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The Curious Happenings of March and April

Hello Fellow Readers!!

Meaning to do a wrap up each month, I was quite surprised to see that I’m missing one for March. I couldn’t figure out why until it hit me—I was preparing for CampNaNoWriMo. It was my first foray into such things. (For those of you who don’t know what it is, it’s a writing contest of sorts where you set a goal for yourself—and then work hard all April to accomplish said goal). So while I was writing a TON, none of it was book reviews. SIDE NOTE: I finished! My goal was 30 hours, and I did it—with a nice 34,000 words under my belt. But enough about me, let’s get to the good stuff…

So here’s a mix of what I read. It was a pretty good two months. I had my ups and downs, but I expected much worse, especially after the AWESOME month of reading that Feb had brought me.

In no particular order (except the very best is at the end) drum roll please:

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The Thirteenth Tale

By Diane Setterfield

* * * * *

Five Book-loving Stars

This book is nothing short of a love letter to readers. The main character works in her father’s bookstore, not because she has to but because they have a shared love for books—a deep need for books.

The first few chapters are written to pull in any reader, with books being described as precious things that need to be taken care of. (oh my heart)

There’s a story there, a deep mystery that needs to be solved, deliciously woven by a famous author who hires the woman who works in the bookstore to write her tale. Part mystery, part history, the tale is a story of family, friends, love, hate, relationships—you know, life. I highly recommend this one!

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A List of Cages

By Robin Roe

* * * *

4 stars

Not for the faint of heart, this book has some graphic physical abuse in it (among other things, a boy is shoved into a box for days), so be warned.

Our main character Julian doesn’t know where he fits in with life. He’s had a rough one—his parents died while he was a little boy, and he longs for them, wishes for them back. You can’t help but being pulled into his pain and loss and love for them.

As much as it’s a story about family, it’s also a story about friendship. Julian runs into an old friend, Adam, who he hasn’t seen in years. As they begin to reconnect, Julian fears that the friendship is one-sided—why would anyone WANT to be his friend.

Capturing emotions that we have all felt growing up, A List of Cages has heroes and villains, and all the people in between.

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Code Name Verity

Elizabeth Wein

* * * * *

Five “this book rocks” stars

I thought I had picked up this one before, swore that I had started it and left it as a DNF. I don’t know what book that was, but it sure wasn’t this one.

Historical fiction, set during the second world war. That’s all I’m gonna give you because the LESS you know about this book before you start reading it, the MORE you’ll like it.

It’s choppy at times, confusing at times, but it’s that way for a reason—keep reading, you’ll LOVE it.

MAJOR bonus points for creating an edge-of-your seat read, with a fast-moving plot and characters that are deep, with only GIRLS as the main characters. Hat tip to the author for her brilliance.

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All the Light We Cannot See

By Anthony Doerr

* * * * *

Five “oh my heart” stars

Again, historical fiction, set in WWII. Whereas my other read was YA, this one was adult—a much longer read. BUT worth EVERY minute of it.

We ping back and forth between two characters on different sides of the war—a little orphan boy whose only hope to pull himself out of poverty is to join the Hitler Youth when they come calling, and a little French girl, whose eyesight began failing and is now completely blind.

We follow their stories, as the war progresses and they are both taken from home. What makes this book stand out, however, is not what is done to them, but the people around them. With a cast of deep supporting characters, you can’t help but be sucked right into this one.

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Quick mentions:

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

* * * 1/2

Three point five stars

It starts off with magic. I had no idea that this story had magical elements to it, so I was quite confused the first few chapters until I figured things out. (The feathers come from WHERE, exactly?) But then I got my bearings. It’s a feud tale, much like Romeo and Juliet, yet without the insta-love.

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A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

* * * *

Four stars

Wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this one—being written during the 1920s, but I was completely blown away. Woolf’s got some chops, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one!

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American Housewife by Helen Ellis

* * * ½

Three point five stars.

This one was a riot. The first few pages didn’t pull me in so much, but once we got to the short story composed entirely of e-mails I was hooked. Some of the stories I liked more than others, but each one had its own deliciously dark elements.

