Oscars 2016 Must-read books before seeing the movie

I’ve been a movie lover my whole life so Oscar season is the most wonderful time of the year.  When I was studying theatre in university, I dabbled in playwriting a bit and so my favourite categories are Best Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.  As Oscars 2016 predictions started being released this week, you should know that these are the books next on my list as they inspired the predicted nominees for Best Adapted Screenplays this year.
1. Aaron Sorkin, “Steve Jobs” based on book by the same name by Walter Isaacson.

Walter Isaacson said in the opening to his book “The Innovators” (which I’m reading now) that he was writing The Innovators for over a decade and interrupted it to complete his biography on Steve Jobs.  Matt Whitely wrote the screenplay for the 2013 movie called “Jobs” (starring Ashton Kutcher) but his research isn’t as complete as Isaacson.  I guess there were some people (like Steve Wozniak) who were upset about the 2013 movie and this justifies a movie in a new direction with this screenplay.  The performance of Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs is already earning nominee nods for Best Actor.
2. Nick Hornby, “Brooklyn” based on the book by the same name by Colm Toibin

Actress Saorise Ronan (best known for her roles in The Lovely Bones(2009) and The Grand Budapest Hotel(2014)) is supposed to be outstanding in the movie and will likely garner a nomination for Best Actress.  This book, published in 2009, has been nominated many times, including the Man Booker prize longlist.
3. Phyllis Nagy, “Carol” based on the book “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith

This movie is already being predicted as a nominee for Best Director, Best Actress for Cate Blanchett, Best Supporting Actress for Rooney Mara and Best Director for Todd Haynes.  The narrative sounds delicious.  I can’t wait to dive into this one.

4. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu & Mark L. Smith, “The Revenant” based on the book “The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge” by Michael Punke

This book looks hardcore.  It’s a book about human survival and revenge after a man is brutally mauled by a bear and then abandoned by his friends.  The lead character is played in the movie by Leonardo Di Caprio and the performance is already being predicted for Best Actor.  As well Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (best known for having directed Birdman (2014) and Babel (2006)) is predicted as being nominated for Best Director.

5. Emma Donoghue, “Room” based on the book by the same name and the same author

Who hasn’t read “Room?” Me.  I know, I know.  I’m extra hopeful about this movie based on the book, because Emma Donoghue herself has written the screenplay.  I’m not at all familiar with director Lenny Abrahamson’s work.  The main character is played by Brie Larson who has a long list of secondary and tertiary roles in her filmography but this will certainly be her breakout role.

6. Lucina Coxen, “The Danish Girl” based on the book by the same name by David Ebershoff
 People are going to go and see this movie because Eddie Redmayne’s performance is going to be outstanding.  The book is Ebershoff’s first novel and is said to be based loosely on a true story.
7. Cary Fukunaga, “Beasts of No Nation” based on the book by the same name by Uzodinma Iweala
In his debut novel of 2006 Iweala won many many many awards that support this authentic, original voice.  I’m hoping that the movie will do the book justice.  Read it first.
8. Drew Goddard, “The Martian” based on the book by the same name by Andy Weir
The Martian isn’t just supposed to be a great book, it’s supposed to be a science teacher’s dream!  The science that the main character uses to survive is supposed to be highly realistic.  Of course since Matt Damon is playing an astronaut (again??) this movie is going to be awesome.
9. Adam McKay & Charles Randolph, “The Big Short” based on the book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
Just look at the cast!!  Like “Wolf of Wall Street” no one is going to like to hear how the biggest bank bailouts were preventable, but this looks to be a very personal and comedic take on the story.
10. Charles Leavitt, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, “In The Heart of The Sea” based on the book by the same name by Nathaniel Philbrick
This is director Ron Howard’s contribution to the Oscars this year and our chance to see actor Chris Hemsworth in a more historical film.  Remember Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander ?  This sweeping epic of seabound superstition is bound to carry us all away.
11. Andrew Haigh, “45 Years” based on the short story “In Another Country” by David Constantine
Based on a true story, the main character is asked to identify the bodies of a former lover whose body has been preserved in the ice during a climbing accident on the eve of his 45th wedding anniversary.  The news casts all sorts of doubts on the marriage. Both the movie and the short story sound fantastic.  I’m looking forward to the movie for scenes shot in Norfolk, England which I have spent time in with my husband’s family.
12. John McNamara, “Trumbo” based on the book by the same name by Bruce Cook
Dalton Trumbo was one of the Hollywood screenwriters who was jailed and interrogated and subsequently blacklisted under suspicion of being Communist.  If you’ve been wondering what Bryan Cranston has been up to since the end of Breaking Bad, he stars as Trumbo and his performance is said to garner an Oscar nomination.
In 2004 Mary Mapes, producer at CBS News, helped Dan Rather to break the in-depth story of then president George W. Bush’s military involvement.  They lost their jobs over this story, rather be silenced.  This is their story.  Cate Blanchett plays Mary Mapes and Robert Redford plays Dan Rather in the film version.

