Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Top Reads This Year -- 2015

As 2015 draws to an end I'm looking back at my year of reading. I have not made my goal of 60 books, (as I'm writing this I have 57--I believe 58 will happen by the time it published, alas!  Not 60). I did come very close and also found some really great books this year.

Without further ado, my top ten eleven books of 2015--in no particular order (in the end I couldn't cut one of these out).

1. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
I devoured this book and can't wait until the next one comes out!  It was amazing.

2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel
I'm not sure what I had been expecting when I sat down to read this, but I was amazed.  It was really beautifully written, terrifying, and wonderful at the same time.  Great choice in a dystopian book.

I was blown away by this one.  It was just a random buy at Target one day.  It completely sucked me in and had me worried about characters and rooting for them within pages.  

4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Just beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.  I listened to this one, but I'm planning on reading it over the summer so I can experience it again holding the book in my hand.

5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Not only is this hilarious, but I really loved some of the "advice" she has.  I'm looking forward to reading Why Not Me? soon.

6. The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins
You'll be drawn into Rachel's world as she travels every day into the city and watches for that one house, that one window, that one couple.  She's created a life for that couple, but when it's discovered the wife is missing, Rachel starts to piece together the puzzle.

7. Cress by Marissa Meyer
This may or may not be my favorite in the series.  Please note that Winter also made the list below.  I just can't tell yet.  I do know that she is my favorite.  (No review of this one.  When I read it I was in the midst of a class that took up all of my time and I never was able to review it.)

A really quite wonderful and magical story about the power of believing in magic.  If you like Harry Potter, you'll probably be drawn to the Harry Potter-esque feel it has.

9. These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Victorian.  Murder.  Mystery.  Romance.  This was really great!  And what I loved the most was that although the romance was somewhat central to the plot, it wasn't the most important by any means.  It was just an element.  What was important was the mystery and our main character Jo was awesome!

10. Winter by Marissa Meyer
I tore through this book.  It arrived at school (I had it delivered there so I could begin reading it ASAP) and then I carried it around me whenever I left my room that day.  To make copies, to speak with my vice principal about an issue, to show off to my colleagues at lunch.  It was a bit much, but totally worth it!

11. A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
I fell in love with this book.  It's creepy and dark and yet not at all scary.  It's just what a middle grade novel should be.  

This one was a late one and I squeezed it onto my list just in time!  It was really beautiful and I enjoyed the strong female character and the magic and the themes of friendship.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Letter to My High School Self--Read Better and Read More

Dear High School Meghan,

How are you doing?  This is your future, 34-year-old self writing to you today.  34 sounds pretty old, I know, but it's not too bad--I promise.  I have some very important advice you need to hear about reading.

I know you already read a lot and you always have a book with you; however we need to discuss the books you are reading.  You enjoy them, yes, and that's good.  But you need to broaden your horizons.  Let me guess, you're reading another romance.  Don't get me wrong--romance isn't bad, but you need to try something else.  Like maybe some classics?  Please.  You're missing out on so many amazing books and when you get to be my age you'll be trying desperately to fit all those books into the limited amount of reading time you can eke out in your day.  You'll be torn between reading books you should have read when you were younger and books that are newly published and calling your name.

Here are a few ideas if you feel unsure about where to begin.  Some of these I read as an adult and it made me sad that I had missed out on them when I was younger.  Others I have never actually read and still want to--desperately.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle 

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson  (this would have been even better if you read as a kid instead of a twenty-something)

Charlie and the Chocolate by Roald Dahl

The Giver by Lois Lowry (please read this now)

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (please don't wait until you're out of high school to read this for the first time)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (you will fall in love with dystopian literature)

These are just some suggestions.  Start looking for some quality literature.  Ask your teachers.  And find more time to read. You will be so upset with yourself later on in life because you'll be squeezing your reading time in between your life.  It's a busy life, but a great life and you'll wish you had spent more time reading and less time watching Real World marathons.  Just saying.

