Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making winner

 Congrats to April of Book Away! She will be receiving a copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Thanks to everyone who entered!

What's up with the whole "in wanderlust" thing?

When I first started this blog almost two years ago, I had visions in my head of discussing all three of the topics listed in my subtitle (food, books, travel) with somewhat regularity. But then books kind of took over. While I'm not upset about this - I enjoy writing about books - but I kind of feel bad for my other two topics: food and travel. Especially travel. I do write about food every once in a while, but travel has been kind of left in the dust. The economic climate of the past few years has not made traveling as easy for my husband and me as it was back in the glory days of our monthly, sometimes weekly, jaunts across Europe when we lived in Germany.

But lo and behold, one month from today, we will be returning to Germany for some reminiscing. My husband's company is sending him to Germany for a whole month, and while I'd love to stay with him the entire time, I'm just going for a week so we can vacation together on our favorite continent. We will be visiting some of our old favorite places (Salzburg, Austria and our old hometown of Schweinfurt, Germany) as well as creating some new adventures in Hallstatt, Austria and Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. In addition, I'm also excited because on the last night of our trip, we'll be getting together with one of my favorite book bloggers and soon-to-be published author, Lenore Appelhans, and her very talented husband who illustrated Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten and the recently released Teach Your Buffalo to Play Drums, Daniel Jennewien.

So my long dormant travel posts will be up and running in August, if only for a short time.

I guess the "wanderlust" moniker still applies though even if I'm not writing about travel that much. Wanderlust refers to a desire to wander and travel about, and even though we're firmly rooted where we are right now, I still continue to reminisce and dream of all the places we will visit and return to someday.

Incidentally, the picture at the beginning of this post is from our 2004 trip to Santorini, Greece. It still remains, to this day, my favorite place in the entire world. My husband and I will be celebrating our ten-year anniversary in 2013 and we are deciding whether to travel to a "bucket list" destination (Russia being at the top of our list) or returning to Santorini. What do you think? Which should we choose?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Audiobook Review: Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

From Goodreads:
Welcome to Elsewhere. It is usually warm with a breeze, the sun and the stars shine brightly, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful here. And you can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice. 


It’s where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different from it. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth.

But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen (again). She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. She wants to fall in love. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well.

How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

I really enjoyed the writing and creativity of this book, and the characters were extremely endearing, but what bothered me about it was more philosophical/theological than a wholesale criticism of the story itself. The idea of dying and going to Elsewhere kind of depressed me as I was listening to the audiobook.

The thought that we die and go to a place where you live your life in almost the exact the same way you lived on earth, only aging backwards, felt incredibly depressing. I mean, whether you believe in Heaven or not, you have to admit, most of us feel the need to believe so that we feel like there's something bigger and better waiting for us after we die. Elsewhere felt like the same old stuff, different day. Not much hope there. 

I also thought that the audiobook narrator was a bit awkward. Even though the protagonist begins the story as a fifteen-year-old, the book is written in third-person omniscient point-of-view so Cassandra Morris's extremely youthful voice felt too immature for a third-person, all-seeing narrator. The voice needed to be more neutral and be skilled in creating different character voices. While Cassandra Morris might have been a good choice if this had been a first-person narrative (even then, I thought her voice sounded too young to narrate for a fifteen-year-old) but she didn't quite feel like a proper fit for the book as it is. Having said that, this was by no means the worst audiobook I've ever listened to, but it was by no means the best. 

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, narrated by Cassandra Morris
Published: January 2005 (audiobook published October 2005)
Publisher: Farrar, Stratus, and Giroux
Audiobook Publisher: Listening Library
Pages: 277
Audiobook Length: 7 hours, 1 minute
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult

Waiting on Wednesday: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is:

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Publish date: March 13, 2012
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 400
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

From Goodreads:
It all begins with a stupid question:

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria Sandoval wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a guided tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists with fanny packs are hardly the key to self-rediscovery. When Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspokenly humanitarian sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path.

Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel across a panorama of Mayan villages, remote Belizean islands, and hostels plagued with jungle beasties, they discover what they've got in common: both seek to leave behind the old versions of themselves. And the secret to escaping the past, Rowan’s found, is to keep moving forward.

But Bria comes to realize she can't run forever, no matter what Rowan says. If she ever wants the courage to fall for someone worthwhile, she has to start looking back.

I love travel memoirs and I love contemporary YA fiction so this book sounds like a perfect amalgamation of the two. So excited for this one!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In My Mailbox (35)

 In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week. 

For Review:
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
Moonglass by Jessi Kirby


The Revision Toolbox: Teaching Techniques That Work by Georgia Heard

What did you get in you mailbox this week?

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Winner chose Samantha as the winner of my portion of the blog hop. Congrats to Samantha! She has already been notified and confirmed and will be receiving a copy of So Shelly by Ty Roth and Dorris Bridge by Clive Riddle.

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway, but don't forget, I still have another giveaway going on until June 29th:
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Audiobook Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Goodreads Summary:
In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue - Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is - she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are - and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves.... or it might destroy her. 

This is going to be a rather short review because, well frankly, I just didn't care for this book. I know I am one of the few voices of dissent because most of the reviews I've read about this book have been glowing (though Clockwork Reverie wrote a well-thought out, amusing review on the side of dissent too).  

Many people have compared this book to The Hunger Games, and while there are certainly similar elements, it doesn't come close to creating the magic of the dystopian world that Suzanne Collins created. The violence in The Hunger Games felt justified because it was forced upon them by The Capitol. And in the end, (HG SPOILER ALERT) the main character finds a way to "stick it to the man" so to speak. In Divergent, however, the violence felt senseless and gratuitous. I never really quite understood the purpose of all the "tests" the Dauntless had to go through and never really got a sense as to who the enemy was. It became a bit more clear by the end, but the antagonizing force in this novel was much more ambiguous than in other dystopias I've read and enjoyed. 

As far as the audiobook production, I think that is what kept me from abandoning the book. Emma Galvin was the narrator and she did a superb job of interpreting the grave tone of the story, and yet despite the graveness, she still had a pleasant timbre to her voice that made me want to keep listening. 

Despite enjoying the audio production, the story did not engage me enough to continue on with the series. 

But here are some others who will because they loved the book so much:
Good Books and Good Wine
The Story Siren
Pure Imagination

Divergent by Veronica Roth, narrated by Emma Galvin
Published: May 2011
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books and Harper Audio
Pages: 496
Audiobook Length: 11 hours, 11 minutes
Genre: Dystopia
Audience: Young Adult
Source: acquired from publisher

Friday, June 24, 2011

My name is Beth and I have an ice cream addiction

Last night my husband and I went to a local ice cream shop called Treat Dreams in Ferndale. Believe it or not, I found out about it from reading Food Network Magazine. There was an article on p. 47 of the most recent issue (July/Aug) about places that are using potato chips in desserts. Treat dreams uses chocolate covered potato chips in an ice cream flavor they call "Tastes like Saturday Night". I, however, did not try this flavor, not because I didn't want to - I'm fairly courageous when it comes to trying desserts - but because there were two other flavors I had my eye on. Well, actually, with flavors like these, there were quite a few flavors I had my eye on, but two in particular.
Can you guess which flavors caught my eye? Well, after sampling three flavors, I went with a scoop of rosemary olive oil and honey lavender.

Oh my goodness! These two ice creams were heavenly. The rosemary olive oil had much more subtle olive oil flavor than the olive oil ice cream I make at home, but the rosemary flavor came through really nicely. But the honey lavender was by far one of the best ice creams I've ever eaten in my life. It was floral and sweet, but not too sweet and had a faint lavender hue.

I was so elated to have found this place because ever since I started making my own ice cream, I thought I was forever chained to my ice cream maker. In recent months I have been to both Dairy Queen and Cold Stone Creamery and felt equally unsatisfied upon leaving. When I spend my time at home making green tea, olive oil, and basil ice cream, the ice cream chain down the street just doesn't do it for me anymore.

