August 29, 2014

Owl of the Week: Back to School Owl Bag

Just for fun I like to share some of the cute owl stuff I find.  
Fridays are set aside to honor our Owl of the Week! 

Today in honor of school starting for many kids next week I thought I'd share a cute bag that would work perfectly for school!

It's very cute! And you can change some of the colors.  
I found it on Zazzle.  
If you want to see more about it check it out HERE!

August 28, 2014

Book Review: Charm & Strange by

Title: Charm & Strange

Author: Stephanie Kuehn

When you've been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . .

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself. 

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable. 

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. 

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying. 

Sometimes a book touches me so much that I can't let it go. I know immediately it will be a book that will always hold a special place in my heart.  Charm & Strange is one of those books. The thing is, I don't want to say too much because the story really needs to unfold before you so that you can feel its full impact.  And that's what it does - it unfolds before you.  The way it unfolds is beautifully done.  You know something has happened.  You know it wasn't good.  But you don't know what.  Then slowly the events of the past take shape. As they took shape my heart ached for Drew/Win (the main character goes by two different names).  As the story draws to a close it felt so whole and complete.

Now there are somethings you should be prepared for.  There are parts of the story that might confuse you or seem odd.  Win/Drew has some ideas that can come across as odd.  Please stick with the story if you feel that way, because it all become clear and understandable at the end.   And for me - these ideas he had only added to the emotional impact of the story.  It added a level of depth to what Win/Drew is dealing with.

Also be prepared for Win/Drew himself.  He's not always the easiest character to like.  There are times I really didn't like him.  He can be rude and violent and frustrating.  Again - stick with him!

And lastly know that the book goes back and forth from the past to the present.  This was super easy to follow because it's almost every other chapter, but it might help you as you go into the story.

I really wish I could go into things in much more detail, but honestly I'm so afraid it will take away from your experience with the book if I do. That is the last thing I want!

Final thought:  This story will stay with me for a long time to come.

August 27, 2014

Back to School Reading Memories and a GIVEAWAY

So at my house we're heading back to school next week.  For the first time in 19 years I will not be going back into the classroom as a teacher.  For the next three years I will be an Instructional Coach working with teachers as they set goals for their teaching.  I'm super excited, but I also know I'll miss the classroom and the students.  Plus I'll miss being able 
to talk about books with them!!  

Anyway -  because of back-to-school time I thought it would be fun to share some of our school reading memories and have a giveaway with them! I thought I'd share some of the books I remember be hooked on while I was in school plus a few of my favorite ones to teach.  If you want to know more about the book, click on the title, and it will take you to its Goodreads page.  

Oh the Memories!

There are a few books/authors I remember being hooked on in school.  

Danielle Steele

My friends and I were completely hooked on her books.  I read ALL of them! They were romancey, and I guess at 17 that was important to me!  I haven't read one since high school!

Anything in the Horror Genre

I've shared in the past that I loved John Saul growing up. The gorier the better!  I did try rereading one of his books.  Couldn't do it.  I guess I can't do gore as much as I once did!

Sunfire Romance Books
Oh goodness did I love these in junior high.  I do think partially it was because they were set in different time periods.  The one on Titanic (Nicole) was my favorite!!!  I also loved the one where the main character becomes a movie star (Roxanne).  I did reread one of these.  Oh goodness!

Sweet Valley High Series
This is probably one of the first series I really remember getting in to.  I waited every month for the new one to come out.  Loved them! They were pretty and popular and had great lives.  A girl from North Dakota was jealous.  Again I tried to reread one.  No! No! No! :)

For School Reading

These are some of the books I was assigned to read when I was in school

Romeo and Juliet

Of course we read this.  I was the geek (proudly!) that LOVED reading Shakespeare.  Hence being an English teacher now!

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

This was the biggest deal to read in high school.  You heard about it from the upper class men for year before actually reading it.  They talked about how gross it was with the rats in the meat etc.  It was even challenged by a parent once!  What do I remember about it?? Nothing really.  I should reread it.......