14. Billy Ray, “Secret in Their Eyes” based on the book “The Secret in Their Eyes” by Eduardo Sacheri

The film is an Americanized version based on Sacheri’s book originally set in 1970s Argentina.  The cast stars Julia Roberts, Chiwetol Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman.  Director and screenwriter Billy Ray also adapted last year’s Captain Phillips and Hunger Games previously.

15. George Miller, Brendan McCarthy & Nick Lathouris, “Mad Max: Fury Road” based on the graphic novel Mad Max: Fury Road by Brendan McCarthy
Once you’ve seen Mad Max: Fury Road you’ll know that it was conceived by an artist.  The movie actually came out before the graphic novel so that Brendan McCarthy could concentrate on bringing the film to life.  Charlize Theron is getting a best actress nod and steals every scene she is in.

16. Scott Cooper & Mark Mallouk, “Black Mass” based on the book “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob” by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill

Authors Lehr and O’Neill were actually two Boston Globe reporters who covered the entire story start to finish.  The movie stars an amazing cast including Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton who are getting nods for their acting work here.  Sure to be captivating in print and on screen!

17. Marielle Heller, “The Diary of a Teenage Girl” based on the graphic novel Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures by Phoebe Gloeckner
Set in 1970s San Francisco, the main character loses her virginity to her mother’s boyfriend and then spends the rest of the novel flirting with other adult activities.  Relative newcomer, actress Bel Powley, is already starting rumours of winning an Oscar for her performance in this movie.  Warning: this is a restricted movie and adult graphic novel.  This is Marielle Heller’s directorial debut and the cast also includes Alexander Skarsgard and Kristen Wiig.  I can’t wait to see it!

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The ClimateThis Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book has changed my life. This book is the first book I’ve read from the Ontario Library Association’s Evergreen selections for 2015. Naomi Klein is such an important voice for Canada that this book was on my to-read list well before it was nominated though. I enjoyed reading this book through Audible.com‘s selection so I listened to about 7 hours a week which was wonderful because it has a lot of important information about climate change that are combined with unfamiliar issues such as economics, world trade, environmental law, industrialization, and indentured slavery that I needed to digest in smaller pieces. Klein manages to put all of these issues together into one book and concludes that if we can’t manage to adjust our culture of consumption that we don’t have a chance of stopping global warming. More importantly though, that we need to start making right the crimes that we have committed through industrialization and globalization and make reparations to developing nations that are still disadvantaged by centuries of colonial actions. At home in Canada, Klein argues that we need to demand a higher minimum wage so that people can stop taking McJobs for shitty companies who continue to put capitalism first and human needs and the environment as distant seconds.  In a deeply personal chapter, Klein reveals that her concerns for climate change exploded during her struggles with infertility and points to our dramatic increases in infertility and disease as the red flag symptoms that we continue to ignore by believing in the capitalism-driven pharmaceuticals instead. In summary: I learned a lot.

