Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Audiobook Review: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign
Ann M. Martin
Performed by Laura Hamilton
Published by: Brilliance Audio
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Rose is a fifth grade student who has Asperger's syndrome who is obsessed with homonyms.  Her name is a homonym (rose, rows) and she gives her dog the name rain, which has two other homonyms (rain, reign, rein).   She lives with her father who often seems overwhelmed with raising a daughter who is so different from her peers and spends a lot of time at the bar down the road.  When a hurricane hits, Rose and her father are stranded at their home out in the country and Rain is accidently let out without his collar.  With the help of her uncle, her teachers, and even her classmates, Rose sets out to find her beloved pet.

I have been reading Ann M. Martin books since I was a kid--big Baby-Sitters Club fan back in the day--so of course I picked this up.  It was beautiful!  Rose is such a lovable character and within the first few chapters you feel like you need to take care of her, to help her.  As a teacher and a former personal aide for a student very similar to Rose, I felt that Rose's character was very well done.  I believed in this character more than I do in many other characters in literature.  She likes homonyms, rules, and prime numbers, and tries to talk about them with everyone.  Her classmates are somewhat tolerant of her, but laugh at her behind their teachers' backs.  Her father isn't doing the best job, although I think it's the best he's capable of doing, but she has her uncle who loves her and "gets" her.  Although you break inside when Rose says that she knows most kids don't need a helper with them all day long, both her personal aide and her teacher are wonderful with Rose.

One thing that made listening to the story a bit off putting was that Rose noted every homonym she said by spelling out the word she meant and its homonym.  In writing, I don't see this being an issue, but listening to the story, I found myself focusing on the spellings and missing a bit.  At the same time, if I was actually speaking with Rose, I'm sure she would speak this way and therefore it might be confusing or strange to listen to, but it makes sense to Rose.

I would definitely suggest this books to all readers.  Young readers will connect with Rose and her relationship with her dog, as well as the feeling and understanding that you are different from your peers.  Adults will be drawn into Rose's story--but make sure you have some kleenex available.  There were multiple times throughout the book where I teared up.

Image Source: Goodreads

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Monday, July 27, 2015

What's Up Next!

Well unfortunately my summer is winding down.  I don't like to think about it, but I should start working a lot more on school stuff to get ready for the year.  My time to read will be dwindling--especially for the first month or so of school while I try to get myself back into the habit of working my butt off during my plan.  Fingers crossed I can get back into routine quick quick quick!

Where does that leave me with my summer reading list?  Dismally underread.

Not counting the picture books I've read and reviewed (because I just can't bring myself to count a picture book as one of the books I read for my total), I am only at 12.  I had been really hopeful that I would get 25 read this summer...

I still have time, of course, so I might get up to 20 by the time school begins, but I'm disappointed in the number.  I do admit that it's more difficult to read during the summer when you are chasing a toddler around.  :)

So here's my plan for the next couple of weeks:

The False Prince by Jennifer Neilsen

A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano (ARC from Netgalley)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling  

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I'm trying to get a few in there that are adult and I know I won't get to read during the school year.  Sigh!  We'll see what happens!  Maybe my husband will take my daughter someplace and tell me to just sit at home and read all day.  :)

Image Source: Goodreads 

If you liked this post, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday Status: The False Prince

The False Prince
Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic, 2015
Source: Purchased

So I don't have a quote this week because I haven't even started it yet!  It's been a long day with a pretty crazy toddler in tow.  I'm about to relax and start reading.  Here's the Goodreads summary.

The False Prince is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Teacher Moment: Setting up my room

I got into my room today at school. I didn't have the heart to take any before pictures--it was too much and a bit overwhelming so I just jumped in.  This is where I left it today.

My library area--filled with junk for now. 

My desk area--which may be changing before everything is said and done. 

Homework board and ticket drops. 

Goals board. 

My textual evidence board. We spend a lot of time working on this. 

This is where I will put our academic vocabulary. 

This board is left over from last year. It needs some love. It is going to be our recommended reading board. 

