Archive | April, 2014

World Book Night 2014

25 Apr

Wednesday, April 23rd marked one of my favorite days of the year: World Book Night. World Book Night is a non-profit campaign that empowers book givers to share 500,000 new books, all in one day, to light or non-readers. This Wednesday I was just one of 25,000 volunteer book givers.  This was my third year participating as a book giver.  Each year I love it more and more and enjoy sharing books with my students.

This year, we had five total teaches giving books to students: two English teachers, our ESL teacher, one of our music teachers, and one of our Special Education Co-Teachers.  We had a selection of four different books to give to students.

I gave away The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a book I truly enjoyed and feel many of my students could appreciate and enjoy.  As I gave books, students were surprised to be getting a book, for free no less.  They all expressed gratitude.  I told them a little about Charlie and the book.  Some students knew a little bit about if from having heard of the movie and were looking forward to reading it.  I was able to give the book to current as well as former students for them to enjoy.

He wanted a picture of me and the book.

He wanted a picture of me and the book.

Showing off her brand new book.

Showing off her brand new book.

I hope to follow up with the students soon to see what they think of the book.  All teachers that gave reported very excited and appreciative students.  We are all happy we did it.

Be sure to check out WBN for yourself here.  You can learn more about this amazing event and sign up for their email list to know when books are selected for 2015 and when you can apply to be a donor.

My fourth hour recipients.

My fourth hour recipients.

My co-teacher Kelli and me with our third hour recipients.

My co-teacher Kelli and me with our third hour recipients.

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Split Second: A Review

23 Apr

Title: Split Second (Pivot Point #2)

Author: Kasie West

Format: Borrowed from library

Release Date: Feburary 11, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price.

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that.

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her.

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything. 

A word of warning: This is a sequel to Pivot Point and you will want to be sure you have read the first one.  To avoid spoilers, you may want to just stop reading now, get the first one AND this one, read them because you will need the answers immediately, then come back.

I read Pivot Point last year after MRA and loved it.  My review on Goodreads just asked when the next one was coming out.  When I saw this in the New Books display at my public library, I knew I had to grab it.  I read this book in less than a week.

Split Second picks up pretty much where Pivot Point leaves off.  Addie is having a bit of a hard time coming to terms with everything that has happened and looks forward to spending her extended holiday with her father.  What I really loved about this is getting Laila’s point-of-view every other chapter as she also deals with the fallout from the first book and her attempts to expand her ability.  Both characters are well developed and I really loved getting to know Laila more this time than in Pivot Point.  She was not only funny but also endearing as you learn more about her own life and background.

Of course, I absolutely loved Trevor again.  I fell for him hard in the first book and was quickly reminded how much I adored him in this one.  It was interesting though to read Addie come in contact with this life in Dallas and have no memory of it even though the reader does.  I do not think I have every had a similar experience in my reading history.  It was very unique and kept me completely involved.  I wanted both Addie and Trevor to remember as I read so much that I rooted for them and Laila throughout the whole novel.

Duke is also still part of the plot, which I wasn’t crazy about at first.  However, I appreciated his role in the overall story.  Connor is a very intriguing new character in the mix.  The tension between him and Laila was fun to read and I also wanted to more about his past.  I developed sympathy for him as he developed as a character.  West has an amazing ability to create these realistic characters in this paranormal setting.  They are not perfect, just as people are not.  Yet, readers care about them and feel they really do know them.  That is an amazing gift as a writer.

There was just one small piece of the plot that I felt was a little rushed, but will not share it here so not to spoil it.  Not so much so to overshadow the rest of the twist and turns.  Some parts really surprised me.  At one point, I was mentally yelling at Addie, “No!  Don’t do it!”  I also love how the Compound is developed more fully and the reader learns more of the inner-workings of this society.  I was not sure how the book would end and wrap up, yet I loved and was amazed at where it went.

West is definitely becoming one of my favorite contemporary authors.  I have enjoyed these books as well as her realistic fiction novel The Distance Between Us.  I really look forward to reading more from her.

5/5 stars

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Who Stole My Heart

22 Apr

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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 Characters Who X.  As I am well known for my love and deep appreciation of many fictional characters, I am focusing on ten who have stolen my heart.  Some have stolen it in obvious ways, and others in ways you may not expect.

1. Gus from Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

This is my number one favorite book of all time.  I have reread it at least seven times.  While I am sure I should have been swooning over Von or Bru, I always loved Gus and totally “called it” early on in the book.

2. Warner from Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Okay, he was supposed to be the “bad guy,” but I was intrigued by Warner from the very beginning.  I even got in some heated arguments with coworkers about him.  I was happy with how he developed and came through in the series.

