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Racing Clouds

I love all books, but I find fantasy and science fiction most enjoyable. I read whenever I can outside of school, which mostly leads to bursts of literature over breaks.

Currently reading

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou
Words of Radiance
Brandon Sanderson

The Shady Hill School: The First Fifty Years

The Shady Hill School: The First Fifty Years - Edward Yeomans "Information is not education."

My Antonia

My Antonia - Willa Cather

My Ántonia is a classic novel of life on the frontier. It follows the life of Jim Burden, and his spirited friend Ántonia, as they make lives for themselves. I rated the book three out of five stars because I found the plot very bland and uninteresting. It had no real story arc, and it read almost like a biography. However, I did find the descriptions of the mighty plains of Nebraska gripping. Willa Cather uses beautiful imagery and brings her descriptions alive with a generous spicing of personification and metaphors. My Ántonia certainly isn't the worst book I've ever read, especially for school, but I was not particularly impressed. As much as I was bored by it at times, I agree with the way we read through the entire book. I am for following a book through, and I feel that if next year's eighth graders only read the first book, they would be abandoning the characters and plot. They would also miss out on Cather's gorgeous language and might lose some of the important themes behind the novel.

My Ántonia covers an array of topics and themes. Some are very straight forward such as how hard life is for an immigrant, or the contrast between city life and country life. However, some messages went deeper, and stuck with me even after I closed the book. The most important lesson of the novel, in my opinion, are the deep ties that friendship creates. Jim and Ántonia stay together over the years, and thoughts of one another are never far from their minds. The reader can see just how much these two love each other, along with many of their childhood friends. So deep is their affection that they spend a great deal of the book reminiscing on old times, wondering why they didn't take advantage of their time together. However, they both realize that for however long they will be separated, the bonds that they created will last.

Willa Cather's use of imagery adds depth to an otherwise bland book, and creates a vivid picture of the dramatic setting of the novel. Her descriptions compare things that never even crossed my mind as similar. One example is on page 42, where she has two beautiful similes: "Whenever one looked at this slope against the setting sun, the circle showed like a pattern in the grass; and this morning, when the first light spray of snow lay over it, it came out with wonderful distinctness, like strokes of Chinese white on canvas." Here Cather compares a faint circle in the grass to a pattern, a simple enough simile. But the way she says it is "like strokes of Chinese white on canvas" brings to mind beautiful imagery. By hearing this sort of wondrous language throughout the book, it helped me to see through the eyes of Jim Burdan, and appreciate the beauty he found every day in his home. The language in My Ántonia makes the text interesting, and all in all makes the book a fairly enjoyable read.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

The Knife of Never Letting Go  - Patrick Ness I really can't stop thinking about this book. I picked it up just as a random read off the library shelf, and I have almost never been as impressed with a book. It's set in the distant future when humans have colonized a planet where everyone can hear each other's thoughts. Tom and his dog have to escape from their town after they discover a terrible secret about the planet. The writing style was humorous and somewhat poetic, and the plot exciting. Not only was it highly enjoyable, it also made me think about what a world would be like without secrets or quiet. I recommend this novel to older readers because of the sometimes mature content, extreme violence, and profanity.

Uglies

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld After receiving Uglies as a birthday present several year ago, I left it to sit on my shelf. I thought it was just too mainstream and mean-girlish to read. However, after recently discovering my love of dystopian novels, I finally decided to pick it up. It's about Tally Youngblood, a girls who live in a society where everyone becomes "Pretty" on their 16th birthday. She becomes friends with a girl who says that when you are operated on to become Pretty, more than just you physical appearance is changes. She talks of running away to a secret rebellion, where no one ever has to become Pretty. I thought the implication of the novel, the lesson that we are only as beautiful as we think we are, is nice, but that was about it. There was absolutely no character development, and it was just as filled with girl drama as I feared. Perhaps it's just me who doesn't like this sort of book, but honestly I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone unless they love Sarah Dessen and other cliquey writers.

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner - James Dashner The Maze Runner is an action-packed novel that kept me on the edge of my seat. I wanted to read it thanks to glowing reviews from my classmates. Because of all this attention, it is in pretty high demand, so I was excited when I finally found it on the library bookshelf. The plot is very fast paced and the setting is an interesting one. It takes place inside a maze in a little village of teenagers called the Glade. 16-year-old Thomas suddenly finds himself in the Glade, having no memories from his past or of how he could have gotten there. He ends up becoming a Runner, kids who travel into the maze by day, searching for a way out of the Glade. I rated this book five stars because of how I couldn't wait to find out what would happen next or what new plot twist would occur. I certainly recommend this book, and I plan on reading the next one.

The House of the Scorpion

The House of the Scorpion - Nancy Farmer I loved The House of the Scorpion even more than I imagined I would, which is saying a lot. I have read The Ear, the Eye and the Arm, another book by Nancy Farmer and never loved it, so I was ever so slightly hesitant to pick this novel up. However, after hearing how much different people recommended it, I became excited and decided to read it. I finished it very quickly for such a long book, I guess because the more caught up in the plot I am, the faster I read. It's about a clone of a powerful drug lord living in a country between the United States and Mexico set aside solely for the production of opium. It tells the story of his life living as a clone, something people consider to be an animal, and his eventual escape from his home. The plot was riveting and had the perfect mixture of the unexpected and the feel of a classic adventure story. I recommend this book to absolutely everyone and anyone.