Your Future Self.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

#SundayStatus: Touching Spirit Bear

Sunday Status is a weekly (ish) post where I let you know what I'm reading and what I'm thinking about it as I go along.

Touching Spirit Bear
Ben Mikaelsen
Scholastic, 2001
Source: my classroom library

I'm working on this a bit more meticulously than I normally read books because I'm trying to tie it in with my current curriculum as a read aloud.  That means I'm going back and re-reading sections and writing notes so it takes me quite a lot longer than when I read for my own pleasure.  I want to focus on the themes of survival that we can compare and contrast to those in Hatchet and some other poetry we read the second semester of 6th grade.  

Hopefully this will be added to my 2015 books because I plan on having it all planned out before we get back to school on the 4th, which means I have a lot to do in the next week!  Ahh!!!

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with friends and family.  Enjoy a good book or two! 

I wish you many good books to read with loved ones this holiday season.
I wish you warm thoughts and love.
I wish you nights with your children all snuggled in their jammies.
I wish you days of laughter and family and good conversation.
I wish you joy.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Book Review: Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak
Robert Beatty
Disney Hyperion, 2015
Source: purchased
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In Serafina and the Black Cloak Robert Beatty introduces us to a young girl living secretly in the basement of a mansion with her father.  No one knows they live there, no one can know she exists, and whatever she does, Serafina is not to go into the forest--there's evil there.  But Serafina spends her evenings roaming the grounds of Biltmore estate, catching rats and spying on the owners and their guests.  One evening Serafina witnesses a little girl being dragged through the basement by a man in a black cloak who wraps her up and she disappears.  Serafina knows she can't just keep this to herself.  She has to help, but when she is accidentally discovered by the young master of the house, Serafina has no idea how she'll manage to help the little girl and keep her existence a secret from the rest of the world.

I really loved this book.  Serafina is wild, quick, and smart.  She can do things other kids her age cannot, and she doesn't look like other girls either.  She's very much aware that there are things about her that are different from the other girls and boys she watches.  She's also very brave.  Serafina sees this terrible man in a cloak dragging a little girl away and then wrapping her up in his cloak so she disappears into thin air, yet she doesn't hide herself away.  She responds.  Her father tries to stop her, to keep her safe with him--hidden away in the basement--but she can't sit back.  Through quick thinking and sharp senses, Serafina is able to save friends from mishaps and keep herself from being discovered by the owners of the Biltmore estate.

Serafina still doubts herself, though.  Unsure of who her mother is, and knowing she is so incredibly different, she's convinced her father is ashamed of how she looks and so that's why he keeps her hidden away.  She's not sure if her new friend truly likes her, or if he'll end up turning her in to his aunt and uncle for living in their basement.  I think it's a feeling many kids can relate to at one point or another in their lives: How do I fit in when I'm so different from everyone else?  These are themes that most middle grade students will relate to.

Kids will also love the fast-paced plot.  There are plenty of moments where you hold your breath as you turn the page to see what happens next.  While I was reading this at school, during our silent reading time, the timer went off, but I was in such a great spot that I groaned out loud and suggested that we read for another three minutes.  Almost everyone agreed. :)    It was difficult to put down and I definitely wanted to know what happened, but just as everything was building to a climax, it just kind of ended.  Everything was very neatly wrapped up.  There something a bit disappointing in that--and not just because it was suddenly over.

There will be a second book about Serafina.  Robert Beatty has mentioned on his Goodreads page that he believes there is more to Serafina's story that he would like to explore.  It has a page on Goodreads as well: Serafina and the Twisted Staff, scheduled publication date for August of next year. I will definitely go along for another adventure her!

Image Source: Goodreads

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Sunday, December 20, 2015

#SundayStatus: Never Let Me Go and Touching Spirit Bear

Sunday Status is a weekly (ish) post where I let you know what I'm reading and what I'm thinking about it as I go along.

