90 Second Reads!

27 Aug

All four authors: Gae Polisner, Bethany Neal, Lara Zielin, & Carrie Harris.

All four authors at 90 Second Reads: Gae Polisner, Bethany Neal, Lara Zielin, & Carrie Harris.

On Tuesday, August 19 I attended a FANTASTIC author event at Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor. This event featured four amazing YA authors: Gae Polisner, Carrie Harris, Bethany Neal, and Lara Zielin.  The premise was that each author would read four selections from her book: the beginning, something romantic, something heartbreaking, and something funny.  Each selection could not be longer than 90 seconds.  In fact, Gae chose a timer from the audience who had a bell to ring if and when the authors went over.  I absolutely loved this event!

Gae Polisner shares a funny part from her novel The Summer of Letting Go.

Gae Polisner shares a funny part from her novel The Summer of Letting Go.

Gae read from her novel The Summer of Letting Go Bethany read from her debut novel My Last KissCarrie read from her latest novel Demon DerbyLara read from her book Donut Days.  Gae told the story of why she began 90 second reads.  When her first novel The Pull of Gravity came out, she was part of an author reading.  She was told should would have only about 4 minutes to read.  She practiced and planned a reading that fit that time period – only to discover the other authors had readings much, much longer than that.  So, her 90 second reads idea does in fact stick to 90 seconds.  There was quite a bit of suspense as we all wondered if and when that bell would ring.

Bethany Neal reads her "swoon moment" from My Last Kiss.

Bethany Neal reads her “swoon moment” from My Last Kiss.

It was so fun listening to the authors read their own words.  The beginning of each book was captivating.  The romantic parts, especially Bethany’s, captured the audience.  Each heartbreaking part was truly heartbreaking.  The wording in Carrie Harris’s piece is still on my mind.  And all the authors had me laughing with their funny parts.  I absolutely loved this format, and a couple of us at the event were thinking of how we could use this in our classrooms.

Lara Zielin makes us laugh with a passage from Donut Days.

Lara Zielin makes us laugh with a passage from Donut Days.

 The ladies signed books for all of us in attendance afterwards.  I brought in my own copies of The Summer of Letting Go and My Last Kiss to be signed as well as purchased Carrie’s first book Bad Taste in Boys and Lara’s second book The Waiting Sky to add to my library.  I appreciated the opportunity to chat with Bethany about her book and my feeling towards some of the characters.  I also loved meeting Lara for the first time and talking with her as well.  It was great to meet Carrie as well after hearing so much about her from my friend Beth.  I can’t wait to share these books with my students.

signed

It was also an added bonus to finally meet Gae in person.  Sarah connected me with Gae three years ago when she told me about The Pull of Gravity to tie into Of Mice and Men.  Gae has Skyped with my students twice and has sent me tons of sawg (including the infamous SWAG crown!).  I am so happy we finally met face-to-face and got to spend some time together.

Gae and I sharing a hug at the end of the night.

Gae and I sharing a hug at the end of the night.

Overall, it was an excellent night with great friends and authors.  I hope to have the opportunity to experience other nights like this in the future. 

On the Fence: A Review

22 Aug

Title: On the Fence

Author: Kasie West 

Format: Personal Purchase, Hardcover

Release Date: July 1, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

I adore Kasie West’s books. When I was scrolling on Twitter back in July and saw she had a new release, I knew I would buy it.  I didn’t even have to necessarily know what it was about; I just knew I wanted to read it.  This book did not disappoint. I also love that this novel takes place in the same town as West’s novel The Distance Between Us.  

I absolutely loved Charlie.  As with the ideas I discussed in my review of Dairy QueenCharlie is not a female stereotype.  She plays sports and is very athletic.  She is described as “tall and strong.”  However, now she is having a hard time dealing with what it means “to be a girl” and wonders it she can be a “real girl” and herself.  What I loved is that Charlie discovers that her own preconceived notions and stereotypes of what being a girl means are not necessarily true.  She also learns how important it is to be true to herself and who she really is even as she starts to discover new aspects of herself.  I think that is a strong message for girls today to read.

There are a number of other parts of her life Charlie is dealing with as well.  Along with figuring out her feelings for Braden, Charlie is dealing with some other personal issues, particularly the death of her mother when Charlie was very young.  While there are definitely aspects of romance in On the Fence, it was not too overpowering and there is enough of the other parts of the story to keep it engaging and realistic.  Plus, I loved so many of the characters, especially Charlie’s older brothers.  Especially her brother Gage.  They are fun, funny, and memorable.  

On the Fence was a very enjoyable read.  Not too light, not too heavy.  It was just what I needed as summer is winding down and I’m still finding my reading groove again.  

4/5 stars 

Dairy Queen: A Review

21 Aug

Title: Dairy Queen

Author: Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Release Date: May 22, 2006

Format: Paperback gift from friend

Summary (from Goodreads): When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D. J. can’t help admitting, maybe he’s right.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn’t so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won’t even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league.

When you don’t talk, there’s a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said.
Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D. J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

As with many books I read, I had heard of this one from a few different friends who loved it.  In a session at #nErDcampMI held by my friends Sarah and Cindi, Dairy Queen came up again as we discussed diverse literature and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.  I had brought it home to read this summer so I could see what it was about.  

