Posted in Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My TBR I’m Avoiding Reading and Why

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Schinder’s List by Thomas Keneally. I have never seen the movie, but I know all about it. I don’t know if I can handle watching it, so I put it on my To Be Read list for this year. I’m avoiding it because I know I’ll cry, and I’m just not sure I’m ready for a super emotional read.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. My friend, Kelli, recommended this book a few years ago, and I put it on my list. I think I keep putting it off because I know that it’s a part of a series, and I know that if I like it, I will want to read the whole thing, and I don’t know if I can commit to a long-term relationship right now!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. My dear friend, Casey, loves this book. She reads a lot more than I do, so I trust her opinion. I believe at some point she told me this is her favorite book. She lent me this book about 3 years ago, and it is still sitting on my shelf intimidating me with it’s length.

Sold by Patricia McCormick. We have this book in our classroom, and two years ago I picked it up to start reading in during SSR time. Within five minutes, I was almost in tears. It’s now been labeled NSFW, and I haven’t had the courage to pick it up at home.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman. This is the first of another series, so I’m facing the same dilemma as a A Court of Thorns and Roses. Also, this books is out of my element as it seems that the main focus is killing people, or at least deciding who is and is not worthy of being alive. I don’t know much. A little scared to jump in to this one.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Considering I couldn’t make it through the first four episodes of the show, I highly doubt I will easily make it through the book. But, it is on my list, and I will read it eventually.

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz. Can I be honest? I probably should be since this is my blog. But, I really do not love Alan Gratz as an author. My co-teacher, librarian, and some of my student have told me, “You HAVE to read this one!” So, it’s on my list for when I decide that I can give Gratz another chance.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. The sheer size of this book makes me hesitant in picking it up. Plus, I have heard mixed reviews.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. I loved Six of Crows so much, and I was very involved with the characters. Since this is the follow up and the final book, I have put it off because I do not want the story to end. Or maybe, I don’t want the story to end in a way that I haven’t already imagined.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. First, this is nonfiction, and anyone that knows me knows that I only read nonfiction if it is assigned and I am getting a grade on it. Second, I don’t love doing introspection, and I’m pretty sure this book is going to make me do that. But I’m determined to read this within the next few months.

Posted in Book Reviews, My Teaching Journey

The Benefits of Being an Octopus – Review

Summary from Goodreads:

Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.

At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they’re in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them.

Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.

Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?

My thoughts

This review has been sitting in drafts for almost a week. I keep coming back to it, and I keep putting it away because I don’t know what exactly to say.

The book made me pretty emotional. I work in a school where a lot of our students come from poverty, and I think it is pretty easy to forget that not every student has hours at home to do homework or study for a test. Then, my mind really started to wander to what I can do as a teacher to help this. There are so many standards and expectations placed upon us that it is almost a necessity to assign homework and force students to work outside of school time to complete projects, but most of the time, students simply cannot do work outside of school for one reason or another.

Then there are the grumps out there who will say, “Well, I did it when I was a kid. I had two hours of homework each night. These kids are soft!” But even when I was in school, a lot of my friends had one parent (100% of the time, the mom) who stayed at home, and I went to a pretty expensive private school. I grew up in a time when it was doable to survive on one income. We now live in a society where this is not possible. I have a BA, and two Master degrees, and after nine years of teaching, we are finally at a place where if we HAD to, we could survive on one income. It wouldn’t be comfortable, and we would definitely not be able to save any money for college for our girls, but our needs would be met.

What do we do for these students whose parents are working full time jobs, sometimes multiples, just to make ends meet? These students who have to fend for themselves and their younger siblings when they get home? Do we keep saying, “Well, this is how it worked when I was a kid?” Or do we start making changes?

Now, you see why this post has taken me so long.

The book was really well-written. The main character, Zoey, was someone I definitely was rooting for to succeed. Zoey and her three younger siblings live with her mom, her mom’s boyfriend (who I hated from the first time he was mentioned), and her boyfriend’s dad in a trailer. But it’s a nice trailer, and her mom reminds her many times that they should be thankful for the nice place to live.

I found myself frustrated, then extremely sympathetic with the mom. I can’t write too much about the mom because that will give away a lot of the story, and I don’t do spoilers.

I highly recommend this book, and I am hopeful that it makes the list of the top 12 for the Truman nominees. I think the middle school students will really enjoy reading about someone they can relate to.

(Sorry for the longer post, but you now have a glimpse into how my brain functions while reading.)

