True Believer (Nicholas Sparks)…Julia’s reading project, a book review

After reading 1984, and 3 other books that I’ve chosen for her, it was time to let Julia choose her own book.  She’s been bribed (paid $25 so far) to read the 4 books that I’ve had her read.  To date, she’s only liked 1 of those books.  I’m a little sad about this BUT the main thing is that she’s LEARNED and opened her mind to different subjects.  MUCH discussion about exploited women and children (Half the Sky), in fact, we’re STILL talking about that, even though she had a hard time getting through the book.  She’s developed more empathy for the early struggles of African American men, women and children after reading Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry.  After reading Call of the Wild, Julia gave a little thought to treating our pets even better than she already did because she saw through the eyes of a dog.  1984 made her open her eyes to what’s going on in America RIGHT NOW, even though she REALLY didn’t like the book.  That’s the idea, right?

Well, as promised, it was time to allow her to choose her own reading material.  I didn’t want to lose her and even though I’m PAYING her for each book report, I want her to enjoy reading.

Here’s what she choose:

True Believer by Nicholas Sparks (Time Warner Book Group) 318 pages

Description from the inside sleeve:

“One day you’re going to love something that can’t be explained with science.  And when that happens, your life’s going to change in ways you can’t imagine…”

Jeremy Marsh is the ultimate New Yorker:  handsome, almost always dressed in black, and part of the media elite.  An expert on debunking the supernatural with a regular column in Scientific American, he’s made his first appearance on national TV.  When he receives a letter from the tiny town of Boone Creek, North Carolina, about ghostly lights that appear in a legend-shrouded cemetery, he can’t resist driving down to investigate.

Here in this tightly knit community, Lexie Darnell runs the towns library, just as her mother did before the accident left Lexie an orphan.  Disappointed by past relationships, including one that lured her away from home, she is sure of one thing:  her future is in Boone Creek, close to her grandmother and all the people she loves.

Jeremy expects to spend a quick week in “the sticks” before speeding back to the city.  But from the moment he sets eyes on Lexie, he is intrigued and attracted to this beautiful woman who speaks with a soft drawl and confounding honesty.  And Lexie, while hesitating to trust this outsider, finds herself thinking of Jeremy more times than she cares to admit.

Now, if they are to be together, Jeremy Marsh must make a difficult choice:  return to the life he knows, or do something he’s never done before-take a giant leap of faith.

A story about taking chances and following your heart.  True Believer will make you too believe in the miracle of love.

Ok, here’s what Julia thought of Mr. Sparks book:  She didn’t like it!  lol  He’s her favorite author and I expected that she would fall for the romance, once again, like in ALL the Nicholas Spark books.  Not so much and I’m encouraged about the mind of THIS 14 year old!  lol

In the last paragraph of Julia’s book report she tells me:

“I didn’t like this book as much as I did the other Nicholas Sparks books because there was nothing special about it.  It was a traditional love story and VERY predictable!  Girl had been hurt in previous relationships.  Boy was opposite of what girl was used to and was willing to do anything to make things work between them.  Honestly, I was bored.”

And I owe her $5!  lol  I wonder what  kind of book she choose for herself NEXT time?  I’m encouraged that she didn’t fall for the typical love story.  I’m still thinking about which book I’ll choose for her now that she’s done with this one 😉

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Reading Project, Or – How I Bribed My Daughter…

My 14 year old started high school this year.  As I mentioned before, she’s the baby of the family and my last chance to do things right so naturally, I’ve been pretty involved with her school work and her grades.  She had a few issues in English this year, which is strange because she always tested well above her age in English and literature.  In 7th grade, she was reading on a college level so you can imagine my surprise when I was notified that she’s only reading on a 9th grade level THIS year.  Of course, I immediately scheduled a meeting with her English teacher and what I learned was more than a little unsettling to me.  I don’t know about ALL public schools but our little public school doesn’t have a required reading list for their high school students.  Totally not acceptable to me!  No WONDER we have such a high illiteracy rate these days.  I realize times are different AND there’s a big difference between public school and the Catholic school that I grew up in BUT I was required to read Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird in 6th grade!  We couldn’t move on to 7th grade until we had a complete understanding of both.

And here’s where I took matters in my own hands…  I established my own very special required reading program for Julia.  Okay, at first she wasn’t happy about it but I explained that she would lose her skills if she didn’t use them (she came really close to letting that happen) AND reading is the single most inexpensive vacation that a person can take.  Once you open a book, you’re transformed to places you may never get to see in “real” life.  Did I tell you that I also resorted to bribery?  Each book that she finishes in a timely manner (I usually give her 2 weeks but she’s been finishing 1 book a week) AND hands me a good book report on is worth between $5 and $10!  You can’t beat that, right?  She loves it!  For the most part, I’ll be choosing the books I want her to read.  I don’t want this to be a punishment though so every once in a while she’ll get to choose her own.