Overall, I did like this book.  For one thing, I love DJ’s voice and Murdock’s writing style to create it.  At times, long, almost “run-on” sentences are used by DJ as she tells her story.  I really loved this!  It felt like I was sitting next to her and just having a conversation.  I could hear a teen girl saying many of the things DJ shares.  And the way DJ tells her story creates her entire character.  She is honest.  That is what I loved the most about her.

I also love that DJ a pretty unique female narrator.  DJ works hard on her family farm.  She plays sports.  She even has a lot of knowledge about football.  She’s not perfect.  This book came up in the #WeNeedDiverseBooks discussion because DJ is a diverse protagonist in this way.  I can really appreciate that, and we definitely need more narrators and characters like DJ to help more students see themselves in literature.  I really enjoyed getting to know all parts of DJ.

A few parts of the book did drag for me at times.  While I read it in just a few days, there were times when I felt like I was just pushing through the book and it did not hold my attention as much. However, I so much enjoyed DJ that I do want to read the other books to know the rest of her story and what happens to her.  Sarah recommended listening to the audio for the rest of the books, and I do believe I am going to follow her advice.  Because I love her voice so much, I think hearing it out loud will be an even better reading experience.

3.5/5 stars 

Happy Birthday (plus one day)!

20 Aug

On Tuesday, August 19 this little blog turned one!  I started sharing my thoughts a year ago, and I’m still keeping up with it.  It is some kind of record for me.  What I am proud of this year is that I blogged every month, even if it was just once when I was a bit overwhelmed and in my slump during that last leg of the school year.  I will take it!

In the year to come, I hope to keep building up my blog.  I will continue to review books.  I also want to showcase more of the day-to-day in my classroom.  There are lessons I just love and I think “I need to share this!”  Then, something comes up and I never do.  My main goal for this year to come is to focus more on teaching.

Thank you for following my thoughts!  I am looking forward to sharing more with you in the year to come. 

Mrs. Crawford :) 

Rereading Harry Potter: Book 4

18 Aug

 

When I finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, I joked that I was now working my way into “the bricks” as the last four books are much longer and seem to resemble bricks.  This one did, of course, take me longer to finish.  

For some reason, it took me awhile to get into Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  I think knowing what happens but not fully remembering everything played a big part in that.  I vaguely remembered some twists and the larger roles that characters played, so I wanted to read quickly to read how everything is connected and played out.  Around the second task, I read much quicker and started remembering how all the pieces fall into place.

 I love how so many more characters begin to develop.  Sirius plays a much bigger role than I recalled and his character builds up even more.  The rise of Voldermort and the Ministry’s refusal to acknowledge it sets the stage for amazing things to come in the series.  This book was a huge turning point in the entire series and I enjoyed experiencing it again.

I know that some tears are coming in the next few books as I continue my journey.  I also am looking forward to what else I rediscover in the books to come. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Give Readers Who Never Read YA

5 Aug

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  Each week they post a new list for bloggers to answer.  This week’s topics is Top Ten Books I’d Give to Readers Who Have Never Read X (blogger chooses the topic).  As I am passionate about YA and read that the most, here are 10 books I would use to introduce readers to YA.

1. Looking for Alaska by John Green

John Green is an amazing author.  The Fault in Our Stars is probably his most popular work; however, my favorite book by him is this one.  Love the characters and this story so much.

2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is the first YA book I read in college.  Melinda’s story is one that stays with me year after year.

3.  The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner

I love this book and my students love this book.  It is a great story and ties in a classic with Of Mice and Men.  

4. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

I love the emotion in this book and the lessons that can be learned from Deanna’s story.  

5. Shattering Glass by Gail Giles

This story still haunts me even after two and half years!  The way it is put together keeps readers wanting to know more.  

6. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

This would be a great introduction to verse as well as YA novels.  The voice in here is amazing and Sophie is a completely believable teenager.

 7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins 

This book is just so fun!  It has great characters, interesting writing, and great romance.  A perfect YA novel.

8. Peak by Roland Smith

This book has a great adventure and readers can learn so much from this one.  

9. Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

This book looks at tough subjects that I believe all ages can appreciate.  Strong characters, too.  (Although I hate the cover because it is so misleading!)

10. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I love everything about this book.  Everyone should read this book no matter what.  A beautiful story with some amazing people that is impossible to forget.

What books would you recommend to introduce YA to readers?

Rereading Harry Potter: Book 3

31 Jul

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was, and still is, my favorite book in the series.  I think the main reason for this is because Sirius Black became my favorite character in the series.  I remember reading this the first time convinced he was in fact guilty, then BAM! JK Rowling flips it on you.  It was also the first glimpses into the wizard world before Harry and the lives of Lily and James. Characters develop more and more as the series continues to develop in and of itself.  

The number one thought in my mind as I read this was: They changed so much in the movie!  There was a good amount of time between my reading of this book and the release of the film.  Of course, I knew things were different and left out; I just did not realize how many things were rearranged or ignored overall.  I think those that have only seen the movies do miss out on quite a bit.  There is a lot of development and back story that the film ignored.  This was a beneficial reread as it reminded me of some points I had forgotten about.

I really enjoyed being reintroduced to my favorite character this time through.  I think the main draw to Sirius for me is the reminder that things are not always as they seem and much more meets the eye.  He is by no means perfect, but he is an extremely loyal person which shines through the most.  

I am moving on now to the much thicker books now.  Be sure to check back as I continue with the next four books!

What movie changed one of your favorite books the most?  Did you like the movie version of this one?

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