Saturday, August 4, 2018

July Books

July is always one of my biggest reading months, and this year was no exception!


A Study in Charlotte



A friend gave this to me for my birthday.  I really like it at first, I got to a point midway where I wasn't sure of my thoughts on it, and then I finished it really liking it.  I'm not usually a book quitter, and I am really glad I didn't quit on this one.

Okay, so the book takes place in an American boarding school, but the main two characters are British.  Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are descendants of the real life Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  Yes, I know that the Holmes stories are fiction, but just pretend they were real people.  Watson and Holmes are classmates who barely know each other, but, when they are both framed for another classmate's murder, they have to work together to clear their names.

The reason I almost put the book down?  It's dark.  I mean, I know that Holmes was addicted to opium, but I don't remember it being as big of a deal in the original books.  This book made it a big part of the story.

But overall, a really interesting book.  The mystery was engaging, and I enjoyed the two main characters.  There are two other books in this series, and I will definitely check them out!


The Beach Club



In the summer, I love to read Elin Hilderbrand novels.  I usually read a couple a summer, because they are the PERFECT summer read.  The Beach Club was her first novel, and I am just now getting around to reading it.

All of Hilderbrand's books take place on Nantucket.  This book weaves together the lives of several Nantucket dwellers: the owner of a summer hotel, his manager, his manager's girlfriend, a couple of hotel staff members and guests.  This wasn't her best novel, but it was a good read.  I like that Hilderbrand's novels aren't super fluffy, even though I think of them as beach reads.


Force of Nature



In my book post from May, I wrote about The Dry.  Force of Nature is the sequel that I referenced.  Aaron Falk is back into the Australian outback, investigating a missing woman.  The woman was on a corporate hiking trip, and her corporation also happens to be under investigation for financial issues.

I really enjoyed this book.  If you are a Tana French fan, this would be a perfect author to read!


All Rights Reserved



This is another book from my YA book order.  I wanted to read this book for two reasons.  First of all, I ordered it and wanted to know what I was recommending to my students.  Second, I want to use it for my first round of book clubs in the fall; it's a dystopian unit!

The premise of this book is that EVERYTHING has been copyrighted: every world, phrase, song, etc.  Not only that, but people have been fined for their ancestor's copyright infringements.  So if your great-great-grandmother downloaded songs illegally (Napster, anyone?), you could now be help responsible.

Speth is born into a family that is hugely in debt, due to their ancestors.  But, on the day in which she would begin paying for her words, she makes a drastic decision: she doesn't talk.  She becomes silent and, in doing so, starts a whole movement.

I did like this book, and I still want to use it with students.  However, I thought the ending was too short and left some plot holes.  But perhaps there will be a sequel? 


Beauty



Ah, I love when books magically appear on my kindle.  And by magically appear, I mean my mom buys books for the family kindle account.  But same thing, right?  Thanks, mom, for getting this one.

Robin McKinley has long been a favorite author of mine.  When I was a middle schooler, I read and reread The Hero and the Crown.  Beauty is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  This book doesn't do what current retellings do, that is, tell the story from the villains point of view or change the plot.  Instead, this story just gives more of a before story about Belle.  

I really enjoyed this book.  It wasn't earth shattering, but it was beautifully written and just a fun book to read.


And Justice There is None


I'm still enjoying picking my way slowly through Deborah Crombie's books.  There are 17 in the series, and I think I have read 6 by now.  What's nice is that, even though there are plot points throughout the books, you don't have to read them in order.  I am able to pick up on what's going on pretty easily.  This means I can just grab whatever Crombie books are at my local library at any given time.

This book was available before my trip down South, so I checked it out.  I won't say anything really about the plot, because it wouldn't mean much.  But, if you like mysteries, especially Louise Penny, this is a good series to check out.


Rules of Civility



More Amor Towles!   After I read and loved A Gentleman in Moscow last month, I wasted no time reading his first book.

Midway through this book, I was so so about it.  I just wasn't sure if I liked it, if it was worth reading, why it got so much hype.  But I finished and am so glad that I did!

This book reminds me a lot of Great Gatsby, in it's style and subject.  I really loved the main character, Katey.  The book covers a year in the life of Katey, starting on New Years Eve, 1937.  I don't want to tell any of the plot because it is so interesting.  You should read this.  And A Gentleman in Moscow.  They are both so good!


Last Night in Montreal



Station Eleven is on my favorites list.  Emily St. John Mandel has a new book out, but, before I read that, I checked out this older book of hers.

