Monday, October 10, 2016

Recently Read: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Author: Maya Angelou
Genre: Classic/Memoir
Publication Date: 1969
Page Count: 264
Rating: 5/5

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Maya Angelou is a much loved author, poet, and inspirational speaker. I Know Why the Caged Birds Sings is the first in a series of autobiographical novels written by Angelou. This novel covers her childhood in Stamps Alabama and her teenage years in California. 

I LOVED this book. Loved it. I laughed, I cried, I smiled, and I was awed by the beauty of Angelou's words and the honesty with which she described her experiences as a young  black girl and woman. I listened to this on audiobook read by Maya Angelou herself and I highly recommend that experience. Angelou is an amazing speaker and her voice is so strong; I loved hearing her read her own life story. Her voice is so warm and comforting and she brings an undeniable power to her own story. 

As you may know, I am currently attending college to become a high school English teacher and I am itching to find a way to use this in my classroom. This book does such a beautiful job of exploring such difficult and necessary themes and topics such as rape, racism, feminism, coming of age, and family relationships. Angelou writes with such grace and humor it feels as if she is telling her story to you personally. Her life was not easy, yet she has maintained such grace, humor, and strength.  

This book is full of so many strong women. I loved hearing about all of the women in Angelou's life and her relationship with them, and I really hope to find out more about the women and their relationships in future novels. I also loved how Angelou weaved her literary life into this novel. It's clear that the books she read as a young girl were important to who she grew up to be, which I'm sure many book lovers can relate to. Many scenes in this book were so powerful, I know they will stick with me for a long time. 

I loved the way she described the relationship between her and her brother Bailey. I have a brother myself and also find strong brother-sister connections in literature make me a little emotional. The way that Angelou describes her love for and confidence in her brother was so sweet and beautifully written. I know this is a book that I will reread many times within my life. I am on the wait list for the next book in Angelou's memoir series and can't wait to learn more about her and read more of her beautiful writing.  

In light of the crazy and disheartening events that are going on in our world right now (I'm currently watching the debate) I can't help but wonder how much of a kinder place the world would be if we all spent some time hearing the stories of those that differ from us. I highly recommend reading Maya Angelou's story. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Two Middle-Grade Mini Reviews: Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times and The Tell-Tale-Start

Author: Emma Trevayne
Genre: Middle Grade- Steam Punk
Publication Date: 20
Page Count: 306
Rating: 3/5

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Jack is bored with London. He is bored with his parents who don't pay attention to him and longs for an adventure, until he stumbles upon one in the form of a mysterious man who does parlor tricks to entertain his mother and her friends. The adventure comes after Jack steps through a doorway and finds himself in an unusual place named Londininum, where everyone is at least a little bit made of metal and The Lady rules all. 

This was a really fun middle grade read. It was the perfect mix of whimsical and dark, and the steam-punk elements worked perfectly to build the atmosphere. My favorite part about this book was the art! I loved the cover art and the illustrations inside and thoroughly wish there would have been more.

The world was enticing and is a setting I would have loved to read more about. Jack was nothing out of the ordinary, but the side characters from Londininum were very interesting and well developed. The atmosphere was thick and encompassing, but the plot was just alright for me.

I really enjoyed this book and found it a fun middle grade adventure. I am interested in checking out Emma Trevayne's other works. 

Author: Gordon McAlpine
Genre: Middle Grade
Publication Date: 2013
Page Count: 208
Rating: 3/5 

Edgar and Allan Poe are the great-great-great-great grandnephews of the famous writer Edgar Allan Poe and they just so happen to be connected through some freaky physics. The twin brothers can hear each others' thoughts and that means they have the potential to be super useful for a not-so-good science professor...

This story was super cute. I loved the elements of classics literature that made an appearance and the humor is great. This was a super fast read, and I have since moved on to book two. Like the above book, this one has some really great art, but of a different style. I loved the sketch- type art in this one and thought it went perfectly with the story, I think this is one that can be enjoyed by both kids and older readers as it's a lot of fun. 

I have been gravitating towards middle-grade lately as I have been pressed for reading time. Both of these books were quick reads but I really enjoyed them and found them to be a lot of fun.   