Never Let Me Go 

Kazuo Ishiguro
Vintage Books, 2010
Source: purchased

I am really enjoying the voice of Kathy as I read this.  I am hoping she changes and grows a bit more.  I saw the movie a few years ago, but I barely remember it, although reading the book is bringing back some bits and pieces of it.  Even so, I can't remember what really happens, just snippets of moments come to mind. 

Kathy is a caretaker for friends after they undergo donations.  She chooses when she has the chance so that she cannot with them.  There are many flashbacks and flipping in and out of the present to different parts of her past.  Although it isn't confusing, I'm waiting to feel fully immersed in the story so that hopefully it isn't so noticeable.  

Touching Spirit Bear
Ben Mikaelsen
Scholastic, 2001
Source: my classroom library

This is a re-read for me.  I read this quite awhile ago, although I don't remember when because I never put it into my Goodreads shelf.  I'm preparing myself now to read it aloud to my sixth graders.  I haven't decided yet if it's appropriate to do that for this group of kids because I read it such a long time ago that I need to really delve in and also look for possible inappropriate sections.  

I am already reminded of how great a book this is, with Cole's anger all firey and bursting out of him.  I love the symbolism and how easily it lends itself to discussion of anger and fear and dealing with those emotions.  I have so many directions I can go with this as we read.  My goal is to make connections to Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and our theme of survival that we'll be studying next semester.  Let's see if I can do it!

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

I've got a secret... Most Embarrassing Book

Pssst!  I've Got A Secret is where I share some of my more embarrassing bookish moments.  It's a look at those bookish habits that you don't want anyone to know about.
Today's secret: A book I have read that I don't want to admit to--but will.

I think I would have to say that the book I am most embarrassed about reading is the Twilight series.  I know I'll probably get some giant "boos" from Twilight lovers, but let's be honest here: that was terrible writing.  Yet I could not stop reading.  I read the entire series.  I needed to know what was happening, even while I was asking myself why vampires sparkled (ridiculous!) and what was so attractive about Edward.  Controlling and whiny and annoying.  And we'll not even start on Bella.

Yet I read them.  All of them.  I even watched all the movies--which I enjoyed more than the books, but not much more.

So what book is on your most embarrassing read?

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Book Review: The Son of Neptune

The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus #2)
Rick Riordan
Disney-Hyperion, 2011
Source: purchased
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In this second Heroes of Olympus book, Rick Riordan reunites us with Percy Jackson, but it is a Percy Jackson with no memory of his previous life, just the knowledge that he must find camp--Camp Jupiter.  Right away, Percy is an outsider, untrusted by the members of Camp Jupiter, except for two outsiders Frank and Hazel.  Now the three of them must travel north to the land where the gods have no power and defeat the giant Alcyoneus.  They have four days to complete their mission, return back to camp, and help their comrades save camp from the monsters who will attack.  It is a big quest, an important one, and it's up to the three of them to save camp and the world.

I really love the way Rick Riordan structures his books.  It could easily become overwhelming with three different perspectives--switching back and forth, different voices, background information that could easily become confusing.  That has never happened for me and I think part of that is how he sticks with three chapters at a time for each character before looping back around.  It's enough time to get to know what's going on for that person and see events fully through their perspective before pulling us out into another point of view.  I find myself wondering how he goes about crafting his stories.  Does he stick to one character's perspective first, then go on to another and finally the third before weaving them together?  Does he stick with sections of the story, working through each character's perspective before moving onto the next event?  However he does it, Rick Riordan seamlessly intertwines three distinct voices.

My favorite character out of the three is Hazel.  You can tell right away that she's different from the other campers and there is something very strange about her difference.  She's almost afraid around the other campers, like she's just trying to stay under the radar, but when Percy Jackson appears and they have to fight two gorgons, she's forced into the camp's attention.  Hazel is nervous a lot, concerned about what others will think when they find out who she truly is and the truth of her past.  But Hazel is confident and brave as well.  When no else will speak up for Percy, she does even though she has only just become eligible to do so.  She has a strong moral sense and she understands that there are things that must be done and acknowledges the consequences of those actions.  I am so glad that Rick Riordan's female characters are strong.  They are flawed, but so are his male characters, and they have real worth and value in the quests.  They are brave and intelligent.  They lead their friends into battles, and jump in to save them when they need saving.  Sometimes they need saving--but not every time.  They struggle and, almost always, triumph in some way--even if they don't exactly win.

