Monday, February 29, 2016

February Reading Recap

How did your February go?  Mine?  Pretty good.  Here's what happened.

Books Read

Reviews Posted

A post about the importance of independent reading--true independent reading--by Jennifer Serravallo, found at NerdyBookClub.  Definitely check it out if you works with kids or come in contact with them ever.

A Valentine's Day post from Me My Shelf and I about gifts for kids.  I love giving our daughter books as gifts for all holidays.  These are some great suggestions!

Jessica Lifshitz wrote a great guest post over at the Scholastic blog about reading logs and their evilness (I may have inserted the evil part there).  She has some great alternatives that I'm thinking about implementing next year.  I really love the idea of the locker sign and am trying to find a way to make it really work in our middle school environment.

What's Coming Up in March
Although I'm never really sure what I'll be reading and when it'll be posted, here are some books on my TBR for the next month.

I've been wanting to read this for awhile and I finally ordered it for my classroom.  I was able to get started on it last week during our snow day!  I'm hoping to have something to say about it very soon. 

Another book that's been on my TBR list for awhile.  A friend just read it and passed it along.  So now I *have* to read.  :) 
One of my Netgalley titles.  It has the earliest publication date on my list, so I'm going to try and read it before then so I can get a review out. 

Of course there will be plenty more books read this month, but you know me!  I don't tend to really follow any kind of schedule with choosing books.  When I try I just end up frustrated!  Here's hoping I find a really good book this month.  

Friday, February 26, 2016

2016 Reading Challenges Update

My overall reading challenge is going great!  So far I've read 12 books out of the 65 I'm trying to get to by the end of the year.  If I keep this up I'm sure to surpass that goal; however I'm sure that I'll hit a few patches where I just can't read as much for whatever reason.  So this gives me a good cushion!

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Meghan has
read 0 books toward her goal of 65 books.


I've set my goal as 15 novels (middle grade or higher) and 5 picture books. 

The NetGalley Reading Challenge is hosted by Fictively. It runs from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016. The goal is to keep reading those NetGalley books and also reviewing them so that you keep your rating up.

Here is my list of NetGalley Reads:

Novels on NetGalleyDate ReadPicture Books on NetGalleyDate Read
1. Alistair Grim's Odd AquaticumJan 9, 20161. Too Many Carrots by Kate HudsonFebruary 14, 2016
2. Up to This Pointe by Jennifer LongoJanuary 19, 20162. Little One2016
3. Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing EyeFebruary 17, 20163.

The ratio of Netgalley's to bought/borrowed books isn't so high.  Oh well.  I'm not too concerned about this.  I do need to make more of an effort to read some of those, though.

How are your challenges going?  Keeping up the momentum?  I hope so.  Good luck!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Review: Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye

Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye
Tania del Rio
Quirk Books, 2015
Source: from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

~What It's About~
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye introduces us to Warren, the heir to the Warren Hotel. Although only Warrens can run the hotel, our Warren is still a boy and his Uncle Rupert (not a Warren) has run the hotel into the ground. Uncle Rupert's new wife is even worse, tearing apart the rooms as she searches for the mythical All-Seeing Eye. Warren has always thought that it was a silly rumor, but then he finds the journal of Warren the 2nd and he realizes it may actually exist. If it does, then he must find it before his aunt does or the hotel may be destroyed.

~The Good~
Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye is quirky with odd and over the top characters. Uncle Rupert is so lazy he falls asleep at all hours of the day wherever he happens to be. Warren is described as looking like a toad with beautiful blonde hair. The reason he looks so different is not addressed. It simply is so. Although Warren the 13th seems very lonely, it's soon apparent that he does have some friends rooting for him--even if they're all adults. Throughout the story he makes some more friends and they all band together to help one another.

I also enjoyed the sense of adventure and mystery. Kids will enjoy finding out the mystery behind the All-Seeing Eye and the Warren Hotel.  I think they'll be surprised by the results.

