Posted in Book Reviews, NetGalley

Invisible Differences

Invisible Differences: Julie Dachez: 9781620107669: Amazon.com: Books

Recently, as in about 3 days ago, I was reading through a few of the blogs I follow and one of the bloggers mentioned Netgalley, and that this was a site where she got many of her ARC books. Now, if you’re like me, I will save you the trouble and let you know that ARC means Advanced Reader Copy.

I have taught English for 9 years now. I have been good friends with every school librarian and media specialist with whom I worked, and I NEVER knew that people could get advanced copies of books. My list of already published books that I want to read is really long, so I should have just ignored this newly found information. However, the pull of new books was too much, and I had to check it out.

It is absolutely free to sign up. They are looking for people who: first, love to read, and second, have some sort of influence. Educators were among the list of people they wanted for their site. After I set up my profile, I spent about an hour looking at all the upcoming releases for this summer and fall, mainly in the young adult/teen genres. So much good stuff!

I’ve requested quite a few, but since I have no reviews my chances of getting selected are lower. I decided to look at some of the books that are available to all members, and I stumbled across Invisible Differences.

Brief Summary

The book follows Marguerite throughout her day to day life. It tells of her difficulties with people both at work and in her personal life. She gets worn out with too much interaction/noise, and she does not do well with spontaneity. Through some personal research she learns that she has Aspergers, and from there she begins to change her life.

My thoughts

First, this is a graphic novel, and I was able to finish it in about an hour. I’m not an artist at all, so I don’t feel like I can talk much about the book art except that it felt a little minimalist. I liked it; it just wasn’t very detailed.

The book is a translation from a French publication. I think the translation is good. There is still some dialogue left in French, and since I only know about 3 words in French, I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was saying. However, the context (both the art and words) makes it pretty clear about what was being said.

I really enjoyed this story. I currently work as a special education teacher, and I feel like this book would be an excellent addition to my classroom library. There are a lot of misconceptions about people with autism, although I do feel like this is getting better. However, I still come across people (and unfortunately some of them educators) who believe that all people with autism act the same way or have the same struggles. This book does a really excellent job of showing that autism is a spectrum, and that no two people with autism are the same.

I highly recommend this book for pretty much anyone since the chance that you will interact with someone with autism is pretty high. Latest estimate was that one in every 54 children are diagnosed with autism.

Posted in Book Reviews

the first part last – review

This book has been in our class library for the last two years, and we have had quite a few students pick it up and read it and enjoy it.

When we learned that our city was going on a stay at home order, we were told we could enter our buildings from 8-12 the day before the order started to gather what we may need “for the next two weeks.”

My first thought was that I need books, and I need to read! I gathered about 10 books knowing that I had quite a few from my public library and on my personal shelf at home that I still needed to read, but I wanted to be prepared.

Since so many of my students seemed to like this book, it was one of the first I grabbed. It’s very short – thus being one of the main reasons students pick it for SSR. The copy we have is only 131 pages. It is also part of a trilogy, which I did not know, and I also didn’t feel like I was missing anything. It definitely felt like a stand alone book.

The main character is Bobby and you find out in the first page (and from the front cover) that he has just become a father and is raising his daughter as a 16 year old. You don’t find out until almost the end of the book what happened with the mother.

The author does a nice job of telling both the present time story and what led up to the current events by alternating chapters between “Then” and “Now”. It shouldn’t come as any surprise in a story about teen parents that there is a little talk about sex, maybe one page in the entire book. The focus is definitely more on Bobby and his coming to terms with being a father.

I really enjoyed this book, and it only took me a couple hours to finish it in between my Zoom meetings today. I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars instead of a 5 on Goodreads simply because I wanted more of the story.

Oh, and fair warning, the last 15 or so pages made me cry a lot.

Posted in Book Reviews

The Princess Bride — Finally!

This past Christmas, one of my great friends, Sam, gifted me this poster which I hung in my classroom.