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Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

* * * ¾

I hoped going into this one that I would LOVE it. I can’t say that I did, but I ENJOYED it enough to want to read the sequel, so that’s good. There was lots of violence, so thumbs up for that. The romance-y things got a little sticky in the middle, slowing the plot way down, but it picked back up at the end.

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And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for……..More love for……

The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

* * * * *

Five OH MY GOSH THIS BOOK IS AWESOME stars

A boy is shot and killed during a “routine” traffic stop. The cop is white. The boy is black. The city goes berserk.

There are so many facets to this story that I can’t even begin to list them all.

It’s a coming of age story.

It’s a story about family.

It’s a story about love and loss.

It’s beautiful and messy.

It deals with the awkwardness that is present when people of two different races sit down and actually talk to each other about race.

It’s a story about telling the truth and holding to that truth regardless of what’s thrown your way.

Thomas weaves a tale that makes it relatable to anyone who reads it.

There are racists in this book. There are people who don’t bother to care. And then there are people who are stuck in the middle, not knowing how to react. We have so many years—centuries—of racisms, prejudices in our past, that if people want to talk about it, they don’t know how. There’s an awkwardness there that needs to be overcome. And Thomas did a fantastic job of relating that.

There are so many other things in this book that she handled magnificently, that I’m not even qualified enough to speak about—go read the many fantastic reviews this book has.

And do yourself a huge favor—read the book! You won’t be disappointed.

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March and April were pretty good reading months. Hope May follows in their footsteps! Happy reading.

 

February Wrap-up

Hello There!

It’s been awhile. After a long winter hibernation, I’m ready for my first book wrap-up. In no particular order, here goes.

I had 2 rereads this month:


Six of Crows

by Leigh Bardugo

* * * * *

This was my third! read of this novel. It is brilliant, wonderfully written, fantastically paced. The characters are yummy. This book is one of my all-time favorites, and as I said on a Goodreads update, as comfy as an old t-shirt.


Crooked Kingdom

by Leigh Bardugo

* * * * *

A sequel that doesn’t disappoint, Crooked Kingdom is a worthy ending to the mind-blowing awesomeness that is Six of Crows. It picks up right where the other book left off, and we are thrust into a world of deception, heists and the evil that is Kaz. Plus, Kaz and Inej = <3.


And now on to the rest of my reads….

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

by J.K. Rowling

* * * * *

This was EVERYTHING I wanted from another such published script and SO much more!! No element of fanfiction could be found in this story woven by one of the greatest weavers who ever lived. Rowling is pure genius.  I read this to my kids, and the moment the Niffler arrived on screen, we couldn’t stop giggling. He’s such a fantastic character, and the relationship that Newt has with him is nothing short of heartwarming.

I was hesitant to climb on board this train, especially when I heard there are going to be sequels. But with Rowling in control, I should have known better.

Bonus points: the movie was FANTASTIC! I mean, it should be—it’s right there in the title.


Vicious

by V.E. Schwab

* * * *

This book has a lot to live up to with a title like that. And it didn’t disappoint. It was unlike anything I had read before. The love/hate relationship between the two main characters was spot on. The use of the Sharpie in the book was one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. It was a gateway into the character’s mind and what he truly thought of things. The only thing that keeps me from giving this five stars is the writing style. There’s just something about it that doesn’t pull me in.


Mary Reilly

by Valerie Martin

* * * ½

This was a buddy read with one of my Goodreads groups. I’ve never read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but I have a general idea of what the story is about. This was written from the perspective of one of Dr. Jekyll’s house maids. Mary has a bright mind and, unlike others in her station, she can read and write. The story is told through her diary entries, which start us off in a memory of a dark time in her life when she was locked in a cupboard by her father.

The story progresses as Mary deals with the repercussions of what her father did, the odd conversations she has with her master, and the mysterious new friend he has invited into their lives.

The book itself is a slow read. The author has crafted it in such a way to be read slowly, regardless of how fast you normally read. I thought that was interesting in and of itself.


