Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Fall Break Read-a-Thon!

Finally! a break from the chaos of school, coaching, dance, drama, and chess club! Over the next few days, I am going on a reading marathon! I have 10 books left of the possible Truman nominees for the 2020-21 school year, and six of them are in my house right now. My goal is to read all of them before Monday, but we’ll see how that goes.

My current possible Truman nominee reading list includes:

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I’m nearly done with this one. I’ve been reading it out loud to my 8th graders and many of them are enjoying it.

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Another one that I’m almost finished with!

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I’m curious as to which ones appeal to you simply based on the cover? Skyward is one that I normally wouldn’t pick up because the cover looks very science-fictiony to me. My first grab would probably be I Am Still Alive.

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Fire & Heist Book Review

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Read a summary of the book here.

Book 8 of the 22 I need to read in the next few weeks. Yeah, I doubt I’ll make through the list, but I’ve read enough to be able to vote for my favorites.

This was definitely not one of my favorites. Now, it wasn’t bad, but if I had to rank the ones I have read, this wouldn’t be at the top.

I also should have written this review right after I read the book because I can honestly not remember the characters’ names, and I try to stay way from summaries and other reviews until I finish mine.

The basic premise of the book was the main character, her 3 older brothers, and her parents were all descendants of…wait for it…dragons. Yup. You read that correctly – these PEOPLE are descendants of DRAGONS.

As you can probably tell, I don’t read much fantasy (besides Harry Potter), so I am not sure if this is common for fantasy novels. Once I got past the shock that these people had lingering dragon abilities, I really enjoyed the book.

The main character and her family not only have dragon abilities, but one of their pastimes is completing heists (thus the name of the book). This made the book feel a little like Ocean’s Eleven with all the plotting. Ocean’s Eleven with magic.

I am assuming if you enjoy fantasy, you will enjoy this novel. It is well-written, and for me, a new concept, so I liked it.

I gave it a 4 star rating on Goodreads.

Posted in Book Reviews, Reviews by Charis

I Am Princess X – A guest book review

By Charis, age 11

Do like mystery books? If so, you should read I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest. There are many reasons why this is a great book.

First of all, the illustrations are great. Although it’s not multi-color, they’re still beautifully drawn. Actually, the fact that it’s not multi- colored makes it more interesting! This book is mostly a chapter book, but occasionally there are comic pages.

Second, it has clue-filled adventures. In the beginning of the book, the main character, May, lost her best friend and found something that they had worked on together. She found a sticker in a shop window and website called http://www.iamprincessx.com and found many comics about Princess X. Also, in the last comic, someone tells Princess X “Inside her black cup, you will find the black mirror.”

Third, it has mysteries. For example, May’s friend, Libby, is she really dead? On www.iamprincessx.com, May finds information on the Four Keys, which aren’t really keys. They’re objects, a gold mask, a red box, a black mirror, and a dead gray girl!

Clearly, I Am Princess X is a great book for many reasons. The illustrations are beautiful, it had clue-filled adventures, and it’s full of mystery. If this sounds like a book you’ll enjoy reading, find it at your local library or bookstore. Take it from me, this book is really good.

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Game Changer Book Review

Read a summary of the book here.

Another of the twenty-two possible Truman nominees for 2020-21.

Game Changer tackles (pun intended) the difficult topic of whether or not football needs to be changed. The book begins where we find Teddy unconscious in the hospital after a football related injury.

I really enjoyed how this book was written, and I think that middle school students will like it as well.

The book is broken into parts instead of specific chapters. When people are in the hospital room, we “hear” everything from Teddy’s unconsciousness. It’s written in what looks like verse, but it’s not like the typical rhyming or rhythmic verse. It’s more like stream of consciousness, and the way it was written made it read very fast. Other sections show text message conversations – it literally looks like a phone conversation on the page, or a social media type post.

When I say this read fast, it really did. I finished in about 2 hours total.

Not a fan of football? That’s okay. I think you’ll like this book anyway. There is drama between Teddy’s parents, a secret that the entire football team is trying to keep, and a friendship that is tested. All the perfect elements of a good young adult drama.

Simply for the unique way the book was written, I gave this 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Posted in Book Reviews

2020-21 Truman Nominees Update and The Darkdeep Review

I’m still working on the list of possible Truman nominees for the 2020-2021 school year. I had knocked out nine from the list of 50 this summer, but less than half of the ones I read made it to the next round.

So the list has narrowed to 22. We have until the beginning of January to get through as many of the books as we can before it is time to vote. I have three books, including this one, still to review, and that puts me at 8…of 22. It seems like an impossible task, especially with school in full swing, math tutoring starting, and my daughters’ seemingly endless activities.

But! Today, I got a book light, so bring on the late night reads!!! (Before you suggest reading on a device, I can’t do it at night for some reason. My eyes start burning.)

Now for the review. “The Darkdeep” by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs follows 4 kids who accidentally find an abandoned house boat as they search for their drone. The houseboat, while filled with really weird treasures, seems pretty harmless until the group heads downstairs. Yes, downstairs…on a houseboat. There is a hole where the kids could see the water, but the water is weird and swirling and the kids just can’t leave it alone.

Eventually one of the kids goes into the water and gets sucked in. After this some creepy things begin happening. The kids end up having to face things from their memories and dreams, some good and some terrifying. If you like creepy and mysterious, you will probably like this book…if you’re an 11 year old kid. I would definitely think the 6th graders will like this book, a few of my 8th graders will like it, but I think it is meant for the younger middle school grades. Even upper elementary students could read and enjoy this book.

I only gave it three stars on Goodreads because it just didn’t keep my attention, and it took me over a week to finish. Also, no crying in this book. I just didn’t care enough about any of the characters to have any sort of emotional connection to them.

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.)