Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 End of the Year Survey!

Reading Stats

Number Of Books You Read: 48
Number of Re-Reads:

Best in Books

1. Best Book You Read In 2017?- My Top Three: 

This was such a wild ride. I was gripped by this book and couldn't stop reading 
or look away. This is a must read.

This was so whimsical and dark. In the same vein as Alice and Wonderland and Peter Pan.
Loved how the complex idea of the transition from childhood to adulthood was portrayed. 

This is an amazing YA contemporary. Loved the characters and the themes; this 
is one I will be revisiting in the future. 

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?


 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

This one had me on the edge of my seat, and caught me off guard many times.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I recommend Sarah Waters a lot this year. Even though I have only read one of her works (Fingersmith, above) I am confident that all of her works are worth recommending. 

 5. Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel of 2017? Best Series Ender of 2017?

I didn't actually start any new series this year! I really concentrated on stand-alones as I always felt too busy to get sucked into a series. 

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2017?

Shirley Jackson!  I can't wait to read more from her in the near future.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Science based nonfiction is way out of my comfort zone, but I loved this!
The audiobook was a great experience. 

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

So addicting! 

 9. Book You Read In 2017 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017?

11. Most memorable character of 2017?

Alex from The Female of the Species. She's so complex and different from usual YA characters.  

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2017?

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2017?

I did A LOT of thinking about this reread this year. Teaching and reading this novel 
was a great experience this year. This book still holds up to the test of time. 
I spent A LOT of time thinking about this one and how I felt about it. I'm still
not all that sure. Read my review for more details. 

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read? 

I owned this one for years (and moved it to an apartment and then back home) 
before finally picking it up this year. 

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2017?

Shortest- The novella version of Flowers for Algernon


 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

Loved the romances in both of these novels. 

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Loved the relationship between Sal and his dad. 

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2017 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

21. Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

There was SO much hype around this one this summer that I had to pick
it up. Glad I did!

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2017?

This year's reread has lead to discover that Atticus Finch is my dream man. 

23. Best 2017 debut you read?

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2017?

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

My soul seems to have survived this year intact! I didn't read anything too emotional this year. 

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2017?

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

I was so angry for many of the characters in this book. 
Blog and Bookish Life

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017?

This was not a consistent year for me in regards to both blogging myself and reading other blogs. That being said, here are a few blogs that I made a conscious effort to keep up with this year. 

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2017?

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Always love continuing my Poetry Spotlight and Literary Look posts. 

4. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

5. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

This year I participated in the Diversity Bingo challenge with the goal to complete as many squares as possible. Here's my three update posts:  

Looking Ahead

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2017 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2018?

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2018 (non-debut)?

Becky Albertaili's and Adam Silvera's joint project What If It's Us  looks like a lot of fun. 

3. 2018 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Lots of buzz about this one already.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2018?

Actually need more time to research this one. I'm out of the loop on 2017 series. I need to catch up. 

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2018?

Just manage to read while also getting hired for and then actually teaching my first year as a teacher! Wish me luck! 
See my 2015 survey answers

Leave me the link to your survey if you filled one out! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

What I Read for Fun While I was Teaching (Mini-Reviews)

One of Us is Lying, Karen M McManus 
4/5 Stars
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This book was a lot of fun. I had seen a few people talk about it here and there as an addictive read, so I picked it up in the hopes it would suck me in, and it totally did. This is a YA thriller about a student who dies during an after-school detention. It's Riverdale meets The Breakfast Club with secrets galore. It had just enough twists and reveals to keep me entertained, but was still well-done and clever.

This was a clever and entertaining read; a perfect break from grading papers and worrying about lesson plans. It was like reading an episode of super-dramatic-junk-T.V., and I enjoyed every minute of it. If you're looking for something to fly though and to entertain you, look no further.

