Review: If I Stay, Gayle Forman

Gayle Forman’s novel If I Stay is the story of Mia, an accomplished cellist and senior in high school. Mia lives in Oregon, and when the schools close for a snow day (“I think the county overreacted,” Mia says), the family decides to make a day of it and visit friends, family, and the bookstore. In a split second, Mia’s entire life is shattered when her family’s car is hit by a pickup truck. Mia finds herself outside her body, watching as the ambulance arrives, watching as she is taken to Portland by medivac, and watching as she lies in a coma in the ICU. Mia realizes that she must make the decision: “I realize now that dying is easy. Living is hard” (175).

I’m a little late with If I Stay. I think a lot of folks have read it already, so it might not be new to you. In fact, it’s been on my TBR list for years. This is exactly the kind of book I’d have been in love with as a teenager. I must have re-read Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes countless times. In many ways, Mia reminds me a bit of Davey in Blume’s book, though the tragedy she must cope with is much larger in scope and also involves her own personal fight for recovery. I think if this book had existed when I was in high school, I’d have re-read it as much as I re-read Tiger Eyes, and I can’t praise it much more highly than that. Adam is definitely the kind of boyfriend I’d have wanted in high school. Like Mia, I was a musician in high school with some starry-eyed dreams of actually being good enough to go to Juilliard. Unlike Mia, I knew I didn’t have the talent it would take to do it. The cello is, in fact, one of my favorite instruments, and my daughter played it in school. I think I would really have connected to this story if I’d read it in high school.

So what about adult me? Well, at this stage of my life, I recognize Adam is NOT the kind of guy I’d want to be with (nice enough, but the rock musician types are more cool on paper). I consider music important, but it doesn’t consume me as much as it did when I was in high school, and perhaps that is my loss. I have really wanted to get back into playing either the flute or the guitar (or both) again. I’m in a different place, which is as it should be, and it makes me a little sad this book wasn’t around when I was in high school (but I think Gayle Forman was probably in high school right then as well). It’s a great book. I enjoyed it a lot. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve considered how much more I might have liked a book if I’d read it at a different time. As it is, it was well-written, but some of the cracks showed a bit more to adult me. They wouldn’t have bothered teenager me at all. In fact, I might not have seen them as cracks at all.

Still, I really enjoyed the book, and as for grabbing and keeping my attention, it absolutely did. I definitely want to read the sequel.

Rating: ★★★★½

I found this blog post on hosting the ultimate book group party for this book (very cool ideas). I also found an interesting Bustle post about the fictional band in the movie soundtrack. Speaking of the movie, some liberties were taken with the story, but f you have Amazon Prime, it’s free to watch with your membership. It wasn’t bad.

I made a Spotify playlist based on the music mentioned in the book, on Gayle Forman’s website, and the movie. Caveat: I couldn’t bring myself to include Bette Midler’s song “The Wind Beneath My Wings” (though it’s mentioned in the book), and I cut Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” as well. I don’t hate that song, but it doesn’t fit well with the rest of the punk/indie and classical tracks in the playlist. I guess Frank Sinatra doesn’t either, but he stayed in.

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Sunday Post #38: December

Sunday PostDecember is here! I guess because of the warm feelings in the lead-up to Christmas, I’ve always liked December. New Year’s Eve has always seemed inexplicably sad to me, and I wonder if it’s because it feels like the end of such a, for lack of a better word, merry season. I remember when I was in Girl Scouts we would go caroling, and I have very fond memories of Christmas as a child.

One of my favorite Christmas traditions (and I don’t care if people think this is cheesy or hate this movie) is watching Love Actually with my sister. She has lived overseas and currently lives in Texas, but we synchronize our DVD players and chat online through the movie. We haven’t settled on a date for this year.

I’m also a big fan of making Christmas cookies. Today I’m making a batch of the white chocolate and cranberry cookies that were such a hit last year. Also, as a bonus, this is the best recipe for chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever tasted.

This week I finished up Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, easily one of the best books of the year. I started reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. So far, I’m really enjoying it. My most recent tally for books completed this year is 55. I set the goal of reading 52. I should probably set a higher goal for next year. I thought 52 would be ambitious because the most books I’d read in a year previously was 50.

I’ve added the following books to my TBR pile in the last week or so:

Have you read any of these? What did you think? Some of the recommendations came from other teachers at the National Council of Teachers of English conference I attended recently. Others came from poking around and seeing what folks have enjoyed.