~The Not-So-Good~
There were too many characters. Before things take off, Warren has his uncle, aunt, tutor, and the Chef to live with. That number quickly escalates after a turn of events brings hordes of people to the hotel. Not every character is focused on, but he gains a couple of friends, an enemy or two, a mysterious guest, some annoying guests, and one who offers him an escape. All these different personalities felt pressed in and fake. Some were too over the top, trying to be quirky and fit in the tone of book better.

I felt like there was too much going on.  First we have him dealing with his evil Aunt Anaconda (what a name--right?) and there are magical creatures who come into the story.  He meets someone his own age who is supposedly staying at the hotel and there is a mysterious guest who is creeping around.  Add to this the fact that he has to find the Eye before his aunt and suddenly the hotel is swarmed with people also looking for the same object. The ending was also a bit out of nowhere, but I don't want to spoil it if you want to give it a try yourself.

~Final Thoughts~
Overall, I wasn't too thrilled with Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye. It was a bit messier for me and I felt that some things were just jumped over or left behind.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Mail: Toddler Edition

I'm so excited to get this book in today!

My daughter's name is Emma and she'll be starting dance in the summer. I was going to save it to read to her right before we went to dance class, but I can't wait! It'll be a perfect surprise for our snow day today! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Picture Book Review: Too Many Carrots

Too Many Carrots
Katy Hudson
Picture Window Books, Feb 1, 2016
Source: from the publisher, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I remember when I was a little girl and my mom told me that too much of anything was a bad thing.  I asked, "What about carrots?"  These were the only vegetable I would willingly eat and I was still not too thrilled with the idea of eating any vegetable.  My mom told me that even too many carrots could end up being a bad thing if that's all you ate.  In Too Many Carrots, Rabbit's obsession with his collection of carrots isn't about him eating too many, it's about him hoarding too many. He ends up with so many carrots that he has no where to live because they take up his entire house.  Luckily, Rabbit has some good friends who allow him to stay with them, but Rabbit insists on taking his carrots with him...all of them.

This is a great story that will help teach kids about the importance of not overindulging.  In Rabbit's case it isn't about eating too many carrots (rabbits eat a lot of carrots--right?) but about making those carrots so important that they take over his life.  I'm reading too much into this, I know.  Kids will enjoy the story and like seeing the problem get larger and larger as he has to continually find a new home, for not only him, but the friends he has also made homeless.

The pictures are great.  They're detailed enough that there is plenty to look at and discover, but not overly so.  There's still plenty of white space on the page for young eyes to find some rest and be able to identify the words easily.  One of my favorites pictures is actually the cover pages because there are so many wonderful details and the copyright information is seamlessly integrated into the artwork.

The words are also spaced out well enough so that there's not too much on each page.  As a parent reading to a toddler who has a lot of energy and doesn't make it very long without wanting to turn the page, this means we can *hopefully* get through all the words on the page.  This might not be on every parent's wishlist for good books, but it's one of mine, for the time being.

Kids will laugh at Rabbit's decisions and have fun figuring out how Rabbit should handle the problem of too many carrots.  Too Many Carrots would be a great Spring or Easter gift if you're into that.

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Saturday, February 20, 2016


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.

~At Home~

Why Not Me?
Mindy Kaling
Crown Archetype, 2015
Source: local library

I think Mindy Kaling is hilarious and I loved her previous book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  I'm not that far into this one, but so far the essays aren't as good.  In her previous one, they concerned her life growing up and being a woman in a field dominated by men.  So far I've read one about beauty secrets and one about sorority life.  Even though they're sarcastic and I see the humor in them as she pokes fun at herself and others, I'm finding it harder to connect to these essays.  I'm hoping that I'll enjoy some of the others more.

~At School~

Dead Upon A Time
Elizabeth Paulson
Scholastic Press, 2015
Source: purchased for my classroom library

This is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but in this case, it may not have been a wolf who took Kate Hood's grandmother.  And she has to get Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) to help her because no one in town will speak with her.  It's then that she finds out there are others who have been taken and no one is talking about them either.

I'm trying to give it a chance, but I'm not feeling it too much just now.  I've also not been able to give it too much time at school due to lots of other things I'm trying to take care of.  I need to focus on it a bit more when I have time.  After all, I should be reading with my students and not grading--right?