They All Saw a Cat

by Brendan Wenzel

* * * * *

Another book I read to my kids, They All Saw a Cat is a fantastic tool to open up discussions about the differences we all have and how we perceive the world differently from each other. It took me a handful of minutes to read this book, but the discussions that ensued lasted four times as long. Not only that, but it’s not silly or just for little kids. Adults can appreciate it as well.


The Passage

by Justin Cronin

* * * *

The first word that comes to mind when I think about this book is that it’s LONG. It’s an epic read. The characters are fleshed out, and we get a history of each of them. It took a good couple hundred pages to get into the meat of this story, but it was well worth the effort.

I’ll try to keep this unspoilery as possible—It’s a story about people, about humans with good intentions trying to defend their homeland, but are too nearsighted to see the repercussions of their actions.

It’s about love and loss, duty and honor. It’s about a little girl who has too much asked of her. It’s about a woman who has had too much done to her. It’s about a man who is fighting for redemption. It’s about a boy trying to find out who he is.

Oh yeah. It may or may not have vampiric zombie-like creatures.

I started the sequel, but it fell back into the long explanation background, and I don’t think I have the stamina to go through that again, at least at this time.


The Lies of Locke Lamora

by Scott Lynch

* * * * * x a billion more stars

I tried reading this over the summer when I had a library stack of books that probably towered over my head. Yeah, I’m short, but still. I couldn’t get into it, so I threw a bookmark in and set it aside.

In February I needed a read and all my friends couldn’t STOP talking about this book and its sequels. So I gave it another go. I started from the beginning again and made it to my bookmark. Literally, the next paragraph clawed its way into me and I was hooked.

This book.

THIS book.

THIS BOOK.

The author of this book pushes the envelope in this story. I laughed,  I cried. But mostly I said, “Oh, he just went there!”

The BANTER is awesome. Jean and Locke’s bromance is one for the history books. The heist was well-crafted and had me on the edge of my seat for the entire book. And, to top it all off, there’s an awesome little old lady (who isn’t from Pasadena). I may have been a little corny there, but give me a holler if you get the reference. 😉

My hands keep saying gimme, gimme, gimme for the sequel, but I’m trying to pace myself, since the author hasn’t even finished writing the series yet, and I don’t want to wait for YEARS to finish the series!


February turned out to be an AWESOME month of reading. Here’s hoping that March can keep up.

Have you read any of these? Do you share my thoughts or disagree completely? Feel free to comment and share your February reads.

 

I am a Teacher

The earliest memories of me playing dress up (other than the countless times I re-lived the Star Wars saga with my siblings….but that’s a whole other story) were of me pretending to be a teacher. For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher, and that’s what I became.

In college, I tutored other students who needed help, whether I was paid or not—and I loved it. There is that moment when the concept is finally understood and the lightbulb goes on. No one knows this, but the teachers celebrate just as much as the students do. After graduating with my bachelors in education, it was a no-brainer of what I wanted to do. I pursued the job of homeschooling my children. It’s not high paying—or paying at all, but there is no other job that I’d rather have.

Every morning, I get to wake up and teach three of my favorite people in the universe. We have fun learning about the world around us and how it all works. And we get to do it together, my children forming bonds with each other.

But it is a highly stressful job for me. With each lesson I teach, I wonder if I’m doing it right. Am I teaching enough to my children? Are these lessons aligned with my state’s standards? Even though I follow the plan that my state has provided, there is still that seed of doubt in the back of my mind, Could a public professional do it better than me? I’ve finally realized the answer to that is no. There is no one who has a greater interest in the education and well-being of my children than I do. And because of that, I know that I’ve made the right choice.

There are days where my kids grasp a concept easily and we move onto the next subject. But we also have days where they struggle, and each of us is battling to find a way through the learning process, working hard to achieve the same goal. And it is on those days, the ones traveled through with sweat and tears, that we learn who we are and what we are capable of learning.