Not sure what I'll use this for yet. Each year it ends up being different.   

I still have a lot to do. I'm hoping to get in tomorrow afternoon and Saturday. When I have my room set up I'll feel so much better! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Picture Book Review: The Bureau of Misplaced Dads

The Bureau of Misplaced Dads
by √Čric Veill√© and Pauline Martin

Publisher: Kids Can Press, 2015
Source: Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

This is a silly story about a little boy who can't find his dad. He meets a man who works at the Bureau and takes him there to find his father. The little boy sees many different dads who are waiting to be found, but not his own. He finally realizes that he knows where his father is and runs home to find him.

The story is strange and a little sad too as the man who brings the little boy to the bureau says that there are dads there who have been then forever waiting for their children to find them. He also says that every so often they just let some of them wander off free, like they are letting them escape something. When the little boy is given the chance to choose a different dad instead of his own, I was very much put off. I realize I'm looking into this way too much for a children's book, but it was unnerving.

The pictures didn't help very much either. They are also strange and the men are somewhat creepy--not all of them, but some of them--especially one of a giant hiding in a box, peeking out with knife and fork. I think they're supposed to be playful, but I'm unsure.

I did share this with my two-year-old, but the pictures didn't hold her interest much. It's not one we'll be adding to our collection anytime soon.

Image Source: Goodreads 

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina
Misty Copeland
Publisher: Scholastic, 2014
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I first heard of Misty Copeland a few years ago, but didn't really pay much attention.  Then I saw her in an ad, and then on So You Think You Can Dance.  I was intrigued and when I saw that she had a memoir out, I knew I would read it.  It was on my summer reading list when it was announced earlier this month that Misty Copeland had been promoted to principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater--something that had not been accomplished by an African American ballerina up until this point.  Well I moved her memoir up in my list almost immediately.

Most stories of ballerinas are filled with mothers and fathers toting their daughters to dance class from the time they are three, spending hours on hair and make-up (that cost them a ton), competing heavily (which costs money), and buying more dance clothes and shoes (also costs a ton).  I'm not saying that every ballerina is rich, but ballet is a financially challenging art form--especially for those who are training to become the best of the best.

Misty's introduction to ballet was different than most.  She didn't discover it until she was 13, and her family was living in poverty, ultimately ending up living in a motel where she and her brothers and sisters had to sleep on the floor.  Through the help of her dance teacher, Misty was able to continue her training, pushing herself to a place she never thought was possible.  Even after winning scholarships for summer dance intensives, and being accepted in the ABT corps de ballet, Misty doubted herself.  She strove to overcome the prejudice that people have towards African Americans dancing classical ballet roles.

I loved reading about the dance classes and the feel of being on stage--but then I used to dance, so it all seems very familiar to me.  I am unsure if others who aren't familiar with dance would feel this way.  The reason I rated this 3 stars instead of 4 is because the writing is very simplistic.  It is not a young readers' edition, but I thought it was at first.  The writing isn't terrible--it's just not great either.  Also it's somewhat a jumbled mess as she jumps around time-wise quite a bit.  This wasn't a big deal when she was writing about her time in NYC, when she was an adult and dancing with ABT, but during the parts when she was in California with her family growing up, it confused me.  There were a lot of flashbacks, but it wasn't always clear.

I definitely recommend this to any dancer out there--whether you want to be a prima ballerina, or just want to keep dancing because you love it.  If you're looking for an inspirational story, this is where you can find it.  Misty Copeland overcame much and worked hard to get herself to where she is now.  It's hard to not be jealous of how beautiful a dancer she is.  This book will definitely go into my classroom library and will probably be featured on my "Royally Approved" Bookshelf at the beginning of the year.  I hope that my students will look up to Misty Copeland as a role model.

Image Source: Goodreads

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sunday Status: Scrap City by D.S. Thornton

Scrap City
D.S. Thornton
Publisher: Capstone, 2015
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

"Murmurs arose among the works as they became aware a human, a Topsider, was among them (73)."

