Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/30

Okay, okay.  So it's not Monday anymore. I just had to catch up with these posts because if I wait until next week I will have way too many books to talk about.

Coming to Spain is always a surreal experience. I love the culture here and I love my in-laws, but it always feels like we are in a completely different universe while we are here. I do love the way that I disconnect and hardly think about work while I am here. The incredibly long trip is very good for reading. Although, this has changed because they finally have individual video screens on the plane.  Watching a couple movies makes the 8 hours on the plane go by a little faster. This time we were flying over the big storm Genesis so we had about three hours of turbulence. I could not concentrate on my book so I watched movies. That did not keep me from finishing a book in the airport though. 

Since I had just arrived here last Monday, I was unable to post. Therefore, I have two weeks worth of books to talk about. These are some fabulous books!

Books I Read in the Last Two Weeks:

Ripper by Stephan Petrucha is a fun mystery set in the early 1900s. I enjoyed reading this book and I particularly liked the author's note at the end that explained what was historically accurate and what was not. I am sure any student who is really interested in mysteries would like this book. 

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi is another excellent second book in a trilogy. I cannot wait to find out what will happen to Juliette in the last installment. There were some crazy twists in this one and I will now be waiting on the edge of my seat for the third book. I highly recommend this series to fans of dystopian series and fantasy. 

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg is an ARC that I received at a fun literary luncheon at Liza Weimer's house. I had not read any of Eulberg's books before, but I will definitely look for them now. This one is a sweet book about friendship and romance. It is set near Milwaukee and I love all the references to Wisconsin. This book alternates narration between two friends with a little additional banter between chapters. I loved that. Once we are closer to the release date I will be reviewing this one. 

On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta is a fabulous book. I will say that this book was slow to start for me because I was confused at first. This is the third time I started the book but I was determined to finish it this time. I am so glad I stuck with it. What a heartbreaking but beautiful story. I love how the characters are healed through the relationships and support that they have. I definitely can see how this one won the Printz award. I highly recommend it. 

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith is another sweet romance with some really complex characters. I love that these two characters met on a transatlantic flight. I also love how complex the issues are. I think most teenagers will be able to identify with the characters. I sped through this one in no time and I appreciate the fact that it is easy to read but still tugged on my heart. I will definitely be pushing this book in my classroom when we get back. My girls will love it!  

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is another awesome romance. Cath is the ultimate introverted nerd who is very self-conscious. I love that the protagonist of this book is such a nerd. I could absolutely relate to how she was feeling in college. I also thought the complex issues of dealing with one parent who left and another with bipolar disorder made the story and the character much more interesting. I LOVED both Fangirl and Eleanor & Park.  I can't wait for more from this author. 

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner is awesome. I am not going to go into much detail because I will review it closer to the release date, but suffice into say that you will need to read this book!  Pre-order a copy now. 

Books I am Currently Reading:

I started The Forsaken and will be continuing with this one in the next couple days. I am also still listening to The Clockwork Prince. 

What's Next?

I want to read The Silver Linings Playbook and Flight Behavior as well as Finding the Heart of Nonfiction

I have a bunch of other books on my Kindle and I will choose from there if I have time for more. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrations 12/21

                                               Discover. Play. Build.
This is a fabulous idea from Ruth Ayres in which we write about something to celebrate each Saturday. I am looking forward to participating in this link up each week and hearing about the awesome things happening in everyone's classrooms and lives.

This week was crazy with the full moon coming the week before Winter break!  

The first celebration has to do with the reading lives of my students. This week so many students embraced the idea of making a reading plan for the break and took home bookstacks. I also had some book recommendations go really well. One student flew through Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles in one day and borrowed Living WithJackie Chan right away also.  Another asked for a book after loving The Fault in Our Stars and I gave her Thirteen Reasons Why. The next day she was halfway through the book. A third student had only read two books this year so far because she wasn't really reading at home and is not very motivated to change this. I gave her The Dead and The Buried by Kim Harrington and she was finished with it in three days. I guess I am just celebrating the power of great books to ignite that passion for reading.  I am so excited for the rest of the year because I am seeing the way our reading workshop is turning my students into avid readers.  

The second celebration is something that amazes me. Earlier this fall, I put a project on DonorsChoose to get a few Kindles for my classroom. I have so many titles in my Kindle library and I wanted to be able to share those titles with my students.  Once the project was funded, one of the donors contacted me and asked if he could send me cases for the Kindles. I was so grateful for the generosity of this stranger. I have been able to share more titles with my students and I don't have to worry so much about the Kindles I lend out to students because they are in these nice cases. This week, the same person contacted me and informed me that Amazon had a sale on Kindles this week so he ordered two more Kindles for my classroom. I am truly thankful for the kindness of this amazing person.  I love that we will have two more devices in the classroom. Yeah for unexpected generosity!