I might have a slight crush on Rick Riordan.    

I am so very excited with the direction in which this series is going and am looking forward to the next book in the series.  I may try and read it over break!

Are there any other Rick Riordan fans out there?  I am truly amazed by his talent.

Image Source: Goodreads

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Monday, December 14, 2015

9 Best of 2015 Lists to Peruse

If you're like me, you're not always on top of the new books that come out every year.  Maybe it just slipped by you and you're wondering how you could have missed that book in the first place.  Or maybe you almost started reading it, but something else came up instead.  Whatever it is, take a look at some of these "Best of 2015" posts that I've compiled.  I love reading lists of good books.  Peruse at your own pleasure!

NPR Concierge -- Great place to actually see all the covers.  I love being able to see the cover of a book and NPR Concierge lets you either view their list by the cover or in list form.  In addition, you can narrow it down by genres, and they've given you a good selection of genres too!

Goodreads Choice Awards-- Who doesn't love the Goodreads Choice Awards?  I love voting for my favorite books that made the cut and waiting to see how well they did in the end.  The best part about this list is that they don't just give you the winners of each genre, but you can see all the books that were in each category.  So you can discover more books!

Buzz Feed Beautiful Covers-- Looking for some beautiful covers of 2015?  Here are 34.  So if you love to look at book covers, or purchase your books based on the cover (we all do this sometimes, just admit it!) then this is a quick look at those.

Huffington Post-- Their list of 18 best fiction books of 2015.  This also includes links to more information, reviews, and interviews.  So you could definitely get lost for days in this one!

NYTimes-- A list of the 10 best of 2015.

Wall Street Journal--Their best of the best books of 2015.  They split it up into four different categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, Mystery/Thriller, and YA.

Young Adult Library Services Association--You want a book?  Ask a librarian.  Chances are they have read every book there is!  YALSA has a super long list here.  The only downside is you don't get to see the covers.  This could also be a good thing, but with only the little one or two sentence snippet, it's hard to get a good hold.

A List Devoted to Picture Books-- Another from Huffington Post with 21 different books for you to discover.  Read them for yourself or share them with a child.

Best Children's Books of 2015-- The Guardian has their list of 8 children's books.  The only thing I'm not too happy about is that it includes both picture books and one YA.  I prefer to have them separated.

My top 10 for 2015 will be coming soon, but I have books in my list that weren't published in 2015.  Check out that list on New Year's Eve.  I am trying to give myself as much time as possible to read as many books as possible.

Happy Book Searching!!

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

#Sunday Status: Serafina and the Black Cloak

Sunday Status is a weekly (ish) post where I let you know what I'm reading and what I'm thinking about it as I go along.

Serafina and the Black Cloak
Robert Beatty
Disney Hyperion, 2015
Source: purchased

I haven't read too much of this yet--I've been working on finishing of The Son of Neptune instead.  o far, I'm loving the main character.  Serafina is wild and strong and intelligent and endearing.  I've come to this conclusion after reading only one chapter.  She seems fabulous, though, and I'm excited to find out more about her.

Not yet started:

Never Let Me Go
Kazuo Ishiguro
Vintage Books, 2010
Source: purchased

I'll be starting Never Let Me Go sometime this week.  I'm looking forward to it. 

Image Source: Goodreads

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: The Water Knife

The Water Knife 

by Paolo Bacigalupi
Knopf, 2015
Source: purchased
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Paolo Bacigalupi introduces a future America, that may not be too far off base.  Water has become a high commodity, especially in the south western states, where The Water Knife is set, and the states of Nevada, Arizona, and California are basically at war.  Angel Velasquez works for Catherine Case, who runs Vegas and ensures that her citizens are supplied with water and everything they might need--if they have the money to pay.  Angel's job to cut the water for towns or subdivisions who are keeping it from Vegas.  Their current threat is Phoenix, where he finds himself deep in the middle of something huge.  He meets Lucy Monroe, a reporter whose onto something big, but she knows it might mean she ends up dead like her friends.  She knows she can't trust Angel, but is intrigued by him.  Maria Villarosa, a poor Texan refugee, is desperately trying to find a way out, but instead finds herself caught up in the evil that surrounds her.

