Sunday, August 30, 2015

Double Sunday Status: A Great and Terrible Beauty and Go Set a Watchman

I have two very different books that I'm reading today.  Most likely I'll be posting about two books from now on as I'll have one book at school and one book at home.  They'll also be pretty different.  If I read two similar books at the same time I'm lost, but if they're very different then I can keep everything straight.

A Great and Terrible Beauty

Libba Bray
Simon & Shcuster 2003
Source: Purchased

This is a re-read for me.  I read it years ago, not too long after the second book had been published.  I fell in love with it and then waited impatiently for the third one after I finished the first two.

For whatever reason I have been thinking about this series lately, but it's been so long my thoughts are a bit muddled.  So here I am reading them again.  I am around 10 years older at this point and my life is significantly different, so I wonder if I will see it differently.  I'm only about 100 pages in, and so far I don't feel differently, but I'm wondering where the excitement over this book went.  Maybe it comes later?  I'm enjoying it, but not tearing it apart trying to finish it right this second.  Or maybe I don't need to because I already know what happens (but not really because it's all very vague and the series runs together in my mind).

I would like to note that I'm a little upset about the cover of the book I ordered to the right (I could not find my original, but I'm pretty sure I know who has it).  My original one was such a gorgeous photo and I didn't realize when I purchased this that it was this cover.  The black fence (?) at the bottom just makes it... bleh.  The cover I love is the one I used at the top of the page.

Go Set a Watchman
Harper Lee
Harper Collins 2015
Source: Purchased

I've finally decided to start reading it.  I'm reading this one at school and since I'm desperately trying to finish fluency reads with each student, I'm not getting to read alongside them.  That means I've only read about 40 pages this week.  There are some absolutely stunning lines as well as some words that I've never used before.  Stunning writer.

There are moments where you can tell this is not truly a finished product, but it's still so beautiful.

One of my favorite sentences so far:

"She was completely unaware that with one twist of the tongue she could plunge Jean Louise into a moral turmoil by making her niece doubt her own motives and best intentions, by tweaking the protestant, philistine strings of Jean Louise's conscience until they vibrated like a spectral zither."

The end of this sentence is the best. The way it feels. 

Some new vocabulary for you:
Perspicacious--to have a keen understanding     (I never heard of this word but have been looking for a way to throw it into every day conversation...)

Enisled--isolated as if on an island (I knew what this meant and so may you, but isn't it a wonderful word?)

Image Source: Goodreads

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Fall Plans for Reading

So now that Fall is here (I consider the first day of school to be Fall, even though it isn't officially) my reading time will diminish.  This summer I read almost every night after my daughter and husband went to sleep.  Now with school, I'll grade and plan after my daughter goes to sleep at 7:30.  Then I usually stop grading/planning around 9:00 because everything becomes a mess of words.  Then if I have the energy and focus left, I'll read for about 30 minutes until I end up stumbling back to the bedroom and falling into bed.

All that means is that I have to be selective and use my time wisely.  I have a goal this year of actually reading with my students during Silent Reading Time (I am really great at coming up with creative names and titles for my classroom, she says sarcastically).  I have always made sure I devoted one day each week to do this, but this year it is a priority.  Why?  Because it's so important that students see you reading.   Also, I've found that if I'm reading, then they're reading.  If I'm trying to grade papers, they're trying to finish their math homework.  So reading it is!

This will give me some extra reading time--awesome!  So I've split my reading list into where I'll be reading: At School, At Home.  This way I don't forget a book in one of the places and get angry at myself for not thinking.

For now, here is the entire Fall 2015 TBR.  But, as you know, I don't always stick to my TBR.  I like to make it interesting and throw a few in there.

Meghan's fall-2015 book montage

The Queen of the Tearling
The Goldfinch
Go Set a Watchman
Shadow and Bone
All the Bright Places
Our Endless Numbered Days
The Truth About Forever
The Other Me
In Defense of Read-Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice
Mr. Mercedes
Finders Keepers
The Book of Speculation
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
In the Unlikely Event
The Truth According to Us
Language Arts
The Water Knife
Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County: A Family, a Virginia Town, a Civil Rights Battle

39 total--for now.  Not as crazy as my 60 in one summer. (Check out how that turned out here.)  It's still a lot.  So fingers are crossed.  I need 24 to read my goal by January.

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading Challenge
Meghan has
read 36 books toward her goal of 60 books.

I need to work on creating Realistic Goals for myself.
What are your plans for the Fall?  Any big goals?  Are you on track to meeting your 2015 book challenge?