Lilia has always been on the road.  Her father kidnapped her from her mother when she was a young child, and they travelled all around the US, stopping for, at the most, a week before moving on.  Now that she is grown up and on her own, even though the danger is past, she can't stop moving.  She leaves her boyfriend of 6 months, Eli, but Eli doesn't simply just let her go.  He tries to find her and, in the search, discovers more about why her father took her.

This book was hauntingly beautiful.  I didn't love it as much as Station Eleven, but it was still a good book.


I've Got My Eyes on You



Mary Higgins Clark needs to retire, and this book is proof of it.  Look, I know Clark isn't the best writer out there.  She is formulaic.  All of her books are slightly similar.  But the books are still engaging!  

This book, however, was the worst book I've ever read of hers.  If she had been my student and had turned this in, I would have handed it right back and made her work on it.  The plot was interesting enough; that wasn't the problem.  Her writing was ATROCIOUS.  This was almost completely dialogue or simple description.  

I just googled her age.  Mary Higgins Clark is 90.  Mary, put down the pen and stop writing!  Or write more with a co-author.


Flight Season



So I am now on the Green Mountain Book Award Committee.  Basically I help curate a list of great books from each year to suggest to high schoolers across the state.  This also means that when I got home from Mississippi, there were three boxes full of the current YA books to read.  Basically my biggest dreams come true.

Flight Season was in the box, and I pulled it out to read first.  Honestly, I thought it has a beautiful cover.  Are we sensing a theme here?  But I got lucky, because the book was also pretty great too.

There are three narrators: Vivi, an ivy league student whose father passed away several months before, TJ, a Brazilian nursing student, and Angel, a Guatemalan illegal immigrant who is dying.  All three narrators are working together in a hospital in St. Augustine for the summer.  None of them like each other in the beginning, but, of course, they end up being entwined together.  

Will this end up on the GMBA list?  I'm not sure.  That's up to other people as well, and I also need to keep reading to compare it to other books of the year.  But I really liked this book.  And it was pretty clean, so a good book for teens to read.



Friday, August 3, 2018

June Books

June was a medium month for me.  We didn't finish school until the 15th here, and then I had another week of in service.  I made up for my medium month with a pretty big month in July.  In fact, as of today (August 3rd), I have read 63 books so far this year!


Ender in Exile



Ever since I read Ender's Game in February, I've been wanting to dive back into more of Ender's world.  I know this one isn't next in the series, but, sequentially, it was next.  I did miss some of what happened in other books, so I need to go back and read more.  Trust me, reading more Ender books is NOT a punishment.

I don't want to really say much of anything that happens, because I don't want to spoil or give away any plot points.  But I really enjoyed this book!


Turtles All the Way Down



I am not normally a John Green fan.  I find his dialogue to be pretentious and annoying, honestly.  But a student was reading this book, and I was intrigued. 

I wouldn't say that I am now a Green fan, but I did enjoy this book.  The main character, Aza, is struggling with OCD when she, through the urging of her Star Wars fan fiction writing best friend, is thrust into the search for a lost millionaire and into a relationship with a childhood best friend.  I loved the character development in this book.  Even if you don't normally like Green, this book is worth a read.


To All the Boys I've Loved Before



My friend, Amanda, told me several times to read this book.  And I didn't listen.  Well I did, eventually.  

Ohmylanta, this book is just DELIGHTFUL.  Laura Jean writes a letter to each boy she has ever loved.  But of course, she doesn't mail them.  But of course, they somehow get mailed.  And hilariousness ensues, as well as strained relationship, new friendships, and some really sweet moments.

This book is, thankfully, the first in a trilogy.  And, also thankfully, Netflix made a movie (maybe show?  I'm not sure...) based on the books!




The Ensemble



I have to be honest (oh please, when am I ever not?).  I wasn't that into Modern Mrs. Darcys summer reading list.  But this title did jump out and catch my eye.  

Literally caught my eye.  

I mean, that cover?  Those colors?  How could I say no, especially when the library actually had it in?

This book is about a string quartet, about the relationships between those people and how they grow and deepen over the course of the years.  The plot didn't really matter; rather, the book is more about the people and how they change.  I didn't expect to love this book, but I really did!


The Hazel Wood


Ah, another beautiful book cover.  Seriously, book jacket designers, this is your year!

This book was in that set I bought for my students this spring.  It's been getting a lot of press, so I put it near the top of my reading list.

Alice has been on the run her whole life, but she has no idea why.  After her mom is taken, she has to go to her grandmother's property in New York, her grandmother who is famous for writing a book of fairy tales.  Alice discovers that the tales are real, and she has to figure out how to fix everything and how to get out of her own fairy tale.

This is perfect for people who love fantasy and fairy tale, but with a little darkness thrown in.


