Tuesday, April 7, 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Where Are They Now?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's topic is: Top Ten Characters I’d Like to Check in on...

One of the reasons I love reading so much is the relationships I build with characters. That probably sounds lame, as it’s really difficult to have a relationship that only exists on the page, but, nonetheless, characters help shape my life. They teach me life lessons, help me develop compassion for others, and introduce me to worlds beyond my imagination. When I finish a book, there’s always a feeling of melancholy that creeps over me, because I know I’ll never see these characters again. Here’s a list of characters I’d like to check in on, a sort of “where are they now”:


  1. Mara Dyer and Noah Shaw from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer series: Are they happy? Are they alive? Is Noah still as irresistible as he was in the books?

  1. August Pullman from Wonder: What a kid! I’d love to know how many more lives he’s touched since his story ended. I wonder how he liked middle school and high school. Is he still friends with Jack Will?

  1. Hazel Grace Lancaster from The Fault in Our Stars: This is probably a cliche pick, but I want to know that Hazel’s okay (okay? okay). I hope she’s beaten her cancer, I hope she’s found love again (without forgetting Augustus, of course), and I hope she’s happy.

  1. Day and June from the Legend series: Maybe I don’t want to check in with them; if they didn’t fall in love all over again I think I’d be heartbroken.

  1. Aria and Perry from the Under the Never Sky series: Perhaps it’s because I just finished this series, but I really want to know how the Still Blue turned out. Did Aria and Perry get to spend their days laying in the loft looking at the clear, blue sky?


  1. Eleanor and Park from, well, Eleanor & Park: I’m glad this wasn’t a series, but at the same time I wasn’t ready for their story to end. Even more than a year after finishing this book, Eleanor and Park still stick with me. Please, please, please tell me they are still together in some capacity (even if they aren’t in love, they need to be best friends or something).

  1. Ryan Dean West from Winger: I just loved this character’s voice - his humor, particularly.

  1. Celeana and Chaol from the Throne of Glass series: Again, another series I’m working on. This one probably shouldn’t count considering their story isn’t over yet (book four later this year), but I’m dying to know how they end up (please be happily ever after).

  1. All of my Harry Potter friends: I know we see how they end up in the future, but I want the story of how they got there. Even though there were thousands and thousands of pages, seven books just isn’t enough for these characters.

  1. The Lord of the Flies boys: A nod to my English teacher side - what happened to the boys when they returned to society? Did they suffer from post-traumatic stress? Did Jack get what he deserved? I’ve always wondered how their story really ends.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Recent Additions to My TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's topic is: Top Ten Books Recently Added to My TBR List...

This is somewhat of a daunting topic for me, because my TBR list is ever growing, especially lately. I don’t read NEARLY as much as I used to, but I still come across books I want to read just as fast. I’ve definitely changed as a reader in this past year - if a book doesn’t grab my attention I abandon it (in the past I stuck it through until the end). It took me awhile to get used to that mindset, but now that I’m only reading books I REALLY like, I’ve finally become a reader again...woohoo! So, here are some of the books that recently caught my eye:


  1. Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira - I’ve had an ARC of this for awhile but never really paid attention to it. Recently, however, I’ve seen it on a few book lists, and I’ve become intrigued.

  1. Butter by Erin Jade Lange - This is one of the 2016 Abe books, which is where I heard of it. It sounds twisted in that this is definitely something I can see our society coming to - social media...yikes!

  1. The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi - This is going to be a hit or miss read for me. I’ve only heard great things about it, but I’ve never been extremely drawn to Middle Eastern settings.

  1. How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon - A black teen shot and killed by a white man; a societal uproar occurs. Sound familiar? I’m intrigued to see the angle of this story. And, could it be any more relevant for America today?

  1. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas - I NEED this book! This series drew me back into voracious reading...please give me more!


  1. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen - This is another book that’s been on my shelves for awhile. I used the first few pages in an activity a few weeks ago and became hooked. Too bad a student borrowed it before I could snatch it!

  1. The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson - I know, I know. How is this just know making my TBR list? Honestly, I forgot about it. My aide just read it and told me I need to read it too. Plus, it’s an Abe book next year.

  1. Threatened by Eliot Schrefer - This book sounds so different from everything out there. I’m either going to love it or abandon it (hopefully not), but I can see the topic drawing in a lot of my student readers.