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Hated it!!! Enough said.

What I Assign My Students

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
I've taught it for 18 years! Still love it.  Will always love it.  

Witness by Karen Hesse

This was a new one for me.  I started using it with my 8th graders two years ago.  They like it.  It makes them think more than any other book we read.  Very well done! 

Boy: Tale of Childhood by Roald Dahl

I use this one with my 5th graders, and they love it! Many of them of read a bunch of Dahl books, so they love seeing how people from his real life seemed to influence his writing.  It's amazing to me how much they really love this book.

Lizzie Bright and the Buck Minister Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
I used this for the first time last year.  WOW! The kids liked it, but they were also saddened by it.  It's such a strong story about friendship and discrimination.  Read it if you haven't!

I use a ton more, but that's one from each grade level!

Now the Giveaway!

I will giveaway your choice of two options.
1.  Two books from the ones above
2. $20 to spend at The Book Depository

Fill out the Rafflecopter
Must be 13
Must be a US resident for the books but INTERNATIONAL for Book Depository. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

August 26, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Books I Want to Read But Don't Own Yet

Today we're looking at books I want to read by haven't bought yet. I'm only going to do three because this could be a huge list that I find hard to narrow down!

On the Road to Find Out by Rachel Toor.  I'm a wanna be runner, so this one has my interest.  I've heard good and bad about it, but I really want to still read it.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith.  This book sounds good and weird at the same time, so I've got to read it!

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson.  I loved her other books, so I want to read this one.  It sounds good, and I've heard good things.

August 25, 2014

Snapshot Monday: Charm & Strange

To keep my posts simple and save on time I try to post a picture of what I'm reading, reading next or just finished.


Just started it and LOVE IT so far.  Super has my attention.

August 22, 2014

Owl of the Week: Cute Dapper Book Clip

Each Friday (well when I have time) I'll share something owl that is somewhat book related.

I love Etsy for owl stuff.  I could go nuts there.  Today I found an adorable book clip. I love his dapper look!

I found it at Isabellsumbrella.  You can find it HERE.

August 21, 2014

Review: Kiss of Broken Glass

Title: Kiss of Broken Glass
Author: Madeleine Kuderick
Release Date: Sept 9th

Madeleine Kuderick’s gripping debut is a darkly beautiful and lyrical novel in verse, perfect for fans of Sonya Sones and Laurie Halse Anderson. Kiss of Broken Glass pulses with emotion and lingers long after the last page.

In the next seventy-two hours, Kenna may lose everything—her friends, her freedom, and maybe even herself. One kiss of the blade was all it took to get her sent to the psych ward for seventy-two hours. There she will face her addiction to cutting, though the outcome is far from certain.

When fifteen-year-old Kenna is found cutting herself in the school bathroom, she is sent to a facility for mandatory psychiatric watch. There, Kenna meets other kids like her—her roommate, Donya, who’s there for her fifth time; the birdlike Skylar; and Jag, a boy cute enough to make her forget her problems . . . for a moment.

I think your opinion of this book will be largely based on what you expected from it going in to reading it.  I had no expectation of what it was or what it wasn't, so that really affected what I thought of it.  I think you if you go into thinking it's going to be a full story about a young girl dealing deeply with her addiction to cutting, you'll be disappointed.  It's not that book.

This book is really taking a brief bit of time - 72 hour - and exploding it to look at how a young girl, Kenna in this book, can begin to question her choices.  And that's what happens.  Kenna is pulled out of the world that "allowed" her cutting and is now able to take a peek at it without all the distractions of friends and family.  And when I say peek that's what I mean.  It really is about her just beginning to glimpse the reality of her life and her choices.  It isn't about her struggling through the battle of facing that reality.  I liked that because it was a different perspective from what you normally see.  Usually it's the full-blown story of the battle and then finally the victory.  This is that, but it's realistic because it explodes that moment when the battle may now have a chance to start.