The third celebration is just the fact that we started Winter Break. The fact that I am traveling to Spain for the holidays will make my vacation a bit less relaxing, but I am excited to have time away from school to rejuvenate. Now, everyone cross your fingers that Mother Nature is nice to Chicago tomorrow. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/16

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? --From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme started by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take. Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole bunch of titles to add to your to-read lists.

Books I Finished This Week:

Sandrine's Case is a murder mystery book by Thomas Cook.  I really enjoyed the novel and read it almost in one sitting.  It was full of intrigue and twists.  The book reminded me in some ways of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn without the despicable cast of characters.  This is another author that will be at the Key West Literary Seminar and I am really looking forward to reading more by him.  

Books I am Currently Reading:

I would be finished with Ripper by Stefan Petrucha if I had not left it on my desk at school when I left on Friday.  I am very close to the end and will most likely finish today.  I also started reading Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi.  I have been completely drawn into Juliette's world all over again.  I am curious to see how this story will turn out.  I am also still listening to The Clockwork Prince and reading The Great and Only Barnum.

What's Next?

I fully plan to do bookaday over the winter break.  I will be flying to Spain on Sunday (OMG, that really snuck up on me) so I will have loads of reading time during that travel time.  Then, at my in-laws' house it is perfectly acceptable to be lazy and I sometimes need a break from the Spanish so I will be reading a lot.  I am looking forward to crossing off some of the titles loaded on my Kindle.  I have Fangirl, The Silver Linings Playbook, Flight Behavior, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, Jellicoe Road, Everybody Sees The Ants, and more that I am so excited to read.  I would like to also read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock before we leave, but it will depend on how much time I end up having this week.  I also ordered Georgia Heard's new book about Nonfiction writing and I hope to get that read over the break since I am working on informational writing for second trimester. 

What are you reading this week?  Have a happy reading week!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Celebration 12/14

Discover. Play. Build.

This is a fabulous idea from Ruth Ayres in which we write about something to celebrate each Saturday. I am looking forward to participating in this link up each week and hearing about the awesome things happening in everyone's classrooms and lives.

These are some things that I had to celebrate this week:

Monday--On our Teacher Professional Development Day my principal gave us the afternoon to work on what we needed to work on.  This does not always happen and I needed the time to collaborate with my grade-level partner and organize my class library.  There were books piled on my table and my desk and everywhere there was space.  I was so happy to have time to get some things done.

Tuesday--When I checked my mailbox on Tuesday morning there was an envelope from a local high school. There was a short letter explaining that they have a program in which their students write a thank you note to a former teacher.  And then there was this...

When I first opened the envelope, I had in mind a few students that I thought would possibly write me a note.  This letter was from a student who surprised me.  It really made me feel good about the way that things that I do influence students in a positive way.  This particular student was in my fourth grade class and I really did not feel like I connected with her in the best way possible.  When she was in my eighth grade language arts class, I realized that she had taken more lessons from my writing workshop than I had realized.  She was the student in eighth grade who wrote a 30,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo.  I guess I didn't realize that she also attributed her love of writing to my classes.  This was a pleasant start to my Tuesday! 

I also enjoyed my language arts classes on Tuesday.  I played the Maya Angelou tribute poem video for the classes and then read the picture book biography of Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson.  We had great discussions in all of the classes about apartheid and the legacy that Mandela leaves.  I really enjoyed reading the thoughtful blog posts that my students wrote after our talks. 

Another celebration on Tuesday was the release of Despicable Me 2 DVD.  My husband and I are huge fans of animated movies and we had not seen this one in the theaters.  I went to buy the movie right away on Tuesday and we enjoyed a fun movie night.  

Wednesday-- I gave my students a project proposal form for Genius Hour.  We had a very busy hour really delving into the topics that students were curious about.  I want them to go farther than just putting together informational presentations, which is what the majority of my students did in the first trimester.  It was a difficult class because it is hard to figure out how to steer students who have forgotten how to be curious, but the thinking that happened was really rewarding and I will be so glad to see the results of this trimester and the Genius Hour projects of my students. 

Thursday--I had a student council meeting.  I am really enjoying working with this group of students this year.  They are responsible and fun to work with and we are doing great things.  

Friday--My husband and I went to the outlet mall nearby to purchase the things that my brother-in-law requested from us.  The shopping trip brought it much closer to home that we will be traveling to Spain next week.  I am really looking forward to seeing my in-laws and I know my husband is excited to see his family as well.  While we were at the outlet mall, we stopped into the Ghiardelli store and got a free sample of peppermint bark and purchased hot cocoa.  This was a nice sweet treat.  

Saturday--Today we went to Half Price Books.  I keep saying that I will not buy more books, but then more good books show up in the clearance section.  Today I spent $30 and walked out of the store with 15 books.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR

I am joining in on this weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week there is a different top ten list topic and a bunch of bloggers weighing in.  Head on over there to see more of the great blogs participating.

