Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May Reading Recap

How has your May been?

The end of school has come!  It's summer!  I've had no time to get together a formal summer reading list, so...yeah. There is none.  Just a big crate full of books I'm packing up from my classroom that I want to read over the summer.

This month I've taken part in the Unexpectedly Epic Morgan Matson Week hosted by Tiff at Mostly YA Lit.  Check her out.  She has a great website!

Books Read


Other Posts and Highlights

Favorite Links
Morgan Matson Week at Mostly Ya Lit
Tiff at Mostly YA Lit hosted a week of Morgan Matson.  Lots of posts about her work and some fans reactions and love for her books.

A Torch in the Night Giveaway!
Me, My Shelf And I has lots of great reviews and is now giving away an ARC copy of A Torch in the Night by Sabaa Tahir.  It's the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes, which I read and reviewed last year.  Click on the link above for Me, My Shelf and I's review and click here for my review!

Summer Reading Bingo Sheet
Check out this bingo sheet for a challenging summer reading.  Shaina from Shaina Reads has some suggestions for books she might read to cross each square off.  If you're looking for a summer reading challenge, this could be it!
What's Coming Up in June
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.

This is still here.  I got sidetracked this month!

 This is from my classroom and I've been wanting to read it for awhile.

Another book from my classroom that I've been meaning to read for awhile, but it has been a hot commodity.  Now that it's summer, it's all mine!

I bought this book a few months ago, but never got to it.  So I'm attempting to read it this summer instead of buying new books.

I am definitely not good at following my reading plans.  I get sidetracked by something new or something that just becomes available, but I will have plenty of time to read this summer so I'm hoping to get a lot of reading done in June! 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Book Review: The Elite and The One

The Elite
by Kiera Cass
Harper Teen, 2013
Genre: YA, Romance
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 2 out of 5

The One
by Kiera Cass
Harper Teen, 2014
Genre: YA, Romance
Source: borrowed from library
Rating: 3 out of 5

In the second and third installments of The Selection series, America Singer is still in the race for Prince Maxon's heart.  While he's giving her time to come to terms with her feelings for him and whether or not she wants to be queen, America is just trying to manage her way through the competition.  Aspen's appointment as her guard doesn't help her figure out her feelings because every time he is near her, she remembers him and how he loved her.  Plus, Maxon is spending a lot of time with the other girls, now that there's only six of them, and America doesn't like it.  It isn't until she takes a risk and Maxon's father wants her gone, does she realize just how much she truly does love the prince and how she will fight to be the one he chooses.  Now she has the King out to sabotage her even more than the three remaining girls.  America finds herself in the middle of political upheaval, trying to win a competition, help her country, and stay true to herself.

I decided to include review for both of these books together because I raced through them within a few days in order to find out what happened in the end.  I will say that The Elite was even more of the same, with America beginning to get a little more interesting.  With six girls in the competition, it became more aggravating that Maxon continued to date all these girls and America (as well as the others) was expected to sit around and wait for him.  What helped move the story along was the addition of some political and moral dilemmas America finds herself in and how she reacts towards them.  Each reaction causes more problems for her and those she loves.  But it wasn't until the last book that I really felt that this took shape and America's role in her country became solidified--even if she doesn't become queen.  Also there some surprising parts that I wasn't expecting to happen.

The most annoying parts of the book were the love triangle-ness, which somewhat diminishes within the third book, but not really.  It would be more accurate to say it just got too complicated and muddled to be a triangle anymore.  What made me enjoy the third book was how America came into her own and stuck by her beliefs in all ways that she was given a chance to do so.

I will not go on and read the other books that deal with future children of Illea.  For me, the door is closed on the Selection since I now know how this selection ended.  That's all I needed and now I can move on to another book.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Audiobook Review: The Selection

The Selection
Kiera Cass
Performed by: Amy Rubinate
Harper Teen, 2012
Genre: YA, Romance
Source: Purchased
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

America Singer is a Five, an artist and is in love with Aspen, who is a Six.  They meet in secret and hope to one day be able to marry, but America knows her mother would never approve.  When the King and Queen announce that The Selection will soon begin, America is pressured by her family and Aspen to enter.  She does, hoping to get them off her back, but when she is picked as one of The Selected, America must leave her family, her life as a Five, and travel to the capital of Illea where she will compete against thirty five other girls from many different castes for the heart of Prince Maxon.  Although she doesn't want to, America goes because she knows it will help her family financially, planning to keep herself there as long as possible without actually vying for the prince's affection.  When she meets Prince Maxon, though, America realizes that maybe she will have to rethink her plans, but can she really compete against all these other girls, some of whom are Twos?