  1. Positive by Paige Rawl - Another Abe book (are you sensing a theme?). This one’s a memoir about a girl who was bullied. I remember the twitter campaign from a few months ago, but never really checked the book out until now.

  1. Fat Boy vs The Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach - This sounds quite entertaining and funny, something a lot of my boy readers are looking for. My reluctant boys definitely fall into my reading gap, so hopefully this one will help fill it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

REVIEW: Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Title: Boy21
Author: Matthew Quick
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 5, 2012
Pages: 250
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:  Basketball has always been an escape for Finley. He lives in gray, broken Bellmont, a town ruled by the Irish Mob, drugs, violence, and racially charged rivalries. At home, he takes care of his disabled grandfather, and at school he’s called “White Rabbit”, the only white kid on the varsity basketball team. He’s always dreamed of getting out somehow with his girlfriend, Erin. But until then, when he puts on his number 21, everything seems to make sense.

Russ has just moved to the neighborhood. A former teen basketball phenom from a privileged home, his life has been turned upside down by tragedy. Cut off from everyone he knows, he now answers only to the name Boy21—his former jersey number—and has an unusual obsession with outer space.

As their final year of high school brings these two boys together, “Boy21” may turn out to be the answer they both need.

Review: This book has been on my radar for awhile - I’ve seen it on other bloggers’ lists, I know of other teachers who use it for a read aloud - and, yet, I’ve never picked it up. When I saw it on the 2106 Abe Lincoln list, I decided now was the time to read this book - I am SO glad I did! Since having Ella, reading hasn’t been a focus for me; Boy21 is the first book I’ve read, start to finish, in one day since becoming a mom.

I’m not quite sure what it is that drew me so completely into the story: the characters, the storyline, or the ease of the writing. I know I started the book because of the plot. I have a lot of boy readers that always want sports books. Admittedly, this is a reading gap of mine. When I saw Boy21 focused on basketball, I knew this could be a great recommendation for some of my students. Yes, it is about basketball. It’s a common thread throughout the book. But, really, this book goes WELL beyond sports (like how Winger isn’t really a book about rugby). As a reader, you feel compassion, you feel uncomfortable, you feel stunned...it’s all there.

Quick gets the reader to feel so many feels through his beautifully developed characters. I know I want a friend like Finley. Someone who will do anything for you even when he doesn’t want to. Someone who is unspeakably loyal and loves what he loves so fiercely. And, Russ/Boy21? My heart breaks for him. When you see his heartbreak on the page, you can’t do anything but want to reach in and wrap him up in a hug.

So, even though this book appeals to the sports crowd, it goes well beyond that. It teaches the reader about people, about how we handle tragedies that might come out way. Would you be like Finely and erase them from your memory, or would you be like Russ and create another world for you to exist in? Either way, we need to think about what those around us are going through before we jump to conclusions - that’s what Quick teaches us through his novel.

Who Should Read It? This book appeals to many different readers. I know my sports readers will pick this one up because of the basketball thread, but I also know fans of realistic fiction (like myself) will fly through this book. It has tension (you don’t really know Finley’s story until the very end), it has great characters, and it is a quick read - a perfect combination for readers of all kinds.

Friday, March 20, 2015

2016 Abe Lincoln Book List

It's here! Next year's Abe Lincoln book list is out...yay! Every year I look forward to this list; it guides my reading for the year. I haven't ever finished a list, although it's been a goal of mine every year. There are always a few books on the list that just aren't for me - usually the zombie ones.

I love this year's list, at least the 7 books I've already read. I've checked two more out to read over spring break (for some reason I still think I finish books quickly, when really I read like a sloth these days). Like I tell my students, if you're looking for something to read, start here.