Jerome is struggling to move past the sudden death of his mother and brother in a fire and his father is busy grieving himself as he tries to keep his business running.  While at the junk yard with his father (who is there on a business matter) Jerome meets Arkie--a creature made of an ice chest, tin can, and various other metal and steel parts.  It isn't long before Jerome ventures into the underground city beneath the junk yard with Arkie and discovers that there is a whole city of Scrappers living there.

There are some other characters that have been brought up who live above, or Topside, but we haven't heard much from them.  In fact, most of the 70 some pages have just been Jerome and Arkie and some Scrappers.  I'm thinking, because of the cover, that his friend CiCi will take a bigger role as we continue, but I'm wondering when he will return Topside since he's been gone for quite awhile at this point.

It has a bit of a Gregor the Overlander feel to it, but with an emphasis on recycling and not so much on quests.

Image Source: Goodreads 

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review: Every Soul a Star

Every Soul a Star
Wendy Mass
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2008
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

One summer Ally, Bree, and Jack come from three different worlds to see a total solar eclipse at Moon Shadow Campgrounds.  Ally has known nothing other than Moon Shadow as her parents run the campgrounds and they live here year round.  Bree has big plans to start her modeling career this summer when her parents break the new that they'll be going to Moon Shadow.  Jack has failed Science and attending the eclipse with his teacher is the only way to get out of summer school.

At first I wasn't too thrilled with the characters.  Ally was just a stereotypical "weird" girl who speaks to "Aliens" and Bree a materialistic snob, while Jack was  an overweight loner who just wanted to read and be left alone.  Each chapter is told from a different point of view and with times overlapping.  It took me awhile to get into the excitement surrounding the eclipse because I was bored with the characters.  About a quarter of the way through I started to care about each of these characters because I could see their potential, the possibility for growth and change and they slowly become less one-dimensional.  However, they still had the feel of stereotypes hanging about them that was somewhat bothersome.

The eclipse is the main event, but the band of kids come together for more than that for different adventures and excitement.  The best part was the eclipse because it was described in such detail from each character's point of view.  Reading about it made me want to witness one at some point in my life.

Kids who are interested in astronomy will really enjoy this book about three kids who come together and witness a life altering event.

Image Source: Goodreads

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

To Read, or Not to Read: Go Set a Watchman

Okay, so I've been going back and forth on this one for a while.  Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman just came out and I am a huge fan of To Kill a Mockingbird.  I love it.  

I started out being really excited about a book by Harper Lee coming out, even if it is 50 years later.  I read up on it a little, and heard a piece about Harper Less on NPR and then my excitement waned a bit.

Does she really want this published?  Is she being manipulated?  I don't know.  I finally came to the conclusion that I didn't think she was, but was this only my own selfishness in wanting more about Scout and her family?  Was it me just wanting to love Atticus Finch even more than I already do?

And then two days ago I read a review on NPR Books by Maureen Corrigan.  My heart dropped.  Atticus is not Atticus?  He's bigoted?  What about Scout?  Is she the same, but grown up?  Or she a completely different character as well?  Just thinking about these things makes my heart hurt a little bit.

I know that this is supposed to be the original manuscript that Harper Lee submitted for publication, but was it was rejected, and she was asked to write more about Scout.  So although Go Set a Watchman takes place after To Kill a Mockingbird, it was written by a younger, less accomplished Lee.  I think about some of my own writing that I wrote at the beginning of my college career.  At the end of my college career as I went back through all those stories to put into portfolio, I was rolling my eyes and groaning at the amount of work needed to make any of them decent.  If I went back through them today, ten years later, I would probably end up trashing them (which is why I will avoid doing so!).  So now I am thinking that it would make sense that Lee didn't want them published.  Why would you want to publish something if you knew you already wrote it better, honed in on what you really wanted to say and created characters that became an inspiration to people?  Maybe I shouldn't read it.  

So I'm back to not reading it--for now.  I even feel guilty that I preordered it.  Maybe I will change my mind later on, but I look up to Atticus as a model for parenting and teaching.  He is a character who has always seemed to have finally come to a place where he was comfortable in who he was, not because he always was, but because he learned to be this way.  I never understood as him as perfect, but as someone who was always looking at life and how he could make it better and be a better person and how he could teach his children to do so.  

