Top Ten Tuesdays: Best Re-reads

Top Ten TuesdaysI am a huge fan of the re-read. It’s like seeing an old friend and discovering that you still have a ton in common and are an even better fit than you were before. I always discover something new or something I had forgotten when I read a book or series again. Here are some of my favorite to visit over and over again.

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – If you haven’t checked this one out – go read it now before the movie comes out. I hope that Spielberg doesn’t screw it up but even if the movie is wonderful, it will not compare to the book at all. I think I’ve read this about 4 times now and plan to read it again in the near future.

312bnsvah1hl-_ac_ul320_sr212320_2. Quiet by Susan Cain –  I am an introvert. I can be social but I do not gain energy from it. As a teacher, I spend a lot of time with extroverts and this book is a great reminder of how powerful and important introverts are in every walk of life and position. Definitely worth a re-visit occasionally.

3. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss – This book cracks me up and is a nice refresher on basic grammar rules.. It always makes me feel a lot better when I notice major grammar issues in the world (not to mention my classroom).

4. The Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind – This is a LONG commitment to go back through but sometimes you need an epic sprawling fantasy that is literally 10s of thousands of pages long. This is a favorite escape for me.

5. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer – Okay, before you judge me too harshly, this series was a great escape when I was dealing with a lot of very difficult things. There were very few things that completely let me escape my life and run into another world but this series was helpful for me. This series also was the eventual start of my writing fiction. I started with fanfiction and have branched out from there, working on my own original pieces after having half a million readers with my fanfiction, I figure that there might really be something there. I’ve read this series at least a dozen times and plan to pick them up again – maybe over spring break.

anne-of-green-gables-9781442490000_hr6. The Anne series by L.M. Montgomery – I was a kid who never fit in – anywhere. I was too smart for my age, loved to read and write, and had a very active imagination. Anne was in some ways very much like me and I understood her. I was that awkward overly serious kid whose imagination loved to run wild. So occasionally I read Anne again, even as an adult. Additionally, my grandmother gave me my first and second set of these books. She started working on hardback copies for me before she died because I had worn out two sets of paperback copies in just a few years. She gave me Anne at just the right time. I think she knew how much I needed her.

7. The Ender Universe by Orson Scott Card – There are a few smaller series in this large group of books that explore children being used as space soldiers in a way you might not expect. They attempted to make a movie from the first book and failed epically. This book just had too broad a scope for a 2-hour telling. These kids are amazing and have such personality – if you haven’t read or reread these yet – I would encourage you to get them off a shelf or buy them and read these as soon as you can!

8. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – This epic story about how a person’s situation in life can change at the turn of a dime or because of one seemingly insignificant event is a genius work of literature. Not much more to say than that. If you are going to give this or the next two books a try, I strongly suggest the unabridged versions. You miss so much when you read the shorter versions.

51wjhbdxddl9. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – This classic story of revenge is worth many repeat visits.  Like I said in the previous book – you should read the full version – you miss so much of the rich backstory of some of the characters if you don’t read the whole thing. It’s long but very rewarding.

10. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy – I debated if I should list this one or Anna Karenina. Both are amazing but I chose this one for two reasons. It was the first book by Tolstoy I read and while Anna is wonderful, I feel like it just doesn’t quite have the scope of War and Peace. I will say that this is by far the most difficult read on the list. With a cast of around 300 characters, it is very easy to get lost.

What would be on your reread list? What do you think is not worthy of being read at all on my list? Let me know in the comments!



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Recommendation: The Greatest Showman

the_greatest_showman_posterI need recommendations! So my boyfriend and I went to see The Greatest Showman on Tuesday last week. We loved it. There were a few things that I would have differently but overall it was great. I honestly forgot what an amazing singer Hugh Jackman is. Zendaya needs some help getting rid of the breathy sound from her voice (sorry music teacher issues).

THE GREATEST SHOWMANOne of the biggest questions we had walking out was how much of it was truth. We know it was a fictionalization of the history of P.T. Barnum and the history of his circus. Then my boyfriend who doesn’t like to read very much said the magic words, “Now I want to read a book about him to find out how much of this is true and to learn more about the real story.”

So now I am coming to my blog readers. I could research this but without reading them all myself, I am not going to be as good a resource as you. Has anyone read a biography about P.T. Barnum or a nonfiction book about the history of the circus that they would recommend?