Posted in Stories, Story Sunday, Untitled

Story Sunday!

Untitled – Chapter 2 page 3

First page
Previous page

It had been a long day. After lunch and Andra’s outburst, Eric had a difficult time concentrating during his internship at the news station. He had been given menial tasks, running reports, making coffee, but still his brain kept wandering, and he kept making mistakes. At the end of his shift, his boss had told him to get some sleep and fix it tomorrow or else he may be looking for a new internship. 

He sighed and rested his head against the headrest in his car. The light was on in Andra’s living room, and he had been debating for ten minutes whether or not to go up and knock. She hadn’t tried to contact him since storming out of the restaurant, and Eric hadn’t either. In the three years that they had been together, Eric had learned that when Andra was mad, it was best to give her some space. 

His phone vibrated in his pocket. “You may as well come in,” the text read. He slipped the phone back in his pocket and grabbed his bag. The door to Andra’s house opened, and she appeared with Moses by her side. 

“I’m sorry,” he said when he got to the door.

She lifted her eyebrows. “As you should be,” she said then smiled and moved out of the way so he could enter the house. He stepped in, set his bag down, and turned to her as she closed the door. 

“Really, I am. We are all under a lot of stress. Neither of us were in particularly good moods today, and I wasn’t exactly the supportive boyfriend you needed.” He reached for her hand and drew her into a hug. She rested her head against his chest, and he instantly felt himself relax. After a few seconds, Moses had enough of being neglected and nudged his way between the two of them. 

Andra laughed and scratched his head, “I guess he’s trying to tell us something. Have you had dinner?” 

“No, actually, I brought some over. It’s in the bag. Probably needs to be warmed up.” He went over to the bag to start unpacking the chicken parmesan. Moses stood watch waiting for the moment something spilled into his reach.

Andra helped him get the dinner going. The two worked together, and all of the tension from earlier in the day seemed to dissipate. “I’ve been doing some thinking today,” Andra said as they sat down to eat. Moses sat beside Andra and placed his big speckled head on the table.

Eric set his glass down and looked up at his girlfriend. She was beautiful, passionate, and everything he wanted in a woman. “I think it’s time for us to talk about where this relationship is going.”

Posted in Top Ten Tuesday

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Enjoyed That Are Outside of My Comfort Zone

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

For this week, Top Ten Tuesday is focused on moving outside our comfort zones with our book choices. Since I started reading all the Truman nominees a few years ago, I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone many times! Then a few years before that, I joined a book club that forced me to read a lot of books I never would have picked up before.

So, here is my list in no particular order.

Sky in the Deep – The Medieval-type war scenes were not something I ever thought I would enjoy, but Adrienne Young did a great job creating this story and all the characters.

Six of Crows – I was so surprised by how much I liked this book since it wasn’t like anything I have read before.

I Am Princess X – I put this book off as one of the last Truman nominees I read in the 17-18 school year. I ended up loving it. My oldest daughter claims it as one of her favorites as well.

The Bell Jar – Growing up in a very conservative school, I had basically only heard that Slyvia Plath was a raging feminist and to stay away from her books. It wasn’t until a few years ago I picked this up, read it, and really liked it.

Seriously, I’m Kidding – This was one of my first (unassigned) autobiographies that I read. I am usually a fiction only type person, so this was a nice segue into a different genre.

Gone Girl – I didn’t think I liked creepy, suspenseful books. Gillian Flynn proved that was not true.

Bossypants – Ellen’s autobiography made me reach for another one. I listened to this one, and it made it that much better coming from Tina Fey.

Miles Morales: Spider Man – Much to the disappointment of many of my friends, I am just not that into comic book characters/movies/books. This was on the list of possible Trumans for this school year, and let me say, it is better than half the list of books that actually made it to the final 12.

Forget Me Not – This was my first book written in verse. It was beautifully written, and it has encouraged me to pick up more books in verse.

The Kite Runner – It’s been a while since I read this book. I would say it has been at least 10 years ago. It was definitely a book that stuck with me, and not really like anything I had ever read before. I may need to reread it soon.

Posted in Uncategorized

2019-2020 Truman – My Rankings

Since starting this blog in May, most of my book reviews have been about the Truman nominees from this year or for the upcoming year. Having just finished the 12th book for the 2019-2020 list, I decided to do my favorites list. I’ll start with 12 then work my way to my #1. My #1 the last two years hasn’t even made it to the top three of the finals, so hopefully I don’t jinx anyone’s chances this year.