The Dinner, Herman Koch
3.5/5 Stars
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I picked this book up at a library book sale a few summers ago. I knew it was a pretty 'buzzed about' book, and for a dollar, I was willing to pick it up. While I was student teaching, I was in the mood for thriller/suspense novels as they grabbed my ever-wandering attention and entertained me enough to pick up the book even when I was super tired. I had no idea what to expect going into this one, but it delivered an entertaining and dramatic reading experience.

I really don't want to say too much about the plot, as it is better that way, but I loved that the plot revolved around the simple act of two brothers and their wives going to dinner. This was a thriller/suspense character study, which is such an interesting combination. The pacing is great, as secrets are revealed through flash-backs and current conversation. All the characters are crazy; no one is to be trusted; and the steaks are high.

Turtles All the Way Down, John Green
4/5 Stars
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I really enjoyed Green's other works. His works are always witty and enjoyable, so I was of course excited to pick up his latest release after so long without any new material. I didn't place any unrealistic expectations on this novel as that's not fair to author or reader, so I went in  just expecting to enjoy it and I certainly did.

I don't think this is his best work (for me that will always be Paper Towns) but I loved the honest portrayal of anxiety and obsessive thoughts. I didn't think the characters in this novel were as strong as they are in Green's other novels, but I still enjoyed it nonetheless. John Green is one of those authors that I respect enough to read everything he puts out, and I expect to fly through whatever it is in a sitting or two. His writing is very natural and fluid, and there's always something wise floating right below the surface. If you somehow haven't read this one yet, pick it up. It's a worthy successor to Green's other works.

Monday, December 11, 2017

What I have Read (and Taught) Recently

I have finished student teaching! I'm currently finishing up the paperwork and certifications needed to become a hireable and certified teacher! I thought I would recap what I read and taught over the semester, with some thoughts on how I enjoyed reading and teaching each piece. I'll have a second post coming soon with what I read for fun while I've been gone.

Short Stories

My freshman started the year with a short story and literary terms unit. This was the first story in the unit and the first story of the year that I taught. This was also my first short story by Dahl that I have read. I knew that he wrote some adult literature and that it was pretty dark, and this story definitely fits that description. This story is super short; I read it aloud in about twenty minutes, but there is so much there to discuss, unpack, and think about, which made it perfect for English class. I'm really interested in reading more of Dahl's short stories. 

 This is a super popular short story that is in numerous anthologies and textbooks. I did not care for this story all that much. It's long and consists of too much rising action. I don't have a whole lot to say about this one beyond that. There's a lot going on in terms of literary elements which makes it useful for teaching vocab and concepts, but for personal enjoyment, it's not for me.
This is another very short story, but it's very well done. I really enjoyed this story, and to me, it felt like an O' Henry story. It has a great ending, and great build up to the ending, and my students really enjoyed it. I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read this one, as that's all it will take you. 

Novellas and Novels 

My freshman read the original novella version of Flowers for Algernon, which has become a modern science fiction classic. When I finished reading this, I had some mixed feelings. The novella is short and written in diary form which works really well for the plot. This novella deals with some really serious themes, and the ending was super impactful for me. I was left feeling a little uneasy about the truths of the world that the novella had revealed. It was interesting to teach this piece to freshman, as their thinking tends to be more black-and-white at that age, and they didn't have as strong of a reaction to it as I did. After reading, they were required to write an argumentative paper on whether or not Charlie should have had the surgery, and students didn't have any difficulty making their choice, but I could not decide for myself and kept going back and forth in my own mind.  

This was the only novel I read with my sophomores this year was To Kill a Mockingbird. I hadn't read this novel since I was a sophomore in high school, and I loved it even more the second time around. I didn't recognize a lot of the brilliant word usage, wise world views, and humor in the novel when I read it as a teen. I loved teaching this novel. This is a novel I would love to teach again. If I were to teach it, I would want to supplement it with material by authors of color from the time period as that is important, but this book has stood the test of time and will continue to. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

What I've Been Reading When I Have No Time to Read

You guys know I have started my stint as a full-time teacher and am currently completing my internship as a student teacher. Because of this, I have not had a lot of time to read my own thing. I read a lot of student writing and materials for class, and after that, I'm ready for bed. No joke, it's a win if I'm still awake at 8:00 p.m.