Its title is 100 Epic Reads of a Lifetime, and there is everything from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Hunger Games to The Odyssey and Don Quixote. As you read (or have read in the past) the books, you scratch them off. Upon receiving the gift, I was able to scratch off 30 of the 100 books. My co-teacher, Amy, was shocked by all the “classics” I hadn’t read, but then I had to remind her of my extremely legalistic and sheltered upbringing, and the fact that I was not allowed (even in advanced English classes) to read anything with cussing, sex, or too much violence. In fact, I vividly remember having to go through a novel with a black sharpie and cross out words deemed inappropriate by our administration. I wish I could remember which novel it was. I’m thinking it was To Kill a Mockingbird, but I can’t remember for sure.

A few days after I put up the poster The Princess Bride appeared on my desk with the command, “You HAVE to read this” from Amy. Since I had finished all the Truman nominees, and really wanted a break from YA for a while, I obliged.

I don’t know if you have ever read this book, but I was so confused for the first part. As most people probably are, I am very familiar with the movie version, but it definitely doesn’t start out with Buttercup and Wesley. Instead, it starts with the author and his backstory for why he wanted to do this abridged version of the original.

Knowing nothing of the book or the author, I was believing everything in the introduction. It wasn’t until about two weeks later that I finally asked Amy, “What is up with this book?” Throughout the entire book, the author will add side comments, and I just felt that it was really weird.

Amy let me in on the (not so) secret. All the backstory, the additions, the reasons for deleting passages, are all fake. There was no original book, and this wasn’t an abridgment. Knowing this made the rest of the read so much better and so much funnier.

I will say that after reading nothing but YA fiction for the last seven months (ever since grad school ended and I put up the textbooks) this was a difficult book for me to get through. It was wordy and there was a lot of detail and description that you don’t get much of in YA books.

If you love the movie, you will probably love the book as well. I felt like it followed movie well which makes perfect sense since the author wrote the screenplay. I definitely recommend this book. It was funny and kept my attention; it just took a while for me to finish.

Posted in Book Reviews

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince – Review

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Book 3 of 2020

I finished this book for the second time last night. The first time I read it was right after it was published in 2005. Since then, I have gotten married and successfully turned my husband into a Potterhead although he resisted for many years, and he still refuses to read the books. My daughters are also big fans of the series. My oldest has read most of the series, and I’m currently reading the Chamber of Secrets illustrated version to my youngest.

Since it had been so long since I originally read the book and have seen the movie about a dozen times, I forgot how much was in this book.

If you are like my husband, and you constantly ask questions during the movies about backstories or motivations of characters, I highly recommend reading all the books, but especially this one.

I found myself taking notes! Yes, notes, as I was reading all the information about Voldemort’s backstory that I had forgotten. I also love that Dumbledore finally starts letting Harry in on information he should have been given years before.

The conflict Draco feels, man, I wish he would have taken Dumbledore up on his offer. I love how Rowling writes it because you almost feel like he will.

As I read the last three chapters, I just couldn’t stop myself from crying, even knowing what was going to happen. This is a huge credit to Rowling. She created a story and characters that readers connect to and love.

It’s hard to write much more that hasn’t already been said. I can’t wait to read this one again, but for now, it’s on to book 7.

My assistant for this post
Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Skyward Book Review

Ugh. The biggest book of the possible Trumans for 2020-2021 school year. Of course, it was a science fiction book. Gag. Sorry, it’s just not my favorite genre. I just can’t get into the space stuff. And spacecrafts and jargon I don’t understand.

This was going to be torture. I picked it up the week before Christmas break and read the first chapter. I told my co-teacher, that the first chapter reminded me of the beginning of Hunger Games, when Katniss is out hunting for her family. That’s basically how this book starts, with the main character, Spensa, out hunting rats.

I put it down over Christmas break to knock out three smaller books from the list since the voting was quickly approaching. I picked it back up on New Years.

And something crazy happened. I found myself enjoying science fiction. I never wanted to put it down, but, you know, work, family, basketball coaching; I had to put it down.