If you haven’t seen this one, go check it out!

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Review: Drops Like Stars

41ipjyribgl-_sx353_bo1204203200_Book: Drops Like Stars

Author: Rob Bell

Recommend: Did you even make it this far? If so, yes I highly recommend this author and his books.

Okay, before I start – disclaimer – I do not agree with everything this author has to say or believes. I do think this author does a great job of asking some really tough questions that many Christians are afraid of considering. I also believe he is well worth a read and get slightly disgusted when I go to Christian bookstores and his books are nowhere to be found.

This book deals with creativity and suffering and how grief and pain shape who we are and what we believe. How suffering and ache is something we can all relate to and something that we should talk about more often, not shy away from.

I have loved the way Rob Bell’s mind works since I was exposed to him via the NOOMA video series. His thoughts and reflections on God are so different and much more challenging than what is offered most Sunday mornings from most pulpits. He thinks through and expresses concepts in a way that is relevant and engaging. He is someone that cannot be ignored. His books are much the same. I find myself admiring the way that he thinks and his bravery to buck the norms that the Christian world has placed on itself. His books definitely belong in your library and deserve more than one read.

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Review: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

7bf179b8d2-b990-4b78-8108-0d03e2c95ef57dimg400Book: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Author: John Boyne

Recommend: This book is a harrowing tale set in a concentration camp that is worth the heartache.

I have had this recommended to me in both book and movie form many times and just hadn’t gotten to it. I knew that it was going to be a painful read and knew what I was in for or so I thought. I wasn’t expecting the book to come from the point of view of the child of a Nazi officer who was running a concentration camp. I expected to see the story through the eyes of the child in the camp. With a story of friendship that tugs at the heartstrings and an ending that will make you cry, this book is both simple and complex all at the same time.

This book is told from the point of view of a young boy who doesn’t really understand everything that is going on around him so you have to read between the lines to understand what is going on around the main character.

I don’t want to ruin the impact of this book so I don’t want to say too much but this book will make even the toughest person cry and will make everyone think about the perspective of children during the time. It is definitely worth the read.

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Review: The Heart Goes Last

51psgf101pl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Book: The Heart Goes Last

Author: Margaret Atwood

Recommend: Atwood never misses. This woman is one of my favorite authors with good reason. That being said it is a challenging read but all of her books are.

I am a huge fan of the work of Margaret Atwood. She asks tough questions through her fiction about what is right and wrong. She examines social issues through her work in a way that is engaging and thought-provoking. I love that they have started to turn her work into equally gripping TV. I think this book has the potential to be one of those shows honestly.

This tells the story of a couple who like so many have lost everything and are living in their car because they have nowhere else to go until they hear about a miracle town where they will be given and job and house. There is one little catch but in their minds, it will be better than living in their car. Desperate, they sign up and find out that not everything is as it seems at first glance.

This book is gritty and deals with dystopia in a way that only Atwood can. The characters are gripping and you feel their desperation as they try to navigate the world they have chosen, not realizing all the consequences. Just when you think you have things figured out the whole world tilts and spins and you are on a roller coaster that just won’t stop.

I read this one in one sitting and couldn’t bring myself to put it down. I borrowed it from my best friend and I think it is going to have to join my collection.

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Review: Millennium series

millennium-trilogy-coversBooks: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Author: Steig Larson

Recommend: I really enjoyed this series but it definitely had a slow start.

I guess 4th time’s the charm? I have started this series three other times and every time I would give up about fifty pages in. I just couldn’t get into it no matter how hard I tried. Then I watch the movies and decided to give the books one more try. Normally I would read the book before I watched the movie but with these books it allowed me to get into the story.

This series tells the story of Lizbeth Salander, an unconventional tech genius who is contracted to work a case that quickly becomes very complicated. The rabbit hole that she goes down with Mikael Blomkvist uncovers more than they could ever have counted on.

The Swedish version of the movies are very close to the books. They do leave out some of the background, some of the graphic material, and I feel that Lizbeth is less relatable on film than she is on the page but other than that, the movies are a well-done retelling of the books. I feel like the Hollywood version skips too much and leaves out too much in comparison.

Once I got through the first eighty pages or so, I couldn’t put them down. I read all three books in two days. Definitely worth the time and energy. I will say there are some very difficult scenes to read including very graphic rape scenes, so if this is an issue for you, please read with caution or skip this series.

