Nan’s Notes: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

Wow! I loved this book. I was so excited when I walked into the library and saw it was there. I really thought I was going to have to put my name on a long waiting list. I brought the book home thinking I would like reading it. I no idea how much I would like this book. Now don’t get me wrong, the subject matter is heavy.  Unbroken shares Louis Zamperini’s horrific experience as a POW and how the human spirit overcomes the most vile and degrading experiences. Many scenes are difficult to read and if it becomes a movie as Seabiscuit did, I do not think I will be able to see it. But, the book is a great book. Laura Hillenbrand’s writing kept me hooked from the beginning and kept me turning page after page, even after I should have gone to bed!

If you enjoy nonfiction, definitely pick up this book. If you don’t normally read  nonfiction, this might be a good one to try. It is well written, compelling, and it won’t be one you will quickly forget.

Nan’s Notes: Little Bee, by Chris Cleave

I’ve had this book on my TBR list for quite a while, not really knowing what it was about. It tells the story of  two lives that connect and impact each other. There are two voices telling the story Little Bee (a refugee from Nigeria) and Sarah (a wife, mother, and editor).

I loved the first half of the book and was completely absorbed in the story. I work in a school where many of my students are refugees from many countries. I tend to connect deeply with books about refugees because of my personal experience. Both women’s voices were strong and kept the story moving. The story was completely engaging and I loved the writing. I was also thinking that this could be a really good audio book to listen to (and I’m not very good at audio books!).

I had a little more trouble in the second half of the story. It was harder for me to become completely absorbed and to lose myself in the story. Part of the reason, I think, is that I had a lot of things going on in my life (lost my wallet, going to a conference, etc.).  I found myself having to reread pages because I had no idea what had happened. There also was one section of the book where I thought Little Bee was narrating and it turned out it was Sarah! I had to go back and reread that section to see it from the correct perspective.

I’m glad I read this book. The first half of the book is going to stick with me for a while, but I think I will have trouble remembering the second half. Have you read this book? Did you have trouble with the second half of the book or was it just me? I wish I  didn’t have so much going on as I was reading the end.

Nan’s Notes: A Dog’s Purpose

by W. Bruce Cameron

  • 319 pages
  • Published: July 2010
  • bought book

I picked up this book after reading about it on a couple of blogs. The summaries sounded like a book that I would love. A Dog’s Purpose follows a dog through many lives as he (sometimes she) learns his purpose in life.

My only hesitation in picking up the book was knowing that there would be really sad parts when the dog would die. I ended up buying it and decided not bring it to the beach to read, but instead read it in the privacy of my own home. There were some parts where I was bawling my eyes out. But there were other parts where I was also crying from laughing so hard! I had marked some of these funny parts in my book to share on this blog, but now I don’t think I’m going to. I don’t want to ruin those parts… you’ll  have to read them for yourself. 🙂 If you have dogs, you will really appreciate these parts!

The only thing that bothered me a few times, sort of pulled me out of the story, was when the narrator (the dog) would describe something that he was seeing because he didn’t know what it was called, but a few pages later, he would use the correct word for it. Those little inconsistencies would give me a little jolt, but I quickly got back into the story.

Dog people will love this book, but if you are not a dog person, I don’t thing it is the book for you. If you read and enjoyed The Art of Racing in the Rain, pick up this book. Have tissues handy.

Now, I’m going to go play with my dogs.

Nan’s Notes: A hit and a miss

I have been very busy reading this summer. So busy reading that  I haven’t written up any reviews! I wanted to quickly mention a really great book that I read and one I had to put down.

The  great one: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I first tried this book back during the winter and I just couldn’t get into it. I returned it to the library with just a few pages read. Skip to this summer. My aunt read it and told me to give it another try. To humor her, I bought a copy of the book and told her I would try it. I also read this article in my Entertainment Weekly magazine, which got me curious about the book.  During the hottest part of the heat wave, I picked up the book, hoping it would distract me from the heat. I’m so glad I did!  I could not put it down and was completely hooked on the story and characters. This was a good reminder to me of how sometimes you have to be in the right mood for a certain book. I guess this July I was in the perfect mood!I brought this book everywhere with me: to the lake, on errands, in between tutoring appointments. I just couldn’t put it down. Now I’m thinking I should try another book that I had trouble with in the past (Shadow of the Wind). Everyone says I will love it but I just couldn’t get into it. Have you ever put down a book because you weren’t into it, and ended up loving it when you gave it another try?