What I've already read:


The rest of the list (Goodreads links):

Boy 21 by Matthew Quick (spring break read)
Butter by Erin Jade Lange
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
If You Could be Mine by Sara Farizan
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (I can't believe I haven't read this yet!)
One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard
Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawl
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales (spring break read)

Thursday, October 2, 2014


So, it's been a super long time since I've written a book review. Because of that, I have A LOT of books to talk about. Instead of writing my wordy reviews, I'm going to start keeping them short and sweet (you're welcome). I'll give the Goodreads summary of the book, my brief thoughts, and my overall recommendation. Without further adieu, here are a few books I've read over the past months:

 Crash into You by Katie McGarry
Crash into You (Pushing the Limits, #3)
Goodreads Summary: The girl with straight As, designer clothes and the perfect life—that's who people expect Rachel Young to be. So the private-school junior keeps secrets from her wealthy parents and overbearing brothers...and she's just added two more to the list. One involves racing strangers down dark country roads in her Mustang GT. The other? Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Walker-a guy she has no business even talking to. But when the foster kid with the tattoos and intense gray eyes comes to her rescue, she can't get him out of her mind. 

Isaiah has secrets, too. About where he lives, and how he really feels about Rachel. The last thing he needs is to get tangled up with a rich girl who wants to slum it on the south side for kicks-no matter how angelic she might look. 

But when their shared love of street racing puts both their lives in jeopardy, they have six weeks to come up with a way out. Six weeks to discover just how far they'll go to save each other.

My Thoughts: This book came to me at the perfect time! I was in somewhat of a reading slump, trying to read too many deep, profound texts (not great summer reading). I needed something fast and fun - this book is  both! I know this is the third book in the series (didn't know until I finished it), but it's really a standalone. Each book in the series focuses on a different couple, so I didn't feel like I was lost or missing anything. The characters are great and extremely rootable for (not a word, I know, but you get it). Although it looks like a thick book, the story moves really quick, sucking you in from the very beginning. It's a great romance story with that bad-boy edge to it. I definitely recommend it and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Fans of Simone Elkeles (Perfect Chemistry) need to check this series out right away - you'll love it! 

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles

Jumping Off Swings (Jumping Off Swings #1)

Goodreads Summary: One pregnancy. Four friends. It all adds up to a profound time of change in this poignant, sensitively written YA novel.

Ellie remembers how the boys kissed her. Touched her. How they begged for more. And when she gave it to them, she felt loved. For a while anyway. So when Josh, an eager virgin with a troubled home life, leads her from a party to the backseat of his van, Ellie follows. But their "one-time thing" is far from perfect: Ellie gets pregnant. Josh reacts with shame and heartbreak, while their confidantes, Caleb and Corinne, deal with their own complex swirl of emotions. No matter what Ellie chooses, all four teenagers will be forced to grow up a little faster as a result. Told alternately from each character’s point of view, this deeply insightful novel explores the aftershocks of the biggest decision of one fragile girl’s life — and the realities of leaving innocence behind.

My Thoughts: Jo Knowles has been on my reading radar for awhile, but for some reason I've never picked up one of her books. After many of my female students read and loved this book, I figured I might as well jump in (not off...sorry for the lame pun). I like this book, I do, but it didn't wow me quite like it did some of my teen readers. I really enjoyed the different perspectives; I felt like the voices of all four characters were real and well-defined. The story wasn't just about teenage pregnancy either; it really was a story about barriers and how growing up with different backgrounds can shape a person. And, not only was the story engaging, but Knowles writing really is beautiful. Although this isn't my favorite book, I want to read more by her. Plus, I can see why my teen readers loved this book, and I will continue to highly recommend it to them. 

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner
The Pull of Gravity
Goodreads Summary: While Nick Gardner’s family is falling apart, his best friend, Scooter, is dying from a freak disease. The Scoot’s final wish is that Nick and their quirky classmate, Jaycee Amato, deliver a prized first-edition copy of Of Mice and Men to the Scoot’s father. There’s just one problem: the Scoot’s father walked out years ago and hasn’t been heard from since. So, guided by Steinbeck’s life lessons, and with only the vaguest of plans, Nick and Jaycee set off to find him.

Characters you’ll want to become friends with and a narrative voice that sparkles with wit make Gae Polisner's The Pull of Gravity a truly original coming-of-age story.