What do you think?  Are you reading it?  Holding off?  Not sure yet?

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn

I know it's a long time coming as I RAVED about this book about a week ago and haven't written a post about it yet, but here it is!  Vacation got the best of me, but I did get two books read in one weekend.

The Wrath and the Dawn
Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Source: purchased on Nook
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In this retelling of the Arabian Nights, Shahrzad offers herself up as the next bride of the Caliph, Khalid.  She does so in order to exact revenge on Khalid for the murder of her best friend, as well as all the brides he has killed the morning after their marriage. Shahrzad manages to entangle Khalid in her stories, enticing him to wait just one more night to find out the conclusion to her story.  Not only does she have to worry about weaving stories for her new husband in order to stay alive, but she has a handmaiden who is there to spy on her, and Khalid's closest advisors distrust her.  Even if Shahrzad can get Khalid to trust her, how will she manage to convince everyone else watching her that she isn't a threat?  Unbeknownst to Shahrzad, while she is trying to get revenge, her boyfriend, Tariq, is planning his own revenge and attempting to save her.

I absolutely loved this book.  I will admit the first couple of chapters were just okay, but as I got into the book, I was completely drawn into this story.  I stayed up until 1:30am to finish reading.  This may not sound like a big deal to some of you, but when you have a two year old who WILL wake up by 7:00am at the latest, 11:00 is my normal late.  

The characters are absolutely wonderful!  They were complex and interesting.  The only character I didn't really like was Tariq--but I can't figure out why.  I just know that each time it was a chapter from his point of view, I was rushing through to get on with it and back to Shahrzad, or even the few chapters from Khalid's point of view.  I preferred the story going on in the palace to what Tariq was doing.   That being said, I really was intrigued by the parallels between Khalid and his closest friend, Rahim, and Tariq and his close friend Jalal.  They have many similarities in the way these two pairs interact with one another.  I'm interested in how that will play out in later books.

Another thing about the characters is that I STILL don't know whom to trust!  Renee Ahdieh has me reeling over the characters.  Do I trust Rahim?  Is he on Shahrzad's side?  Khalid's side?  Either?  And what about her handmaiden, Despina, who flat out tells her that she's there to spy on her as well be her servant.  How much can Shahrzad trust her?  Even Tariq, who believes he is doing the best for her, is questionable.  And Khalid--oh he's definitely got a lot going on that keeps one wondering.  

The best thing about this book is that there is going to be another one!  Yes!  I didn't realize this until it ended and I was left in the lurch.  What!?  I read the other day that it's coming out some time in 2016.  Guess who's going to buying that on the day it comes out?  It's me!

I definitely recommend this book.  If you are a fan of the Lunar Chronicles, you'll enjoy this retelling of different classic.  It also makes me want to read some of the Arabian Nights as I read a few of the stories when I was a little girl.  This grown up version is perfect!

Image Source: Goodreads

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book Rave: The Wrath and the Dawn

So this is not a typical review because I haven't had a chance to write one yet, but I could not wait to write something about it and post ASAP!

The Wrath and the Dawn
Renee Ahdieh
Source: purchased on Nook
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I LOVE this book!  I will be honest at  the beginning, the first two or three chapters, I wasn't quite sure.  As I continued to read, it got better and better.  The first 50 pages I read here and there over two days.  The rest of the book I read in one night, staying up super late to finish reading it!

Here's the Goodreads blurb:

A sumptuous and epically told love story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

The characters will captivate you and make you question their intentions.  Even at the end, I'm not sure who I should trust, and I'm reeling from the ending.  Luckily there is another one coming out sometime in 2016.  The wait will be painful, but it's worth it!  A more in depth review will come when I am able to process it and find the time to sit down and write it in the next few days.