Spensa is an interesting character. Her father has been label a coward due to actions as a fighter pilot in the Battle of Alta, and we quickly learn that this label attaches to Spensa as well. All she has ever wanted is to be a pilot, and shockingly she gets her chance.

I was captivated by this book and was reading it during SSR (silent, self-selected reading) at school when one of my most liked characters died. I slammed the book shut, and scared a few of my students. I told them I didn’t want to read it anymore. Surprisingly, the students who struggle with reading were the ones who encouraged me to keep going. (I was never going to quit it, but it was nice to be encouraged to read.)

I am not going to give away any spoilers. Just know that this is the first book in a series, so if you like it as much as I do, you’re dedicating yourself to multiple books.

My favorite part of this book is a character that you may not suspect. This character gave a LOT of comic relief in a book with a lot of sadness and frustration with a society that seemed to be fighting a losing battle.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone who likes dystopian novels. That’s what it felt like to me. Also, while you can sense there may be a budding relationship, there isn’t a ridiculous romance that happens.

Voting ends tomorrow for the Trumans. I ended up only missing one: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. If it makes the top 12, I’ll read it, but I am welcoming the break from YA books…at least until the list of 50 comes out for the 2021-22 school year this May.

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Double Review – Squint and Nightbooks

I listened to both of these books over the last two days. These two books will definitely be on the list that I recommend for the Truman list for 2020-21.

It isn’t easy for me to listen to books, but given my current travel situation, I didn’t really have an option. I cannot read while moving. But both of these audiobooks were performed well, and both kept my attention the entire time.

I’m going to skip over the summaries this time because tons of other people have written summaries, and I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t been said without giving away major parts of the plots.

Reasons I loved Squint:

1. The main character was REAL. He had real, common middle school struggles (plus one not-so-common problem). He could have been any one of my students. A little awkward. Super creative. Self-doubting.

2. The minor characters are fantastic. They are well-written and exactly like middle school students. I need to do a little more research on the authors, but I would not at all be surprised if one or both of them taught middle school at some point.

3. The comic that the main character writes is really great.

4. I just really loved this story. It was definitely a feel-good book, even with a couple sad moments. I think middle school students will really love this book. Since I listened to it, I can’t speak to how it was written, or how long the chapters are (since a lot of my students get discouraged if the chapters are too long). But I think it will keep their attention, especially with the comic book references. I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this book.


Reasons I loved Nightbooks

1. It was so scary! Okay, so not in an adult, Criminal Minds type of scary. But definitely middle school scary.

2. The characters were soooooo well developed.

3. I knew what would happen with the main character, but I had NO IDEA what the witch’s backstory was going to be. I love when a young adult book surprises me, and I don’t figure it out in the first few chapters.

4. The scary stories that are written by the main character, Alex, were super creepy.

The only negative I have with this book is that it wasn’t the most ideal book to listen to. In the parts where the main character is telling one of his own creepy stories, there isn’t any indication that it isn’t part of the main story. So if you are sort of half-listening, it can be confusing. The other part that was hard because of the audio is when the main character is reading a book with extra writing in it. It was really hard to tell from the audio what parts were the main story, the book being read, or the extra writing in the book. Confused? Yeah, me too, a little.


So, if you’re looking for a feel-good young adult novel, pick up Squint. If you’re wanting to be creeped out, Nightbooks is perfect.

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

I Am Still Alive – Book Review

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First and foremost, know that I am going to give you a spoiler during this review. I just finished this book. Literally. It is still sitting within a few inches of me as I knew I needed to get my thoughts down as soon as I finished.

I have been making my way through the list of books that are up for next school year’s Truman nominees since this summer. I believe I have about 7 left now. This book was one that intrigued me from the very beginning, but I wasn’t able to get to until recently.

My friend who is also reading these books referred to is as the “better Alaskan one”. (I reviewed the other book set in Alaska here.)

You know from the very first page that the main character, Jess, is alone in the wilderness. Within the first few pages, the reader learns that Jess’s mom has been killed in a car crash (one that also involved and injured Jess), and she is being forced to move with her dad, who she barely knows, in Alaska. At least that’s what is told to her, her dad actually lives somewhere else, although we never get the exact location. Somewhere north. Somewhere in the wilderness. Somewhere alone.