My Thoughts: I loved the characters in this book, particularly Jaycee and the Scoot. They are witty, funny, and optimistic in such a unique way (even the Scoot, who knows he's dying). I also really enjoyed the journey aspect of the story. Nick and Jaycee literally go on a journey, but it seems like every character is on some important personal journey (it actually reminded me a lot of John Green's Paper Towns in that way). As an English teacher, I liked the role Of Mice and Men played; if you teach Steinbeck's novel, you should consider using this as a companion piece, or at least highly recommend it. This is another quick read with an engaging story and beautiful writing that, in my opinion, appeals to a wide variety of readers. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Top Ten Reads of Last School Year (Late, Of Course)

Last school year I finished 49 books...woohoo! I read A LOT first semester, but for some reason my pace really dropped off during the second half of the year (probably something to do with coaching soccer and being pregnant). This year, I'm off to a SUPER slow start (babies really slow down the reading). I enjoyed almost all of the books last year - there were a few duds in there - but I really loved the following ten. I had a hard time narrowing it down, but these are my top ten reads of last school year, in order of favorites (I know this is a weird time to post this, but I just discovered the draft never published):

1. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - I cannot wait for the last book in this trilogy; I am in serious need of some more Noah Shaw! I had a hard time getting students to pick this book up, but once they did, they were as hooked as me. There’s just something so different about it, and again, did I mention Noah Shaw (one of the greatest fictional boys of all time).

2. Winger by Andrew Smith - A funny book with one of the most poignant, meaningful endings I’ve read in a long time. Ryan Dean is a character that will stick with you - I haven’t let him go in the 8 months since I read the book.

3. Reality Boy by A.S. King - A book similar to Winger, in that it has a funny (yet, very angry) male protagonist with a super powerful message. I loved the twist on our reality tv-laden culture and what it’s actually doing to people. Plus, I find that it appeals to a lot of my angry boy students - their anger isn’t something to be ignored and this book clearly shows that.


4. Wonder by R. J. Palacio - I read this aloud with one of my more difficult reading classes this year - there was anger, there was compassion, and there was a newfound sense of kindness about them after finishing this book. I shared excerpts of Palacio’s story every chance I got, because really what’s more important than choosing kindness. This should be on the top of every single person’s reading list.

5. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga - As a fan of the TV show Dexter, this novel could not have been more perfect. I have a sick infatuation with murder stories (Snapped is one of my favorite guilty pleasures), and this book featured just the right combination of grisly details, great characters and an intriguing storyline.  

6. Champion by Marie Lu - I hesitated putting this book on my list since it’s a conclusion to a series, but it’s one of the absolute best concluding books I’ve ever read. Oftentimes, trilogies get worse with each book (in my opinion), but the Legend series only got better. Lu could not have chosen a better ending - loved it!


7. Pivot Point by Kasie West - I enjoy a great romance as much as the next person, and when an author throws in a bit of the supernatural, even better. I picked this novel up intending it to be a fluff read, and instead I became completely engrossed in the story. And, as a sidenote the sequel, Split Second, is just as great.

8. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black - I know it’s not Halloween season yet, but if you want a creepy read, check this one out. It’s a vampire story, but I promise it is the farthest thing from Twilight. It features great characters, a great storyline, and plenty of action to keep the reader turning the pages as quickly as possible.

9. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys - besides the unfortunate title (stupid 50 Shades of Grey), this is a fantastic tale of historical fiction. It made me wish all history classes were taught through novels like this. The imagery used helped portray an entirely different side to WWII than most people are familiar with, but definitely a side that should not be forgotten.

10. One for the Murphy's by Lynda Mullaly Hunt - the tearjerker on my list of books this year. I don’t know if it’s my growing maternal instincts, but my heart just gave out for the main character, Carley. Months after finishing this book, I’m still angry about the ending; I understand it, but I’m not happy about it.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Top Ten Titles on My Spring/Early Summer TBR List

This past winter I fell into somewhat of a reading slump, which is quite unusual for me. I had a hard time finding books that kept me awake (eeek). As soon as I started reading, I would fall asleep on the page...I felt like some of my students. As the weather improves and the weeks pass, I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. To keep me going, I want to make sure that I have a great line up of books ahead of me. These are ten titles I plan to read as the school year winds down and summer begins:

1. The One by Kiera Cass (released May 6th)
2. Of Neptune by Anna Banks (released May 13th)
3. Perfect Lies by Kiersten White  

4. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
5. Killer Instinct by SE Green (released May 6th)
6. Split Second by Kasie West  
7. Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi  

8. The Paradox of Vertical Flight by Emil Ostrovski  
9. Enclave by Ann Aguirre
10. Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Any other titles I should add to my summer reading list? I need to start building up my library hold list!