Also if you are looking for a book that give you all the answers and leaves you knowing it's going to be all ok - you won't like this book.  It's realistic because it doesn't lead you to believe that all will be well at the end after you leave Kenna.  There is no answers for Kenna. I liked it a lot because it allowed the reader to see the small thoughts that can begin to change someone.  That isn't something I'd seen in a book before.  

I will tell you - when I finished I didn't know if I really liked the book a ton.  I liked it, but it wasn't sure how much.  It's only been as time has passed that I realize how good it was.  Kenna's story has stuck with me in soft subtle ways that I completely appreciate.

Final thought - Impacts you beyond the "simpleness" of the story.  

PS about it being written in verse - that only added to story's ability to look at the small moments that are affecting Kenna during these 72 hours.  Had it not been written in verse it wouldn't have been as strong.  

August 20, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Undivided

This post is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Today I'm waiting on:
Undivided by Neal Shusterman
Release: Oct. 14

Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman.

Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future.

But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

August 19, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Have Been Recommended to Me Over and Over and.....

Top books or authors people have recommended to me over and over and over......

Anything by John Green.  After The Fault In Our Stars came out everyone was recommending him to me. The thing is - I had read most of his books already before the "general  population" found him.  

Sarah Dessen. The girls I teach have told me over and over and over and over that I MUST read one of her books.  I plan on it, but I just haven't yet.

The rest of the The Giver series.  I have taught The Giver for the last two years and love it.  But I haven't read the rest of the books in the series - Messenger, Gathering Blue and Son - I know they aren't a true series, more companion books. Many many students and other teachers tell me I MUST read them. I did try reading Gathering Blue a long while back but couldn't get into it.  I do plan to day to read them, but I just don't know when.  (Oh and about the movie - don't get me started!)

The Heroes of Olympus series.  Tons of my 5th and 6th graders (as well as my own daughter) tells me I MUST read them.  I'm getting there.  

The Found series by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  This one comes from my students as well.  Many of them have read the entire series, so they tell me I have to read it! The thing is, I read the first one and it didn't excite me, so I don't plan on reading the rest.  BUT I'm so glad they enjoy them!

What about you?? What books do people recommend to you over and over?

August 18, 2014

Snapshot Monday: Just Finished

Keeping my blogging simple by taking a snapshot of my current book, next book or what I just finished.


I just finished Kiss of Broken Glass.  Watch for the review soon!

August 17, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - In a Small Way

This is a fun meme were people share the books they got this week.  I won't participate too often mainly because without teaching I don't buy many books on a weekly basis anymore! So once in awhile I'll share some of the books I'v gotten.

Stacking the Shelves is a meme started by Tynga over at Tynga's Reviews.

Only a couple of books:

The latest Amulet Escape from Lucien (I'm going to ask my son to help review this one!)
The Jewel by Amy Ewing. I'm in love with the cover of this book!

August 15, 2014

Owl of the Week: Owl Tote

Each Friday (well when I have time) I'll share something owl that is somewhat book related.

I love Etsy for owl stuff.  I could go nuts there.  Today I found a cute owl tote bag. Great way to carry your books around :)

Its from Futurerity2.  You can find it HERE.

August 14, 2014

Review: Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Title: Welcome to the Dark House
Author: Laurie Faria Stolarz

What’s your worst nightmare?

For Ivy Jensen, it’s the eyes of a killer that haunt her nights. For Parker Bradley, it’s bloodthirsty sea serpents that slither in his dreams.

And for seven essay contestants, it’s their worst nightmares that win them an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at director Justin Blake’s latest, confidential project. Ivy doesn’t even like scary movies, but she’s ready to face her real-world fears. Parker’s sympathetic words and perfect smile help keep her spirits up. . . at least for now.

Not everyone is so charming, though. Horror-film fanatic Garth Vader wants to stir up trouble. It’s bad enough he has to stay in the middle of nowhere with this group—the girl who locks herself in her room; the know-it-all roommate; “Mister Sensitive”; and the one who’s too cheery for her own good. Someone has to make things interesting.

Except, things are already a little weird. The hostess is a serial-killer look-alike, the dream-stealing Nightmare Elf is lurking about, and the seventh member of the group is missing.