~Listening To ~

The Thing About Jellyfish
Ali Benjamin
Read by Sarah Franco
Little Brown Young Readers, 2015
Source: purchased

I'm still listening to The Thing About Jellyfish.  I've managed to listen to a bit more here and there, but not enough.  If I could grade and listen to an audiobook, I would, but then I either stop paying attention to what I'm grading or I cut out the audio and find myself lost in the book.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: I'd Know You Anywhere

I'd Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
William Morrow, 2010
Source: borrowed
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

What it's about
Eliza Benedict has been living a quiet life with her family for the past twenty years. She has left her past behind her--until Walter Bowman writes her from prison. He has only a few months until he is put to death and he wants to talk with her. Forced to relive the summer she was fifteen and Walter kidnapped, Eliza begins to realize that her life and her family have never been as safe and unknown as she had thought. How did he find her and has he changed? Why does he want to speak with her now? The story is told through present day narratives and flashbacks to 1985 when Eliza was kidnapped.

The Good
The flashbacks were told from both Walter's perspective and from Eliza's perspective. They were the best parts. The voices of both characters (Walter as a young man and Elizabeth, as she was known at age 15) were very grounded and believable. The details and clarity from both characters during the flashbacks made those parts shine.

The Not-so Good
Although the voices of the younger characters were well done, I can't say the same about the rest of the book.  First, let's talk about Eliza--present day Eliza. In the first section of the book we hear only from her in the present. All other voices are from the past. This is unfortunate because her voice isn't strong and it's often taken over by snippets of her husband, daughter, or son. I was pulled out of the story multiple times trying to figure out who was doing what.  Perhaps it's because Eliza has let her husband and kids take over so much of who she is. This is suggested near the end of the book, but at that point I had been struggling with it throughout the entire book. It only served as a band aid to cover up the problem.

Another issue I had was about half way through we were suddenly introduced to the point of views of other characters with whom we had barely come in contact. Some were important to the story, but did they warrant their own perspectives? I don't think so. Most were completely unnecessary.

Quite a lot of this book could have been cut out. I was never truly concerned for Eliza or her family during the present time, but I felt that I should have been. During the flashbacks I was concerned but then those stopped. I ended up finishing it only to see if Eliza would confront Walter.

Final Thoughts
Overall, it was a disappointment. I had expected more of a thriller or mystery but I didn't really get either.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Character Spotlight: Jaron

My warning: If you have not read this series, you may want to skip this character spotlight and check out the review of The False Prince, then pick a copy of your own to read.  There are some slight spoilers in the spotlight below.  I've been as vague as possible here, but alas, it was inevitable that some things would be spoiled. 

Here are the reviews for all three books.  Scroll down for the Character Spotlight.

The False Prince                                The Runaway King                         The Shadow Throne 

The Ascendance Trilogy
Jennifer A. Nielsen

Jaron acts nothing like you're idea of a king.  He doesn't act like royalty at all.  He's always in trouble and rarely stops to think before he jumps into a dangerous situation.  This is actually one of my favorite things about Jaron.  From the first book, you see him get an idea into his head and just go with it.  Even as you're groaning because you know, just know, that something huge is going to go wrong, you're also hoping that he knows more than you and it'll go right.  Often times you're right, but then the next thing you know, he'll surprise you with his intellect.

Not that Jaron every acts anything other than intelligent. He is intelligent, but he lets his emotions get in the way of reason and thoroughly thinking through an action.  Also, he never fully reveals everything he knows and everything that he is thinking--even to the reader--so when he makes a huge decision that seems to be leading him to certain death, you're surprised by what he has planned out.  You had hoped he had a plan--a real one--but you were certain he didn't.

I think Jaron has a lot that he has held close to himself, not sharing with anyone really.  Even when he does share, it's very limited information and to very few people.  He's had to this.  It was essential in his younger years when he was an orphan that no one know the truth about his past and about who he really was.  Even later, when most of that has come out he still keeps as much to himself as possible and it's still understandable because his life is in danger.