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review: The Runaway King

The Runaway King (Ascendance Trilogy #2)
Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic Press, 2013
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3.5 out 5 stars

In the second book of the Ascendance Trilogy, The Runaway King, Prince Jaron has claimed the throne of Carthya and now he must begin acting like the King.  He knew that it would be difficult, but he has no idea who to trust.  The princess he is to marry is overly friendly with the captain of his guard, whom Jaron doesn't trust. Most of his regents are plotting to overturn him.  To top it all off, his life has been threatened by pirates--the same pirates that sunk the ship Jaron had supposedly drowned in years ago.  Using the only move he has left, Jaron slips back into the familiar life of Sage and tracks down the pirates.  The only way to save his country and himself is meet them head-on, and he must do it alone.

I was really looking forward to reading the second book in the Ascendance Trilogy.  After reading The False Prince, I was excited to see how Jaron would handle being King when he is so used to his freedom and the ability to be whomever he wants.  I was a little disappointed, though.  This story moved rather slowly.  After he finds the pirates, it just drags.  You would think that finding yourself amongst pirates and thieves would make the story more exciting, but it doesn't.  It did eventually pick up, but I can't tell you why or it would give it away.  So I was happy that things got moving again.  There was just this one section where I didn't care about whether or not Sage/Jaron would accomplish his goal and if he would even live through it all.

Jaron's character is just as aggravating in this book as he is in the first.  He ticks people off on purpose and pushes them away, but it somehow makes you like him more.  Although I just wanted him to suck it up and go talk to Amarinda, but, because he thinks she's swooning over her captain of the guards, he refuses to do so.

I missed Mott.  He has a place in this novel, but not as much as the first one.  I just felt like Jaron needed a father figure, an older brother figure, someone to help guide him.  I wanted Mott to be that, but of course Jaron pushes him away too!

Overall, I'm glad I read The Runaway King and I will be finishing the trilogy.  It's fun and despite the lull in the middle, it picked up again and got me interested in the last novel.  I'm worried about everyone now.  I need to make sure it's all okay.

Image Source: Goodreads

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review: Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Racoon

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Racoon
Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2015
Source: ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Kate DiCamillo has a way of bringing crafting an experience on which her readers can tag along.  I loved Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane because of that quality, but Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Racoon is different.  Maybe this is because it is written for the younger reader and although these other works were also written for young readers, they have so much in them for adults to enjoy as well.  Francine Poulet--not so much.

So that being said, I thought that for a young reader's book (I'm talking about kids who are just starting out reading chapter books on their own) this was great!  Francine Poulet is confident and knows who she is and what she can do...until suddenly she can't do what she thought and she doesn't know who is anymore.  Fear takes over and now she sad and lonely and afraid--until she gets some help from an unlikely source.

What Kate DiCamillo still does so well is make us care, almost immediately about Francine.  Readers will be concerned about her and want her to succeed.  They'll also find themselves in her as they see an adult fail at something they thought they were good at and find their way back to it once again.  If you have young readers just starting with novels and chapter books on their own, this one will be a fun read for them and will give you a lot of ideas to talk about if you read it together.  It would also make for a good read-a-loud in a classroom of 1st--3rd graders.

Image Source: Goodreads

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday Status

I'm in between books tonight. Two ARCs. 

I just finished this book by Susan Yaruta-Young. It was a quick read, but not up my alley. Also, I'm not sure where the mystery part really was. There were a couple "mysteries" but nothing that was solved by the main characters. More to come on this later. 

Set to be published later this week, according to NetGalley, I'm looking forward to reading another of Kate DiCamillo's works. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Week One in the Books!

The school year is off to a great start. After the first week of school I'm excited for the year to really get going.

My students seem to excited about reading already and I had quite a few exchanging books in my library to prepare for the weekend.  Let's hope that we can keep this up!  The only down side is my beautiful library pictured below is no longer so beautiful.

I'm also super excited because we will be hosting our first ever Read-A-Thon at our school.  Our sixth, seventh, and eighth graders will stay after school on a Friday, read, eat, and take part in literary events.  Mostly we read though!  I'm really excited and hoping we get a great turnout so that we can have one again in the winter.  How much fun will this be?!!  I'll let you know how it all turns out!

The only negative thing about this week is I'm exhausted!  Not only am I just trying to get back into the groove, but I'm sick.  The third day back and I came down with one of those killer colds that just knocks you out and makes you want to curl up at your desk and cry a little.  I did not do this, but I've been a bit miserable the last few days--but not too terrible.

To all my fellow teachers who are back at it with me, yeah!  We made it to the weekend.  To those of you preparing to start back soon, good luck and may you enjoy your last days of no grading.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Audio Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr
read by Zach Appelman
Publisher: Simon and Shcuester Audio
Source: Purchased
Rating 4 out of 5 stars

I don't often come away from a book just breathing in its beauty each time I put it down.  I also have never managed to listen to a book that is this long--20 hours.  It was well worth it as I was engaged and thinking about the two main characters when I wasn't listening for most of the story.

