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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Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Status: The Water Knife and Pieces of Why

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.

It's been a month!  I've been out of commission for the past month or so as I struggled to get ahead of my school work and back on track.  I'm still not there, but I'm getting there.  So I have a couple of reviews that I need to write as I start to get back into my reading and writing routine.  

The Water Knife
by Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Knopf, 2015
Source: purchased

I've been waiting to read this and started it a few weeks ago, but have had a difficult time really motivating myself to read much of anything, much less something so heavy.  However, I'm finally getting into it and it's terrifying.  Set in a future where water is like gold and the southwestern states are basically in war with one another over the rights to what water there is, I've met three characters who are all tied to this water war in their own way.  

I love post-apocalyptic books, but I'm afraid that this is just way too real!  I will finish it, but I'm terrified of what I will find when it's over.  I'm hoping that there will be some bit of hope at the end, but I'm not so sure that will happen and I'm only about 50 pages into a 400 page book!  

Pieces of Why
by K.L. Going
Publisher: Kathy Dawson Books, 2015
Source: student suggested

A student of mine wrote about this book in her responses recently and I responded that I was curious about the book and she let me borrow it.  So far I'm finding it really interesting as we following Tia who has just learned the truth about her father's incarceration, and she's reeling from it.  With her best friend by her side, though, she might be able to work her way through all these emotions and find out the real truth.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Book Review: In Defense of Read Aloud

In Defense of Read-Aloud: Sustaining Best Practice
by Steven L. Layne
Stenhouse Publishers, 2015
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I recently read Steven Layne's book Igniting a Passion for Reading and felt so in tune with what he was saying that I picked up In Defense of Read- Aloud and found myself in the same spot.  Only this time it's the middle of the school year and I'm thinking--crap! I did all of this wrong.  How to fix it?

I love reading aloud to my students and I have always tried to pick quality books that are newer and hopefully not many students have heard of or read before.  After reading Igniting over the summer, I already knew I was going to schedule read aloud time into my routine.  I believe I have been pretty successful at keeping up with this routine and following it.  We're reading Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin and my kids love it! They have begging to find out what happens to Rose Howard and her dog. However I've realized how incorrectly I'm going about this.

"Incorrect?" you ask. "It's a read aloud.  Just read it.  Aloud.  Done." Since I'm pretty confident in my ability to read books aloud and pull kids in, I thought I was doing great.  But I've realized that I haven't really been utilizing it to its full potential.  Instead of really using read alouds as a teaching tool, I've been using them as just "this a time to enjoy a book being read to you, kids." Sure we discuss ideas that come up and I stop to ask questions, but I never thought of planning those around my other lessons. I am embarrassed to admit that it didn't cross my mind earlier.  

I agree with so much of what Steven Layne says about reading aloud to kids--of all ages. There are so many books I want to share with my students, but they won't necessarily choose them, or they might be too difficult for them.  Problem solved with the read aloud.  

Teachers, please read this book--or any other Steven Layne book.  He's brilliant and hilarious and his writing comes across in an easy style that makes you believe he might be your best friend--or at the very least a good friend.  It's easy reading, but with so many ideas and content packed in that you're left wondering what it is you've been doing with yourself all these years of teaching!  Reading his work will make you think more about your habits and your expectations.  You'll start looking at the structure of your class and how you can incorporate some or all of his ideas.  

Images: Goodreads

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thursday's Teaching Moment: Some November Love From Your Fellow Teacher

I posted these at the beginning of the school year and I decided that it was a good idea to repost later on to remind myself of some important ideas.  We need some pick-me-ups.  Here are reminders about what we're doing.

This may be one that I need to post in multiple places.  Just as a reminder.

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.  

Winter break is almost here.  If you teach in the United States, then it's almost Thanksgiving.  A little time to recuperate and spend time with our loved ones before we return to our classroom of children who need us.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

What to do during a "Reading Slump"

Yep, I've hit it.  I have three books I'm reading at the same time and none of them (despite not being bad books) are getting read.

Part of this is a lack of time.  I haven't been able to read with my students this week because I needed to conference with quite a few of them during our silent reading time, and then I had to check in book totals for our school wide Read-A-Thon. It was fantastic, by the way, and we had popcorn parties to celebrate reaching and exceeding our goal of 1000 books as a school.

At home I'm either crawling into bed as soon as I put my daughter to bed, or staying up and grading or planning.  And it's only just now November.