Disclaimer - just because a book is in 12th place, doesn't mean I didn't like it. Each book has to go somewhere on the list 🙂

#12 – The Trail by Meiko Hashimoto

#11 Refugee by Alan Gratz

#10 – Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt

#9 – To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

#8 Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

#7 Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne

#6 Hideout by Watt Key

#5 Renegades by Marissa Meyer

#4 Click’d by Tamara Ireland Stone

#3 Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

#2 Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

#1

Posted in Book Reviews

Lost Boys Review

Summary from Goodreads

It’s 1982, and twelve-year-old Reza has no interest in joining Iran’s war effort. But in the wake of a tragedy and at his mother’s urging, he decides to enlist, assured by the authorities that he will achieve paradise should he die in service to his country. 

War does not bring the glory the boys of Iran have been promised, and Reza soon finds himself held in a prisoner-of-war camp in Iraq, where the guards not only threaten violence—they act upon it.

Will Reza make it out alive? And if he does, will he even have a home to return to?

A couple quotes I liked that don’t give away too much from the book.

And you know this jazz comes from American slavery. Picture a whole people caged - you hear that sadness? But their music was subtle rebellion, something that made them free. It's no surprise our government bans music. Music can be power to people who are struggling. - pg. 38

I no longer prayed. At first I had no idea time was passing. Once I could tell one day from the next, I couldn't physically kneel down. But as weeks went by, it wasn't the physical pain that kept me from facing Mecca with the others. It was the knot that lodged just below my heart. - pg. 105

When I got the final list of Trumans for the 19-20 school year last spring, this was one of the first books I got from the library. But, I do this thing where I check out 10+ books at a time and only make it through three of them before they’re due back. So this book kept getting check out and returned. In fact, when I got it from my school library last week, it was the fourth time I had checked it out.

Lost Boys ended up being my last Truman nominee to read, and I think I’m glad it ended up that way. I absolutely loved this book. It made me have all sorts of feels, and there were multiple times throughout the book when I cried. I also found myself getting angry multiple times.

Reza was such a well-written character, and I loved seeing his growth as a person and as a musician. I felt his heartbreak at the beginning of the book, and as he made a difficult decision toward the end. (Really trying to avoid spoilers here!)

This book made me realize how much I do not know about history and other countries. Obviously there is much more that has happened in our world than what can be taught in history classes in high school and college, but man, I feel like I wasn’t taught much more than US history up until the Civil War with WW2 being taught during Holocaust units in English classes.

With that said, I think it will be my reading goal for 2020 to read more historical fiction (and maybe a couple nonfiction pieces…gasp!). Feel free to recommend your favorites.

Posted in Book Reviews

Hideout – Review

Goodreads Summary

Twelve-year-old Sam has been given a fishing boat by his father, but he hates fishing. Instead he uses the boat to disappear for hours at a time, exploring the forbidden swampy surroundings of his Gulf Shore home. Then he discovers a boy named Davey, mysteriously alone, repairing an abandoned cabin in the deep woods. Not fooled by the boy’s evasive explanation as to why he’s on his own, Sam becomes entangled in his own efforts to help Davey. But this leads him to telling small lies that only get bigger as the danger increases for both boys, and hidden truths become harder to reveal.

I kept putting this book off because I had read the back cover, and it just didn’t seem that interesting to me. I finally picked it up again when school started last week. It is the 2nd to last Truman nominee for the 2019-2020 school year that I have to read, and then I can focus completely on the 2020-21 list.

This book definitely surprised me. The first chapter, I actually had to look up what some words meant, because I know absolutely zero about boats or fishing.

Hideout was the first book by Watt Key that I have read, and I really enjoyed his style. The book was simple to read (which is great for middle school students), suspenseful, and funny (in places).

The main character, Sam, is at an interesting place in his life where he wants to prove to himself and others that he is brave. This desire comes from having a dad who is a police officer and the fact that he got beat up pretty badly in front of the prettiest girl in school.

This desire to prove himself leads him on an adventure to help Davey, but in doing so, he starts lying to his parents and fighting with his best friend. I liked Sam’s character a lot, and honestly, with how creepy the front of the book looked, I thought Davey might be some sort of ghost. I was wrong, and I’m not ruining the story by sharing that. Just showing how my mind works.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit, and I am looking forward to putting more of Watt Key’s books on my to-read shelf!

Four out of five stars!