But Treat Dreams is the answer to my desire to be able to go out (not just make) and find unique flavors at a place that uses local, quality ingredients.

This ice cream was so amazing that when I woke up, the first thought that entered my mind at 6:30 this morning was honey lavender ice cream.

It was at that moment I knew. The first step is admission after all so here goes: my name is Beth and I am an ice-cream-aholic.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The things I do for my students - even during the summer

I've been acquiring quite a few hardcovers as of late - either through parent donations or from my library's awesome used book store. Problem is, my hardcover dust jackets used to get really banged up because of how much they'd get passed around. So a couple years ago I realized I needed to start covering my dust jackets - like the library does. So every year I use some of my school's individual teacher budget to buy dust jacket covers.

So this is what I've been doing for the better part of today: genre labeling and dust jacket covering all these books:
And I'm only halfway done! I still have more to do. But I'm taking a break from it today and will resume tomorrow. Tonight the hubby and I are going to dinner at a very popular diner in Ferndale that was featured in Diners, Drive-ins and Dives called The Fly Trap. Can't wait!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Publish Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 432
Genre: Paranormal Fantasy
Audience: YA

Summary from Goodreads:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I'm not going to lie. This is usually the type of book I would bypass. I'm not a huge fan of paranormal fantasy, but when one of my favorite book bloggers and 2012 debut author, Lenore Appelhahs, who also has reservations about the fantasy genre, sung its praises on her blog, well now I am dying to read it too. Thanks for sharing such an awesome review Lenore! 

The Perfect Scoop is the perfect "cookbook" for summer

When I first reviewed this book on Goodreads, I hadn't made any of the recipes yet but I still gave it five stars based on its comprehensiveness and the unusual flavors I was excited to try. Well, I'm here to say that after having this book for two years and tried many of the flavors, it still deserves five stars.

This is the ultimate ice cream recipe book, the Holy Grail of ice cream if you will. Not only does it have tried and true favorites like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and shows you different approaches to making them (e.g. Philadelphia style which is with no eggs, and custard-based, which is with eggs) but it also has some of the most fun, unusual flavors that ice cream aficionados will be clamoring to try.

With flavors like:
black pepper
pear pecorino
goat cheese
lavender honey
roquefort honey
olive oil

you've gotta give Lebovitz 5 stars for creativity.

But once you get past the novelty of the creative flavors, you're still left with a mouth-watering, delicious batch of ice cream. Lebovitz is not just making these unusual ice cream flavors for the shock value of it. He truly cares about making a good product, and would never steer the home cook wrong. Every flavor of ice cream I've made with this book has turned out delicious.

So far I've made:
olive oil
Aztec "hot" chocolate
green tea 

oh yeah, and vanilla :)

and they have all been outstanding. If you are even the least bit interested in making your own ice cream at home, this book will convince you to be full-fledged, gung-ho about making your own ice cream.

This was my first attempt at making green tea (matcha) ice cream and it was delicious!
I do have one word of warning however: once you buy this book and start making your own ice cream, you'll never be able to go back to Dairy Queen again. My husband and I went there a few weeks ago and I couldn't even enjoy my ice cream cone because it was so blah compared to the ice cream I make at home. 

The Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz
Published: May 2007
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Pages: 256
Genre: Cookbook
Audience: Foodies and Ice Cream Lovers 
Disclosure: Purchased Copy 

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, June 20, 2011

Midsummer's Eve Giveaway Hop

Thank you to I Am a Reader, Not A Writer for hosting this giveaway hop.

For the giveaway I am hosting, one winner will receive each the following (Click links for book summaries):

So Shelly by Ty Roth
Dorris Bridge by Clive Riddle

The copy of So Shelly is a gently worn ARC and Dorris Bridge is a brand new paperback.