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Banned Books That Have Changed My Life

Today is Banned Books Day! I look forward to Banned Books Week every year, and I love posting about it. Yesterday I made a post that spotlighted some of the banned books on my TBR list, but today I thought I would spotlight some banned books that have impacted my life.

Here's the list of frequently challenged books for young adults that I got these books from.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margret Atwood
This book is brilliant and is feared because of it's plausibility. Reading fiction is a great entry way to real-world issues like feminism. Whether you're interested in feminism, a huge supporter, or skeptical, you need to read this. I promise you it will impact you.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck 
This was one of the first classics that impacted me. I read it as a freshman in high school and it reaffirmed my decision to spend my life studying literature. This small book touches on so many facets of being human and will break your heart. It doesn't sugar coat what it means to love and be human. 
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton 
This is a must read for teens. Hinton captures the struggles teenagers face to accept those around them and themselves. I really loved and respected this book as a young reader. 
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I have read it more times than any other book since my childhood. Every time I read this book I find it even more brilliant.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 
Oh the irony of those trying to ban this book. This book illustrates the dangers of book banning just perfectly. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a world where knowledge and books are forbidden. 
Deenie by Judy Blume 
Another book (and author) I loved as a young reader. Young girls need Judy Blume. 
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson 
Laurie Halse Anderson has been connecting with young readers for many years. This novel touches on the ever important and relevant topic of rape and consent. It was one of the first YA novels to touch on such an important topic and got a lot of slack for it. Let's make the choice to continue to educate young women about the right they have to make the decision regarding who has access to their body through fiction. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Happy Banned Books Week!

Happy Banned Books Week! I do at least one post each year highlighting this event and the wonderful site that is the American Library Association. This year, I am working with my college's English Society and working a table to celebrate Banned Books Week in real life, and on the blog, I thought I would highlight some of the frequently challenged books that are on my TBR and talk about banned books that have changed my life.

As always, here is the link to the American Library Association website.

My 2014 Post
My 2015 Post

As I am getting closer to being a certified teacher, the idea of banning and challenging books becomes more real to me. It is very possible that parents or possibly even administrators will attempt to control or change what books I use in my classroom curriculum or the books I have available for students on my classroom bookshelves. I love these graphics that break down some of the statistics of book banning and challenging. If you know of a case of a book that has been removed from your school or library shelves, please visit and file a complaint. They will help you get that book back on the shelves.

Banned Books on my TBR 

Tomorrow is Banned Books Day, so look out for another post about banned books that have impacted my life.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Book Outlet Haul!

I made a HUGE Book Outlet Haul the other day because they had so many books that were on my wishlist! Of course school has started so my time for reading and blogging is short, but I'm really looking forward to reading all of these as soon as I can. This haul consists of adult fiction and middle grade fiction. I have been loving middle grade lately as it is so quick to read when I don't have a lot of time to dedicate to reading.
Adult Fiction 
Almost Famous Women, Megan Mayhew Bergman
short story collection about women that were close to famous men/women but 
were not famous themselves

Radiance, Catherynne M. Valente
"decopunk pulp SF alt-history space opera mystery set in a Hollywood"

How to be Both, Ali Smith
A novel told in two parts, one taking place in Italy during the Renaissance, 
the second in the 1960s.  

 At the Water's Edge, Sara Gruen
A historical fiction hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. 

A Love Like Blood, Marcus Sedgwick
A vampire story that takes place in the 1940s.
Sedgwick is one of my all-time favorite authors and is an auto-buy for me.

Middle Grade Fiction
The Tell-Tale Start, Gordon McAlpine
I'm reading this cute middle grade about the great-great-great-great nephews of
Edgar Allan Poe aptly named, Edgar and Allan Poe.

Once Upon a Midnight Eerie, Gordon McAlpine
Book two in this series. There are three out currently.  

The Case of the Missing Moonstone, Jordan Stratford
A young Mary Wollstonecraft solves mysteries with literary 
connections in this series.  

Kat, Incorrigible, Stephanie Bergis 
This is a Jane Austen-esque middle grade series, but with magic! 