By the time Ivy and Parker realize what’s really at stake, it’s too late to wake up and run.

So I'm in a scary, suspense, spooky mood lately.  I've read several books that fall into that genre.  I've always loved a good scary book (not so much for scary movies though!).  I mean one of my all time favorites is The Shining.  So when I sent to the bookstore with my kids and saw this book, I didn't hesitate to pick it up.  While my son was in the pool for swimming lessons I dived into the book.  I loved it from the beginning.  I mean the first sentence is "I wake with a gasp covered in my own blood."  How could you NOT love a starter like that.  The basic premise of the story is that a group of kids win a contest hosted by their favorite horror director and it's all based on sharing their worst nightmares.  And that grabbed me too! Who doesn't have a horrible nightmare.  Mine deals with gumballs!  The thing is, they need to face their nightmares.  SCARY.  I liked, or disliked, all the characters as was the plan. This one character Garth Vadar drove me nuts because of his obsession with horror movies and fnding every funny or making fun of anyone who gets scared.  It just annoyed me, but he was supposed to be that character so it worked.  I really liked the main character Ivy.  She's super freaked out to be there, but I liked how it didn't shut her down.  She kept moving and thinking and dealing, and I liked that a lot.  She didn't play the helpless girl.  

Ok so the plot.  At first it had this fantastic Freddy Krueger, Friday the 13th vibe going.  It reminded me a lot of growing up on those movies, so the creepy factor was super high, and I loved it! I got nervous during certain scenes, cringed when I thought something scary was going to jump out and was relieved when things were ok.  Loved it all.  The second half of the book is them at an amusement park where they are to face their fears.  Super creepy there and enjoyed cringing along with them. I mean their nightmares were scary! And the idea of wandering around an amusement park based on horror movies would freak me out entirely. 

BUT THEN..... it fell apart on me.  The ending rushed up super fast! I was like WHAT??? it's done? I tore through the prologue wanting more, but it wasn't there.  I was completely disappointed.  It ended on a note that hinted at a sequel, so I got on Google and searched. Sure enough it's the first book in a series! Had I started the book knowing that I would've been more prepared for the ending.  I'm not saying it would've been 100% better because I still think it ended really fast.  But at least I would've understood it was a set up to a series.  

In the end - I will want to read the next book because I did like the creepy factor.  I thought it was well done without having to be overly gory.  And I liked Ivy, and I want to know more of what happens.  I'm glad I read the book I really am.  I just wish I had know it was only the beginning!

August 13, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Retribution of Mara Dyer

This post is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Today I'm waiting on:

The Retribution of Mara Dyer
Released Nov 4th.

Mara Dyer wants to believe there's more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.
Retribution has arrived.

August 12, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

Top Books I'm Not Sure I Want To Read (books you may have bought but aren't sure if you are into it anymore, books you wanted to read but heard mixed things about, hyped books you aren't sure about --- basically any book that has you going, "TO READ OR NOT TO READ?"

The Selection by Kiera Cass.  A ton of my students have told me to read this.  I just don't know if I want to.

Allegiant by Veronica Roth.  I've read the other two.  I know what happens.  Do I want to read it??????

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.  I have it on my Nook, and I've heard tons and tons of great stuff about it.  But I believe it's high fantasy, and I struggle with that! 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I know! I know! I just don't know if I want to read it.  I get very emotionally involved in book, so this one could be tough.

The rest of the Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi.  I liked the first book in the series.  I just don't know if I want to finish it.  

There are more (many more!).  But those are the first ones I thought of.  

August 11, 2014

Snapshot Monday

I started this awhile ago, but when I was debating on whether to keep blogging or not it stopped.  I think it's a good easy way to keep posting!

On Monday I share a quick snapshot of the book I'm currently reading or a book I'm planning to read next.  Quick shoot and share!  
Today my current read:

My daughter wants me  read the whole series including The Heroes of Olympus BEFORE the new one comes out this fall.  Not gonna happen :)

August 8, 2014

Owl of the Week: Book End

Each Friday (well when I have time) I'll share something owl that is somewhat book related.