In All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr introduces us to two characters placed in very different experiences during World War II.  Marie-Laure has been blind since she was a little girl and her father builds her a replica of their neighborhood in Paris so she can learn how to navigate the streets on her own.  When she and her father flee Paris for their safety, he is entrusted with a stone -- one of four -- and they find their way to Saint-Malo where Marie-Laure's great uncle locks himself away in his grand home, unable to leave its confines for fear of the outside world.  Werner is an orphan in Germany who has a talent for radios and mechanics and a curiosity for all the mysteries of the world. When the Nazis discover his talent and intelligence, he is entered into one of Hitler's boarding schools where he learns more than he had planned on learning, questioning what is right in the world, and thinking often of the younger sister  he left back at the orphanage.

Life is terrifying for both Marie-Laure and Werner, but in very different ways and I loved how well the characters were built.  Werner's life in school made me particularly anxious for him and the other boys attending as they were forced to turn on one another by picking out the weakest amongst them again and again.  Marie-Laure felt somewhat safer in the fact that she was closed up in her great-uncle's house, but this was miserable for her.  There was also the fear for her, as she is blind, that someone would take advantage of her.

Doerr built his characters beautifully, which is what kept me tuned in.  There were parts that I found myself tuning out, mostly where the narrator discusses the stone, but there isn't really a character within those parts.  The narrator becomes so removed that it was difficult for me to pay attention during those sections.  Also, the end was drawn out.  It was nice to find out what happened to our characters after the war, but I felt like it was unnecessary and would have preferred it to end when the war ended.

I recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction because the setting is very real and World War II is really an important part of the story and not merely a background of events happening while the story takes place.  If you are looking for a book that is not only well-written, but beautifully written, then read All the Light You Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  You'll be amazed by the imagery and how everything is built so well.                                                                                                                      

Image Source: Goodreads

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Mindy Kaling
Crown Archetype, 2011
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4/5

Loved this book and I love Mindy Kaling.  I am nothing like her, but I want to be her friend.  Honestly, what would we talk about?  I hate shopping and fashion, I am not funny at all, and I have a very limited sense of humor.  Mindy Kaling's humor I enjoy greatly. In her collection of essays she writes about her childhood and being teased, to trying to make it in the world of comedy.  She writes about her family and the amazingness of her parents and how awesome her college experience was for her.  She writes about landing her first writing job and some of her mistakes along the way.  She does it all with humor.

One of the best pieces of advice Kaling gives in this is to young girls.  She stops to give random advice to young women throughout the book, but one of the best ones is a moment when she is talking about peaking in high school.  She warns kids not to worry about being the most popular, landing the lead in the play, or being the star on the team.  If you peak in high school, then where do you go from there?  Save it all for college and later in life.  I couldn't agree more!  Honestly, if I knew a junior or senior in high school I would buy them this book and tell them to read it immediately.

If you're looking for something funny and enjoy Mindy Kaling on TV, then pick this up.  I'm looking forward to reading her 2nd book sometime soon.

Image Source: Goodreads

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Teacher Break: 4 Inspirational Quotes

Today I am back at school for the start of a new year.  Last year was tough, so I'm looking at this with eager and hopeful eyes.  Here are some reminders for myself that I'd like to share.

I repeated this one to myself many days last year because I needed a reminder. I will start off the year reminding myself of this and looking for those students who need a little more love in their lives.

So many children out there don't have a champion.  If I can be that for one child, I will feel as if I've accomplished something in life.

Just a reminder of why I do my job.  They need me.  They need consistency and love and boundaries and support.  

Finally a reminder of why education is so vital.  It's the only way we can change our world for the better.  

So my fellow teachers, good luck this year.  I hope you touch one life this school year and help to change the world.  I hope you find yourself a happy place amongst the grading of papers and planning of lessons and calling/emailing home.  I hope you can share your happy place and keep it alive throughout the school year.  I will need to revisit this mid-year.  Maybe I should schedule this to reappear in November?  :)

Happy 2015-2016 School Year Everyone!

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Reading ReCap

Well tomorrow is the day when I welcome 25 kids into my classroom every hour for 7 hours (wish me luck because I'm falling on the floor as soon as they walk out of the room at 3:00).  It's the first day of school.  It's exciting and full of firsts and a beautiful, fresh new start for them and for me.  I'm looking forward to it, but I'm grieving over my loss of reading time.

I set lofty goals for myself this summer, not realizing how little I would get to read with a two year old.  Last summer I had two nap times to squeeze everything into.  This summer I had one--most days.  I came no where near the 45 books on my reading list (I know--what?!) but I did get a lot read, posted regularly on my blog, and discovered the world of Netgalley.

Here is my list of books read this summer.  Click on the picture and it'll take you to the review.





Review not yet posted, but were finished in time to be counted as "summer reads"


Overall, I'm pretty please with myself!  20 books in one summer with a two year old in tow?
I also have a few picture books I reviewed, but I decided not to include those in my count.  For some reason that seems like cheating.  It already feels a little bit like cheating when I read middle grade books, but it's important that I do since many of my students are reading at that level.

Image Source: Goodreads

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