Giveaway Rules:
  • Must be 13 years or older to enter
  • Open only to US/Canada
  • You are not required to be a follower to enter but it is greatly appreciated
  • Contest ends June 24th at 11:59 EST
  • Winner chosen at random using 
  • To enter, fill out this form 
While you're at it, check out my other current giveaway here.

And don't forget to visit all these other great blogs in the hop:

Giveaway: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Whew! That title is a mouthful! :o)

Macmillan Children's Publishing Group and Zeitghost Media are offering the readers of my blog the chance to win a copy of this fantastical book by Catherynne M. Valente.

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn't . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

Check out the whimsical, yet haunting book trailer here:

Giveaway rules:
  • Must be 13 years or older to enter
  • Open only to US/Canada
  • You are not required to be a follower to enter but it is greatly appreciated
  • Contest ends June 29th at 11:59 EST
  • Winner chosen at random using 
  • To enter, fill out this form
So what did you think of the trailer? Pretty awesome, right? Book trailers don't usually convince me that I absolutely HAVE to read a book, but this one sure did. Love it!

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    In My Mailbox (34)

     In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week.

    Audiobooks for review from Harper Children's Audio:
    Die for Me by Amy Plum
    Divergent by Veronica Roth

    Fetching by Kiera Stewart
    A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (Check out my review here)


    The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
    Destroy All Cars by Blake Nelson


    Ready or Not by Meg Cabot (audiobook)
    National Geographic Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips

    What did you get in your mailbox this week?

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

    From Goodreads:
    The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming... The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. 

    This was not a book I would have read of my own volition. I would never have picked this up at the book store and said, "Oh, this sounds great, I think I'll read this!"

    But I could not ignore a lot of well-respected writers and bloggers who were struck dumb by the profundity of this book.

    And boy is it ever profound. I caution anyone who has ever had a loved-one die of cancer or who is fighting cancer to perhaps steer clear of this book until those feelings aren't so raw. I found myself shedding some tears over this one and I have been lucky enough not to have had to watch anyone in my life fight a losing battle with cancer (except for my grandpa, but his battle was quite short, lasting only a few days). Then again, maybe this book can help those people heal. Just know that it will be a healing process filled with raw emotion and will take you places in your thought-process that are extremely uncomfortable.

    This book may be cataloged as a middle grade novel, but I think its meaning and symbolism speaks to people of all ages

    While not out yet in the U.S. (it's set to hit book stores in September), you can get A Monster Calls now in the U.K. and can order it, free shipping and all, through The Book Depository if you don't want to wait. Whether you wait or you purchase it today, this book is definitely worth adding to your TBR pile!

    A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
    Publication Date: September 27, 2011
    Pages: 224
    Genre: Fantasy
    Audience: Middle Grade
    Disclosure: NetGalley Download

    If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

    Audiobook Month: Not All Audiobooks are Created Equal + Beth's Best Picks for Your Listening Pleasure

    So I missed celebrating audiobook week over at Devourer of Books because it was my last week of school and I was scrambling to get grades in, awards finished, and my classroom cleaned out. Seeing as how the entire month of June is audiobook month, I wanted to write something to recognize all the great audiobooks out there. So often people judge audiobooks by one bad experience and I'm here to tell you - DON'T DO THAT! If you tried an audiobook once and you didn't like it, then chock it up to an ill-suited narrator. I can't tell you how many audiobooks I've abandoned due to poorly chosen narrators.

    But what makes a good audiobook? Well, these are my top 5 criteria:

    1) The narrator should SOUND like the character he or she is narrating for.
    In my mind, a good audiobook narrator SOUNDS like the character they're narrating for. If the book is in first-person and the main character is a twelve-year-old girl, then the narrator needs to have a young-sounding, female voice.  In turn, if the main character is middle-aged, then I don't want to listen to a narrator that sounds eighteen. This seems like a very logical, "well-duh" point, but you'd be surprised at how many audiobook narrators are out there whose voices do not even come close to fitting the age range of the protagonist. That is not to say they don't have a great voice for audiobook narrating; it just means that their voice is the wrong one for that particular book.