Another quality I like about Jaron is how snarky he is!  He's not afraid to tell someone what needs to be said, even if he is being held captive by that person and he'll be beaten in return for rude comments.  In fact, often he says things that don't even need to be said, but are still true and hurtful to people who really deserve them.  I'm not sure why I like this about him so much--maybe because it's an essential part of who he is, but I did enjoy those times when he would cut an enemy down with his words.

If you haven't read the Ascendance Trilogy, then I've probably ruined it a little for you, and I'm sorry, but you'll love Jaron so much that you just have to read him!  He's a terrific character that middle graders will latch onto and want to find out what happens to him next.

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Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: The Neptune Project

The Neptune Project
Polly Holyoke
Disney/Hyperion, 2013
Source: borrowed
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Nere has always loved the ocean.  She's grown up swimming with and training the dolphins--it helps that she can communicate with them telepathically--and then the government announces that they will be moving everyone to help reduce the smuggling that is happening their area.  This terrifies Nere because she's always relied on being near the ocean to help with her breathing and inland there won't be medicine to help her breathe or the ocean air to settle her lungs.  Then her mother tells her the truth--that she, along with a few other children in their small town, have been genetically altered to be similar to dolphins.  Their job is to evade the government and swim up the coast thousands and thousands of miles to find the refuge built for them and the many other children throughout the country who have also been genetically altered.  Nere doesn't want to be an experiment, though, and she's angry that her parents never told her when everyone else seemed to know this would happen to them someday.  Nonetheless, the only way she and her friends will live is by following her mom's directions.

So this book was better than I had anticipated.  A student had leant it to me and I have had it on my desk since right before Winter break.  I'm always hoping to like a book that a student lends me, but it's not always possible and I feel bad if I'm not as enthusiastic about it as they are, happens. Luckily with this book I'll be able to find some positive things to talk with her about.

For one thing, the story moves quickly and there is a lot of action.  Most of the time they are in grave danger, which means there are spear guns being shot (by the main characters or their enemies), boats overhead, fishing nets, or sharks to deal with as they are trying to escape north.  Within those moments I did want to find out what happened, but there was one too many "let's escape the boats" moment.  It felt a little repetitive and in between those fights, I was bored, thinking that there really wasn't much I was getting from other sections.

I didn't really get a good feel for any of the characters.  Even Nere felt a little flat to me, but obviously not as much as the others.  The only character I was mildly interested in was Dai, but he very soon became too predictable for me and although I wondered what was up with him exactly, it wasn't enough to keep me focused on him.  The other characters that Nere and her friends meet up with all seemed to have a type that they fit into.  Kyel was the tough guy in charge who likes to be in control. Thom was the strong guy, but really funny and helpful.  Tobin was the sensitive one, smart.  Ree was the tough girl.  Lena was the mean girl/ex-best friend from home. Bria was the sweet little girl. Robry was the little brother type kid who was really smart and full of energy. Dai was the bad boy.  Nere was the girl who didn't think she could do it, but did and who everyone trusts right away because she's Nere.  Ehh.  There were a few more characters but I don't really remember their names.Oh and there were all the dolphins in the pod that Nere trained.  They each have their own personalities too.

There's also this really weird love...rectangle?  Not sure what to call it.  But Nere misses Cam, who is on land and hopefully still alive, but then she's intrigued by Dai, but Tobin likes her and she kind of likes him, but probably more in a friendly way.  Oh yeah and Lena likes Tobin and wants to make sure that Nere knows it so she won't steal him away from her.  So many it's a love pentagon?  Too much. However I'm pretty sure that 13 year old Meghan would have loved that description.

So it was an okay book, but there was a lot of what felt like "filler" and I was left wanting a better understanding of the characters.  Or at least a few of them. I am somewhat interested in the second book because I'm wondering what happens to a few characters, but I'm not going to try and squeeze it into my reading anytime soon.

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Sunday, February 14, 2016

#SundayStatus: Valentine's Day, I'd Know You Anywhere and The Thing About Jellyfish

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.