I love Etsy for owl stuff.  I could go nuts there.  Today I found a cute owl book end.

At Nukadesigns I found this cute owl.
You can find it HERE.
I really think I need these!

August 7, 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I liked this book quite a bit.  I've read some other reviews, and I know not everyone liked it as much, but I really did.  I read it it one day so that should tell you something.  I really liked the writing style.  There were points in it that it almost felt like it as written in verse, and that appealed to me.  I also like how the author described some of the pain that Cady (the main character) felt.  She gets migraines and how Lockhart described them was spot on.  I get them, and I couldn't believe how well she described what they can be like.  The author does this with other things like the pain Cady feels when her father leaves. All well done.  

I don't want to say too much about the story in fear of giving things away, but I will say I was very surprised by what the truth turned out to be.  It was not what I thought it would be at all.  Of course that was good! I've read several books lately that had great twists and turns (The Third Twin and Feral), but I will say this has been the strongest in keeping me guessing and have the biggest "oh wow!" moment.  I'm sorry that I'm not giving much specifics, but like I said I'm afraid I'll give things away.

I do have to say that this book does risk having the reader not like Cady's family.  They are the Sinclairs (as they repeatedly say) and pretty full of themselves at points, but thankfully for me it wasn't too heavy handed, so I could overlook that. I do wonder though, if I had known this family in real life what I would think of them just because of how they carry themselves.

Final thought - good book with a great twist when the truth is revealed.  

August 6, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Afterworlds

This post is inspired by a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine.

Today I'm waiting on:

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Release: Sept 23
Why? I LOVE Scott Westerfeld.  His Midnighters series is one of my favorites.  

Darcy Patel has put college and everything else on hold to publish her teen novel, Afterworlds. Arriving in New York with no apartment or friends she wonders whether she's made the right decision until she falls in with a crowd of other seasoned and fledgling writers who take her under their wings… 

Told in alternating chapters is Darcy's novel, a suspenseful thriller about Lizzie, a teen who slips into the 'Afterworld' to survive a terrorist attack. But the Afterworld is a place between the living and the dead and as Lizzie drifts between our world and that of the Afterworld, she discovers that many unsolved - and terrifying - stories need to be reconciled. And when a new threat resurfaces, Lizzie learns her special gifts may not be enough to protect those she loves and cares about most.

August 5, 2014

Top Ten Books I'd Give To Readers Who Have Never Read Middle Grade

Today we are listing the top ten books in a certain category we'd recommend to someone who hasn't read that category.  I picked "middle grade" books.  

1.  When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  It's such a strong book that is complex and well written and mysterious and has strong characters.  If you can't tell I LOVED this book.

2.  Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Wonderful book about acceptance.  I think it would show someone how strong MG books can be.

3.  Anything by Rick Riordan - mainly because his books are just great.  Full of action.  Great characters.  Wonderful mythology.  They have something for everyone, so I think anyone can get in to them.

4.  Lizzie Bright and the Buckminister Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. Sometimes it's hard to believe that this is MG.  I think it would show someone the depth of topics that MG can and does cover.

5.  Out of my Mind by Sharon M. Draper.  Kids love this book reading it over and over.  Great book - wonderful handling of a difficult topic

6.  Rules by Cynthia Lord.  I love how this book handles the topic of dealing with a sibling with autism.  It would be great for anyone to read if they have someone with autism in their life.

7.  Middle School- Worst Years of My Life.  Many adults find it hard to believe that James Patterson could write a book for MG that kids would really enjoy.  This book shows why they love it.  It's funny! It's very serious.  Well done.

8.  Breakcrumbs by Anna Ursu.  Again it shows how well done MG books can be.  Such a strong, sweet, wonderful book.

9.  Bomb - The Race to Build, and Steal, the World's Most Powerful Weapon by Steve Sheinkin.  I like this one because it shows how great MG nonfiction can be!

10.   The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt.  One of my most absolute favorite books!