Holes by Louis Sachar

Stanley Yelnats' family has a history of bad luck going back generations, so he is not too surprised when a miscarriage of justice sends him to Camp Green Lake Juvenile Detention Centre. Nor is he very surprised when he is told that his daily labour at the camp is to dig a hole, five foot wide by five foot deep, and report anything that he finds in that hole. The warden claims that it is character building, but this is a lie and Stanley must dig up the truth. In this wonderfully inventive, compelling novel that is both serious and funny, Louis Sachar has created a masterpiece that will leave all readers amazed and delighted by the author's narrative flair and brilliantly handled plot.


I picked this one up in preparation to read it with my seventh grade students. I had heard of the book, come across the movie on TV, but I knew very little about the story before I read it. I knew about the camp for delinquent boys, and that they were forced to dig holes, but that was about it. The book turned out to be quite different from what I had expected, and I understand now why it won the awards that it did. Sachar weaves the past and the present together beautifully in this novel and it is much more than a simple coming of age story. It speaks to the power of destiny, choice, and the interconnectiveness of life. 

The characters are memorable and there are many lessons to be learned from them - lessons in fairness, tolerance, perseverance, adversity, etc. I imagine that my students will greatly enjoy this book. The story is funny, and full of adventure and everything else that appeals to a young adult audience. I enjoyed reading it, and I am looking forward to reading it with my students. 

2015 Reading Challenge: A book with a one-word title

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Anne Frank's extraordinary diary, written in the Amsterdam attic where she and her family hid from the Nazis for two years, has become a world classic and a timeless testament to the human spirit. Now, in a new edition enriched by many passages originally withheld by her father, we meet a new Anne more real, more human, and more vital than ever.

Here she is first and foremost a teenage girl - stubbornly honest, touchingly vulnerable, in love with life. She imparts her deeply secret world of soul-searching and hungering for affection, rebellious clashes with her mother, romance and newly discovered sexuality, and wry, candid observations of her companions. Facing hunger, fear of discovery and death, and the petty frustrations of such confined quarters, Anne writes with adult wisdom and views beyond her years. Her story is that of every teenager, lived out in conditions few teenagers have ever known.


It amazes me how many of the books that I read as a child/young adult have become apart of my soul. They speak comfort to me and feel like a little piece of home. Anne Frank's diary is one such book. I can't tell you when I first read it. I think it was about sixth or seventh grade, maybe younger. I also can't tell you how many times I've read it, because I've lost count. My copy's spine is well worn, the pages are yellowed, and it has that amazing old book smell. The pages are marked and passages are stared and/or highlighted, and every time I pick it up, I'm transported back to a younger version of myself.

It's safe to say that this is one of my favorite books, but it has been years since I have read its pages. I was recently watching The Fault in Our Stars and in the movie Hazel and Augustus visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. After watching the film, I had the urge to pick it up again. It's not an extraordinary book, in fact, many could dismiss it as the inconsequential musing of a teenage girl, but for me, it is a book that will forever live in my heart. As a young adult, I identified with Anne's longing to be understood, to find real connections, and to be loved. As an adult, I appreciate the wisdom she had, wisdom that far exceeded her 15 years and was born out of experiences that we can only imagine. 

World War II and the Holocaust have always fascinated me. This time period is so full of contradictions and strong convictions, and is perhaps the best example of what is both good and evil in the human race. I was amazed then, and continue to be amazed at Anne's ability to hope, to have faith in the face of such adversity. Like Anne, I experienced some things growing up that made me grow up quickly. There were times that I wanted to give in, take the easy way out, and wallow in self-pity. There is a passage from Anne's diary that struck me as incredibly powerful the first time I read it, and has stayed with me all these years later. It is towards the end of her diary, one of the last entries she writes. It says:

Anyone who claims that the older folks have a more difficult time in the Annex doesn't realize that the problems have a far greater impact on us. We're much too young to deal with these problems, but they keep thrusting themselves on us until, finally, we're forced to think up a solution, though most of the time our solutions crumble when faced with the facts. It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.

Even as an adult, these words ring true for me. It is a lesson that I will always carry in my heart. This is why books, especially the ones we read as young adults, are so powerful. It's hard for me to say if I would have the same reaction to this book had I not read it as a young adult, but nevertheless, this diary is something that everyone should read at least once. It's pages are filled with such beautiful messages, many of which ring true across time. It was good to be reminded.

2015 Reading Challenge: A nonfiction book


Trashed (Stripped #2) by Jasinda Wilder

I’m nobody. I’m an orphan. A janitor. A college student. A virgin.

And him? He’s a god. One of the hottest action stars to ever grace the silver screen, huge and muscular and gorgeous and famous. He could have anyone in the world.

Yet, despite the chasm separating my world from his, I find myself in his hotel room, and he’s acting like I’m the most beautiful girl in the world. I’m not. He’s everything every woman could ever want, and I’m just…me.

She doesn’t know how sexy she is, and that’s it’s own kind of beauty. But for real, she’s gorgeous. I’ve met some of the hottest women in Hollywood, and none of them can hold a candle to this girl. I want her. And the fact that she’s closed off and impossible to figure out only makes the pursuit that much more intriguing.