3. Parker Evens from Envy by Sandra Brown 

A mysterious recluse that lives on an island remote island?  An amazing writer?  There’s more to him than meets the eye?  Of course I love him!

4. Noah Shaw from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Oh Noah.  Noah, Noah, Noah.  I just love him.  He is sarcastic and funny and…really I could swoon for a very long time about Noah Shaw.  He is amazing!

5. Adam from If I Stay by Gayle Forman 

Can anything bad be said about Adam?  It also helps that he looks quite amazing in the trailer for the movie.

6. Finn from The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

I swooned over Finn in my review.  He is quite the character and a great match for Hayley.  I really enjoyed reading him.

7.  St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

British.  In Paris.  Adorable.  Hilarious.  British.  I mean, what else is there to say about him.  Did I mention he is British?

8. A from Every Day by David Levithan

A is neither male nor female.  A is just a person and encompasses life and love in their purest forms.

9. Rudy from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My last two choices a different from the rest of this list.  They stole my heart in a different way.  Rudy was so sweet and innocent.  He was just a sweet boy and great friend to Liesel.  I loved watching him grow up and he stays with me.

10. Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Jem is one of my favorite characters in all of literature.  Watching him grow into adulthood too early is heartbreaking.  Rereading the novel as an adult, I cried when he was so heartbroken by the verdict in Tom Robinson’s trial.  I think I could relate to what Jem went through as he learned what the world is really like.

What characters have stolen your heart?  Or, what do you focus on when pulling out characters that have hit you?

Breaking Through the Slump

21 Apr

I had a bit of a reading and writing slump for the past couple of weeks.  As is pretty obvious, I was not blogging a whole lot.  I also was not doing personal writing.  Plus, I was really struggling with my reading.  I usually read at least 4 or so books over spring break.  I really only finished Grasshopper Jungle and read one other book, My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick.  I had gone to the library at the start of break and brought home a bunch of books from my classroom library with so much hope of all the reading I would do.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.

Not to mention, I have been slumping a little bit this year in general.  My goal of 100 books?  Goodreads has reminded me that I am 12 books behind.  Oops.  I was feeling pretty lost and just could not get the motivation going.

I posted on Facebook on April 13 that I was in a slump.  Just threw it out there and said I was sad about it because that was on my mind.  I should not have been surprised that my friends and reading community stepped up with some advice and encouragement to help me out.

Here are the highlights of what they told me that really helped:

  • Go back and reread a favorite
  • Try light, romantic, funny books
  • Try picture books and graphic novels
  • Others are behind pace, too
  • Try something different
  • Try an audio book
  • Slumps are totally normal
  • Slumps mean you are reader

These titles were also specifically suggested:

I felt much better after everyone’s kind words, suggestions, and encouragements.  Yes, readers have slumps.  There is nothing wrong with that.  And so I’m behind my pace.  Who cares?  I have still read 18 books in the first four months of the year and that is pretty awesome.

So, I decided to put the book I was reading aside and switch to a book I really wanted to read, Split Second by Kasie West (review to come very soon!).  What a fantastic idea it was! I read it in less than a week.  I devoured it really.  The stay up way too late type of reading.  And I fell right into another book that I am loving as well.  I made it through!  I am so grateful for my reading community and how they helped. I am feeling more excited to read, and write.

I also shared a little of this experience with my students.  I think they were a little surprised to hear me use “reading” and “slump” in the same sentence.  I know it’s important to share this with them so that they know it is normal and we all go through it.

What do you do when you find you are in a slump?  What advice can you share with others?

A Tribute to Harry Potter

9 Apr

 

I really don’t know what has started this, but lately I am falling back into my Harry Potter obsession.  I have a new goal for this year: re-read all seven books.  Anyone that follows me on Pinterest has probably noticed a whole bunch of random pins, even a board dedicated to the HP fandom.  Every time one of the movies is on, my husband and I watch it for a least a little bit (he is a movies only fan but I love him anyway lol).  There is a connection I feel with these books, this world that I don’t really have with any other.

I actually started reading the books when Goblet of Fire was being released.  I was sixteen vacationing in Florida with my parents, brother, and aunt and we kept noticing huge signs in store advertising this book.  I had never heard of them before.  My aunt was actually working part time at Boarders at the time so I asked her about it.  She said it was this huge children’s book about a wizard.  They were even having a release party at her store.