I was really looking forward to reading this, but also a little afraid to read it.  This seemed like it might be a little too close for comfort and it really was.  I don't even live in the south west, but it was such a bleak and awful look at a future where something we depend on to survive is practically gone, and that's scary.  The effects in this book reached beyond the south west and towards other parts of country and beyond.  The world that Bacigalupi has created is dark and seedy and really truly evil.  There are gangs which control every inch of Phoenix and pimp out young girls, collect on debts, "tax" people trying to make money, and feed people to a pack of hyenas.  It's terrifying.  I would not survive in this world.  I know that much, because the civilized people aren't much better.  They "go slumming" to see how Texas refugees survive and buy "blood rags" full of pictures of bodies and death and anything else shocking.  There is a body loteria for what the death count will be that day.

Overall, it was hard to get through.  Not so much due to the horror of it all, but the characters weren't extremely compelling to me.  Angel was a "bad guy" who we discover has a soft side.  Lucy is the journalist who wants to write about important ideas, but is afraid to get in too deep, only to find out that she already has gotten in too deep.  Maria is the poor little teenager forced to harden herself to the realities of her new life.  They weren't really as cliche'd as that sounds, but also they weren't really that original either.

I do think it's worth a read, but it's not one that I'm going to read again or that I would wholeheartedly suggest to many people.  I know a few who would probably enjoy it, but not too many.

If you're looking for other dystopian, post-apocalyptic type books, check out these reviews:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel

Slated by Teri Terry (YA)

Image Source: Goodreads

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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Character Spotlight: Winter

Winter Hayle-Blackburn -- Princess Winter
Marissa Meyer

Winter Hayle-Blackburn carries a lot of turmoil with her and it has piled up on her heart. Her mother died in childbirth.  As a child her cousin and friend died in a fire, in which Winter almost died as well.  Her father was murdered and she was left in the care of Queen Levana Blackburn.  Her step-mother, jealous of Winter's beauty, slashed her face when she was just a girl, causing Winter to make one of the most important decisions of her life.  She chose never to use her Lunar gift again because she would not find herself manipulating others.  Winter sticks to this, even though it causes her to have hallucinations on a regular basis.  Over the years she has become weakened by her hallucinations, finding it difficult to function without seeing blood pouring out of the walls, her body turning into ice and breaking off, and other horrible images.

With Winter's mental breakdowns, she comes across as weak.  She cannot stand up to Levana and knows she will be given as a bride to whomever is most convenient for her step-mother.  She is in love with her childhood friend, a guard at the palace whose presence she depends on greatly.  It's easy to overlook her as nothing important.  However Winter shows us that she is, in fact, much stronger than we believe.

She plays up the "crazy factor" quite a bit because it works for her.  There are multiple times when she depends on people believing she's just a little crazy and not to worry about, but just go along with it so she'll get over it.  Winter knows what she's doing, but she is losing her grip on reality.  Her hallucinations are terrifying to her and she is having difficultly separating what is real and what isn't.  But she isn't afraid to stand up to Levana--not when a true chance to do so is offered to her.

Check out my Lunar Chronicle posts:
CinderScarlet, and Cress

Image Source: Goodreads

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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday Status: In Between

I literally just finished The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.  It was a bit terrifying and took me a long time to read--a little too long--but a decent read.

I'm also still reading The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan.  It was a book total check last week at school, which means I don't get to read during Silent Reading Time at school, so I'm still not too far into that book.