I am a teacher, but no one can be a great teacher without also being a student, so that’s why…

I am a Student

Every morning, I get to wake up and learn from my students. Every lesson is an opportunity for me to review not just the material I taught but how I taught it. Did I teach in a way that they could easily grasp the concept being taught? Did I teach according to their learning styles? Some days my thoughts turn in another direction: when they get to college, my kids will have several teachers, all with different teaching styles. So I make sure that I change it up every now and then, teaching them in a new style so they can adapt to learn in many different ways.

Tired yet? I am! I wake up early and fall into bed exhausted each night, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Any other homeschooling parents out there? Please leave your story in the comments! 🙂

I am a Runner

I am a runner. I was born a runner. I hope to die a runner.

It wasn’t until jr. high that I realized how important sports were to me. A random catch of a pop fly in softball changed my life. Since that moment, I’ve been hooked on being active.

Now that my time is no longer my own, and I have the responsibilities of being both an adult and parent, playing sports isn’t something that I get to enjoy very much. But running is.

My favorite time of day is just before dawn, as the sun is getting ready to crest over the foothills in the distance. The soft light of it’s rays make the earth look just out of focus. It’s peaceful, no sound but the birds. The air is crisp and cool, a reprieve from the heat of the day that will inevitably come. This is when I run.

Running has become something essential to my life. There is no better way for me to clear my head or find peace after a harrowing day before. It teaches me to be mindful of myself, knowing how far I can go and how hard I can push before the tank runs dry. Running also forces me to challenge myself, pushing farther than I ever thought possible. But most of all, running allows me to play.

On any given day, you will find me being a wife to my husband, a mom to my three kids and a responsible adult in my community. Rarely do I get to be a kid anymore. But early in the morning, while most of the world is still sleeping, I head to my concrete playground. For those precious thirty minutes, I am not a mom, a wife or a grown up. I am little girl running as fast as my legs will take me, flying over the ground, having the time of my life.

I am a Reader

There is nothing quite like the feeling of walking through a bookstore, my eyes drifting along the spines. When my eyes light on the book I’m searching for, my heart skips a beat, a slight stutter that I would miss entirely if I weren’t paying attention. Carefully, I pull it from the shelf, running my hand lovingly over the cover, feeling for any raised words or textures that have been added. The weight of it gets me wondering if I will finish it in one sitting or if I’ll need to devote a few afternoons. And I’m torn—do I want to read it quickly, turning the pages to figure out how it ends? Or do I want to absorb it, savoring each carefully picked work? Finally, I breathe deeply, taking in the new book smell. I live in this moment and hold onto it as long as I can, knowing that my new book and I can only be introduced once, and that the next time I pick it up, some of the magic will be gone.

Most of us know how to read. We spend the first few years of our school career picking out letters, putting them together, sounding them out until we can form the words. Anyone can read, but not everyone is a reader.

It was my mom and grandparents who taught me how to be a reader. For them, reading was as essential as food and water, sleep and shelter. My mom would read late into the night, head propped up on pillows, her light dim so she wouldn’t keep my dad up. My grandparents showed me that there was no better way to spend a lazy afternoon than curled up on a couch with a good book. It was there that I was introduced to the adventures of the Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and later, Agatha Christie.

Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. My parents took me weekly to the library, where I came home with stacks of books. Each night was spent tucked in bed with a small light, as I read way past my bedtime. Summertime was the best, where I would read all day, devouring one book after another. And it still holds true.

Being a reader is being a part of a community. It doesn’t matter what the book, if I see someone reading on the train, in the waiting room, or outside on their porch, a smile comes to my face. “Ah, another reader,” I think. But it takes one to know one. Even though we were raised in the same house, not all of my siblings became readers. Sure, they can read, but they don’t have that need to read deep down in their core. They don’t understand my shelf of books, the ones that are loved as dearly as old friends and are pulled down when I need a hug. They don’t see worn covers as proof of a good read.

Even though I have so many different roles to fill every day, being a reader helps remind me that I am still me. I still feel that same wonder I did as a kid when I pick up a new book. My heart still breaks when I finish a sad one. Reading is as essential to me as breathing. That’s why I am a reader.