Illea is a country set up in a caste system, allowing people within a caste to only perform certain jobs, therefore keeping them stuck financially, except if they are able to marry up or, in rare cases, to buy their way up to the next level.  It's a horrible system and we see that immediately through America's home life.  Although she loves Aspen, who is a caste below her, she cannot let her family know this or they would stop her from seeing him.  If she were to marry him, she would become his caste.  The Selection is a process meant to appease the masses, allowing multiple girls from the lower castes to compete for the prince's love and ultimately the crown.  It's ridiculous.

I'm not sure why I read this book, honestly.  Many of my students have read it and a few friends and everyone loved it, but I kept cringing at the comparison to The Bachelor.  I cannot stand that show (sorry if you're a fan).  So why did I read it?  Peer pressure.  I opted to listen to it instead on my runs, thinking that might make it better.  I'm not sure it did because I was not a fan of the performance itself.  What I did enjoy was the buildup of whether or not America would stay and whether or not Maxon would let her. Although I am pretty sure how it's all going to end up, there is enough back and forth that I can't tell just HOW it will happen.

Some things I'm not a fan of: the love triangle.  OH MY GOSH the love triangle.  I am so annoyed by America's back and forth of Aspen to Maxon and back to Aspen, but not when Maxon is with her, then it's back to him again.  Ugh.  Plus, the whole thing where Maxon is dating multiple women at the same time, but America is forbidden to even be thinking about or communicating with someone else is so....annoying.  It truly bothers me.  And as I just finish reading the second book and am already on book three, I'm even more annoyed by all of this silliness.  Because that's what it is.  Silly.

Yet here I am, needing to find out what happens.  Wanting to know how she ends up with Maxon, because at this point (knowing there are books out already about their future children and whatnot) it's obvious that will happen.  So there is something to be said about the quality of the story because it is keeping me interested.  I do wish they had gotten someone else to read this audiobook, though.  I think I may have enjoyed it more than I did.  I chose to read  the second and third one instead of listening to them.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: The Star-Touched Queen

The Star-Touched Queen
Roshani Chokshi
St. Martin's Griffin, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Romance
Source: Purchased
Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Maya has been cursed with a horoscope promising death and destruction in her future marriage, almost promises that she'll live out her life as she pleases, without being married off to help her father's kingdom.  But then she's told that she will choose her future husband in a ceremony and that the choice she makes will determine how her kingdom will survive.  She chooses Amar.  He takes her into his kingdom, a magical place with portals to other lands and secret doors locked to her until the moon has completed it's phase.  Maya is almost certain that behind those doors are truths that she should know and she questions her choice to follow Amar.  As she unravels her past and the past lives before that, Maya begins to understand that there is much more to this world and her place within it.

I loved the description of this book and it really is what pulled me in, but this book wasn't what I expected.  I got lost quite a lot in the flowery descriptions which really put me out of the story.  In the first chapters she's in her father's kingdom and dealing with the other women in the harem who have ostracized her based on her horoscope.  This part felt real to me.  There was still some mysticism with a mysterious visitor.  I even went along when Maya and Amar travel to another realm, but then nothing seemed concrete at that point.  I couldn't find anything in which to ground myself.  There is so much flowery language coupled with the strange mysticism and unknown that it was just too much.

Although I did finish, I was really waiting for it make more sense.  I had a difficult time with this one.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Book Review: The Other Wes Moore

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
Wes Moore
Spiegle & Grau, 2011
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

What It's All About
Two boys with the same name, living in similar neighborhoods not very far from each other, without fathers in their lives.  So how come one ended up with a Rhodes Scholar and successful career and the other is serving a life sentence in prison for murder?  Where did things change for these young men who grew up with so many similarities?  Wes Moore chronicles his life and also the other Wes Moore's life, piecing together different periods of their lives and presenting them side by side.  He doesn't offer answers, but shows how each of their lives allowed for different paths at various points in time and where those paths led them.  