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Review: On Writing

10569Book: On Writing

Author: Stephen King

Recommend: If you are a huge Stephen King fan or are trying to get into writing as a profession, this is a worthwhile read.

I have been meaning to read this for ages but have never really gotten around to it until I hit winter break. I needed to read something that felt was substantial so that I would feel like I had accomplished something over break. I didn’t get what I was expecting from the book but it was a good read. It is a bit biography, a bit writing suggestions and a bit memoir all at the same time.

For this author, it is a short read and when you read it, you get the sense that the author thinks the way that he writes. I wouldn’t be surprised to sit down with him and discover that he talks the way he writes as well because whether writing fiction or non-fiction he comes across the same.

This book is definitely staying on my shelves and will be worth a revisit at some point.

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Review: The Circle

18302455Book: The Circle

Author: David Eggers

Recommend: It’s quite a chilling read especially if you know someone who works for one of the big trendy companies threatening to take over the world.

This book tells the story of a woman named Mae who goes to work for a company simply called The Circle because she had a friend who worked for the company. Mae does well and begins to do well. she is promoted and then invited to take part in an experiment for the company where she is filmed all the time.

This book has a lot of commentary about how corporations are wanting insight into almost every aspect of your life. They use the information they glean to sell more and plan how to market to you specifically. The more they know, the more money they can make.

This book was chilling and the choices Mae makes during the course of this book won’t feel all that different than choices you would make, with one exception. Her relationship choices are a bit sketchy.  Other than that though it is easy to watch how Mae ends up small choice by small choice becoming a virtual slave to the company and being happy doing it even as she becomes estranged from her family and her best friend ends up having a nervous breakdown.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I am curious to see what changes Hollywood makes and if they change or keep the book ending. I am eager to read more of Eggers books and have picked up all the ones I could find after this engaging read.


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Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin

80660Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Author: Lionel Shriver

Recommend: This is a chilling read but a well written and powerful one.

I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf for a while. I knew what it dealt with and as  a teacher I have to confront the issue of school shootings a lot. We practice for them and plan for them because they happen far too often in our current culture. My best friend grew up in Colorado and had friends who went to Columbine. When we went there on vacation, she drove me past the school because I was a high school kid when all of this went down and had studied the case backward and forwards. A small part of me wanted to see the school in real life. So when I heard about this book, it made my must-read list.

This book tells the story of a boy named Kevin who killed students at his school. It is written in the form of letters from Eva, Kevin’s mother to her former husband Franklin talking about their son and what happened. It is a series of snapshots that shows all the signs were there but that no one really thought it was going to happen.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It was intense and required me to put it down several times because I simply needed a break from the instensity.  However as I got to the end of the book I couldn’t really put it down and sat shell-shocked for a few minutes after I finished it. I honestly can’t decide if this book is staying on my shelves or not. It was a really good read but I don’t know if I could bring myself to read it again. However, it might be interesting now that I know what is going to happen to read again in order to see if there are hints to what happens earlier in the book. Definitely worth the read if you can handle the intense scenarios and situations. I will be doing a book/move comparision when I get the guts to watch the movie.

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Book Haul

best_bd56ea7da33891dd8257_l169844_301-2119_98024I recently went to my local used bookstore to get rid of some books I would never read again or read – ever. So, while I waited, I wandered and found more books that needed to come home. Today’s book haul included the following books!

  1. Nightwatch by Sergei Lukyanenko
  2. Daywatch by Sergei Lukyanenko
  3. Twilight Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
  4. The Sleeping King by Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin
  5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  6. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
  7. Paper Towns by John Greene
  8. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
  9. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Any recommendations on what I should tackle first?

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Review: Game of Thrones

rhgt5-game-thrones-blood-red-front-1200Book: Game of Thrones

Author: George R.R. Martin

Recommend: I really want to say yes, but I have to say no, unless you are already a fan.

I have been waiting and waiting to read these. I had to have time and motivation. It took me forever to get to this series. I have read all the books that are currently available and the biggest take away was that while the story is great, the writing is honestly painful.

This book tells the epic story of Ned Stark, his family and all of Westeros as people fight over the fate of the kingdom. It is a sprawling, long series (and it’s not done) that uses alternating POV to tell the story of different characters.