    Great audiobooks with age-appropriate narrators:
    All-American Girl by Meg Cabot, narrated by Ariadne Meyers
    Revolution by Jennifer Donnely, narrated by Emily Janice Card and Emma Bearing
    Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer, narrated by Jenna Lamia
    Paper Towns by John Green, narrated by Dan John Miller
    Feed by M.T. Anderson, narrated by David Aaron Baker
    A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg, narrated by Kenya Brome
    Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman, narrated by Max Casella
    Rules by Cynthia Lord, narrated by Jessica Almasy

    2) Narrators need to change their voices to represent different characters.
    Again, this sounds like a given, but there are narrators out there who don't do this, or they do it so subtly that it's like they're not even trying. The master of audiobook voices is Jim Dale who narrates for the Harry Potter series, but these narrators do an awesome job as well:

    The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, narrated by Bahni Turpin (my #1 favorite audiobook of ALL TIME!)
    The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood, narrated by Katherine Kellgren
    Going Bovine by Libba Bray, narrated by Erik Davies
    The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, narrated by Allan Corduner

    3) Show the highs and lows of the book's emotional range
    If a character is crying, then well, narrators should sound like they're crying; if the character is laughing, I want to hear some jollity in that person's voice!

     These audiobooks have narrators who really put their heart and soul into the story:
    Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, narrated by Jeannie Stith
    Delirium by Lauren Oliver, narrated by Sarah Drew
    Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, narrated by Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone
    Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine, narrated by Jodi Long
    The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Wiesberger, narrated by Bernadette Dunne

    4) Be open to pleasant surprises
    Sometimes you expect a narrator to be completely wrong for the part, and you find yourself pleasantly surprised at what a great job the person did. Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell was narrated by Phylicia Rashad, a very well-established television actress of Cosby Show fame. In this book she was narrating in first-person for an eleven-year-old girl. On paper, it should have been a recipe for disaster. Somehow, she managed to pull it off beautifully.

    Other pleasant surprises:
    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, narrated by John Ritter
    Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis narrated by James Avery (AKA "Uncle Phil" from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)

    5) Don't assume that full cast productions are going to be great. 
    Logically, full cast productions sound like they'll all be great because every character is a different actor so its easier to picture characters in your mind. But sometimes they're just awkward and choppy. Most of the time, however, the Full Cast Audio family does a great job at choosing just the right person to fit the character, which is more than I can say for some audiobook companies. Here are a few really good Full Cast productions:

    Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
    Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar
    Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (This is not technically a Full Cast Audio production, but it does have multiple people narrating for the different characters)

    So tell me, what audiobooks did you just love that you would recommend I add to this list?

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    Waiting on Wednesday: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood + Cover Reveal

    Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

    My anxiously awaited title this week is: 
    Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
    Publication Date: February 7, 2012
    Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
    Pages: 272

    From Goodreads:
    Cate Cahill and her sisters are considered eccentric bluestockings—a little odd, a little unfashionable, and far too educated for their own good. The truth is more complicated; they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it could mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave. Before their mother died, she entrusted Cate with keeping them safe and keeping everyone, including their father, in the dark about their powers. When her father employs a governess and Cate begins to receive notes from her missing, presumed-mad godmother, her task becomes much more difficult. As Cate searches for answers in banned books and rebellious new friends, she must juggle unwanted proposals, tea parties, and an illicit attraction to the new gardener. Cate will do anything to protect her sisters, but at what cost to herself?

    Jessica just revealed this gorgeous cover on her blog today and oh my goodness is it gorgeous! I had not heard of this book until today but the cover and the synopsis made me hope I can get my hands on a copy before February!

    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    In My Mailbox (33)

     In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week.