There are so very many books on my TBR shelf.  I think I have well over 100 books in my house that I would like to read. These are the books that I am hoping to read this winter.  

Books off the shelf:

I loved both Boy21 and Sorta Like a Rock Star. I am super excited to read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick and was happy to get a good deal on Black Friday so that I could get a copy of this one.

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have not read any books by Ellen Hopkins.  I have Crank and Glass on my shelf at home and need to read them so I can get them to my classroom.

The Dark and Hollow Places is a title on my dystopian challenge list.  I have read the first two books in the The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy and want to finish the series.

I have been avoiding Out of My Mind because of the content.  My stepbrother, who had severe cerebral palsy, passed away last December.  I was a little afraid that this book would bring things a little too close for comfort.  I am still a little nervous about reading the book, but I think I am now a little more able to deal with it now.

Books on my Kindle:

I am traveling to Spain over the holidays to spend Christmas with my in-laws. I know I will have time to read so many of my Kindle titles will get read while I am traveling.  

The Silver Linings Playbook looks like such a great book.  I am really interested to read this adult book by Matthew Quick.

I am trying to read my way through all the Printz award and honor books.  On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta is a book that I want to get to soon.

The Forsaken looks so good! I have been completely intrigued by this book for over a year now.  It is a title that I have had on my Kindle for a while and I just keep forgetting about it.

I have never heard a single negative thing being said about any of these books.  I loved Eleanor and Park and cannot wait to read another one by Rainbow Rowell.  A.S. King is also an author I have recently discovered.  Ask the Passangers was amazing and I have big hopes for Everybody Sees the Ants.  I am also very interested to read The Miseducation of Cameron Post.

I have SO MANY books on my TBR shelf and waiting for me on the Kindle and yet I keep going to bookstores and looking at the daily deals on Amazon.  I hope I can at least get through these top ten books this winter.

Time to curl up with a nice mug of hot cocoa and get to reading!

What is on your TBR pile?  I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/9

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? --From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme started by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take. Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole bunch of titles to add to your to-read lists.

Books I Finished This Week:

Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George was a nice, complicated murder mystery.  It is the kind of mystery I usually really enjoy, but it was really difficult for me to get through right now.  I think it just required more of my attention to really get into the book and I don't have that attention to give during the school year.  I spent a lot of Saturday reading so that I could finish this before my digital library loan ended. I would definitely recommend this one to mystery lovers.  Set in England and with a big cast of characters, this book reminded me of many of my favorite mysteries.  I am even more excited now to hear Elizabeth George in the keynote address at Key West Literary Seminar.  I will most likely try to read my way through the Inspector Lynley series this summer.  

I had the opportunity to browse through the books at Target this week.  I was really happy to see that both Journey and The Dark were being sold in the children's book section.  I enjoyed both of these picture books and can certainly understand how they both are appearing on so many lists.  

Salt by Helen Frost is an excellent historical fiction book.  I loved the alternating poems from the two friends' differing perspectives.  The author really captured the way that people will interpret a situation the way that they want to interpret it.  It would be an excellent book to include in a study of Native American cultures and the clash with white settlers.  The miscommunication and misunderstandings that were a part of this awful time in our history are brought out in a way that is easy to understand.  I will definitely be looking for a copy of this one to add to my class library.  

Books I am Currently Reading:

I am still listening to The Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare.  I am enjoying the audiobook narrators and the world of the shadowhunters.  I started reading Ripper by Stefan Petrucha the other day. As I was leaving my classroom the other day to go to my hair appointment, I realized I did not have a book with me.  This one has been sitting by my desk since the book fair earlier this fall.  So far, I am enjoying the story. I also just started reading Unravel Me and The Great and Only Barnum. Both are good so far.

What's Next?

I have a pile of books from the library which I will dig into, because I want to read some more books by mystery authors that I will see in January.  I also just bought Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and am really looking forward to reading that one.  I don't know what else I will have time for this week.  

What are you reading this week?  I would love to hear from you in the comments.  Have a great reading week!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Celebrate 12/7

Discover. Play. Build.

This is a fabulous idea from Ruth Ayres in which we write about something to celebrate each Saturday. I am looking forward to participating in this link up each week and hearing about the awesome things happening in everyone's classrooms and lives.

This year is going so fast!  This week was a crazy week with students full of energy and difficult to get them to work.  I am so glad I have this weekly ritual of looking for celebrations because the positive energy really pulled me through the week.

The power of a good read aloud is something to celebrate.  I read Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen every year because my 8th grade students need to start learning about the awful things that happened to slaves.  This book is quite graphic, but powerful and a great story.  This week we got to the intense part of the story and the quiet descended on the room.  I love when that happens!