The last thing I expect is for one night of pleasure to turn into something I’m unable to forget, even after she’s gone her way and I’ve gone mine. I can’t forget her, no matter how I try. And the next time we run into each other, I know there’s no way I can let her go again. No matter what it takes.


This was another recommendation from the same book nerd friend who told me to read Stripped, also by Jasinda Wilder. She said I would like it, and she wasn't wrong! While this story takes place in the "Stripped" world and has some of the same characters, it can be read as a stand alone. I actually liked this story better than the first book. The story didn't seem as clique to me, and I really liked the main character, Des. I thought she was spunky, and liked that she had a troubled past, because it made her a much more interesting and dynamic character. It also added drama and angst to Des and Adam's relationship, and I enjoyed watching them overcome the issues together. 

Again, I appreciated that Des wasn't a perfect size two, but more than that, I appreciated that she had a real goal in life that she wasn't willing to compromise. I also liked that Adam didn't make her. I always hate when the female ends up giving up everything to make a life with her man work out. It annoys that crap out of me, actually. It was nice to see the male lead support his woman and encourage her dreams (and vice versa). This book has plenty of sexy scenes in it, more than the first one I would venture to say. It's another quick read that will have you engrossed from the beginning. Definitely worth a read.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book a friend recommended  

Stripped (Stripped #1) by Jasinda Wilder

So how did I get myself into this situation, you ask? Simple: desperation. When you're faced with being homeless and hungry or taking off your clothes for money, the choice is easier than you'd imagine. That doesn't make it easy, though. Oh no. I hate it, in fact. There's nothing I'd like more than to quit and never go into another bar again, never hear the techno beat pulsing in my ears again, never feel the lecherous gazes of horny men again.

Then, one day, I meet a man. He's in my club, front and center. He watches me do my routine, and his gaze is full of hunger. Not the kind of desire I'm used to though. It's something different. Something hotter, deeper, and more possessive. I know who he is; of course I do. Everyone knows who Dawson Kellor is. He's People Magazine's Sexiest Man alive. He's the hottest actor in Hollywood. He's the man hand-picked for the role of Rhett Butler in the long-awaited remake of Gone With the Wind.

He's the kind of man who can have any woman in the entire world with a mere crook of his finger. So what's he doing looking at me like he has to have me? And how do I resist him when he looks at me with those intoxicating, changeable, quicksilver eyes?

I'm a virgin, and he's an American icon of male sexuality. I'm a stripper, and he's a man used to getting anything and everything he wants. And he wants me. I know I should say no, I know he's the worst kind of player…but what my mind knows, my body and my heart may not.

And then things get complicated.


This was a recommendation made to me by one of my fellow book nerds (you know who you are!). While I had heard of Jasinda before, this is the first book of hers that I have read, and I think I found a new must read author. The story was somewhat clique - broke college student turns to stripping rather than ask for help from estranged father - but unique enough that I didn't get that "been there, done that" vibe. I appreciated that the heroine was a "real" woman, with curves, who, even though she has moments of insecurity (and let's face it, who doesn't?), owns her body and isn't ashamed of it. It was also nice to have a hot, Hollywood "It Boy" appreciate her for her curves and witty personality. As a curvy (and witty) girl myself, I welcomed this deviance from the norm. Having said that, this book has everything that you would expect in a good NA novel. It has plenty of sexy scenes, some of which left me in need of a cold shower, and a happy ending. At 350 pages, it is a quick read that you won't want to put down once you start.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book by an author you've never read before

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The history geek in me has always fostered a love of WWII and the "Greatest Generation." For me, this time period exemplifies all that is good and evil in human nature. Louis Zamperini's story is so amazing that at times it was hard to remember that this was a nonfiction book. If I hadn't kept reminding myself that it was all true, I could have easily believed that it was a work of fiction, made with the express purpose of filling the reader with a sense of suspense and amazement. Just when I thought that the events of Louis's life couldn't get any worse, some other misfortune befell him. The things that this man had to endure are truly inconceivable, but what amazed me the most was that he made it through to the other side. It's sad to think how many didn't.

I liked Hillenbrand's writing style. It was fact based (including several footnotes), but not dry and boring. It read like a story, rather than a straight forward biography, and she weaved the different "character" stories together artfully. I think that she presented Louis in a way that made him human - she didn't shy away from his faults and sins, nor did she paint him as a glorified hero. Instead, I think she struck the perfect balance. The result was a remarkable testament to the human spirit.  

The story left me with a feeling of gratitude and respect for this dying generation, as well as all our service men and women. It is so easy today to take these men and women, and their sacrifices, for granted because the wars they fight are so far removed from us. The advances in our military and technology allow our country to be at war, without it really impacting the average citizens's everyday life. It was so different then. We were at war overseas and at home. While I was reading Louis story, especially the part about his struggles after returning home, I couldn't help but think about the veterans that I know and the few that make the news, who struggle to integrate back into society after literally putting their lives on the line. I couldn't help but feel like in many ways we (the collective we) fail them. But I also continue to be amazed by their stories of bravery and their willingness to stand on the front line. It takes a special breed of person to do that, and I am profoundly grateful to them all. 

Sorry, went off on a tangent there...  

Anyway, I highly recommend this book, even if you are not a history nerd/nonfiction fan. I thought the story was compelling and well written, and it made for an entertaining read.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book that became a movie