I've come up with some plans for the next few days/weeks to get me out of this slump.

1) Forge my way through my PD book (which is actually quite good, and funny for a PD book, so why am I having a difficult time here?).  Steven Layne is a great writer and his books on reading are not stuffy and sleep-inducing.  I am really enjoying In Defense of Read Aloud and I will finish it.

2) Abandon all other books. I am finding nothing wrong with either of the books I'm reading in addition to Steven L. Layne's but I just can't find myself wanting to read.  Sad day.  So even though I've barely made it through Next Stop Nina by Robin Raven and Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, I need to put these to the side and revisit them when I'm in a better book place.  I feel like I could enjoy them much more if I attempt to do so in the future.

3) Forget my TBR pile.  It's there and it will never get smaller.  Just accept it.  I will jump around and find another book to read. Even if it isn't on my list! Here is my fall 2015 list (I already know it'll never be finished by the end of 2015).

Meghan's fall-2015 book montage

The Queen of the Tearling
The Goldfinch
All the Bright Places
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
Lost in the Sun
Nooks & Crannies
A Handful of Stars
Book Scavenger

Meghan's fall TBR books »

4) Choose something easy and fun.  No deeply moving titles that will have me sobbing into spine.  I need fun and exciting and possibly uplifting.  I just got this book in my Scholastic Order for the classroom.  Maybe I need to read it before I put it out for my students.  Star Wars Jedi Academy by Jeffery Brown is a quick read and I'll enjoy it.  Or I could jump into The Son of Neptune.  Rick Riordan is great about creating an exciting story that builds and builds and then he slips in something new just at the right time.  A great story teller.


5) Re-evaluate my order of books.  Just a week or so ago I posted about the books I'm looking forward to reading by the end of the year (check out that post here).  Maybe I should try one of those after I read one of the above mentioned books.  I WILL be reading Winter as soon as it arrives at school.  I've got a reading day planned for my kids! :)


Hopefully my slump will not last long.  Before I even attempt any of this, I have to finish up my work for a class I'm taking and then get some grading done too!  One more hour of nap time left.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Top Ten Reasons I Love Fall

Who doesn't love fall?  When I was younger I always imagined that I would get married in the fall and walk down an aisle of red, yellow. and orange leaves that crunched as I lightly tread towards my beloved.  Then I became a teacher and although I briefly thought of getting married in the fall, I scratched that idea off my list because there was no way I was going to plan a wedding while I had to grade and plan for classes.  Nonetheless, Fall is still my favorite time of year!  Here are some reasons why.

1) The colors
In the spring you get flowers and green green grass, but in the fall you get beautiful combinations of yellow and orange and red.  Plus, during the good part of fall (the warmer months) there is still a lot of green to throw into that combination of colors.

2) The leaves
So raking them isn't really a lot of fun (especially when you have as many trees as we do in our neighborhood) but I love the way a yard looks with a layer of leaves covering it.  My husband disagrees and as soon as the leaves really start to fall, he'll be out there raking them up every weekend until it freezes over.

3) The crunch 

I love the sound of leaves crunching underfoot.  You kick your feet through them and stomp on them.  My two year old loves to do this too and it makes me so happy to watch her seek out paths with a large pile of leaves.

4) Apples 

I love apple pie and apple crisp and apple cider and apple cake and anything else you can make with apples.

5) Pumpkins 

Now, I don't like eating pumpkin.  What I do like is decorating them.

6) Halloween
 I love Halloween and love dressing my daughter up in whatever she wants to be.  I wish we had more trick-or-treaters, but even if we didn't, we'll go out to some random events and I'll get to see all the different costumes and it'll be a grand time!

7) Fires.
It's been a few years since we used our fire pit because our daughter never stops moving and I can just see her jumping around and toppling into we'll wait a few years to try that out again.  I miss it thought.  Sitting outside with the flames throwing heat out at you, sizzling the cold away. Perfect!

8) Thanksgiving
The food.  Family.  That's all I have to say.

9) Reading inside 
I love being inside when I know it's cold outside--especially if I have a good book to read.  I'm warm and it's cool outside and I can see the leaves falling to the ground like magic carpets floating down to earth.

10) Cozying up with a good book
This would actually be the best part of any season, so it might be cheating, but we all know the best part of any day is the time you get to read!