Image Source: Goodreads

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Sunday Status: Every Soul a Star

Every Soul a Star
Wendy Mass
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2008
Source: Purchased

"I know he's just tense because in all the years we've been here, we've never had more than two hundred campers at once.  And now we'll have over a thousand.  Pretty big difference (14)."

I just started this book and I don't know much about it, but it's told from three different voices and will center on a major event: a total eclipse of the sun.  The above quote is from Ally who lives at a campground run by her parents and studies astronomy.  Bree is beautiful and has plans to be a model one day, even if her parents keep pushing her to be something else.  Jack isn't an athlete and his father is gone--that's all I really know about him right now.

The back of the book tells me that everyone's life will change because of this eclipse.  I wonder how much their stories will intertwine.

By the way, isn't the cover beautiful?  That's what made me buy the book in the first place.

Image Source: Goodreads

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Teaching Moment: Planner Planning

So I bought my first Erin Condren Teacher Planner this summer and I've been waiting to find a time to play with it a little bit.  As a middle school teacher I wasn't sure how this would work for me.  I teach 4 classes of Literature, 1 Honors Literature, and 1 Study Skills.

It does seem to be more geared towards elementary teachers, but I tried out a few ideas that I think will work for the planning portions.

I used post-it notes to play around with what I want to do so if it didn't work I didn't waste an entire page.  This first one was just a colum for each class period, and the last one was a "to-do" column.   This would be okay, but do I really need to rewrite the same thing four times?

Then I took them off and tried another way, which worked much better.  I just lose my "to-do" list, but I use post-its like it's nobody's business, PLUS there are tons of pages for notes within the other pages, so I can definitely use them for that.  

I was much happier with that so I decided to try it out with some washi tape at the top for the first page.  I like it!  I also put down some post-its there for how I might start to mark off my planning pages for Silent Reading Time.  So far, so good!  I like the way it looks.

Now All I need is to go out and get some more washi tape!  I won't actually set up my planner for real until we get closer to the beginning of the school year and I find out that my schedule is actually the same as last year.  I assume that it will stay the same, but I know if I set it all up now, it will change!

I'll have to update you later on in the school year about how it's working for me or if I had to change anything

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Book Review: The Maloneys' Magical Weatherbox

The Maloneys' Magical Weatherbox
by Nigel Quinlan
Publisher: Roaring Book Press, July 28, 2015
Source:  ARC from Netgally in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This summer seems to be an appropriate time for me to read this as we sit here in the midwest, surrounded by rain and rain and more rain during the month of June. In The Maloneys' Magical Weatherbox, Nigel Quinlan has created a magical and interesting explanation for the changing of seasons and the weather that comes with each season.  Neil and Liz's father is the Weatherman--the person who ushers in the new season four times a year.  It is a sacred agreement that has been kept for ages--until the phone never rings and Summer stays.  Add to that an evil force and a mysterious Tourist who brings along two hags and a bog beast, and Liz and Neil have their hands full.

Told in both Liz and Neil's perspectives, I was more interested in Liz's chapters than Neil's.  Mostly I found that during the chapters when Neil was narrating, especially at the beginning, there was a lot of background and story filling that dragged on a bit more.  He definitely had his moments of adventure and excitement, but I found myself skimming through a few of his chapters a bit more than reading them.  I really liked Liz, though.  I liked how outspoken she was and that even though she understands that she won't be Weatherman because it always passes down to the male heir, Liz has plans of her own and they're just as adventurous.  She's a strong character, quick and smart, thoughtful and a great heroine.

The story itself is adventurous and there are so many magical elements that I would never have thought of, that I enjoyed reading it.  The hardest part was getting into the book and motivating myself to read it because of so much world building that occurred at the beginning.  I wanted things to get moving a bit more earlier on.

Overall, The Maloneys' Magical Weatherbox was exciting to read, though.  I definitely recommend this to kids who enjoy fantasy stories full of magical and mythical creatures.  However, if you're not okay working through the first few chapters to get to the more exciting parts, then you may struggle with this one a bit.

This book is set to come out July 28, 2015.

Image Source: Goodreads

If you liked this review, consider following me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus, and please "like" this review below!