I really wanted to like this. I really did. I have seen the show and was hoping that the books would give me so much more than the show did. I have never been so wrong. Yes, there is more information, yes the story is slightly different in certain parts but it has one HUGE problem. In my opinion, Martin simply cannot write well. It is flat, dull and missing the energy of so many other fantasy series. I think the only reason this series is so popular because of the plot. I felt like the series was such a long trudge to get through. The only reason I continued was that I wanted to understand what was different between the show and the movie.

Unless you are a fan of short, uninspired sentences missing much of the color and flavor of an epic fantasy, I wouldn’t recommend wasting your time on this one. If you are old enough, simply watch the show. This is one of the rare cases where TV does a better job than the books.

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Life Update

blue20eye20watchingSo I am getting back into the swing of things on here a little bit which is great but I feel like I need to talk about why I have been gone so long and what has happened in my life because I think that these events are important and should be shared. Fair warning, this is not a fun story and might cause people some issues. Read with caution.

In 2005 I met a man who seemed really taken with me. I dated him for a couple weeks but decided that we should just be friends. He agreed. I dated other people. Six months later, we were hanging out and suddenly he’s holding my hand, then kissing me. The next night I agreed to be his girlfriend and tried dating him again even though something told me not to. He was just so into me. It was flattering and felt great. Three months later, we were engaged but no one else would know until we hit the six-month mark.  In those three months, I saw him every day. He didn’t want to go a day without seeing me. I thought it was sweet. We planned our wedding. During the process, my parents asked me a question about him hitting me. I told them that he wasn’t. They commented that I was always so worried to upset him. I said that he would never. A month later we were married.



This is a photo of me taken during my marriage on a rare night out.

Eight years later, I was locking myself in my bedroom at night because I was so afraid of this man I had married. He controlled every aspect of my life. I had been knocked down into the trash, screamed at, blamed for everything, had things thrown at me, was sexually abused, was raped, had no financial control, made fun of endlessly, put down constantly, had forced birth control, and made to feel completely worthless. He rarely hit me but he did hit me. It was rare because he didn’t need to. I was easy to control.


I met someone in that last year that became my friend. Something that was not easy to do because I was so controlled but she stuck in there with me and came into my mess, seeing the truth. She said something. She told me I was being abused. She was right. She gave me a place to go. So, I left.  A place to go was all I needed in order to get out. I lived with her and her roommate for six weeks before she and I got our own place.

I went to therapy almost immediately. I decided to get divorced. I knew this man I had married. I knew who he was and what he was. I knew that change was not going to happen. I didn’t want to stick around to find out. I wanted to be safe. I never wanted to be so afraid that I needed to lock myself in again. In that decision, I lost almost everyone.

My church turned its’ back on me because I wasn’t willing to reconcile. I didn’t want to stay with him. I was scared of him. I didn’t want to live in fear anymore. I didn’t want to be hurt like that ever again. There was no way I could go back. Not without being right back in the abuse. I knew this man. I spent 10 years being in some level of relationship with him. A change was not going to happen.

I developed PTSD. Three years later, I still have flashbacks, get triggered, have nightmares, and disassociate due to the repeated complex trauma I went through for years. At first, I dealt with this every day, multiple times a day. I could hardly function. Now it only happens every couple of weeks or so.

Six months after I left, I filed for divorced and met a man named Alan. We have been together over two and half years now and he is completely different. He treats me with kindness, care, love, compassion, respect, and adoration. He’s not perfect. He doesn’t think I am either. He loves me and treats me as an equal.

Two years ago my baby cousin got married. She watched what happened to me. She learned. She didn’t stay for eight years. She was out in a few months. The cycle doesn’t have to continue. It can be stopped. We can stop it.

Why am I sharing all of this? Simple.

One, to let other women know that you don’t have stay. You can get out. Abuse in any form is not something you have to tolerate. There are people who will help.

Second, to let other people know not to stand by and do nothing. Be there and help. If you see something, say something. If a friend or family member needs somewhere safe to go, help them find it or be that safe place if you can.

Third, to remind the church that women who are being abused should be believed and helped. They should get the church’s resources and compassion, not the men who are abusive. Look at your policies regarding abusive marriages and requiring women to remain in them because it isn’t adultery. A woman’s life and safety are paramount. Believe her. Trust her. Support her.