But, with that being said, I have manged to read a few things here and there since September. Here's a look at the types of reading material I have been reading while I've had no time to read.

  • Short Stories
Short story collections are great when you don't have a lot of time to dedicate to reading. I found myself with the energy to read for about twenty minutes some nights, which was the perfect amount of time to read one or two stories from Almost Famous Women. I find it so annoying when I am reading a regular fiction novel to read in sporadic and short bursts; as I feel like I can never remember what is going on. With short story collections, you are able to finish an entire story arc in a shorter amount of time, which makes for satisfying reading. 
  • Nonfiction
Nonfiction is another genre that is usually suitable for short reading bursts. I find that the pressure is lifted to remember every detail of a nonfiction piece because I know that it's not possible, and quite frankly, just not the point of nonfiction. I'm more forgiving of myself when I can't remember details from the previous chapter of a nonfiction novel than a fiction novel. 
  • Audiobooks
Audiobooks couple very nicely with the above genre. I have found myself eager to listen to nonfiction audiobooks on my communicate to and from school. I really enjoyed Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and am about ready to start a new selection for my commute. I'm thinking Trevor Noah's Born a Crime will be next. 
  • Throwbacks 
The final category of books I have been leaning towards are throwbacks. I recently picked up a copy of The Babysitter by R.L. Stine for a quarter at my library's book sale and sat down and read it while I was home alone for the weekend. It was the perfect combination of nostalgia and classic creepy, and it's got me in the mood for some more throwback horror and creepy quick reads. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Diversity Bingo Update #3

I haven't updated my Diversity Bingo board in a while, so I thought it was about time for an update post. Admittedly, I haven't marked off many squares since my last update in July, but that's because teaching has slowed down my reading quite a bit. Nevertheless, I have some squares to mark off for book I've read over the past three months or so, and I do plan to cross more of before the end of the year.

If you have any recommendations for books that would fulfill any of my empty squares, please let me know! 

Update #1
Update #2

Newly Competed Squares and Reviews:
MC With an Underrepresented Body Type: The Upside of Unrequited, Becky Albertailli (Plus size MC) 
Arabic MC (Own Voices): The Rose and the Dagger, Renee Ahdieh 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Recently Read: Almost Famous Women

Author: Megan Mayhew Bergman
Genre: Short Stories- Adult Fiction
Page Count: 230
Publication Date: 2015
Rating: 3.5/5

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The stories of women on the brink of fame, including Oscar Wilde's niece, Lord Byron's illegitimate daughter, an aging artist, and Edna St. Vincent Millay's sister, are imagined in this short story collection. These women are connected by their bravery, their proximity to fame, and the sadness that is coupled with being an almost famous woman.

I have had this collection on my TBR for quite some time. The premise and the beautiful cover sucked me in and I knew this book would be right up my alley. I picked it up as I have been so busy with teaching this month,that I thought a short story collection would be easier to get through than a novel. The stories in this collection range in length, some are only three pages, others are twenty-or-so, and I loved reading one or two stories a night before bed. 

Each story features an image of the woman it is about as well as suggested reading material about that woman in the author's note. I loved this touch, and found myself itching to research the real lives of these ladies. Bergman uses a close companion or third party as the narrator for most of these stories, which really helps to build a common thread through the collection and commentary on what it was like to be a woman breaking the mold. These women were never given the opportunity to tell their own stories, and gossip runs wild about a woman challenging society's standards, so being once removed from each title lady was the perfect way to convey these ideas. 

I enjoyed all of the stories in this collection; I felt like each story was equally as good as the last, but I didn't feel like any of the stories particularly stood out as amazing. I really loved the idea behind this collection and thought it was very well executed. I will definitely be spending some time researching more about these ladies!   