I was able to “win” NaNoWriMo this year. I think it’s only the second time I have been able to do it. Because one of my most valuable professional conferences takes place in November, it can be a rough month for me to complete NaNoWriMo if I fall behind while I’m at the conference. Next year, I will probably have next to no time during the conference to write because it will be in Atlanta, and I will have family and friends to visit when I’m not at the conference itself. Still, I really love participating in NaNoWriMo because of the constant encouragement and feeling of community.

I’m looking for some fun challenges for 2016. Do any of you have suggestions? I always like to do a historical fiction challenge and map the locations of my books. Every year I also like to do R. I. P. Any of you doing a fun challenge (or hosting one)? I haven’t really started looking around yet for reading challenges, but let me know if you hear of a really good one.

I have a winter playlist that’s maybe a bit dated, but I still like it.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme. Image adapted from Patrick on Flickr.

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Sunday Post #33: Reading the Midwest

Iowa photo
I seem to be spending more reading time than usual in the Midwest this year. I finished re-reading Jane Smiley’s book A Thousand Acres. My AP students are also reading it right now. I won’t review it, as I reviewed it for this blog already.

In addition to A Thousand Acres, I read following books set in the Midwest this year:

Five books might not seem like a lot, but it’s more than usual. I’m not sure why, but I tend to read along the East Coast, and my reading map for this year certainly reflects that habit as well, though it does seem to have a bit more diversity of setting than usual. I can’t help but notice I’ve read only three books set west of the Mississippi this year.

In some ways, I do feel drawn to the Midwest, though I have never lived there myself for any substantial period of time. I lived in St. Louis for about three months, but other than that, I’ve only visited. I was really struck by my visit to Kenyon College in Ohio this summer, especially as I noticed we drove through Licking County on our way from the airport in Columbus to Kenyon in Gambier. My family farmed in Licking County in the 1800’s before they migrated west to Iowa, settling in Story County. Farmers haven’t existed in my direct family line for several generations now, but I suppose most of us descend from farmers, don’t we?

In other news, we are now in the midst of October, my favorite month. We have fresh apples we picked from a local farm in the kitchen. The weather is finally exactly the way I like it (do I ever loathe summer weather). I’m enjoying my current R. I. P. reads, Things Half in Shadow by Alan Finn and Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan. It took a little longer than usual for fall to reach us this year, but I’m glad it’s here at last.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

Photo by TumblingRun

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Sunday Post #18: Sundays in Spring

Sunday PostI am not sure it gets a whole lot better than Sundays in spring unless it’s Sundays in fall (which is actually my favorite season).

School is winding down. I have one more day of regular classes, then it’s final exams. I only have one final exam this year. I hope not to have any next year. I’m not sure such exams are the best way to assess learning in English classes.

The end of the school year is always so busy right up until final exams, and then it seems to relax. I have had a really good school year—perhaps the best one of my teaching career. I am really happy with some of the things I tried this year, and I think the students did some great work for me. I have wonderful students.

I got up early this morning (for me), and made a batch of Heavenly Honeysuckle soap. I don’t always post my soap pictures here because I have another blog for that, but I really love the colors. Honeysuckle is one of my absolute favorite scents.

It should be ready to cut tomorrow and ready to use in about four weeks.

I didn’t finish any books this week or really write on the blog, but I did keep listening to The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. That’s the only book I’ve made any real progress on this week. I haven’t done a lot of reading, but I did finish watching several episodes of Doctor Who—I’ve had that DVD from Netflix for about a month, so it’s time to send it back already. It’s not the longest I’ve kept a DVD. Though I didn’t do much reading, I did add some more books to my TBR pile.

 

I am especially excited for Circling the Sun. I really enjoyed The Paris Wife. This new book by Paula McLain looks fascinating.

Sometimes I think my TBR pile is just a lovely collection of pretty covers of books I’ll never get to read. I keep telling myself I will someday.

I’ve been listening to my classical Spotify playlists today. I thought you might enjoy the Spring Classical playlist on this lovely spring day.

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news, recap the past week on your blog, and showcase books and things we have received. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.

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Friday Finds

Friday Finds—October 14, 2011

Friday FindsI found a few interesting looking books this week. Also, I have been listening to lots of great new-to-me music on Spotify. I am quickly becoming a huge Spotify fan.