So what book was a miss for me? Well, it’s a book I should have known I wouldn’t have liked it. It’s The Host, by Stephenie Meyer. I’m not a fan of the Twilight series, although I do keep reading it – I like  to talk about the story with my sister and friends. But… I thought maybe, just maybe,  I would like her novel The Host. Let’s just say it wasn’t my cup of tea. To me, it was the story of Twilight with aliens instead of vampires. I read a bit of the book and had to put it down.

I’ve read a couple of other really good books so far this summer… I hope to have more in depths reviews of some of those coming soon.

Nan’s Notes: Refresh, Refresh

I found this book during my visit to the library on my first day of summer vacation. I wandered by the Green Mountain Book Award table and decided to pick it up.

Refresh, Refresh is the story of 3 boys whose fathers have gone to fight the war in Iraq, told in a graphic novel. The boys fill their days practicing fighting by boxing with each other, hunting, and hitting refresh on their computers to see if their fathers have sent them e-mails. I read this book in one sitting. But, I’m really stuck on how to write about my thoughts. I think this is one of those books that will rattle around in my head for quite awhile, and then I will know how I feel about it. Overall, the book was sad. I really felt for the boys who were dealing with a anger, fear, and loneliness while also trying to grow and find their own place in the world. The violence that the boys kept surrounding themselves with was an outward expression of the mixture of emotions. There was sadness mixed with anger throughout the book, but the ending was also sad, leaving me with a feeling of hopelessness. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the book, it’s just a hard book to write about.

One problem I had with the book was I had trouble knowing which character was which. When one of the father of one of the boys died, I wasn’t sure which boy it was. This may have been my fault for reading the book too fast. I tend to do that with graphic novels, especially when I read them in bed before going to sleep. Have you read this book and if so, did you have the same problem? I am thinking of doing a reread of it before returning it to the library to see if I can follow them better.

You can see some  examples of the artwork in the book by visiting the artist’s website: Danica Novgorodoff.

I know this is a short review… I read the book over a week ago and I need to return the book to the library in a couple of days.

Nan’s Notes: Hate That Cat, by Sharon Creech

  • by Sharon Creech
  • Age Range: 8 to 12
  • Pub. Date: September 2008
  • 153 pages
  • borrowed from library

I loved Sharon Creech’s book Love That Dog, which I read a few years ago. Hate That Cat continues the story with the narrator Jack and his poetry journal. In Love That Dog, Jack learns about poetry. At first he is resistant and convinced he can not understand poetry or write it. As the year goes on, we see his growth in his poetry journal.

Hate That Cat has Jack in the next grade with the same teacher (she moved up a grade level). We see some of the same poems referenced, “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams along with a bunch of new ones. Jack talks about a mean cat that attacked him once and how he doesn’t want a pet after losing his dog. Jack slowly comes around and falls in love with a little kitten from his teacher.

I love these books! I love these books because of the way they talk about poetry. I don’t read much poetry, but this is such a nice introduction to it. I also love the way Miss Stretchberry (Jack’s teacher) uses poetry in the classroom. This book always inspires me to be a better teacher.

All the poems referenced in Hate That Cat are included at the end of the book, along with a wonderful list of poetry books for further reading or to use in the classroom. You can read Hate That Cat and Love That Dog in one sitting. They are such wonderful books!

On a side note, I also love Sharon Creech’s picture book A Fine, Fine School. I always read it during the first week of school.


Nan’s Notes: The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

  • by J.D. Salinger
  • 214 pages
  • my own copy of the book

I read this book as part of The Catcher in the Rye Read Along.

I read this book years ago in middle school or high school. I didn’t remember a thing about this book from that reading. The book is told from the point of view of Holden Caulfield in a stream of consciousness format.  Holden has been expelled from school and does not want to deal with having his parents find out before they need to. So, he spends a few days wandering around New York City, drinking, calling old friends, meeting women, all the while feeling lonely and depressed.

When I first picked up the book for this reading, I got through a good portion of the book in one sitting. Then, what I found, was that it was really hard to pick it back up. I had smaller bit of time where I could read a few pages here and there, but that was very hard to do with this book. The style of writing, takes me awhile to get into the groove of the story. Today, with the snow pouring down, I had a good block of time again where I could sit and read. Once I had this uninterrupted time, I was able to finish the book.

An interesting tidbit I found in Wikipedia is:

In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.

I think that is fascinating that it was both the most censored and one of the most taught books at the same time!

You can find links to other people’s thoughts in the Catcher in the Rye Readalong over at Book Nut.


2010 100+ Reading Challenge