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Review: After Alice

51iydk4elll-_sx330_bo1204203200_Book: After Alice

Author: Gregory Maguire

Recommend: This was an okay read but nothing to get excited over. I want to like Maguire but he always falls short for me.

I am a big fairy tale fan. I love them. I grew up reading them and comparing the originals to Disney as soon as I could read them for myself. For years now I have read the works of Maguire, hoping somehow that he will improve but he never really does. For some reason, he takes something that should be full of life and energy and completely zaps it from the page.

This book tells the story of everyone to surround Alice from the famous books by Louis Carroll. Shifting between Lydia and a girl named Ada, we are chasing after Alice, never quite catching her.

I feel like Maguire is chasing after a great idea and never quite makes it work. This one is going to the used bookstore but will I buy the next book by this author when it comes out? Probably. I keep hoping somehow he is simply going to nail it at some point.

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Review: Afterworlds

18367581Book: Afterworlds

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Recommend: Very different than what I was expecting but it was a nice, light fluffy YA read.

From the blurbs on this book, I was expecting one thing. When you say that one character writes the words and the other lives them, I was expecting something like Stranger than Fiction. What I got was a book about a girl publishing her first book and her fictional first book told in alternating chapters. It was okay but honestly was a letdown for this author. It felt like something a new teen writer would put out, not someone as seasoned at Westerfeld.

I found the setting of the fictional book in the book to be interesting but I wanted more of that. I also found the story of the girl trying to get through the publishing of her first book to be interesting but I wanted more. Together, there just simply wasn’t enough of either one to feel completely fleshed out. It was like he had two shorter ideas and smashed them together to create the length of a normal YA novel.

Despite its’ shortcomings, it definitely was engaging, kept me reading until the end, and made me annoyed when I got interrupted. So it wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t all good either. The most compelling thing in this book was the pacing and some of the publishing pieces but the sparks were few and far between.

I am honestly not sure if this one is going to get a permanent spot on my very full bookshelves. I needed to get rid of a few after my latest reorganization anyway. This one has the strong possibility of being one of those headed to the used bookstore.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books to conquer in 2018

Top Ten TuesdaysA new year means new reading goals. This year I set myself 50 books as a goal to read. For me, it is a low number but I have a lot going on in my life and don’t have as much time to read as I used to. I have a mental list of books that I plan to finally conquer this year because they have been on my reading list for what seems like forever and I simply haven’t gotten to them yet for one reason or another. This year will be the year (I hope).

1. Ulysses by James Joyce – Honestly this is on my list every year. I can’t seem to get through it. Maybe this year.  It will definitely have to be a summer read. There is a reason it is considered one of the hardest books to read period.

2. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan – I have heard such wonderful things about this series from so many people. The length and size of the series though is a bit intimidating and that’s saying something coming from me. However, if I can get through all of Terry Goodkind, I should be able to get through these.

3. Strings Attached by Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky – This is a book about a no-nonsense strings teacher who shares his love of music with his students through a rough but caring attitude. I have had this on my list for ages because I tend to be this kind of teacher at least to a point. Tough love is a really helpful thing and praising students when they earn it, makes it far more valuable. I have started this a couple of times but simply have had bad timing with it. I hope to get through this one this year.

Truth 434. A New Kind of Christianity by Brian MacLaren – This book has been on my shelves for far too long and has been recommended by fart oo many people to not pick it up and get it read this year.

5. The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov – I know, I know, I should have read these a long time ago. I just have never gotten around to them. I have them all now thanks to my local used bookstore who sold them all together for 8 bucks and no I really have no excuse. This year I’m going to tackle this series, I swear.

6. Vanity Fair by Willaim Makpeace Thackery – This one has been sitting on my shelf for ages in unabridged paperback and it’s size even intimates me a little bit. I hope to make it through this one this year. Right now epicly long reads have been a bit daunting so I am not sure about this one.

7. It by Stephen King – I watched the new version of the movie and have a renewed interest in getting through this one. The book is always better than the movie right? I have a love/hate relationship with Stephen King because I feel that sometimes he really struggles to land the plane well sometimes.

Truth 18. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood – This book has been sitting on my shelves for about six months now.  I want to watch the new series based on the book but I really don’t want to do that until I read the book. I know that the show can’t compare to her writing so I want to experience the real thing first.

9. IQ84 by Haruki Murakami – This book has been one I’ve wanted to read for a while and have attempted a couple times but simply wasn’t in the right place to read. I am hoping to make it through this one this year.