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you're enjoying the day with your loved ones, whomever that may include. So far, mine has included breakfast with my daughter and husband, snow day fun, and watching Inside Out.  I'm looking forward to some really good pulled pork from the crockpot this evening and watching The Walking Dead, if I can convince my husband to stay up later since we both don't need to get up for work tomorrow.

This week I'm still reading the same books.  I feel like I've not done much reading for the past two weeks, and had hoped to have this one finished.

~At Home~

I'd Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
William Morrow, 2010
Source: borrowed

I may not finish this one.  First, there are so many "Parts."  I think I'm on Part VI and some of the sections have only been like 20-30 pages and I'm seeing a clear divide between them.  They already have chapters within each part, so why do you need them?

The first part was pretty long and it switched between present day Eliza's life and point of view, 1985 Eliza (known as Elizabeth back then), and 1985 Walter Bowman (her kidnapper during the year of 1985).  I only really enjoyed the flashbacks to 1985.  I had trouble staying within the reality of the present day because Eliza's voice kept being overtaken by hints of her kids or husband seeping in.  Maybe that's purposeful?  I don't know, but I don't really like it.

Now in whatever Part I'm on currently they've added more perspectives and cut out most of the past.  So far we have four more characters whose voices were not present in the first part, and some of whom were barely even mentioned until suddenly you're hearing form their point of view half way through the novel.

I may not finish.  It'll have been two weeks at this point.  If I don't finish tonight, I'm going to have to move on.

~Listening To ~

The Thing About Jellyfish

Ali Benjamin
Read by Sarah Franco
Little Brown Young Readers, 2015
Source: purchased

I'm still listening to The Thing About Jellyfish.  My goal had been to listen while I walked...well since it's been cold and not warm (typical for this time of year) I haven't listened at all until today while I was cleaning the bathroom.  I'm hoping to find some more significant time to devote to listening soon.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

Celebrating Valentine's Day with Books That I Love

In honor of Valentine's Day, here is a little book love.  Most are newer books, but two are old favorites.

           Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1)      Ava   

You may already know that I love Anne Shirley with all my heart and that I fell in love Anne of Green Gables as a child.  I've written about it a few times.  Instead of rehashing it all, here it is for you to peruse at your own leisure.
Character Spotlight: Anne Shirley
Character Spotlight: Gilbert Blythe
Six of my Favorite Literary Figures from Childhood
Mother Figures in Literature

What you may not know is that I fell in love with Carole Maso's AVA when I was in college.  I mean fell in love.  It was my first grown up love story with a book.  AVA is about a woman who is dying and during her last days of life she offers us snippets of what she remembers. These little short bursts of images were so beautiful I remember not knowing what to do with myself.  I remember sitting with my friend who was in the same class as we were both reading and we were just incredibly enthralled.  It was silent in the room, but there so much energy as we each poured through the pages and then went back through moments later to mark something we loved.  I choreographed a dance based on this book, with the words as our music, and I still remember the gingko trees.  The pages of that book are filled with notes and post its and a few gingko leaves.  :)

      Station Eleven      The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)          

Station Eleven is a newer book.  I read it about a year ago and it was just so beautifully written that I keep thinking about it, wondering when I should return to it.  A year sounds like enough time, but is it?  Should I wait a little longer?  Here's my review of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

I love, love, love, love, love The Wrath and the Dawn.  I can't stop thinking about how awesome it is!  I definitely will be reading this one again before The Rose and the Dagger comes out in May.  Guess who already pre-ordered it!!!
Here are a few things I've written about The Wrath and the Dawn (as you can see, I've been a bit obsessed with it as of late):
Not-Too-Romantic Reads
Book Rave: The Wrath and the Dawn
Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn
Best Literary Villains
Best Book Covers

Finally, is Wonder.  I fell in love with Wonder one day when I happened to randomly find it in my mailbox at school.  I loved August's story and have built it into my sixth grade curriculum.  I start out with this book each year now and we study it--not only for it's literary merit, but for it's character building.  Students participate in kindness projects and we refer back to August and all his friends throughout the school year. It is the perfect start to our year together.