Have you read any of these? Thoughts? What was the last book you bought? 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Recently Read: milk and honey

Author: Rupi Kaur
Genre: Poetry collection- modern
Publication Date: 2015
Page Count: 204
Rating: 3.5/5

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More posts on poetry 

If you spend any time on the internet, I am sure you have seen this poetry collection or a poem from it floating around. Rupi Kaur's poetry and illustrations are floating around tumblr and the blogging community. I had seen a few of her poems ages ago and have been wanting to pick this up ever since. I finally got around to buying it and read it in an evening when I was feeling a little off and needed something to pick-me-up. I would not say that this is a happy collection or a feel-good collection, but after reading the words of another human and connection to them, I felt better.

This book has gotten a lot of hype, but it also seems to be polarizing; some people love it and others are not impressed. I am sitting in the middle. I really like the idea of this collection. It is very modern and Kaur has her own unique and mastered style. The poems deal with a variety of topics, each one as important as the last, and the illustrations are a really great addition to the collection. The poems are very short and in prose form which I know some people are not a fan of, but I thought it worked in this case. One of the things I love about poetry is how it cannot be defined. I have read and loved some very, very complex poetry as well as some very short and simple prose poetry.

This collection did have an over-all feminist message which I loved. This collection is very intimate and personal and I always respect a poet who writes such intimate things so publicly. One of my favorite poems and illustrations is a commentary on female body hair, another is on respecting other women's choices about their own bodies. I don't think this collection is mind-blowing, but I did connect to a lot of the ideas and expressions in this collection and I enjoyed reading it. This is a collection I can see myself rereading from time to time because it was quick and enjoyable. It has also made me itch to pick up some more modern poetry. I have been wanting to get into the genre for quite a while but never knew where to start. I have discovered a few collections I really want to start with, so I am thinking about making a modern poetry TBR post in the near future.
Let me know if you have any poetry recommendations! What did you think about this collection?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Recently Read: I am Malala

Author: Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai
Genre: Non-fiction/ Memoir
Publication Date: 2013
Page Count: 327
Rating: 5/5

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Similar Reads:
Aman: The Story of a Somali Girl by Virginia Lee Barnes  
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Malala Yousafzai was a young girl in Pakistan who loved school and took pride in being first in her class. Her father built the girl's school she attended and traveled the country talking about the importance of education. Malala joined her father to campaign for girl's educational rights and became a well-known figure in all parts of the world. One day while coming home from school on the bus, she was shot by a member of the Taliban and she became even more famous and went on to be the youngest person to ever win the Noble Peace Prize. This is Malala's story as told by her.  

Education and particularly education for girls around the world is a very important issue for me. I am myself an educator and very interested in women's rights and learning all that I can about feminism around the world. I had of course heard of Malala and knew the bare basics of her story and impressive awards, but I was really interested to hear more about her. Let me tell you, this is one impressive young lady. 

Before I get into my thoughts I want to mention that I listened to this book on audiobook and I highly recommend reading this book in this way. There are a lot of words in various foreign languages, and the names are very difficult to keep straight. If I was reading this in physical form, this is something that would have stalled me a little as I would have made a bigger effort to keep these names straight and would have be slow reading the book. Listening to the narrator pronounce these words beautifully was great because I heard the correct pronunciation of the word and was so involved in the story I didn't worry about keeping unimportant names straight. Plus, Malala reads the prologue herself  which was super cool. 

I loved hearing about Malala's life in Pakistan before she was shot, which is when most of the book takes place. I had no idea that she was so active before the shooting and did a number of very brave documentaries and interviews. I loved hearing about her family, particularly her father who was very nontraditional and was also very active in spreading awareness about education for girls. 

Reading this has made me want to do more research about her and girl's education around the world. I did a lot of reading and research on this topic a few semesters ago when I had my Women and Global Activism class and found it to be a topic that really calls me to action. I would love to find ways for me to help girls around the world get the access to education that they deserve, and reading this book has re-inspired me to find ways to help. Her and her father have started The Malala Fund (link here) which I really want to spend some time checking out.

If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend picking it up. I would love to read this book with a high school class in the future because Malala's voice is so strong and education is something that so many students takes for granted. She is such a humble and inspiring person.