10. Rob Bell – I really want to get back to the Rob Bell books this year. I have read Love Wins and really am looking at some elements of my faith this year from a fresh point of view. While I don’t agree with everything that he has to say, Rob Bell definitely challenges the reader to think for themselves and evaluate what they believe and why by asking the tough questions.

What is on your list of things you want to tackle this year? Leave it in the comments below!


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Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

41bz6jumwil-_sx323_bo1204203200_Book: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Author: Mark Haddon

Recommend: This is quite a read. If you are looking to gain some insight into how people with autism think, this is quite a read.

This book tells the story of a young boy name Christopher who happens to be autistic. Christopher’s world is turned upside down when he discovers his neighbor’s dog has been killed. As he tries to figure out who might have killed the dog, he unravels more than he had bargained for, creating a crisis for the young man that changes his life.

The author attempts to write the book in the way that an Autistic person would process and see the world. As a teacher, I work with students from every walk of life and every ability level. For some reason, I work fairly well with students who are on the Autism spectrum. I understand their need for black and white, rules, routine, and that they need certain things to always be a certain way. For this reason, I do things like keep these students in the same seat year after year (I teach music, so I have students all the way through their elementary education), give them a heads up when we are going to do something different and try to accommodate for sound when I can (which can be a challenge in the music room). I have a fairly decent understanding of how the autistic mind works (well at least for someone who isn’t autistic) and found this to be the best attempt to try to communicate what is going on in their head I have ever read.

This book did an amazing job of communicating how overwhelming the world can be for someone with the processing issues that come with autism. How little things can actually be huge things and a reminder that people really don’t understand what they are dealing with when it comes to people who are different from them.

I think the thing that struck me the most with this book is that while teachers, social workers, and many other people have an understanding of how to work with people who are autistic, the general public often doesn’t know what to do or how to handle it. The policemen especially in this book have no clue. I know that there have been training and attempts made but I know that even so, too many police officers don’t understand that someone who is autistic is not trying to be difficult, but has unique needs that should be accommodated whenever possible.

This is definitely worth the read, especially if you haven’t really been exposed to individuals with Autism. I believe it will create a sense of compassion and understanding.

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Things I never thought would happen before I started my blog

pexels-photo-459688.jpegAs a book blogger, there are some thing I was simply completely unprepared for. I just wanted to share my love of reading with others. Which is great and not everything that has happened is negative, but there have been some very surprising things that have happened due to this blog. If you are looking at this book blog and contemplating starting your own, you might want think about these things first.

1. Everyone is recommending new things for me to read – While I expected quite a bit of this, I had no idea how this was going to explode on me. Everyone who actually knows who I am (my family and close friends) now feel that it is their duty to recommend everything that they love reading. It’s great because I’ve discovered some books that I never would, however if I get another suggestion for a mystery or cheesy romance novel, I might scream a bit. It didn’t really hit me how much people were recommending things to me until my father started to explain that I needed to read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because he (a non-reader) had thoroughly enjoyed it.

2. Others think that they should try to convince me to read more of _________: I like what I like and I read a wide variety of styles, even if I don’t review all of it. However, my day job is really stressful and so I rarely have time for a really serious read. I love the serious thought provoking kind of book however, my brain just can’t handle it when I’ve been teaching all day. However, I still get plenty of private messages encouraging me to read less fluffy material. I read a lot of serious literature, just not during the week and tend to work through those a bit slower than the less substantial stuff.

3. It is way more work than I thought – I figured when I started that I would simply write a review when I felt like it and only update occasionally, as I felt like it. While I did start out that way, I found out very quickly that I needed to blog more often if I was going to get others to read it.

4. That I would get free books often – I never imagined that people would send me books for free, before they were released, simply so they would get reviewed. I never thought I would be the one with a sly grin on my face as heard someone declare that they couldn’t wait to read a book that was soon to come out, knowing that I had read it last week but couldn’t post my review yet. It’s also a ton of fun to hand that book to a friend or relative desperate to get their hands on it and see them light up like Christmas has come early.

5. How many people read something because I recommend it – I get a lot of heated emails back from people who read something at my recommendation and either feel the same about it as I do and rush to agree with my review or completely disagree and feel that they simply have to tell me how wrong I was.