Murder, She Wrote: The Queen's Jewels



Ah, another Murder, She Wrote book.  These are such a delight for me!  I actually listened to this book, which I prefer.  The person who reads these sounds just like Jessica Fletcher!

Fletcher is on a trans Atlantic cruise when she gets caught up in a jewel theft.  The perfect read (or listen) for those fellow 80 year olds at heart.


A Gentleman in Moscow



Another book that people recommended to me over and over, and yet I put it off.  I thought this book sounded boring.  I thought it would be a slow read.  And so, over and over, I decided not to read it, yet.  I kept telling myself I would get around to it.

Oh, I am SO glad I finally read this book!  A Gentleman in Moscow might be my favorite book thus far this year.  It is about Count Alexander Rostov who is imprisoned in a hotel in Russia.  He would have been killed, along with other nobles, but was kept alive because he wrote a pro-communism poem several years before.  This book tells of his years in the Metropol.  I loved how this book had an overarching plot, but it read slowly.  

I know, I complained earlier about thinking it would be a slow read.  But I didn't imagine it would be like this, little wonderful stories that I read slowly because I couldn't bear for the book to end!

Do yourself a favor and read this book!


Halfway through this years books!

May Books

It's now officially August, and I am just getting around to posting my May books!  I read 9 books in May, so I am still on track to read 100 this year.


The Heir



This is book 4 in the Selection series.  Again, think Hunger Games meets The Bachelor.

If you think that sounds amazing, you will not be disappointed.

And if you think that sounds miserable, then why are we friends?  No, I'm just kidding.  But seriously, if that above description doesn't sound good, you probably won't like this series.

I don't want to say too much about this book, because the whole plot hinges on the end of the 3rd book in the series...


The Crown



And then this book, book 5 in the series, also hinges on all of the others.  Let's just say, I really enjoyed this whole series.  It was delightful in all of the best/worst ways.


One of Us Is Lying



This spring, I was a part of a school book group for this book.  One of my biggest takeaways was that to become strong readers students need two things: time to read and engaging books to read.  A week or two after we finished the book group, the literacy coordinator at our school emailed the ELA teachers and said that there was a little extra money in the budget and did we need anything.

Let me be honest...my classroom library was not good.  I haven't built up a strong library, and all of my old middle school books are a tad dated.  I asked if I could spend some money on 15 new YA books.  And she said yes!  I looked for new, current, diverse, and engaging.  I tried to cover all genres.

This book is the first of the 15 that I read.  I would describe it as Mean Girls + Breakfast Club + 13 Reasons Why.  I could not put it down!

Five students walk into afternoon detention (all ostensibly set up), but only four walk out.  The police think one of the four is the murderer.  This book chronicles the investigation plus the unlikely friendship these four begin.

If you are looking for a book for your teenager, this is a good pick.  While it did deal with some more intense issues, the book was not too graphic at all.


My Cousin Rachel



Another Daphne du Marier!  I read Rebecca last year and really enjoyed it.

My Cousin Rachel is about a young man who is the heir of an estate.  His uncle, due to illness, travels to Italy to recuperate and falls in love with a younger woman before, mysteriously, passing away.

Rebecca comes to the English estate.  The young man is prepared to hate her, but...

I should stop there.  I don't want to give it all away!  If you enjoyed Rebecca, I think you will also love this book!


We Are Okay



The second from my 15 YA books.

Honestly, I chose to read this book next because it has a gorgeous cover.  Okay, fine, I think I chose to even order this book because I love the cover.  It's not a bad reason, right?  It's how I pick out my wine...

I really enjoyed this read.  Marin grew up in California, but she has left the West coast to go to school in New England.  But she also left other things, her past, her best friend, dealing with the death of her grandfather.  This story is told in flashbacks.  The ending was totally unexpected, but I wouldn't call this book a thriller.  It's a little slow at times, but beautifully written!


Provence--To Die For



Ah, a Murder She Wrote book, my favorites!  Talk about guilty pleasures.  These books are just delightful.  Jessica Fletcher is back to solving mysteries, just like in the show.

As you might have rightly deduced from the title, Jessica is off on a trip to Provence, France.  She is in the middle of a cooking class when the chef is murdered!

This book is perfect for the 80 year olds at heart.


The Woman on the Orient Express



I am a HUGE Agatha Christie fan, so, when this book magically appeared on my kindle, I knew I had to read it!  

Don't expect a Christie style mystery.  This book is historical fiction based on some events in Agatha's life.  I have read most of Christie's books, and I really enjoyed seeing how biographical events led to actual books.

I think you could not be a Christie fan and still enjoy this book, but being a fan would make it even better.


