July 17, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Mysteries, a Love Story, a Nonfiction, and a YA Classic

I have a ton of books to share with you this week after missing my reading recaps the past few weeks!  I seriously loved a couple of these books, so definitely scroll through and check them out!

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Goodreads Summary: A stunning debut novel in which a single mother reconstructs her teenaged daughter's life, sifting through her emails, texts, and social media to piece together the shocking truth about the last days of her life.

Litigation lawyer and harried single mother Kate Baron is stunned when her daughter's exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn, calls with disturbing news: her intelligent, high-achieving fifteen-year-old daughter, Amelia, has been caught cheating.  Kate can't believe that Amelia, an ambitious, levelheaded girl who's never been in trouble would do something like that. But by the time she arrives at Grace Hall, Kate's faced with far more devastating news. Amelia is dead. 

Seemingly unable to cope with what she'd done, a despondent Amelia has jumped from the school's roof in an act of "spontaneous" suicide. At least that's the story Grace Hall and the police tell Kate. And overwhelmed as she is by her own guilt and shattered by grief, it is the story that Kate believes until she gets the anonymous text: She didn't jump.

Sifting through Amelia's emails, text messages, social media postings, and cell phone logs, Kate is determined to learn the heartbreaking truth about why Amelia was on Grace Hall's roof that day-and why she died.  Told in alternating voices, Reconstructing Amelia is a story of secrets and lies, of love and betrayal, of trusted friends and vicious bullies. It's about how well a parent ever really knows a child and how far one mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she could not save.

My Thoughts: I was totally enthralled in this story and flew through it in about two days.  This book reminded me a lot of Defending Jacob in the way we were trying to piece together what really happened in the story along with the narrator.  I also love any book that includes chapters from other characters' points of view, especially if they are flashbacks that help fill in the holes in the story.  This book kept me guessing until the very end, and I never predicted the plot twists it threw at me.  A great read!

4/5 stars

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

Goodreads Summary: What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century? ... 

Here you'll find the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling creations of pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the "dog whisperer" who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand. He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and why it was that employers in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate. ...  

What the Dog Saw is yet another example of the buoyant spirit and unflagging curiosity that have made Malcolm Gladwell our most brilliant investigator of the hidden extraordinary.

My Thoughts:  I have mixed feelings about this book.  I am a big Malcolm Gladwell fan, having devoured and loved his earlier books Blink, The Tipping Point, and Outliers.  Even years later I still find myself telling people some of the fascinating anecdotes described in those books.  I hoped What the Dog Saw would be more of the same...and it KIND OF was.  This book is different in that it's a collection of Gladwell's articles from the New Yorker.  The stories are all the same style and genre as his other books, but the problem was that half of them were fascinating...and half were totally boring IMHO.  For example, I loved the chapter about advertising and Clairol's famous "Does she or doesn't she?" campaign, the chapter about how it's impossible to predict the success of football quarterbacks in the NFL and how it's similarly impossible to predict the success of teaches in the field, and several others.  I do recommend the book...but I totally recommend skipping the chapters you're not interested in!

3/5 stars

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Goodreads Summary: From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, hallways hum “Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. Until they are not. Leo urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her - normal.

My Thoughts: I honestly can't believe it took me this long to read this one!  I've had it in my classroom since I started teaching, and I know it was around when I was a teen because that cover is just unforgettable.  I read this book in a day and loved it.  It's written in that unique Spinelli storytelling style where the narrator is almost observing from afar even though in this case he is involved in the plot.  Would make a great book for some powerful discussions about friendship, being true to yourself, and love.  While the readability level and content are appropriate for elementary grades, I think I would recommend this book more to junior high students--my kiddos would likely miss some of the big ideas in this one.  Looking forward to reading the sequel!

4/5 stars

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Goodreads Summary: Beth and Jennifer know their company monitors their office e-mail. But the women still spend all day sending each other messages, gossiping about their coworkers at the newspaper and baring their personal lives like an open book. Jennifer tells Beth everything she can't seem to tell her husband about her anxieties over starting a family. And Beth tells Jennifer everything, period.

When Lincoln applied to be an Internet security officer, he hardly imagined he'd be sifting through other people's inboxes like some sort of electronic Peeping Tom. Lincoln is supposed to turn people in for misusing company e-mail, but he can't quite bring himself to crack down on Beth and Jennifer. He can't help but be entertained-and captivated- by their stories.

But by the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late for him to ever introduce himself. What would he say to her? "Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you." After a series of close encounters and missed connections, Lincoln decides it's time to muster the courage to follow his heart . . . even if he can't see exactly where it's leading him.

My Thoughts:  I brought this book up to my book club as a possible read, and one of my friends commented that after reading things like Twilight, "We've never read a book from the point of view of the stalker!" :)  This was a great twist on a chick lit story.  While reading, I found myself constantly wondering if what Lincoln was doing was really wrong and what I would do in his position.  Or I'd think about how, if I was Beth, how would I react to hearing about what Lincoln had done?  Captivating and fun.

4/5 stars

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
Goodreads Summary: On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

Making a living reproducing famous artworks for a popular online retailer and desperate to improve her situation, Claire is lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—a Degas masterpiece stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when that very same long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.

Her desperate search for the truth leads Claire into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life.

My Thoughts:  Another book that I just flew through!  I wouldn't normally have picked this one up, but my Dad recommended it, and I'm so glad I read it.  I was fascinating by the detailed process the narrator describes as she both analyzes the Degas painting, bringing her to the conclusion that it's a forgery and the process she goes through to create a completely fool-proof copy.  This is also another book that jumps back and forth between a couple periods of time in the author's life, as well as includes letters from the time period in which the original Degas was painted, so it definitely falls into that category of "filling in the blanks in the story" books.  Totally recommend!

4/5 Stars
What have you been reading lately?

*As always, italicized summaries and cover art are courtesy of goodreads.com.  


  1. I love pretty much anything Jerry Spinelli writes, and Stargirl was an excellent book of his!

    Attachments sounds really interesting- I'll have to check it out!

  2. New follower!
    I just found your blog through ajh, she told me about it after I wrote a post yesterday titled What I am reading Wedensday.
    We read The Art Forger for book club. I really liked it. I'm going to check out Attachments and Reconstructing Amelia. Thanks!


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