6. That I would get burned out – I have been subject to burn out just like any other blogger out there. For some reason because if how much I love to read, I thought I might be immune or would suffer less of it because of my deep love of reading. Well, while my love of reading keeps me motivated, I also find myself not writing up everything anymore simply because some books are so forgettable that they aren’t worth my energy. I also find that sometimes I forget about the blog completely, e because I simply have too much going on or get absorbed by something else, although I always find my way back here with new energy.

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Why ban books when we can just get kids to hate reading?

Please note that I wrote this a couple of years ago. While I still feel like common core standards are creating these issues, I am in a more moderate place than when this post was first written. Of course, I have left the public school system behind for now and currently teach in a charter school. There is still some definite fuel for thought here so I decided to share this post even though I have mellowed a bit in the interim.

man-hands-men-book.jpgI don’t know how many of you know much about common core standards and the dangerous implications for the future of education that they hold, but if you haven’t done any research into this topic, I would recommend looking through the common core standards for yourself and when you see that teachers are being pushed in the younger grades to use at least 30% informational text, 50% informational text in the middle grades and 70% in the upper grades, you will quickly see why this plan is going to lead to a generation of kids that absolutely hate to read.

man-hands-reading-boy.jpgFirst though, what is informational text? Informational text is text that fails to follow a narrative form and provides information. We are talking word mapping, tables on contents, diagrams, indexes, glossaries and other forms of reading designed to give out information in a non-narrative form. The rest of their reading should be in the classic drama, fiction and poetry. Does anyone else see the huge problem here? First of all, whoever designed this decided that no one needed to learn information in a narrative way. That kids should only be able to learn new ideas when they are presented in a non-narrative form. Right now, that means that instead of kids getting new ideas and information from the text and pulling it out of the context, they are being trained to only identify valid information when it comes in a non-narrative form. This means that kids are being trained to treat every ounce of regular reading as FICTION. While teachers don’t see this conclusion yet, they are going to make this unintentional connection for the students who in turn are only going to believe something that is written in a manual. This means that things like biographies, historical narrative documents (like informative essays and persuasive papers), the Constitution and even the Bible will become unimportant to these kids who are being trained that information only comes from these non-narrative sources. They are teaching kids that there is a whole huge section of reading material that isn’t valid at all. In fact, it is so invalid that they will never study it formally in school with these new standards outside of possibly reading a textbook which will contain more and more informational text instead of traditional narrative.

Fiction is also being damaged by common core. Fiction is supposed to be 70% in the younger grades (in reality they are pushing 50%), 50% in the middle grades and only 30% in the upper grades. Then the fictional text that students will be reading will be focused on only teaching age-appropriate classics. I don’t know about most of you, but I learned to love to read through picking up fictional stories that interested me. I eventually graduated to the classics but only once me reading level was high enough to support it, which came earlier than most of my peers, but I still didn’t venture into classic literature until I was ready for the complexity held within it’s pages. However, instead of gradually increasing the reading level, common core puts a focus on almost all classic fiction.

The problem with focusing on only classic literature, especially in the younger grades is two fold. First of all we need to look at vocabulary. Language is ever evolving and changing over time. The  meanings and word usage itself changes over time. I can give you instances where today’s meaning of a word is drastically different and sometimes even opposite than the original meaning. The word choice will have very little meaning and connection for students who are young readers and if they don’t understand the vocabulary or struggle with it, there is no way they are going to have any comprehension of what they have read, if they can even figure out what the words are. The second issue is context. I live and teach in a pexels-photo-261895.jpeglarge city. Living on a farm during the early days of our country has very little context for me, let alone the students that I teach. When the students have no connection to the people they are reading about and have no understanding of what they are doing, there is no way they are going to understand the text they are being asked to read. Let’s not even start on other cultures and our students lack of awareness about them. We are creating confusion and complication for our kids far beyond what is going to be a challenge and move straight to the place where they become frustrated and give up.  However, having seen the text selections in person, the vocabulary is completely inappropriate for the age level of the intended audience, using archaic terms and ideas far outside what most American children are familiar with, with no explanation or clarification. When the reading they are assigned is cumbersome, what is a kid going to do? Simple. They aren’t going to enjoy reading fiction. They will associate reading fiction with a laborious process full of confusion and things they cannot relate to because they are completely beyond their knowledge base. Let me say that again – due to common core and the complex nature of the completely age inappropriate texts, kids are going to hate reading fiction.