I remember the exact moment on this trip when I decided that I wanted to read these books.  In Disney World, I saw a display of the books in the gift shop for the Tower of Terror ride.  I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and just was lazily flipping the pages.  A little boy, not much older that maybe seven saw me.  He walked right up and told me what a good book it was and that I should read it.  I thanked him and asked my aunt to get me a copy of the first book with her discount so I could see what this was all about.

While they may not admit to it, my mom and brother teased me a little for wanting to read a “kid book.”  I just said I wanted to know what the big deal was.  My aunt assured me that she had seen people of all ages reading the book.

I fell in love with this fantastic world and story pretty quickly.  I was not – nor am I still – the biggest fantasy fan.  There was something about Harry and Hogwarts that was so different that I found myself lost in this world.  I gave the book to my brother and he also quickly devoured it.  He passed it on to my mom.  We became fans then and there.  I will admit my brother read the next three much quicker than I did.  I even remember having to buy Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix while we were in Alaska on another vacation in 2003 because he could not wait to get home to get a copy.  He read it in just a few days and I was grateful he had bought so that I got to read it, too.

My favorite book in the series still is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Sirius Black is my favorite character in the series.  I remember my shock while reading Goblet of Fire at the end when Voldermort returned and Cedric was killed for no reason.  Of course, I was crushed in Order of the Phoenix when the character who was killed was my favorite.  Half-Blood Prince made me question everything I thought I knew about characters, especially Snape, my third favorite character after the twins.  I remember sharing theories with fans and reading message boards and even dabbling in some Fanfiction writing to figure out where it was going.  The Deathly Hallows was a blur of tears from the moment Dobby sacrificed himself for Harry until the last page. Losing Fred was such a shock I reread the page at least three times hoping it wasn’t true.  I could not read but a few lines at a time when Harry was walking into the forest to meet his death willingly.  And Neville standing up to Voldermort.  And the end.  (And let’s not forget doing it all again in the movies – after seeing part 1 and completely losing it, I think my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, did not know what to do with me and was truly concerned.)

My brother and I shared a special bond in this.  We went to midnight release parties for Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows.  We each had to buy our own copies.  I remember racing home after buying the books and staying up to begin reading until we could no longer keep our eyes open (he always finished before me).  These books also made my brother a reader again.  He stopped reading in middle school.  When he discovered Harry Potter, he reread them over and over and over again, stating they were the only books he would ever read.  I am happy to say he is a very avid reader now and I know it is thanks for Harry Potter.  While we have different tastes, we share titles we have read with one another and still find some we have in common.

I actually had to go to my brother’s to get a copy of a couple books so I can reread them this year.  As he grabbed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone from his book shelf, I stated I was pretty sure that was my book.  He said no, he had claimed it from me so now it was his.  It really is that first copy my aunt bought for me back in 2001.  The binding is coming apart from being passed around and reread so many times.  It seems perfect that this book would be in that shape; it is a visual symbol for how much we loved and still love this story.

The books and movies took up 10 years of my life and have shaped me into the reader I am today.  I look forward to revisiting this world once again.

Are you a Harry Potter fan as well?  What book or series stands out in your mind as making you the reader you are today?

Grasshopper Jungle: A Review

8 Apr

Title: Grasshopper Jungle

Author: Andrew Smith

Format: ebook for Kindle

Release Date: Feburary 11, 2014

Summary (from Goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin’s hormones are totally oblivious; they don’t care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He’s stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it’s up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

I really wanted to like this one more than I did.  In fact, when I started reading it, I was sure I would love it.  I am a huge fan of Smith’s Winger. I do not want to give too much away on this one.  I was warned before I read it by multiple people that Grasshopper Jungle is not for everyone, but everyone should read it.

The positives: I started off loving Austin and his voice.  Reading this on my Kindle app enabled me to highlight so many amazing lines that he used.  Austin is a true teenage boy.  I can respect and appreciate that and can see a number of male readers appreciating that, too.  I also understand a number of the bigger issues addressed and metaphors that can be pulled out.  Smith is a master wordsmith when he writes.  I cannot and will not ever take that away from him.

The negatives: I guess it just went on for too long for me.  After awhile, I just did not know where the plot was going.  I even had to call my good friend Beth to motivate me to finish it.  I got a little bored with it.  I was over some aspects of the plot.  My interest just tapered off the more the book went on and I just wanted to be done with it but I felt as though I was dragging my feet a little.

I do think people should read and consider this book.  I know so many people who have loved it.  Please do not take just by word for it.  A lot of people have been talking about this book.  My Goodreads friends have four and five star reviews.  Nerdy Book Club posted a great review.   I do want to talk with people about this one and get different perspectives.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and let me know if you do read it, what you think.

3/5 stars