What books do you love? 

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Four Not-too-Romantic Reads for Valentine's Weekend

Not really big news here, but I'm not a fan of Romances.  
In my more formative years I got hooked on the squeaky clean teen romance series Sweet Dreams.  I owned so many of these books it was ridiculous!  And I loved them.  P.S. I Love You by Barbara Conklin was the first one I ever read. Here's the link to it on Goodreads.  This was in the sixth grade or so.  I continued reading NOTHING BUT TEEN ROMANCES until I was in high school where I branched out a little bit.  Even in college I still loved a good romance with cheesy characters and a love story that melted the heart.

Somewhere along the line I became cynical and it all just makes me roll my eyes and groan out loud and bang my head on my desk.  But it's Valentine's day this weekend.  So what if you want something with a little romance?  Because a little romance is perfect, but I prefer the story to be something more than just romance.  For me, it needs to have something else there to the story.  Something else to help ground it in reality.

So here is a list of "love stories" for the non-romantic person to delve into this weekend.

1) These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Really this is mystery.  Jo Montfort is prepared to marry the most eligible bachelor and begin her life as a wife and mother, but what she wants is to be a journalist like Nellie Bly.  When her father is found dead in his office from an apparent accidental gun shot, Jo doesn't buy it.  So she gets Eddie--a young journalist at her father's paper--to help her find out the truth.  The story revolves around Jo's search for the truth, but there is something between her and Eddie, despite Jo knowing that soon she will be expected to get married and start a proper life for herself.  The romance is not what keeps this story going, but it is important and not eye-roll-inducing.

For more info, check out my review here.

2) The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Not so much the love story you're thinking of--unless you're somewhat familiar with the A Thousand and One Tales. Shahrzad's best friend was chosen as a bride for the Caliph, and just like all the others she was killed the next morning.  So Shahrzad offers herself up as the next bride, with the intent of ending the nightly deaths by killing the Caliph.  Each night she tells him stories, keeping him intrigued until she can find an opportunity when his guard is down.  But he's not at all who she thought he would be and she finds herself just as intrigued by him, making her job even more difficult.  I don't know, maybe you would label this a romance, but it doesn't feel that way at all.  Plus it's fabulous and the second one (The Rose and the Dagger) comes out in May, so you should probably read it soon anyway -- if you haven't already.

Want to find out more about this book?  My review can be found here.

3) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
So this one is a romance.  It's the story of two high schoolers who meet on the bus and become a couple.  Only it's much more than that, too.  Eleanor has just moved back in with her mom and her stepdad is awful, awful, awful.  She and her four or five (I can't remember) siblings all sleep in the same room.  She has only a few items of clothings and they're falling apart.  And she has to go to highschool and get through the day there.  Park lives with his over protective mom and dad, his grandparents next door, and his younger brother who is exactly the type of son his father wants--not at all like Park.  I never once rolled my eyes during this book.  Instead, I was truly drawn into their lives and needed to know that they would both be okay.  Check it out.

Need more?  You can find my review right here.

4) Legend series by Marie Lu
June and Day.  Although this is not really about them, it is.  You have to read the entire series before you can truly appreciate their relationship.  The books are set in a future society of The Republic in which Day is a wanted criminal who is just a kid, but has managed to evade capture for years already.  June is at the top of her class in the military academy.  The Republic needs June to figure out who the criminal is that they're looking for and capture him.  It's a matter of national security.  Meanwhile there is a plague affecting citizens that is deadly and when families contract the disease, there is little hope for survival.  Read the entire series and get to know both June and Day a bit better.  If you're planning on reading this for Valentine's Day weekend, you might want to start immediately!!

I don't have a review of this one written, but here's the Goodreads page.

What are your romance suggestions for readers who aren't really into the whole romance thing?

