Summer Reading Challenge

One of my very good friends is a teacher and vice-principle at an elementary school (grades K-6).  Since she is off for the summer she has undertaken a challenge to read 40 books (adult or young readers) before the end of August!  Can you imagine?  That’s like a book every two days!  She has been off work a little over 2 weeks now and she has already read 5 or 6 books.  She knows that I am also an avid reader and so she encouraged me to join her in this challenge.  Of course, I still work full-time, and need to spend time quilting (just stating the obvious) so I needed to adjust my challenge slightly!  I have settled on 16 books for the summer!  So far I have read 4 and so I’m doing not too badly (pat myself on the shoulder).  I meant to keep you updated with each book but that hasn’t quite happened so I’ve decided to do a review now of the first 4 I’ve read and see where that takes me. 

Book #1  The Book Thief  – June 12-June 22

This was an excellent book!  I got totally pulled into the story that takes place in Nazi Germany.  It is told from the perspective of a young German orphan girl.  I found the telling of the book really unique compared to a lot of the novels about the Holocaust.  It portray’s the innocence of a child experiencing life in Germany during the second world war.  The book is engaging and very well written!  It poignantly reminds us that many of the German people themselves were victims of the Nazi regime, and you are given a first hand account of what life was like in a small German village through the war years.  Since I have family (my Oma and Opa among others) who were teenagers in Germany during this time the story really impacted me.  The atrocities that the Jewish people experienced at the hands of the Nazi’s was unimaginable, but the struggles of the German people and life in the Hitler Youth for a great many of the countries poor people was also devastating.  I would highly recommend this book!  It’s about 500 pages long but it keeps you turning the page.  I give The Book Thief 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book #2  Half Broke Horses – June 23-June 27

I especially loved this book because it takes place, for the most part, in Arizona.  Many of you know that I vacation there often because my parents have a home in Phoenix.  This is a novel that tells the story of the authors grandmother and her life growing up on a ranch in Texas and Arizona, breaking horses, teaching in a one room school, getting married, running a ranch, and raising children.  Considering this is a true story the adventures that take place are amazing!  The book is very well written.  There is another equally fantastic book written by Jeanette Wells called The Glass Castle that tells her autobiography in novel form.  I read that book about a year ago and would give it 5 stars that’s for sure!  I like this one a lot as well but would probably only give it 4 stars because it took me a bit longer to get into than the Glass Castle. 

Book #3  Three Cups of Tea  June 27-July 11

I have been meaning to read this book for about 2 years.  Right off the start, it was not what I expected.  It took me a lot longer to get into this book as there are some rather slow and depressing chapters in the first third of the book.  My other problem with the book was that it seemed to switch between narrative writing and editorial writing.  This could be owing to the fact that the main character co-wrote the book with a journalist.  None-the-less this book was worth the read.  It tells the story of a mountain climber who goes on a mission to build schools for Muslim children, particularly girls, in Pakistan.  It a true story that takes place in the late 90’s and goes up to 2003, covering all the events in the Middle East leading up to and including 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  This book gave me a huge appreciation for the other side of the story in the Middle East.  Greg Mortensen’s activism in fighting terrorism at the grass-roots by building schools and providing education for the poorest and most remote people of Pakistan and Afghanistan is the most inspiring story on the “war on terror” that I’ve heard thus far.  Greg shows a compassion and a love for Muslim people, that is rare and inspiring.  I give this book 3.5 stars, only because it was a slow read and a bit hard to get into.  However the second half of the book made up for the slow start.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to get the big picture of the issue’s in that part of the world.

Book #4  The Lions of Little Rock – July 17-July 19

This book, as you can see, was a quick read.  It was recommended to me by my friend and it definitely would be great for a younger audience.  Despite the simplicity it was really a great story!  I got right into the book in the first chapter and just read right through, every spare minute, untill I finished this morning before work!  It’s a historical novel about the events in Little Rock Arkansas in 1958/1959 following the story of the Little Rock Nine (nine black high school students who attended a white school and underwent tremendous harassment and abuse).  It is told from the perspective of a 13-year-old girl.  It is a story of friendship, bravery, and racism.  It is extremely well written and I would recommend it to any one age 11 and up.  I give this book 5 stars!  It was entertaining, historical, and thought-provoking.  All the things that make a story great!

Have any of you noticed a theme here?  It seems I’m rather draw to historical fiction!  That is not a surprise to me, but I just realized that all of these books fall squarely in that category!  I’m not quite decided which book will be next but after I have read a couple of more books I will try to report back with my thoughts! :)

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