As a secondary school teacher-librarian, I will carry this book in my library but it isn’t going to be an easy sell. However, as a research tool it will be phenomenal and I will bring bits and pieces of it out to stimulate inquiry research and for discussion for years to come.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As much as I wanted to get into this book about a Cyborg with way more problems than Cinderella (who the book loosely resembles), I had trouble with the world-building and the flow of unfolding the politics of this fantastic setting. I had trouble understanding why she wanted the respect of her really mean stepmother. The unintentional relationship that forms between Cinder and Prince Kai seems too natural given the differences in their statuses. There’s barely enough time to realize that Cinder’s true identity will give her an edge in her battle of wills against the threatening Lunars, before she’s asked to make big life decisions. As the reader, I felt more confused by the local politics. Maybe Meyer has too many subplots or maybe she was asked to cut out 100 vital pages, but I felt leaving dissatisfied. I’m not sure that I will pick up the next one.

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The Bear by Claire Cameron

The BearThe Bear by Claire Cameron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The UGDSB has just chosen this book as our board-wide novel for secondary students and author Ms. Cameron will be visiting schools in May 2015. After reading this terrifying novel, I am nervous about the problematic areas in Cameron’s choices. As a parent, I can only describe the first 2/3 of the books as horrific, as main character Anna, 5 years old, attempts to care for her 2 year old brother in the wilderness of Algonquin Park after a trauma happens to Anna’s parents and the two children are left on their own. Nothing could be scarier except…trying to find food, and exposure to the elements, and the confusion of being suddenly alone. Every minute of Anna’s narration is heartbreaking. As a secondary school librarian, I hope the teens who pick up The Bear won’t be turned off by the narrative voice, and won’t be scared to ever go camping again. There are many issues to explore about wilderness, survival, bears and PTSD so I’m hoping the book will open avenues to inquiry. There is nothing explicitly horrific that I fear censorship on, only that the power of the imagination leads the reader to a dangerous place of what could be around the next corner for Anna with every turn of the page. Having said that I devoured it in 48 hours of my busy life, so I’m hoping teens will have the same reaction.

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Launching a book club with a riddle

My White Pine book club is growing stale. The same few students join every year (which is awesome) but I’m not reaching as far as I’d like to in my secondary school of 1200 students. So I’m trying an additional book club this year in a different format. The book I’ve chosen is “This Dark Endeavour” by Kenneth Oppel and if you haven’t read it you should!

So each week we’ll run a seminar on an interesting topic within the book in hopes of engaging new students!  I hope it will also promote inquiry-based thinking and lead to new possibilities.

This week’s seminar will be lead by Adam Wallace, and he’s going to talk all about Switzerland and cover many of the places the characters visit in the book.  Here’s our promo:

Reading in a Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins and Wyn Kelley

Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom

Jenkins and Kelley offer an optimistic alternative to Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains which is filled, as Jenkins claims, with “contemporary anxieties” (p. 10).  The book offers instead this explanation: “As a society, we are still sorting through the long-term implications of these [media] changes.  But one thing is clear: These shifts point us toward a more participatory culture, one in which everyday citizens have an expanded capacity to communicate and circulate their ideas, one in which networked communities can help shake our collective agendas.” (p. 7) I would like my library learning commons to reflect this ideal where there are always activities happening for staff and students and each of our school community members feel that they have a voice. The Canadian Library Association’s Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons (2014) insists that one of the key steps for implementation is to “foster a collaborative school culture of inquiry and participatory learning in both physical and virtual environments” (p. 23).   That’s a tall order in a secondary school where departments act as silos preventing cross-curricular collaboration from happening.

 

My favourite English department assignment at my school is a novel study where students explore contexts of the author, protagonist, setting and date of release.  In building in student choice, each one is able to research a context (or two) that relates both to themselves and to their chosen novel. The notion of exploring contexts in literature is similar to the chapter by Kolos and Nierenberg on negotiating cultural spaces (pp. 153-157) where Aurora high school students learned how to effectively protest to their local government.  This cultural negotiation, fitting into spaces where you haven’t fit in before, seems to be a requisite to developing a participatory culture and is highlighted in the Flows of Reading digital accompaniment to the book.  It particularly stands out in the video clip  

http://videos.criticalcommons.org/transc oded/http/www.criticalcommons.org/Member s/ebreilly/clips/rockabillies-in-tokyo/v ideo_file/mp4-high/rockabillies-in-tokyo -mp4-mp4.mp4

where Japanese rockabilly fans are dancing in Yoyogi park in Tokyo.  Having lived and worked in Japan for 3 years, I was often hit with cultural negotiation experiences where I had to fit in to the dominant culture and after a while I was allowed to sit cross-legged during tea ceremonies and the sushi would stop arriving at the table still breathing for the sake of my comfort.  Having to work through the awkward feelings of feeling out of place is a life lesson that everyone should experience.