My Thoughts
I was drawn into The Other Wes Moore almost immediately.  The story of both men's lives was heartbreaking at times and I would look out at my class as I was reading, wondering which way my students would go.  Although I don't teach in an inner city school, I see the same things with kids being pulled into bad choices and parents who are desperately trying to do their best, but also trying to make enough money to keep a roof over their heads and be there to help with homework.  Would my words be enough today?  Did my short temper earlier just make it easier for someone to take a different path?

What I liked about this book was that the author didn't give a reason for the difference.  He simply showed the differences that were there.  Both boys had many of the same or at least similar experiences, but the author managed to find himself a Rhodes Scholar, interning at the White House, and a successful businessman.

At the beginning of each chapter, snippets of conversations between the Wes's are shared as they discuss different aspects of their lives.  These all take place in prison as the author visits the man who shares his name in prison. They have insightful discussions that cause the author to consider his own beliefs and understanding of the world.

Overall, I think The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates is an important read for everyone, especially people who work with youth.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Book Review: The Rose and the Dagger

The Rose and the Dagger
Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2016
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

What It's All About
Shahrzad has been torn apart from Khalid, but is reunited with her family and trying to find a way that she can make her way back to her true love.  The problem is that she has found herself in the company of Khalid's enemies and must make them believe that she is with them and not Khalid.  In secret, Shahrzad begins testing new found powers, hoping to find a way to use them to help end the war and the curse that keeps her from her caliph. But finding her way back to him, may mean abandoning her family.

My Thoughts
I was very much looking forward to reading this book and I enjoyed it for the most part, but it wasn't what The Wrath and the Dawn was.  We started hearing from Shahrzad's sister, but I wasn't really excited about that.  She ended up being more annoying.  Also, Shahrzad lost her zest and her bite, becoming lost a bit in all the many things that were happening.

There was a lot of mysticism that came into play in this book, but I never felt like it really played out.  Shahrzad goes off in search of help to break the curse and begins training to help control her powers, which seems like a big and important thing.  It seems as if this should be part of the plot, leading us to her being able to command her powers, but she doesn't seem to really use them.  It all gets pushed to the back burner and I'm wondering how necessary it was at all because it pulled me out of the story.

The ending was perfect, though!  The number of twists and turns!  All I have to say is that there were at least 3 times I had to stop reading and walk away because I was so worked up over what had happened.  Because things really go crazy at the end.

Overall, if you read The Wrath and the Dawn, you need to read The Rose and the Dagger.  Just be prepared for some heavy doses of mysticism that was only hinted at in the first book.

If you want to check out my recent discussion re-reading TWATD, then click here.
If you want to check out my original review of TWATD, then click here.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Morgan Matson Newbie

Hello, my name is Meghan and I'm a Morgan Matson Newbie.  I'm taking part in  the Unexpectedly Epic Morgan Matson Week hosted by Tiff over at Mostly YA Lit. Check out all the excitement going on this week.

I'd heard about Morgan Matson and thought, okay whatever.  I'll be honest--contemporary novels aren't exactly my forte. Neither are romances and I judged and decided that it all looked a little too much like both of those genres for me.

But I kept hearing about Since You've Been Gone.  I read about it and people were talking about it and other teachers at school were reading it.  Promises that it wasn't just a romance kept popping up at me.  Then our Scholastic Book Fair came to school and they had it, so I bought it.  (By the way, I was very proud of myself for purchasing only two books at this year's book fair, but sad as well because I wanted ALL THE BOOKS!)

It sat on my desk for a week or two before I finally picked it up.  I settled in during our silent reading time (I need a much better name for that!) and almost immediately was drawn in.  When the timer went off 15 minutes later, to signal it was time for us to move onto in a lesson, I almost told my students, "Five more minutes, please!"  Instead I grudgingly closed my book and waited until the next hour to find out more.  So went my day--each hour groaning (out loud a few times) when I had to stop reading.

What was it that intrigued me so much?  What made this book such an important one to read?  I think it's Emily.  I could see myself in her.  My teenage self, my college self, my post college self, my pre-baby self, and my current 34 year old self.  I immediately connected to Emily's shyness and anxiety in social situations because they made sense to me.  The way she would question herself was how I often think about speaking with someone I don't know very well--and sometimes with people I do know well.  All of her characters seemed very real to me, except for Sloane, but that was only because she was this bigger than life persona for Emily.  