Monday, February 8, 2016

Book Review: On Writing

On Writing
Stephen King
Simon & Schuster Scribner, 2000
Source: my local library
Rating 3.5 out of 5

On Writing is part memoir, part writing companion.  Although Stephen King does go into some stylistic writing advice, it's not a manual or a how-to book in any way.  Instead, he tells you his story of writing and how it has worked for him, followed by some very detailed reasons why one should or should not choose certain approaches.  He shares examples of drafts, illustrating the difference between between the good choice and the not so great choice.  Woven through all of this are stories of his life as a writer, from the time he was a young boy obsessed with horror flicks, to the time of the publication.  The last section even describes the accident in which he was very nearly killed and how he was able to recover from it through his writing.

My favorite piece of advice from Stephen King is his idea about writing with the door closed and then the door open.  It's been a long time since I've gotten to the door open part, but that's also because I don't have a writing routine.  I write when I can fit it in--when I don't have grading, my daughter is asleep, there isn't laundry waiting to be done, I have read at least thirty minutes that day (sometimes this is all I get), I have blog posts for the next week finished, and I'm not exhausted.  I felt really guilty when I read this because according to him I should be making it happen.  One day I'll have time.  Until then, I'll squeeze it in when I can.

I did enjoy reading Stephen King's advice on writing and the process, but there were some sections that I did find more tedious and this was closer to the end.  They were just moving so slowly.  So I ended up skimming a few pages here and there, but it was still a good read.  I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys writing and has dreams of one day finding the time to write a book.

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Sunday, February 7, 2016

#SundayStatus: I'd Know You Anywhere

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.

I've narrowed down my three books from last week to just one for now.

I'd Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
William Morrow, 2010
Source: borrowed

Eliza Benedict has moved on with her life, but when she receives a letter from the man who held her captive as a teenager, she's torn back into the past.  He saw a picture of her and her husband in the paper and found someone who would write a letter for him and send it to her from jail.  She's not sure how to handle this, but Walter is set to be executed soon for the murder of the other young girls he killed.

I started this earlier on in the week, but haven't had a chance to really delve into it, so that's about all I know.  One thing that's bothering me right now is the voice.  It's a story told in both present day and through flashbacks and it isn't the flashbacks that are bothering me, but the present day parts from the main character's point of view.  Sometimes it seems to skip around, but not quite and I find myself pulled back for a moment wondering whose point of view we're getting and what's going on. The flashbacks seem much more grounded. Can't tell if this is going to pan out and there is a reason for it, but I'll let you know when I finish.

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Friday, February 5, 2016

Book Review: Dork Diaries, Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life
Rachel Rene Russell
Aladdin, 2009
Source: my classroom library
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I picked this up to see what all the fuss was about.  Hordes of girls are reading this series and have been for a few years.  I thought it was time that I found out a little more about it.  It turns out that they're pretty hilarious, although I might think they're funny for reasons other than those that make my students laugh.

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life shows us the world of Nikki Maxwell, drama queen, artist, and new girl at her Westchester Country Day Middle School.  She's there on scholarship and she's devestated that she does not have a super cool cell phone like all the kids in her class have because she'll never be in the cool and popular group that way.  The worse part of her new school is that her locker is right next to Mackenzie Hollister's, the "it" girl in school who also happens to be the meanest girl in school.  Nikki's first few months of school are going to be pretty harrowing if she has to deal with her.

Nikki is smart and funny and dramatic.  She's not smart in the sense that she has straight A's and doesn't have to study. She actually struggles with some of her classes and has to find time to study for her tests and even then doesn't always do super great, but she tries.  She works hard.  She's also a great artist and fills her diary (which we are reading) with pictures of what happened that day.  The exaggerations of her experiences are quite humorous, as are the dreams with which she fills up her diary.  Some things that I wasn't too thrilled about with Nikki's character is that although she's smart, I think she lets her intellect be swallowed up by the desire to be cool.  She's ready and willing to accept an invitation from the cool kids in school, despite the fact that they're mean and even cruel towards her.  It's as if she is ready to throw away who she is to be a part of that group.  The melodramatic parts of her both make me laugh at the ridiculousness of her rants, but also cringe at them too.  However, as a middle school teacher, I see some of the same dramatics on a daily basis, so maybe it's a little difficult to get past it.