I’m going to try and post about every book as she finishes it but because this is a new blog and she’s finished 3 books since we started doing this, there’s going to be 3 books on this post.

Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

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The reason I chose this book for my 14 year old is that I wanted her to understand how very lucky she is to live in America, the land of the free.  I wanted her to have an understanding about the horrors and oppression other women face in the developing world.  What she learned:  She says what stuck with her is how widespread human trafficking is and about sex slavery.  Did she appreciate this book?  No.  Maybe a bit too much for a 14 year old BUT she does want to start fundraising and getting her friends involved in raising money to prevent human trafficking.  Mission accomplished!

I paid her $10 for this one!

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

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The reason I chose this book was primarily because we own sled dogs (Alaskan Malamutes) and I remember loving this book at her age.  I thought it would be cool for her to see the world through the eyes of a dog.  Did she appreciate this book? Absolutely not!  She thought it was too sad.  She didn’t like to read about “Buck’s” struggle to survive the extreme conditions and inhumane treatment of some humans.  It made her sad.  On the other hand, she liked Jack London’s writing style.  She liked that she was made to understand exactly how “Buck” felt… she truly saw through the eyes of a dog.

This one earned her $5

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D Taylor

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I chose this one last week in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. day.  It’s so hard for a white kid to understand what it was like to be black in America even in the early 1900’s.  I wanted her to know and to feel something.  Mildred D Taylor will MAKE you feel!  Basically, it’s a coming of age story about a black family and their struggle with “accepting the way things were” and the treatment of black people.  It also mentions lynching, night riders (or KKK) and describes a tar and feathering.  Did she like it?  YES!  We have a winner!  She loved it and even gave me a 3 page book report (I didn’t ask for 3 pages but she just had a lot to say about the book!  Lol)

$5 for this one!

On accidentally doing something right…

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Where did this kid come from?  Sometimes I’m SURE babies were switched at the hospital on that lovely spring day back in 1998.  Some other, not so lucky family, must be enjoying my “demon spawn” while I’m enjoying their little angel!  I’m going to go on record here and say I truly don’t want my real baby back.  Don’t call, don’t write and don’t show up at my door!  I will not be home.  I’ve raised 4 daughters and finally, FINALLY (on the final try), I got an easy one.  God, PLEASE don’t jinx me for saying this too soon.

Julia  just walked in the door from church.  And no, this is not the norm for anyone in my family.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a “spiritual” person and truly do believe in God.  I even consider myself a “Christian”, although I’d never be a poster child for the movement.  Somewhere along the line, my daughter just developed an interest in helping people.  Okay, for this I truly CAN take a little credit.  I’ve tried to instill in my children the importance of taking care of our elderly and helping the less fortunate… I just didn’t realize anyone was listening!  lol  Anyway,  she tells me that the best way to participate in “caring for her fellow man” is to associate herself with a local church and youth group.  Now,  I have reservations about some of the fanaticism related to a few churches in our little Midwestern town but I think we found one that even I can feel comfortable with.  Just not so comfortable that I would want to go WITH her for Weds night service.  I digress….  So I was saying that Julia just walked through the door and I asked her what she learned.  She tells me that the youth leader spoke about teenage girls and the importance of being single.  He quoted a scripture in the Bible (of COURSE I don’t know which one it is) and talked about how dating at too young of an age is a distraction.  I’m warming up to this guy!  Keep talking….  I asked J what HER opinion of tonight’s sermon is.  My heart melted when I heard her say, “Mom, I think he’s right.  There’s just so much I want to do with my life and especially while I’m young and single.  I just think I want to focus on what God wants me to do”.  At this point I have tears in my eyes and I want to go light a candle and say a prayer of thanksgiving!  lol  This child COULDN’T have come from me!  At her age, the only two thoughts in my head were 1.) what was I going to wear today and 2.) who I would be dating.  Which pretty much paved the way that my life would go.  I became pregnant at the age of 17 and graduated from high school 9 mos pregnant. I have lots of adorable pictures of me waddling down the isle to receive my diploma.  NOT cool.  Out of necessity,  I held 2 jobs while trying to get through college in order to support my child.  I’ve been married more than once.  It seems like my life has been spent trying to figure out how to support my children.  Definitely NOT the road I want my own daughters to tread.  To be fair, none of my girls have gone down my path BUT Julia’s 3 sisters have definitely given me a run for my money in too many other areas.  So far so good with Julia.   WHEW!   Maybe I did something right with this one?  Pretty sure this one’s a keeper!