What I loved so much about Since You've Been Gone is that this book isn't a romance and it's not even about Emily's friendship with Sloane.  It's about Emily.  Truly and absolutely about Emily finding herself and who she is--without being attached to anyone else.  And then you throw in a little romance in there to spice things up a bit!

Will I read another Morgan Matson book?  Yes.  I will definitely be trying another one of her books, but I don't know where to go from here.  Any recommendations from Morgan Matson aficionados?

If you want to read more about my opinions on Since You've Been Gone, check out yesterday's review here!

And make sure you head on over to Tiff at Mostly YA Lit to read more about Morgan Matson and her books during Unexpectedly Epic Morgan Matson Week!

And, as always, if you liked this post, please follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Morgan Matson Week!! Book Review: Since You've Been Gone

It's the #UnexpectedlyEpic #MorganMatson week over Mostly YA Lit and I'm participating!  There'll be lots going on over there this week, so be sure to check it out!  I'm new to Morgan Matson and just discovered Since You've Been Gone, but as you'll see below, I love it!  Tomorrow I'll be writing a little about being a Morgan Matson "newbie."  So don't forget to check back in!  Enjoy.

Since You've Been Gone
Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster, 2014
Genre:Contemporary, YA
Source: Purchased
Rating: 5 out of 5

~What It's About~
Emily and Sloane have been best friends ever since Sloane moved in, and ever since she moved into town, Emily has had a life.  They've done everything together.  But now Sloane is gone and Emily hasn't heard from and doesn't know where she's gone.  Their perfect summer isn't going to happen and Emily is going to have no one to talk to.  But she has one thing: a letter from Sloane--or actually a list.  13 tasks for Emily to complete this summer that scare her to death.  Skinny dipping, Dancing till dawn, Hug a Jamie?  With the help of some unexpected friends, Emily sets out to accomplish every task on her list, certain she'll figure out the mystery of where Sloane has gone and why.

~The Good~
I love this book.  I love it!  

Emily reminds me of me when I was a teenager (and into college and adulthood, actually), as she is constantly riddled with anxiety and awkwardness in just about any social situation she finds herself.  The over thinking about what she should say, followed by inner turmoil over what she managed to wrangle out of her mouth was just textbook.  It felt real to me.  Maybe because I related a little too well--even now in my 30's.  Maybe she was just incredibly likable and lovable and it's so easy to hope for Sloane to return and rescue out of her awkwardness.  

What I appreciated most about this book is that it's not about a romance, and it's not even really about Emily and Sloane's relationship.  It's about Emily.  It's really and truly about her and how she's suddenly dropped into this situation where she no longer has that comfortable place.  Her friendship with Sloane was what made things a little easier for her, although it also allowed her to never do anything herself.  Instead she had always just ridden along with her friend.  Emily now has to do something for herself.  She has to speak for herself.  She has to find out who she is without Sloane.  

There are so many different things going on in this novel.  In addition to Emily having to change and grow and figure out who she is on her own, there is, of course, a romance brewing.  However it's iffy because he's already taken and Emily would never admit that she is attracted to him.  There's Emily's relationship with her family as well and how it changes now that she's not always wrapped in what Sloane is doing.  

Slipped into all the present day events (searching for Sloane and trying to complete the 13 tasks) are flashbacks into Sloane and Emily, starting from when they first met.  We not only are seeing the result of Sloane's leaving unannounced, but we're seeing how they became Sloane and Emily in the first place.  

~The Not-So-Good~
I didn't find anything I disliked about this novel.  I'm trying to come up with something, but I loved it so much!

~Final Thoughts~
Since You've Been Gone is a story about friendship and finding yourself.  It's about growing up and facing your fears.  Morgan Matson has crafted an engaging characters who are real and remarkable at the same time.  They are characters you would like to one day meet. 

Check back in tomorrow as I talk about my discovery of Morgan Matson.