One of my biggest epiphanies from this book is the idea that students are learning to negotiate cultural spaces between home and school in their discourse.  “While the Discourse of formal schooling is fairly well aligned with the home discourses of middle-and upper-class kids who want to achieve academic success will need to learn to “code switch”, to cross communities and alter speech, behavior, style of dress, and so on” (p. 161).  Of course, I understood the complexities of how public education’s expectations don’t match those at home, but I’ve never read the dilemma put so eloquently before.  It speaks to the same surprise I had when during the “Reading and Negotiation” chapter when a cosmetology class read two different novels. That would never happen in my school!  In my school, novels are for English classes and for pleasure reading.  Perhaps I need to negotiate reading into these foreign places.

A few years ago Dufferin County, where I grew up and where I teach, was threatened by a Megaquarry taking away some prized farmland.  A few teachers and I organized a debate where the stakeholders were allowed to come and talk to our students for 30 minutes each on their perspective.  We had five speakers in total including representatives from First Nations, Gravel Watch, a professor of Environmental Science, the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Task Force, and of course, the company that had purchased the land for mining.  We had to prep our students on the issues and how to ask succinct questions that used appropriate language for the presenters and audience as did the students in Aurora High School (p. 163).  The debate outside our school went on for months and after an environmental impact report was released, the company withdrew their mining application and the megaquarry was defeated.  I can’t say that our school’s debate had a direct effect on this decision, but the youth participation in this issue was extraordinary. In a twisted way, I wish I could recreate this excitement over a local issue every year in order to see the students become so invested in a topic that affects environment, economy, food, politics and culture.  The true learning was that these students mattered, and this small rural community mattered on a provincial, if not national, scale.  Truthfully, other than for communication and public relations, we didn’t need technology to reach our goal.  We needed a forum for negotiation and that was in my library learning commons.

There are moments in this book that remind me why I became a teacher…pre-library, pre-technology, I wanted to be a teacher so that I could have enlightening conversations with students. Jenkins and Kelley are asking educators to simply harness the teachable moments that come with honouring student voice, give it an authentic forum for expression,  and give students choices that reflect their own expression, and that in doing so any common text can be relevant to current generations of students.

References

Canadian Library Association. (2014). Leading learning: Standards of practice for school library learning commons.

Jenkins, H., & Kelley, W. (Eds.). (2013). Reading in a participatory culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English classroom. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Reilly, E., Mehta, R., & Jenkins, H. (2013, February 19). Thinking about subcultures. Retrieved from http://scalar.usc.edu/anvc/flowsofreading/3_6_thinking-about-subcultures?path=3-negotiating-cultural-spaces

 

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It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens by danah boyd

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked TeensIt’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Throughout danah boyd’s “It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens”, I’m very satisfied with the level of sophistication of boyd’s research and unbiased point of view in her writing.  Her tone is academic, professional and at the same time, approachable.  The three areas that most concerned me during my reading are boyd’s research on the digital divide, online teen behaviour of sexual exploration and her plea for the redefinition of crimes associated with online bullying.

I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable with Marc Prensky’s phrase “digital natives” (2005/06) and I am reassured by boyd’s acknowledgement of her own awareness and skepticism of this blanket term.  boyd (2014) talks of social networking as a type of literacy and warns that “It is dangerous to assume that youth are automatically informed.  It is also naive to assume that so-called digital immigrants have nothing to offer.” (p. 177).  boyd also goes on to say that since teens are in many cases left to fend for themselves in networked environments, that their exposure to becoming fully literate depends on many factors.  She references Henry Jenkins and his thoughts on the subject:

Yet, talk of “digital natives” may also mask the different degrees access to and comfort with emerging technologies experienced by different youth. Talk of digital natives may make it harder for us to pay attention to the digital divide in terms of who has access to different technical platforms and the participation gap in terms of who has access to certain skills and competencies or for that matter, certain cultural experiences and social identities” (2007).