The book I'm planning on starting this evening is Serafina and the Black Coat by Robert Beatty.   I've been hearing some great things and although it did not win in the Goodreads Choice Awards, it was in the finals.  So I'm looking forward to reading this one.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

Book Review: Pieces of Why

Pieces of Why
K. L. Going
Kathy Dawson Books, 2015
Source: borrowed 
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Pieces of Why, K.L. Going's story describing a young girl's discovery of her past, will cause you to take a moment and consider your own biases. Tia lives in a not so great area of New Orleans with her mom who is always too busy working to find time for Tia. Instead she has always found space in her best friend Keisha's house and in music. The two are members of the Rainbow Choir, a group of young singers from all walks of life meant to bring a neighborhood together. Tia soars when she sings, but one night there is a shooting right outside the church where the Rainbow Choir rehearses and it throws Tia's life into a spin. With memories of her father, who is now in prison, stirred up by this act of violence, Tia has lost her song. She struggles to understand the truth and her place in it while trying to make things right. 

We often look at the person who has committed a crime without thought of where they come from or who their family is. It's easy to assume that a person who commits a terrible crime must come from a terrible place and that anyone associated with him or her is also to blame. Pieces of Why asks readers to step back and reconsider that assumption. 

Tia's father is in jail for life and she and her mom are simply trying to live their lives. This book was suggested to me by a student and I can see why. Tia and Keisha's friendship is relatable and very secure. They are solid friends and support one another, but also have their arguments and have to work through them. They're also dealing with some pretty serious issues. 

As parents and teachers and adults we want to shield our kids from the terrible things that happen in the world, but this reminds us that we can't always do that. Our kids will have to deal with really difficult situations of all sorts, and probably well before we think they're ready to deal with them. Books like these can help teach empathy towards others. They can help our kids be a great best friend when their friend truly needs him or her. They can help our kids understand how important it is to consider all sides of a story before making a judgement. This is why reading and books are so important. 

Time to get off my soapbox.  

I appreciated how Tia's discovery of the truth was slowly revealed and how she was the one in charge of her knowledge. I did think there were some overly preachy parts and although it didn't get too religious, it started to sway that direction. In the end, though, it was about Tia finding her own outlet. She truly is the one in charge of her own destiny here. 

I would say Pieces of Why is a good one to share with your child and read with them--not because it's inappropriate or questionable, but because there is so much available to discuss. It's a quick and easy read for your middle schooler. 

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Top Ten YA Ever Update!

If you haven't checked out my top ten YA novels before, you should do so soon because it's been updated.

The last time I updated was in May and there have been some amazing books that pushed some other really really good books off the list.  It's always hard to narrow things down, so I did my best!

Take the time to check it out here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas Book Box--25 Books of Christmas

Are you getting ready for some Holiday Reading?  I'm much more into cheesy Christmas movies than I am interested in reading Christmas themed books.  Mostly because I'd rather take my cheesiness in movies than in books.  However, now that I have a daughter, I love reading Christmas books with her.

So we have the Christmas Book Box with 25 days of Christmas books (27 this year, but I'll get to that soon!).  Last year was the first year we had this box.  My daughter was 1.5 and she had a great time with it, but really wanted to open all the books at the same time.  This year I'm really excited about it because she understands the idea of opening one at a time, plus we have more books than we did last year.
Bought the crate at Michael's and spray painted it red,
then added the writing.  The first line is her name,
which I don't share on this blog, so it has been blurred out.

Now I understand that you're probably thinking I'm crazy and that I'm buying her 25 new Christmas books every year.  No no no.  We didn't even buy 25 last year.  I bought three and inherited 16 others.  We only did 19 days and no one cares.  This year we had those same 19, plus I bought a few after Christmas and also my mom found a bunch at a yard sale or something.  In addition, I bought her some books on other holiday traditions so she can be exposed to more than just Christian based holidays.

So we ended up with quite a lot of books (more than I had anticipated) and I came home on Sunday from spending some time up at school working and my husband had wrapped them all up for me!  Of course he didn't know about the new ones I bought a month or so ago and so added those and realized that we had 27--not 25.  Oh well.  A few extra days is no big deal.  Then I found all those books my mom gave me last year and we just added those into our crate unwrapped.