2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke I first picked up 2001: A Space Odyssey because I recognized the title at the library. I had watched the movie a couple of years before and was interested in the story behind it. It lays out a world in which an alien civilization has influenced humankind into what we are today. In the year 2001, people discover the remnants of these aliens that first visited earth three million years ago. A ship is sent out to Saturn to try to locate the source of these strange beings, thus setting in motion a tale of survival that makes us question the very origin of mankind. I liked the possibilities the book brought up and the fantastical events it described. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a very enjoyable classic read.

The Dirt Eaters

The Dirt Eaters - Dennis Foon I was surprised with how much I enjoyed The Dirt Eaters by Dennis Foon. I only picked it up in the first place because the title caught my eye in the library, and I was in need of a quiet reading novel. It ended up being about 15-year-old Roan, who escapes the massacre of his pacifist village in a post-appocoliptic world. He soon discovers the dangers of the outside world and eventually falls into a religious group of warriors that has darker intentions than he first imagined. Although I was sometimes bothered by the present-tense writing, I was entranced by the fantastical world the author created and the cast of charming characters in this novel. I would recommend to someone who is looking for something different to read.

Before We Were Free

Before We Were Free - Julia Alvarez I did not enjoy the novel Before We Were Free at all. Perhaps it was the genre, because I must admit I am strongly biased against historical fiction. Anita has never questioned her family's freedom living in the Dominican Republic in the 1960's. But relatives keep emigrating to the United States and the government’s secret police terrorize her remaining family because of their suspected opposition of the dictator. This is a very classic tale of a adolescent girl trying to understand adult circumstances. Although it is written with sparing and beautiful prose, some part of me just can't seem to like it. Perhaps if this type of book is more up your alley, you would like it more than I did.

The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger I finally picked up Catcher in the Rye after hearing about this life-changing cult-novel for years. I didn't expect to like it very much for, as best I could tell, it was about absolutely nothing besides some kid's deep inner thoughts. Yuck. The plot was exactly as I expected it be. It was about Holden Caulfield, a teenage boy in the 1940's and his struggles to find his place in the world and create an identity for himself. The part that really surprised me, however, was how much I could enjoy and relate to this book. His attitude toward his parents, his sister, and life in general remind me of my own. It is true that the plot is minimal, but I now realize that it doesn't necessarily make it a bad novel. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in a classic story of teenage angst.

Lucy

Lucy - Laurence Gonzales Lucy was my favorite required reading of the summer. I know a lot of classmates didn't enjoy the story as much, and it's true this type of tale is not everyones cup of tea. It's a sci-fi story of a genetically engineered girl and the researcher who adopts her. The actually story is charming, as Lucy tries to fit in with American culture, but it's the moral implications that are even more intriguing. How would the world react to someone so different that they're considered a different species? I would certainly recommend this book to anyone.

Ship Breaker

Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi The novel Ship Breaker was absolutely the best book I read all summer. It is a futuristic novel that takes place in a world that is haunted by weather extremes and poverty. The protagonist of the story is Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring in long sunken oil tankers. His life changes when he discovers a wreaked yacht and the wealthy girl inside. Running from jealous workers, the two set out on a quest that could offer Nailer a new life. Honestly, the reason this book stood out to me on the summer reading list was because of the warning that it contained "violence and mature subject matter". Although though it did contain references to drugs, prostitution, underage-drinking, and a whole lot of violence, it didn't take away from the plot at all. I was constantly riveted by the descriptions of futuristic technology and climate, and each chapter revealed a new complication to the plot. I highly recommend this book and will defiantly be reading the second.

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese - Gene Luen Yang I love American Born Chinese and the messages it sends about race and the constant need to "fit in". The book starts out with three seemingly different tales, and then merges them all together at the climax. The first tale is the legendary folk tale of The Monkey King, and how he eventually becomes something he isn't. The second tale is the story of a second-generation child of immigrants from China named Jin Wang, who desperately wants to fit in. The third tale follows the story of an American boy named Danny, whose incredibly Chinese cousin Chin-Kee comes and visits, tuning his life upside down. The graphic novel format made a book that could have been boring or too serious and philosophical incredible enjoyable and easy to read. The plot does get a bit confusing at the climax of the novel, but it also ties the stories together nicely. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read it.

Seedfolks

Seedfolks - Paul Fleischman, Judy Pedersen Seedfolks is a beautifully written and deeply philosophical story. It tells the tale of a community that has given up hope, only to be brought together by a garden. When Kim plants six lima beans in an abandoned lot, she doesn’t realize that she is setting in motion a project that will change her neighborhood. Soon others join in the planting and the lot slowly becomes a fully fledged community garden. At first people are shy and suspicious around each other, but the garden slowly draws them together. In a city of immigrants, everyone has their own background and story, but they also have more in common than they realize. We hear the story through the many voices of unique characters, and as these people learn more about each other, they begin their own personal transformations. With a charming cast of characters, each with their own distinct personality and dreams, it is also surprising easy to connect with. However, the writing style is a bit simplistic and the stories themselves perhaps a little too short to tell the full story. Despite this, I still enjoyed the book, even though it was not something I would have picked up on my own.