Love, Hate, and Other Filters



The past couple of years, I have been all about adding diverse YA books to my life, so that I can then recommend those books to my students.  This is a book I just saw on the shelf at the local library and wanted to read.

Maya is an American born Indian Muslim living in the midwest.  Tough enough, right?  Now throw in senior year, an arranged relationship, and a secret relationship!  I love how this book dealt with identity and prejudice, while also handling basic teenage issues too, like parents, boyfriends, friends, college choice.

Another point in it's favor?  This book is pretty clean.  I would feel comfortable giving this to my 7th and 8th grade students.


The Dry


The sequel to this book was on Anne Bogel's summer reading list, so I decided I needed to start with the first one.

If you enjoy Tana French, especially her first one, Into the Woods, you'll love this book.   Aaron Falk, a federal agent in Australia, goes back to his small, rural hometown to investigate the murder-suicide of his childhood best friend, the wife, and their child.  But wrapped into that investigation is a missing girl from his past.  

I love how this book had a present and past mystery, just like French's books sometimes have.  I also loved the setting.  I don't often read books set in Australia.  


Alright, that's May.  Now time to work on June and July's posts.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Life Lately

While I was working on my April books post, I started looking at some of my past posts.  Lately, we have been so busy that all I have time for is my book posts (which I do mostly for me, to help track what I've read and what I think about the books).  I was reading past posts, 5 on Friday, what I'm loving, and what our boys our up to.  And I realized I miss those!  I decided to play a little catch up, so I don't forget this past year!


January

January was a BIG month for us!  We bought our first house.  We closed on the 10th, but didn't move until the 28th.  So we spent every spare second at the new house.  I painted all of the bedrooms.  Bech painted the dark paneling AND pulled up the carpet and refinished the floors.  


White paint on paneling and wood floors (before Bech refinished them) compared to the ugly carpet and dark paneling


The floors mid refinishing


Ahhh, beautiful refinished floors!


This man was seriously the MVP of January!


Our rental house looking all sorts of cray cray while we packed


We did fit in a little fun.  Here's Gil on ice skates for the first time.


February

In February, we crashed.  Seriously.


Every single one of us got the flu.  Ughhhh....


We also drove down to DC and spent several days with Ansley.  The boys loved getting a special capitol tour from their Aunt.



The view from the Speaker's balcony


Jack posing with Vermont's Ethan Allen


We also went on a White House tour.  Jack loved it...


...Gil was not impressed.


This kid is such a little poser.


We swung by Philly on our way home to visit our favorites, the Lugos.


And since Rita's had just opened for the season, we HAD to get some.


These kids are the best car travelers!


March


March was a snowy, snowy month for Vermont. 


We enjoyed a snow day together building a massive snowman.  

I will also be regretting that snow day come June, when I have to make up that snow day with in service.  Because Vermont doesn't build in snow days.  Mississippi, you need to take this moment to bask in the brilliance of built in hurricane days.  And Vermont, seriously???  It ALWAYS snows.  Why don't you build in some snow days?




And we slid down the back stairs.


We had friends over a bunch!  One night I pulled the last of the past summer's frozen blueberries out so make Bread and Wine's blueberry crumble.


We celebrated sweet Eleanor's first birthday with a beautiful unicorn party.


Jack finally read the original Jack.


And we kept hammering away at house work.


April


 



The boys opened their Easter happies.  Most notable present is Jack's watch: now when I tell him it's bedtime, he quickly corrects me.  Maybe I should have set the time wrong...


Jack, as usual, was a willing Easter photo taker.


Gil was, well Gil.


But he cheesed it up with his main squeeze, Viv.


Jack built legos and read, his two favorite things.


Also, I think the whole sibling things is going well, wouldn't you say?

Also, they share a room, so there's that...


We celebrated our favorite, Bech, with a mint chocolate chip cake.


And we had our first creemees of the year.


Jack on top of the UVM mascot, the catamount


I got to spend some time with my friends (Stowe Cider may have been involved...).


The boys and I have been really into cake baking videos lately, so we've been trying our hand at baking.  We made an ombre cake for a potluck we hosted.


And I decided to try my hand at gardening!  We are still doing our summer CSA, but I would love to eventually stop that and grow all of our summer veggies.  Here are my baby seedlings.


Whew, there's a speed recap of the past four months.  It's been busy and crazy and good.  I can't believe my first year back teaching is almost done (19 school days, but who's counting?), Jack is almost a rising 2nd grader, and Gil is almost a legit preschooler.  

We have lots of fun summer plans in the works, including a camping trip or two, a visit to Asheville, and a trip down south.  I can't wait!



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