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

The Wrath and the Dawn Re-read

The Wrath and the Dawn
Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Retelling
Source: purchased
Rating: still 5 out of 5 stars

In anticipation of the release of The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh, I read The Wrath and the Dawn again.  It was just as perfect as before, but this time I was able to take my time with it and enjoy it a little more than I had before, which was lovely.

Even knowing how the book ends, I was desperate to read the next page and stayed up until 3:00 one night to finish.  Foolish, I know, but nonetheless I made that choice happily!

I appreciated Shahrzad's wit and sarcasm and anxiously awaited each interaction with Khalid.  I still groaned each time I had to read from Tariq's perspective.  I tried to look for something in him that didn't make me dislike him so much, but he just keeps getting in the way and being really annoying.

There are few books that I really enjoy reading over again, and this was one of them.  I'm singing its praise to all my book friends and getting them to read too.  We all love it.

Here's my original review of The Wrath and the Dawn if you'd like to see how I initially reacted to the story.  Check back in a few days for The Rose and The Dagger review.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

AudioBook Review: Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting Jupiter
Gary D. Schmidt
Narrator: Christopher Gebauer
Recorded Books, 2015
Source: purchased
Genre: realistic fiction, young adult, family
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What It's All About
When fourteen year old Joseph comes to live with Jack and his family, he's angry and scared, and wants nothing more than to see his daughter, Jupiter.  Told through the eyes of Jack, who is in sixth grade and tries to help his foster brother adjust to life in their small town, we get to know Joseph and his story.  All he wants is to love his daughter Jupiter, but he's only fourteen, in the eighth grade, and no one will listen to him, no one will give him a safe place.  Joseph finally begins to feel at home and safe with Jack and his family, but just then his old life comes reeling back at him.

I cried multiple times during this book, which is unfortunate because I only listened to it while I was walking or running and I'm sure I looked strange.  Joseph's story is tragic, which you can infer right off the bat, but when you find out everything he has been through--it will break your heart.

 Gary Schmidt does an excellent job telling Joseph's story.  Because the story is told through the eyes of twelve year old Jack, we don't get to know everything about Joseph, just what he's willing to tell Jack.  Jack has lived a pretty privileged life compared to Joseph, and although he never really seems shocked by anything he learns, it still seems very new to him.  Hanging out with Joseph leads him to being late on a regular basis, finding himself on the assistant principal's radar, and jumping into fights with other boys.  But Jack also knows what it means to be loyal to someone.  He understands that and believes that the acceptable "right thing to do" isn't always the actual right thing to do. And he follows that.

Joseph's story truly is tragic in so many ways.  He is only fourteen, in the 8th grade, and he is a father.  A father who has not been allowed to see his daughter and has lost his first love.  He is a child whose own father treated him poorly, to say the least.  He has spent time juvenile detention centers and jail.  We see how young Joseph is in his actions and his choices and his thoughts, but sometimes it's easy to forget that because he's been through so much and has experienced more in the world than Jack.  In the end, though, Jack is the one who seems to be more mature and older than twelve by many years.

I don't know if I would recommend this to my sixth grade students because there is some pretty heavy stuff that Joseph has been through.  A more mature sixth grader might be able to handle it with guidance, but I would recommend it to older students. If you're a parent looking for some reading suggestions, I would read this first and make the decision on whether your child could handle the subject matter.  There is no sex on the page, but it's obviously understood since he's a father and some of this horrible experiences he has had are alluded to and mentioned as well.

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Sunday, May 1, 2016

#SundayStaus: The Rose and the Dagger

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.

The Rose and The Dagger

Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2016
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
Source: purchased

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!. So that's what's going on in my head right now.  I'm almost finished and if I didn't have so much grading this weekend I would be finished already.  It's so good!

I was thrown off a bit because there's a lot of mysticism in this second book, compared to the hints in the first book.  It wasn't quite what I had expected when reading it, but I like it.

Shahrzad is desperately trying to find a way to break the curse that her husband, the Caliph of Khorasan, is under.  It's the only way they can be together and she desperately needs that to happen, both for her and her people.  Encamped with her friends and family, who are currently planning a war against the Caliph, Shahrzad is testing her newfound powers and and trying to make her way back to her beloved Khalid.


I usually have a few books going on at a time, but I'm devoting myself to TRATD right now.  When I'm finished here I'll divide my attentions between home and school again.