The great thing about this is that at this point we are pretty set for the next few years with Christmas books and won't have to purchase any until she outgrows them.  Even then we'll keep the ones we love and add in a new one now and then.  They're become traditions that our daughter will look forward to reading and remember from year to year.  It's our own little advent calendar.

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy Birthday Lucy Maud Montgomery!

Today is L.M. Montgomery's birthday.  Growing up I LOVED Anne of Green Gables, in fact I still do.  I absolutely love this Google image for today.  It just makes me happy to remember Anne Shirley.  Check out this post from earlier in the year that wrote about Gilbert Blythe.  Here's the character spotlight for Anne Shirley.

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 141st Birthday

Image source:  Google.

2015 Book Challenge Update

Well here it is.  The end of November and I have 8 more books to go in order to meet my goal.  I'm thinking it will not happen, but I'll end up pretty darn close.

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Meghan has
read 52 books toward her goal of 60 books.

I hope to have two more books finished by next weekend and if I can do that for the next few weeks, I will make it.  However I have a few books I promised myself I would finish reading before the new year and they aren't all the easiest.  Check out the post that I listed all my Must Read Before 2016 post.  There are five books on that last and I've only read one!

If I stick to those I'm hoping that I won't get too stuck.

How are your reading challenges going?  Will you make it?  Do you need to rethink your goal for next year?

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Status: The Son of Neptune and The Water Knife

Sunday Status is a weekly (ish) post where I let you know what I'm reading and what I'm thinking about it as I go along.

This week was rough on reading time. You would think that with a five hour drive on Wednesday and Saturday, plus all this time off that I could have gotten at least two books read. However that doesn't take into account a two year old who didn't nap in the car on the way there and visiting a house with very nice furniture and other items that meant constant supervision and when it wasn't my turn, it was time to visit. Plus she slept with us at the hotel. No time to read. I felt lucky to get to shower alone this week. But I'm thankful for family who is generous with food and hospitality and finding places to take our two year old so she could run off all the sugar and carbs. It was a lovely time with family. 

So with little time to read I'm not much further in The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi. It is not an easy read, but I'm still interested. I will finish this week. 

I'm also reading The Son of Neptune Rick Riordan. I'm not too far into it, but in this Heroes of Olympus book, we're back with Percy who has lost all memories of his past but his name and an image of Annabeth. Looking forward to finding out what's going on. 

What are you reading now? 

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Review: Winter

Marissa Meyer
Feiwel and Friends, 2015
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I may or may not have had this book delivered to school and then carried it around with me all day, even to go make copies and to refill my water during my plan time.  I did not have much time to read it during the school day, but it did not leave my line of sight.  It would be an understatement to say that I was excited about reading Winter.  I was looking forward to this so much and really needed something to pull me out of my not wanting to read state of affairs.  It worked.

In this last installment of The Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and her friends wage their battle on the Lunar queen Levana.  It's epic and full of emotional ups and downs as you watch her friends separate and reunite and separate, and never know if they will ever again find themselves together.  Also, in this book we're introduced to Winter, Levana's stepdaughter who is said to be the most beautiful girl on Luna, despite the scars Levana forced her to carve into her own face.  Our final fairy-tale princess is Snow White, but she's not the Snow White you'll remember.  Instead Winter is a little crazy.  She suffers from a condition caused by the disuse of her Lunar gift.  Her stepmother sees her as weak and just wants to be rid of her, but she underestimates her stepdaughter.

Meanwhile Cinder has brought the fight to Luna.  Along with her friends, she is determined to find Levana's weak spots and expose them to her people and the people of Earth, saving her friends, her planet, Luna, and Kai from a devastating future.

My favorite characters are Thorne and Cress.  Thorne reminds me of Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly, so it was a little difficult not to completely follow Cress's giggling over him.  Sometimes I wanted to be annoyed by Cress because she does seem so naive, but I never was.  Maybe because I felt that I would be the closest to Cress (except for the whole technological genius thing).