First the nonfiction:

[amazon_image id=”0674048563″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0804841764″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”160606083X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Books: A Living History[/amazon_image]

I think the approach the Keats book is taking is an interesting one. I don’t recall much being published about Keats’s brother who emigrated to America. I don’t know what it is, but when the weather cools, I just become sort of obsessed with tea, and there are several tea-related books on my to-read list. Doesn’t that book about the history of books look good?

Some fiction:

[amazon_image id=”0771084188″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Curiosity[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1565126297″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]When She Woke[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1402258585″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Rose Garden[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id=”0771084188″ target=”_blank” ]Curiosity[/amazon_link] by Joan Thomas is about Mary Anning, who was a hero of mine when I was a girl: I loved fossils. You might also be interested in Tracy Chevalier’s book about Mary Anning, [amazon_link id=”0452296722″ target=”_blank” ]Remarkable Creatures[/amazon_link] (review). I won [amazon_link id=”1565126297″ target=”_blank” ]When She Woke[/amazon_link] by Hillary Jordan from a Goodreads giveaway. It looks intriguing, and I’ve seen some reviews. I think I know what to expect: this one has an agenda. I so enjoyed Susanna Kearsley’s [amazon_link id=”1402241372″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Sea[/amazon_link] (review), so I’m looking forward to [amazon_link id=”1402258585″ target=”_blank” ]The Rose Garden[/amazon_link].

One more book:

[amazon_image id=”1451616880″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Time In Between: A Novel[/amazon_image]Here is what interested me in María Deuñas’s [amazon_link id=”1451616880″ target=”_blank” ]The Time in Between[/amazon_link]—this review by Book Him Danno on Goodreads:

“I am going to be honest. I said I would read this book because I think I need to read more women authors and more foreign writers, just to get out of my comfort zone. But when I finally got the book in my hands and read the synopsis I was scared because it was hitting a lot of things I tend to avoid. What will I have in common with a pre WWII seamstress as she deals with love and intrigue in Southern Europe. A dressmaker for goodness sake! But being the dutiful guy that I am I took it to work with me to read on break, to at least make a start. That was a mistake, a big mistake, because

BLOODY HELL THIS BOOK ROCKED!!”

I’m sold.

[amazon_image id=”B0038BBA4I” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignright”]Sigh No More[/amazon_image]I want to try to share more music finds on this blog. I try to stay on top of music, but I can be pretty slow sometimes. Spotify is great for helping me discover music because I am not locked into owning a music file I don’t want. A colleague told me a long time ago I needed to check out Mumford & Sons because I’d love them. Finally did. She was right. Not a bad song on [amazon_link id=”B0038BBA4I” target=”_blank” ]Sigh No More[/amazon_link].

So, did you find any good books? Or music?

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Crazy Week

Fall Sampler

I didn’t post much this week. I didn’t read much, even though I am enjoying the book I am reading—[amazon_link id=”0312558171″ target=”_blank” ]The Ballad of Tom Dooley[/amazon_link] by Sharon McCrumb. The prompts from some of the weekly memes I usually participate in didn’t appeal me much last week, and I didn’t write about today’s Musing Monday because I recently wrote on the topic already.

Another reason for the silence is that I commute to work on the bus, and Wednesday afternoon, a pedestrian was killed on my bus route. I didn’t see it happen, but I did see the police clean up afterward. It was horrible. I had some trouble concentrating on reading for a couple of days afterward, and I still keep thinking about his poor family. The driver who hit the pedestrian was not at fault, but we all make stupid mistakes, and it is a pity when we have to pay with our lives. He was just eighteen years old.

I spent the weekend making playlists in Spotify. If you have Spotify (and it’s now open for signups with no invitations necessary), then feel free to subscribe to them. They are all classical music. I decided to disconnect my Spotify account from Facebook because I don’t really want everyone knowing everything I’m listening to. Besides, isn’t it annoying to receive updates for each song someone listens to in your Facebook feed? Anyway, my Spotify profile is here, so feel free to connect to me (if you can figure out how to do that).

I am so glad fall is coming at last. The leaves are beginning to turn here in Georgia, so I imagine they are really pretty up north right now.

Update: I put the Fall Classical list on Ping, too. You have to buy the music on iTunes, but if that’s your preference over Spotify, then you can check it out there, too.

photo credit: *Micky

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