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Feminist Nonfiction Haul (I mean, you can't say you're surprised)

In this post, I talked about how out of control my feminist nonfiction TBR list was, so naturally, I bought some of the books off of it. I thought it was about time I got around to reading some of these books, and the first step to that is having them on hand. I've now got quite a pile on my unread shelves, but I have been really loving reading nonfiction lately. I think nonfiction is easier to read than fiction when I'm super busy because I can go a week without picking up my book and not feel totally lost. Here's a look at the three new nonfiction additions to my immediate TBR.

I've had my eye on this doorstop of a novel about this mother-daughter literary duo for a while now. 650 pages seems about right for these two literary ladies who had such exciting literary and love lives. I am really interested in both authors personally, as well as their works, so I think I will really enjoy this one. I can see this one being the perfect winter read. 

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
I actually had this one out from my library as an ebook and read fifty pages before I knew I had to own a copy of this because I was itching to mark and tab every chapter. I loved how insightful Steinem is in this novel, and I am really looking forward to reading more about her and her work. I'm also looking to pick up her essays sometime in the near future. 

Savage Beauty  by Nancy Milford
Yet another doorstop of a biography I have had my eye on for ages. Millay is one of my all-time favorite poets and typing up my Literary Look post on her had me itching to read more about her. I know she was pretty unique for her time and I'm really interested to read more about the tidbits I already know and learn completely new things. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Happy Banned Books Week!

Artwork courtesy of the ALA

As per tradition, I'm here to share a quick post in support of Banned Books Weeks sponsored by the American Library Association. I have always been a reader of banned and challenged books, but as of this year, I am also a teacher of banned and challenged books. In our current political climate, which seems to be made up of extremes, discussing censorship and information withholding is more important than ever. 

Looking at the list of the most frequently challenged books of the past year from the ALA website, makes it clear that book challenging is not about protecting children as it is so often sited as, but about restricting reader's abilities to see themselves and others that differ from themselves in literature. Of the top ten, half were challenged because of their honest portrayal of gender and sexual orientation diversity. While this is not surprising, it is disheartening. 

As always, I encourage you to check out the American Library Association's website (linked above under the picture) and I will leave the link to report the removal or ban of a book or piece of work in your area.

Have a happy week (and life) of reading banned books! 

Banned Books Week Posts:
2016 Here and Here

Monday, September 25, 2017

Recently Read: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

Author: Neil DeGrasse Tyson
Genre: Nonfiction
Page Count: 222
Publication Date: 2017
Rating: 4/5

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I put in a hold for this audiobook from my library when the book first came out, and it finally came in a week or so ago at the perfect time. I have a half-hour commute to and from my school and I just couldn't take the radio anymore. I listened to this in about a week and I loved it. It is narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who of course has a lovely narrator voice, and contained just enough information about a range of topics to be interesting without being boring.

I am both terrified and fascinated by space. I took an astronomy class in college to fulfill my science credit, and I lost some sleep that semester over the scary happenings of space, but I was also so fascinated by space and the idea of humans working so hard to find the answers to the biggest questions concerning us. This book covers a range of space topics in a shallow way that makes for easy reading (or in my case listening) I did not understand everything in this book (and probably never will) but not because of the way it was presented, just because that is the nature of  the science of space. Neil DeGrasse Tyson uses beautiful metaphors and humor to make the complexities of space more manageable. This book is the perfect mix of science, theory, and antidotes. Tyson makes science sound like an art form, which I really loved. 

My thoughts and thinking about science has really changed over recent years. Past me would have turned my nose up at science as something that I just couldn't understand, relate to, or even care about. But in the past two years or so, I have begun to see the beauty and poetic nature of science; it's not at odds with art or other forms of human creation. My language and literature centered brain can in fact appreciate and understand elements of the scientific world. 

If you are interested in astronomy at any level, I recommend this book. This is a book I can see myself rereading in the future in order to experience Tyson's beautiful metaphors again as well as to receive the information again to help it stick. Listening to this book while driving to work in the dark of the early morning was a great way to start my day and has cemented my desire to pick up more audiobooks for my commute.