The first half of the book goes back and forth between “before” and “after.” Before her father died, and after. I won’t get into the subplot of the story, because that will give away too much. The second part of the book is where the story really picks up.

Here are my thoughts – many middle school students will not get into this book. It took a long time for the story to really develop into much more than girl vs. nature. In fact the vast majority of the book is simply describing what she is doing while alone in the Northern wilderness. My students would not be able to make it through this book because there are just paragraphs and paragraphs of description.

Now, as an adult who has developed better reading stamina…okay, just kidding, I, too, had a hard time reading every word on every page. I ended up skim reading a lot of it.

Apparently Ben Affleck is going to make it in to a movie. I do think this book could be turned in to a great, suspenseful movie. As a book intended for middle school students, it wasn’t the greatest.

Oh, and the dog dies, so don’t get attached.

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Mascot – Book Review

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Back in October, I was looking for a book to read aloud to my two reading classes. These classes are full of students who are two grade levels or more behind grade level. One of the biggest struggles for these readers is they fatigue and have a hard time finishing a book. Many of them didn’t have parents who read out loud to them, or if they did, stopped at too early of an age. It is vitally important to read to your kids, even your middle school kids (and I would dare say, many of your high school kiddos could benefit from it as well). By reading out loud and finishing a book, it helps the students realize that they can succeed in reading a book and persevering through it. This will hopefully encourage them to do it on their own as well.

So in my search for a book that my students would enjoy, and one that was on my to-read list, I found this one. Antony John does a fantastic job of channeling the brain of a 7th grade boy. The main character, Noah, is in a wheelchair. The result of a horrible car accident that took the life of his dad. (Don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything with this. You find this out within the first chapter or two.) Noah is from St. Louis and a big baseball fan (and former player). Thus the Arch and the cardinal on the cover.

The story weaves through Noah trying to navigate new friendship, old friendships, his injury, emotions around losing his father, and his mom’s new “friend”. There are a lot of emotional elements throughout this book, but John uses middle school humor and some grown up insight to wade through them without making it too heavy. I definitely recommend this for middle schoolers.

I brought this book home over break, so my students haven’t finished it yet. I’m interested to see how they will react to the last part of the book. Many of them have predicted that Noah will walk again. I won’t give that away here though!

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

The Colors of the Rain – Book Review

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Let me start with the good. Since I haven’t done a review in a while, I don’t want to start with negativity.

The story within this book is amazing. It starts with our main character driving by an accident with his mom and sister. The reader finds out within a few pages that the accident would changed their lives forever. The story is told strictly from the point of view of the main character, Paulie. He’s an upper elementary aged boy with an older sister and dog. He lives with his mom, his grandparents live across the road, and his aunt lives nearby and takes care of the kids when the mom can’t.

The story is set in Texas during a time when desegregating the schools was still happening. In Texas it happened a little slower than other areas.

I enjoyed the story, and I think students could learn a lot from this book.

Now for the negative. Spoilers ahead, so stop here if you don’t want to know.

The book is written in free verse, which seems to be a trend in YA books lately. Sometimes I love it. I did not love it in the book. It never flowed well. It was more stream of consciousness than free verse. I felt annoyed while reading because I loved the story, but the way it was written just irritated me. I am probably in the minority when it comes to this, though. Don’t let the fact that it’s written in verse deter you from reading it, let the next point deter you!

THE DOG DIES. This book is dead to me now. I cannot handle the dog dying especially when the dog is the only friend the kid has.

Okay, it probably isn’t great of me to judge the book this harshly just because the dog dies, but I hate it when the dog dies! It also probably doesn’t help that we just had to put one of our dogs to sleep recently.

I would recommend this book despite my negative feelings. It has good messages throughout the book about acceptance, love, forgiveness, among other things. I know some of my middle school students would really enjoy this book, so I will probably rate it well when the recommendations start in January.

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.