Luckily Nikki learns about friendship in this book and what it means.  Her friends aren't perfect either and they all learn a little lesson about being who they are and not ditching someone for a different crowd.  So there are redeeming factors, and I'm certain that if I continued reading the series Nikki would continue to grow and learn some great lessons.  I'm almost positive this is true based on some of my students' responses about different books in the series.

Although I will not be reading more of this series, I think that it's a great, fun read for middle schoolers.  Nikkie's sarcasm and artwork show how she can be creative and smart and start to stand up for herself as well. If you have a middle grade reader in your life, I definitely recommend these--although you might be inviting more of the dramatic into your world!

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Best and Worst: Literary Couples

In honor of Valentine's Day, here are my best and worst couples in Literature.  You may hate me after reading the worsts!  Sorry...kind


Cress and Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles.  I loved these two!  It might be partly because Thorne reminds me of Captain Malcom Reynolds in Firefly, played by Nathan Fillion.  Sigh!  I fell  in love with their dynamic.

Lizzie and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.  Cue the witty banter.  Mr. Darcy is infuriating.  Truly he is and you just want to kick him sometimes and spend half the time wishing that Lizzie would do the same.  But then he loves her.  Oh... And he goes after Wickham without wanting her to know.  He convinces Mr. Bingly to come back (we'll ignore that the reason he left in the first place) and see Jane.  I love these two.

Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables series.  From the day he called her "carrots" and tugged on her braid and she broke her slate over his head.  They were meant for one another.  I know it took her awhile to get it through her silly head that she loved him, but I knew.  We all knew.

Day and June from the Legend series.  They start out as enemies, one working for the Republic, the other working against it, but it doesn't take long to realize that these two will overcome great odds.  I loved their story and I loved the ending and the hope that the Legend series brought along with it.  I may need to read this again soon.

Eleanor and Park from Eleanor & Park.  They seem to be odd together.  They really do.  And they even look at each other with annoyance when they first meet, but they become a strong pair.  They make sense.

Jo and Eddie from These Shallow Graves.  She's a socialite and should be interested in snagging a proposal from the most eligible bachelor, but instead she's running around with a journalist, trying to solve a murder.  He doesn't leave anything out when he tells her what needs to be said and she takes it.

Shahrzad and Khalid from The Wrath and the Dawn.  Oh my word.  Bestill my heart.  I can't even speak more about these two because if you haven't read this yet, I will give big things away.  But I MUST have the next book.  Now please.  Now.  My heart needs it.


Bella and Edward from the Twilight books.  And no, this doesn't mean that she should have gotten together with Jacob--although that's a better option and would have taken care of the weird imprinting thing in the last book.  My main problem with these two is that they're whiny together.  Bella is always "Oh poor me.  I can't make it through a day without my Edward.  He's left me. Someone take care of me?  Jacob will do--for now."  And Edward is so distraught over whether or not she should love him.  He thinks that he can make that decision for her.  He wants to make every decision for her.  Uggg.  My eyes are rolling up into my head just thinking about these two!

Katniss and Peeta from The Hunger Games trilogy.  (Yep, I hear rioting now.) Here's a little secret about me and The Hunger Games: I can't stand Katniss.  I really really dislike her and the only reason I ever cared about her was because she was the only one who could take care of Peeta.  Until Mockingjay.  Then he doesn't need her, which makes her unnecessary in my eyes.  So them actually together as a couple--whether faking it or not--just killed me.  Let Peeta find a nice girl who actually thinks before making rash decisions once in awhile.  I know, you're bringing up Prim and Rue and all the nice things that Katniss does.  I don't care.  I don't like her.  My biggest problem with the movies: I really like Jennifer Lawrence and it made me kind of like her character more than I wanted to.

Tris and Four from the Divergent series.  Again, another girl who is making stupid and selfish decisions that she thinks will save everyone, but obviously won't.  And then add in the fourth book where we were suddenly hearing from Four's point of view only it was really hard to distinguish the difference between the two voices.  Ruined them.  They would have been okay with me, until that point.

What literary couples do you love or hate?  Or love to hate?