world through the eyes of someone who knows their end is near.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


A pic-a-nic basket!

We found this little beauty at Target on clearance for $3.74 and we're going to fill it with our own goodies!  Who needs to spend $30+ on a fancy pre-packaged one?? 

We've already purchased two plastic wine glasses and two plastic plates. (see pic)

First destination: Ravinia on Tuesday for a CSO and Joshua Bell concert on the lawn!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica

I just finished Mike Lupica's Million Dollar Throw

Here's the description from B& What would you do with a million dollars, if you were 13? Nate Brodie is nicknamed “Brady” not only for his arm, but also because he’s the biggest Tom Brady fan. He’s even saved up to buy an autographed football. And when he does, he wins the chance for something he’s never dreamed of—to throw a pass through a target at a Patriots game for one million dollars. Nate should be excited. But things have been tough lately. His dad lost his job and his family is losing their home. It’s no secret that a million dollars would go a long way. So all Nate feels is pressure, and just when he needs it most, his golden arm begins to fail him. Even worse, his best friend Abby is going blind, slowly losing her ability to do the one thing she loves most—paint. Yet Abby never complains, and she is Nate’s inspiration. He knows she’ll be there when he makes the throw of a lifetime. Mike Lupica’s latest sports novel is also his most heartwarming.

Sounds goooood, right?  Well, it took me over a month to read it.  Mostly because it took Lupica over 200 pages to get to the throw.  I understand there'd be no book if he just wrote about the throw, but the story didn't keep me interested enough throughout to want to pick it up whenever I had a free block of time.  In fact, I finished two other books (1 YA, and 1 adult book) between the time I started MDT back in June and now.  I think that Lupica's style of play-by-playing the games is what takes me out of it a little bit, and I know about football!  When I read his Travel Team, I had little to no visualization going on because I didn't know the terminology as well. 

Now with the positives.  The storyline about his friend going blind was very heartwarming and definitely would get girls into it.  And the climax did get me teary-eyed when Tom Brady came out and gave him a pep talk and what he ends up doing with the money.  Like the description said, the end is heartwarming, but I sure wish I could have gotten more into it in the first 200 pages.  I think boys and girls would enjoy this, but Lupica needs to not try so hard at trying to please teens with so many pop culture references.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lincoln Award List 2011

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
Artichoke's Heart - Suzanne Supplee
Boot Camp - Todd Strasser
Deadline - Chris Crutcher finished Summer 2010
Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks - E. Lockhart
Elsewhere - Gabrielle Zevin
Evermore: the Immortals - Alyson Noel
Graceling-Kristin Cashore
Hold Tight - Harlan Coben
House Rules: a Memoir - Rachel Sontag
Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins finished 2009
Jerk, California - Jonathan Friesen finished Jan 2011
Just Listen - Sarah Dessen
Paper Towns - John Greene
Perfect Chemistry - Simone Elkeles
Right Behind You - Gale Giles
Rucker Park Setup - Paul Volponi
Spanking Shakespeare - Jake Wizner
Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
Twisted - Laurie Halse Anderson
Unwind - Neal Shusterman
Wake - Lisa McMann finished Spring 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

REAL vampires

I'm about 30 pages into Interview with the Vampire, and I'm already seeing why all those vampire authors these days should be sending half of their paychecks to Anne Rice. It's so different from the YA books I read allll year long and guilt myself into reading all summer long too. I'm fighting deterioration (though I love YA books) of my brain by reading something meant for adult eyes only! Although, some of these YA books are scandalous! Anyways, I love how the words fill the page and the complex sentences. I can actually feel my brain pulsing with pleasure as I read this. It's so addicting. This was going to be a pool-side read only, but I can't seem to stop myself from going back to the bedside table where I keep my am- and must-reads piled up and ripping it open to read "just a few more pages".