I chose an article of the week that was about slavery today in the world.  Then, I sat back and listened. I love that my students made the connection that I was hoping they would make.  They were astonished to learn that there is still slavery in the world.  Their thinking was so deep and I was so happy to see that I was extending their world view and giving them something to think about.

This week, I also started using the brilliant ideas of Jeff Anderson.  I had planned to use his ideas throughout the school year, but never got myself together enough earlier in the school year.  This week we did a study of commas after introductory phrases.  I love how my students reacted to the ridiculous acronym AAAWWUBBIS.  They really got it and I am excited to do more with it next week.

One of the best lessons, in this series of lessons about the comma, was writing using the inspiration of "If I had $1,000,000" by the Barenaked Ladies.  I figured out that I need to use music more often in the classroom.  The students didn't all love this song, but they did love the fact that we used it in the lesson.

A personal celebration this week was my hair appointment on Thursday night.  I love the chance to get pampered for a little while.  I also love it when my hair is straight.  I do not have the patience or the skill to get my hair so straight so I enjoy the day after my haircut and the compliments that I get.

My husband wants to create a classroom library for his Spanish classroom.  He is working on finding books in Spanish for his heritage speakers to read.  Therefore, we made it a priority to get to the Scholastic Warehouse sale last night.  It was such a nice Friday night.  We shopped the sale and I got a lot of great books that I have been wanting to read (although I  really shouldn't buy any more books until my TBR pile is smaller). We also found some books in Spanish for his classroom.  Then we went to a local burger place for dinner and to our favorite bar for a beer before going home.  It was a nice way to end a stressful week.

I was able to make my #nerdlution goals every day this week!  I am loving the fitbit pedometer for motivation to get to the goals I set.

One last small celebration is the new antenna I ordered on Black Friday from Amazon's flash sales.  We have had a really hard time getting good reception on TV channels with the other antenna we have. This one is amazing! I can't wait to watch the Packer game on Sunday without having to adjust the antenna every few minutes.

What do you have to celebrate?  I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: 2014 Release Books I am Dying to Read

I am joining in on this weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week there is a different top ten list topic and a bunch of bloggers weighing in.  Head on over there to see more of the great blogs participating.

This is a difficult list to put together because there are SO MANY great books that are scheduled to come out in 2014.  I may have cheated a little bit and put a few more than 10...

It seems that this year is the year for book three of a trilogy.  These are all the final installments that I am chomping at the bit to read!

I loved The Selection and The Elite. I really can't wait to find out how things will work out for America.  I also am very interested to see how this world will fare.  Will the caste system remain?  What will happen with the rebels?

I loved Shatter Me and need to get reading so I can finish Unravel Me and be ready for this one.  It is another fascinating world and I am looking forward to seeing how this story ends.

I cannot wait for The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.  If you have not read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer you need to remedy that situation immediately.  This is a fantasy/thriller/mystery/romance series that will leave you breathless.  It has been WAY too long to wait for this final one and I STILL have to wait until June.  I can't wait to see how it all turns out and what exactly is happening.

Perry is one of my biggest book crushes.  The world of this trilogy is such a harsh world and the characters must do so many things and sacrifice so much to survive.  I hope that Aria and Perry are able to find the Still Blue and figure out a way to save the world.  Through the Ever Night was so heartbreaking and I would bet this one will be too, but I can't wait to find out.

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor is the third book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series.  So much is happening in that book and in the world of demons and angels. This is another one that was heartbreaking but beautiful in the second book.  I hope that things will work out well for Karou and all the creatures living in her world.

Raging Star is another book I am really looking forward to reading.  I love Saba and Jack and I hope to see them do good things and change their world for the better in this book.

I loved The False Prince and The Runaway King and I am sure I will also love The Shadow Throne.  

Cress is a third book in a series, but is not the final installment.  In Scarlet, I really became intrigued with the world of the Lunar Chronicles series.  I love how Marissa Meyer is taking fairy tales and giving them the science fiction twist.  I am so excited for this one!

These are the other books I am looking forward to in 2014:

I am really excited to read The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner.  I really loved The Pull of Gravity and I enjoy reading Gae's posts on Facebook and tweets on Twitter.  I have loved the glimpses of her other writing throughout the summers during Teachers Write and cannot wait to get my hands on this one.

If Threatened by Eliot Schrefer is anything like Endangered, it will be an absolute must-read. I love the concept of his series of books about the big apes and will enjoy reading about chimpanzees in this one.

I love Matthew Quick's books and am excited to see that there is another new one coming soon.  The Good Luck of Right Now sounds like another great book which will make me think.

There are so many other books coming out in 2014 that I am looking forward to, but I am trying to limit myself and narrow down the list.  I think I did pretty well considering.  I will definitely have a very busy wallet and an ever-changing to-read pile throughout the spring and summer.