This paragraph amplifies my own worries that this simple term has excused the education system’s lack of action in lessening the digital divide.  I’m certain that we still promote the use of technology in the classroom as a tool of engagement, rather than seeing becoming proficient with technology as a fundamental requirement for graduation.

In the Ontario curriculum, at least, there is no single mandatory place where students are given a number of digital strategies for studying success, although we know there are consistent issues in any student’s level of preparedness.  Again, in Ontario, technology is not a mandatory part of the elementary curriculum and so students come to secondary with an almost insurmountable range of disparities in their digital backgrounds based on the interest and abilities of their elementary teachers and their home environments with varying degrees of hardware support and exposure.  Along the same lines of boyd’s concerns, Jenkins (2007) goes on to say:

Talking about digital natives also tends to make these changes all about digital media rather than encouraging us to think about the full range of media platforms which shape the world around us or for that matter, the complex set of relationships between old and new media that characterize convergence culture.

This sentence has been the basis of my learning in the TLDL program at the U of A, where I now understand that the crux of my position is to raise the bar for transliteracy for both staff and students. (King, 2014)

A large part of the digital divide that I know teachers are having trouble improving is the use of networked communities to help students.  In many ways administration fears of privacy and legalities have closed the networks for their possible misuses, meanwhile eliminating all possible positive ones.  Although I have concerns for all of our students, I have a particular worry about the LGBTQ population that are getting their information from unreliable sources when they desperately need support as they renegotiate social spaces.  The anecdotes from boyd’s research reassured me that LGBTQ teens are finding each other online and developing supportive communities.  However, boyd warns that “They are grappling with battles that adults face, but they are doing so while under constant surveillance and without a firm grasp of who they are.  In short, they’re navigating one heck of a cultural labyrinth” (p. 53).  I wish that the education system could find or create places, possibly in tandem with social support structures, where teens could create networks to reliable information.  I wish there was a way we could better support this.  I’m not sure what the answer is.

One of boyd’s research topics that particularly affected me is cyberbullying and the complexities in these cases.  Within boyd’s Chapter 5 on Bullying, she references the journalistic research work of Emily Bazelon who covered the case of Phoebe Prince, a teen victim of suicide and reportedly, cyber-bullying.  After linking to Bazelon’s extensive reporting on this case, I found that the law is responding with a variety of consequences to cyber-bullying and that because of the after-school, non-geographic locale of this bullying, that school boards have very little to offer to victims and bullies.  One of her final reports on the case revealed that in the case of Phoebe Prince, none of her aggressors were met with serious consequences.  Bazelon (2011) says:

After more than a year of covering this case, it’s hard for me to square that duty with the way these cases unfolded. “If you bully someone to death, that’s murder,” explained Joseph Kennedy, a criminal law professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when I called him earlier this week. “But if you bully someone, and then they kill themselves, and that’s not something you anticipated, that’s not a crime.”

The digital divide is not just between economic classes and about developing transliteracy skills.  Boyd has revealed that the digital divide also includes how living and working as educators in this era of social networking we are not prepared for the consequences of these networks; and we are currently unable to model how to use social networks effectively.

References

Bazelon, E. (2011, May 25). It’s Over: None of the six teens charged in connection with the suicide of Phoebe Prince will go to jail. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/life/bulle/2011/05/its_over.html

boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven, MA: Yale University Press.

Jenkins, H. (2007, December 5). Reconsidering digital immigrants… [Blog post]. Retrieved from Confessions of an Aca-Fan website: http://henryjenkins.org/2007/12/reconsidering_digital_immigran.html

King, A. (2014, April 13). Transliteracy and the teacher-librarian [Blog post]. Retrieved from Threadbare Beauty website: https://threadbarebeauty.com/2014/04/13/transliteracy-and-the-teacher-librarian/

Prensky, M. (2005/2006). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4).

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Literacy is NOT Enough by Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes and Andrew Churches

Literacy Is NOT Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age (The 21st Century Fluency Series)Literacy Is NOT Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age by Lee Crockett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Andrew Churches has been one of my professional development gurus ever since he developed the Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy https://edorigami.wikispaces.com/Bloo… . This is my first encounter with the other two authors and I think they’ve….watered down the richness of the content with professional development activities. I would have preferred more of the ‘how’ are we going to move up the taxonomy with technology implementation than more ‘why’. I’m already convinced. You were preaching to the choir.