I even started to like Scarlet a little bit.  I haven't really been a fan of hers at all until this book.  I can't really put a finger on it, but I didn't like her during her first appearance in Scarlet and I continued to just want to get back to Cinder's story during most of Scarlet.  She disappeared early enough in Cress that I wrote her off.  I didn't worry too much about her, even though we were shown that she was alive.  But here she stepped up in my mind.  Scarlet has jumped in and become a leader of this band of heroes.  I began to like her more than I liked Cinder, who kept making stupid decisions.

Okay, here comes the part I don't like and, out of necessity, SPOILERS.


Issue #1) No one dies.  How is that possible?  Someone should have died.  Yes, tons of Lunars died fighting Levana and her thaumaturges.  Many Earthens also died from the mutant soldiers.  One of the group should have died.  It just made sense.  Scarlet should have died from letumosis when she got it.  Thorne should have been killed when captured (although I may have stopped reading altogether had that happened, so it's a good thing he wasn't killed).  Kai should have been killed by Levana.  Cinder should not have survived.

I know, you think I'm crazy.  I do love these characters--even Scarlet who I didn't really like that much, was important and I would have sobbed at her death. I just don't understand how can so many people die in this book and it never is one of the main characters.

Issue #2) They all get their man.  Sigh and roll of eyes.  Stifle a groan.  I love a good romantic vibe and was ALL OVER Thorne and Cress's scene when he confessed his feelings for her.  In fact, I am thinking of going back to read it again, but is it that easy?  Maybe I'm just a big old crab and need to lighten up.  I mean if I'm really going to take on a feminist reading of this, there are lot more issues that I should be focusing on, but I enjoyed this book too much to even pay attention to those details.

So I loved it.  Despite those issues, I'm still giving it 5 stars.  It was that good.  Really and truly.  It fits in with the entire series so well and ends in a place where I feel confident for our characters futures.  And I still love all my characters, even Jacin--with whom I would probably get along well seeing as we both seem to be crabs and easily annoyed.  Happy reading!

Check out my other Lunar Chronicle reviews:
Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress

Image Source: Goodreads

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: Star Wars: Jedi Academy, The Phantom Bully

Star Wars: Jedi Academy, The Phantom Bully

Jeffery Brown
Published by Scholastic, 2015
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I absolutely love this series.  My father introduced my sister and I to Return of the Jedi when were little and mostly we were taken by the Ewoks (what 7 year old girl wouldn't be!) but as I got older and watched the series again and again, I fell in love with the story and characters.  There was even a point during my middle school years where I tried to write Star Wars books.  They were awful and the evidence has been destroyed, thankfully.

When I discovered Jeffery Brown's series about a young Roan who is not admitted to flight school, like he wanted, but is requested to join the Jedi Academy instead, I was pulled in right away.  Roan struggles with being the new kid at school and not only trying to fit in, but to catch up.  In each book he has had to deal with typical middle school issues: fitting in, bullying, stress from school, girls, friendships, difficult teachers.

In this third installment, Roan should be having a great year.  He has a maybe girlfriend and they're starting their individual studies.  Unfortunately, Roan's advisor is non other than Mr. G, the teacher who has had nothing but negative things to say to him from day one...and he'll working with him one-on-one for the entire school year.  Plus someone is messing with him and he's pretty sure it's Cronah, but no one can prove it, so Roan will just have to figure out a way to deal with it.  Plus, there's a new girl at school and she's spectacular at everything!

Once again, Jeffery Brown has created a highly engaging story for our more reluctatnt readers (or for those not so reluctatnt readers who just love love love Star Wars).  With the mixture of graphic novel and diary entry format, the story is highly accessible for many readers.  It's an excellent middle grades books that focuses on what kids are dealing with in school--just with wookies, droids, and mastering The Force thrown in there as well.

I'm excited to read more about Roan's adventures in the future!  Check out more reviews about the other Jedi Academy Books here and here.

Image Source: Goodreads

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