So, now that reading for knowledge is going to be discounted or completely simplified and reading fiction is going to be too difficult for 98% of the children at the grade level that it is intended for, we are creating a generation of kids with the new common core who are going to hate reading. They aren’t going to view it as something fun to do when they have spare time. They aren’t going to understand that it is a great place to escape. They aren’t going to value it as a place to learn from. They will have virtually no reading comprehension skills because they won’t enjoy reading and kids who don’t enjoy reading, aren’t good readers.

So unintentionally or even perhaps intentionally, common core is going to create a group of kids who will grow into adult who not only don’t like to read but due to the lack of practice due to their intense dislike of reading, will be poor readers. The implications for the future are sad. We are going to have a generation of workers who cannot grasp complex ideas from text. We are going to have a generation of people who will only be fit for blue collar work. The few who go to expensive private schools will be groomed to be more than this but we are intentionally dumbing down the next generation of workers by creating a generation of non-readers.

That is just the reading standards by the way – don’t get me started on the new way to do math.

What can you do to stop common core?

1.Do your research – find out more about common core and why it is such a bad idea

2. Research groups in your state that are fighting common core and see what you can do to help

3. Contact your state legislature to get common core removed from your state – flood their email and mail boxes with letters about how you do not want common core for your state

4. Contact your state department of education and let them know that you do not want to see common core in your state and request a return to your state’s standards

5. Contact your federal representatives(house and senate) and tell them that you want the federal government out of state education. That they shouldn’t be allowed to control state’s interests by dangling federal dollars over their heads.

Don’t take just my word for it – here are a couple of videos that explain further why common core should be removed.


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Series Review: Silo Trilogy

Books: Wool, Shift, Dust

Author: Hugh Howey


Recommend: Definitely worth the read! These books are one of the best dystopian series I have read since The Hunger Games.

I have had the first book in this series, Wool, sitting on my shelf for quite a while. I had heard great things and was always meaning to get to it but I really enjoy reading a series all in one go when possible, so I was waiting. I got a gift card to Half Price Books for Christmas and used it as an excuse to pick up books 2 and 3 in the series. I had just finished a reread of one of my favorites but was still in a science fiction dystopia place when I decided to pick these up.

The book centers around Jules, a young woman who is thrust into power when she does not want it, unknowingly causing a chain of events that will change everything in their world.

First of all, I was expecting something totally different than what I got. I had heard many things about this book regarding it’s popularity in hipster circles and it made me wonder if it was a good read or simply a popular one with a certain section of the popultion. My fears were unfounded. Howey has created wonderfully rich and complex characters who are dealing with living a life in an underground silo. The balance of action and character devleopment is superb and definitely makes it worth the read. The story is compelling and the more I found out about the world the more disgusted and fascinated I was.

The only slight critism I might have with this book is the fact that the second book takes us away from the main storyline so much. It is necessary but I wish that the author had given us more in the first book from the secondary cast and less in the second because it would have felt a lot more balanced. By the time he gets to the third book though, he finds his stride and I am eagerly awaiting more books from this author.

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Book Review: The Castle in the Forest

220px-castleintheforestcoverTitle: The Castle in the Forest

Author: Norman Mailer

Recommend: Well, if you enjoy this sort of thing but for the most part I would say no.

I have had this book sitting on my shelf for almost a year. I picked it up because it is a look at the life of Hitler and his past which I find morbidly fascinating in the way a trainwreck is fascinating. I was not expecting a couple of things when I picked this book up. First of all, I pulled the dust cover off and found a copy of the writer’s obituary tucked underneath. It was not a kind statement about the man. It basically referred to him as a misogynistic stuck up literary snob who happened to be a good writer that helped establish The Village Voice. A few pages into the book I could see exactly what the obit. writer had been talking about.

While he had some interesting insights into the history of one of the evilest men to walk to face of the planet, his Freud worship was well on display and his obsession with the base and carnal made it a less than palatable read. Not that I would expect a book about Hitler to be sunshine and rainbows but the obsessions with sex, insect, and bodily functions was more than a bit much.

This definitely ticked off a checkbox for me because I have finally read a book by this author but honestly I would not recommend it. This one is going in my bag for the used bookstore and will no longer take up valuable space on my very full bookshelves.

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Filed under historical fiction, mature themes and subject matter, Review