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The Taming by Eric Walters and Teresa Toten

The TamingThe Taming by Teresa Toten

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I expect high things from anything that Eric Walters puts his name on. After the Ontario Library Association nominated this as one of the best Canadian young adult fiction of the year, I expected even more. Until halfway through I thought I had found a predictable teen romance. When our main character Katie’s life starts to imitate her art on the stage of her high school Shakespeare production, I became engrossed. The rest of the story strikes me as very true dealing with the bizarre power struggles that sometimes arise in first love relationships. Although I wish that the ending will be true in the case of most young people caught in Katie’s circumstance, it was a bit too hopeful to be believable. This book would suit most of the readers who would pick it up…young females searching for love.

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Is it possible to grow readers who are also digitally savvy?

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear Penny Kittle speak about reading and how complex it is for intermediate/senior teachers to teach.  Kittle estimates that in 1st year college/university that the average pages a student reads is 500.  She proposed that the #1 reason that students drop out after first year is that they can’t keep up with the demand of reading.  Meanwhile Don Tapscott tells us in Grown Up Digital that we need to appeal to the multimedia savvy of the NetGeneration students in our classes.  How do we balance both of those ideas?  Heather Durnin tells us how she does it in her blog post about modifying literature circles in her grade 8 classroom.  What I love about Heather’s work is that she’s still focusing on  teaching reading, critical analysis and through social interaction (Vygotzky would approve).  The students develop their skills in analysis face-to-face with their peers and their teacher, before being accountable to the technology. I suspect that as students hear the types of questions and comments that lead to richer discussion, that in turn their reading becomes stronger as they look for ways to contribute.

What’s the next level?  Maybe it’s that the students publish their work to an authentic audience and get feedback.  The hardest part of inquiry-based learning for me is to ask really meaningful questions that will lead to critical thinking.  I’m at the point where I am conscious of designing my questions to be evaluative ….so that students are developing criteria as well as their analysis, but the questions don’t come naturally to me yet. Is there an app for that?  I don’t think so.  #teachersrock

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon (The Inheritance Cycle, #1)Eragon by Christopher Paolini

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s a solid first novel …. lots of world-building and the dragons are introduced well. Paolini’s writing style is juvenile …. self-indulgent in terms of cryptic vocabulary use, and the plot is predictable. The best part about this book is …the dragon.

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The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

The Hour I First BelievedThe Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I rate Wally Lamb’s other two books as some of my all-time favourites. The Hour I First Believed has his usual depth into emotional hell (which I love!) but it was not something that I could read all in one sitting. It was arduous without being epic. I felt that the ending was anti-climactic.

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Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf

Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to MotherhoodMisconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood by Naomi Wolf

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After 10 years of struggling with fertility, 2 miscarriages, and a healthy boy born by emergency C-section, I still turn to Misconceptions. Whenever I feel abnormal for questioning the rights of women in our health system, this book cheers me up. This book is something I recommend to all women in their child-bearing years, or to anyone who is involved in the ongoing absurdities of motherhood. Very few books have been powerful enough to change my life, but Misconceptions is one of them.

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Triptych by J.M. Frey

TriptychTriptych by J.M. Frey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Triptych’s exploration of heteronormativity touched me in places that I didn’t even know existed. The characters and their relationships make the sci fi problems Frey creates, very real and very relevant to the human reader. It is a very brave first novel, and I found it surprisingly accessible for something that I consider outside of my genre. I will definitely pick up J.M. Frey’s next novel.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The most unique aspects of this book are the narrator (the voice of Death) and the protagonist (Lisel). The interplay between the constant but playful voice of Death as he studies and admires Lisel, makes them an unlikely pair. Of course the historical setting of Germany in World War II adds a great deal of interest to the story. Lisel’s childhood is filled with mischief, learning and friendship as any youth would be, yet it is tainted by the events unfolding at the time. This book is a must-read and would especially appeal to anyone searching for answers about the atrocities that humans commit, and anyone who believes that hope can exist in even the darkest times.

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