    Toward the end of the school year I ask students and parents to donate any unwanted books that have just been sitting unused and unadmired on their bookshelves at home so they can get some hearty use in my classroom library. A few students donated anywhere from 1-5 books, but one mom went above and beyond the call of duty and donated 130 books to my classroom library!!!! I was insanely grateful and will refrain from listing every single book she donated, but I thought I'd at least share with you some of the lovely, like-new hardcovers that are now part of my classroom collection:

    The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
    The Wednesday Tales: The Palace of Laughter by Jon Berkeley
    Willow Run by Patricia Reilly Giff
    Fire by Kristin Cashore
    Leaping Beauty by Gregory Maguire
    Fairest by Gail Carson Levine 
    Ever by Gail Carson Levine
    Witch & Wizard by James Patterson
    The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall
    The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall
    Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
    Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse by Kaleb Nation
    Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
    The Castle Carona by Sharon Creech
    Wings by E.D. Baker
    When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke
    Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
    Peter and the Secret of Rundoon by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
    Pillage by Obert Skye

    When the mom came to school to donate the books, I had a PA announcement from the office stating that she needed some students to come and help her cart the books upstairs because they were in three, heavy boxes. So yeah, it not only sounds like a lot of books, but it looked like a lot too. This was also the mom who wrote me such a sweet, heartfelt note at the end of the school year that it made me cry. I'll refrain from writing the entire note, but this line especially made me tear-up: "In particular, you won over my son. Under your guidance and encouragement, he began to read independently. With that, you have given him the world. Thank you." I almost didn't care about the awesome gift cards she placed in the envelope along with it. Parents don't always realize how much a kind, heartfelt note can far surpass any monetary gift a teacher receives at Christmas or the end of the school year. That's not to say I won't heartily spend those gift cards, on the contrary. But to me, when someone sits down and takes the time to tell you that you have made an impact on the life of their child, you can't put a price on that. The tears streaming down my face as I write this now despite the fact that I've already read the note several times is evidence of that.

    OK, enough with the mush, we now bring you back to your regularly scheduled In My Mailbox...

    Nook Purchase:
    The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski

    Library Loot:


    Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
    What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones

    My Father's Daughter by Gwyneth Paltrow

    Picture Books:
    Ollie & Moon by Diane Kredensor
    Chamelia by Ethan Long

    School's out, but it's hard moving on

    Yesterday was bittersweet for me as it was the last day of school. Teachers everywhere always celebrate the last day of school,but this year I was kind of dreading it. I had such an amazing class this year that I didn't want to give them up. I wish they could stay in 6th grade forever. But alas, they must move on.

    So I will always treasure my year with this class and yesterday was the perfect ending to a perfect year. We had an hour to hang around before going to church so I took the entire class to the music room and I sang and played the piano for them. They listened and they sang along with me and I realized that there are very few classes I would allow myself to be this vulnerable. I didn't just teach them, they taught me how to be a better teacher and how to loosen up a little bit while still maintaining order. I will always look back fondly on this school year. Teaching can be such an exhausting, thankless job, but this year was a small reward for all those thankless, exhausting moments from my previous four years. As I sat at the piano yesterday and had this wonderful group of 6th graders singing in unison with me, I could only hope that, come September, my next 6th grade class will work hard to fill the shoes of the one I just lost.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    As the School Year Comes to a Close...

    The school year ends for me on Friday and believe it or not, I'm actually sad that the year is ending. I had such a wonderful class this year that I don't want to lose them! I wish they could stay with me forever.

    As the year draws to a close, I have asked my class to do quite a bit of reflecting on the amount of reading they've done this year. Most of them completed their twenty book goal, and many of them surpassed it. I had them complete an end of year reading survey where I gleaned most of the questions from Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer (my literature teacher bible).

    Out of 43 students, these were some of the statistics I gleaned from them with regard to their reading success:
    • 16 students found the classroom library most important and 24 found it important
    • 11 students found independent reading time in class most important and 27 found it important
    • 6 students found nightly reading at home most important and 20 found it important

    Other statistics students found important:
    • Book talks = 18 students
    • School library = 19 students
    • Conferences = 21 students
    • Teacher who reads = 19 students
    • Reading response letters = 19 students
    • Conversations with classmates = 26 students

    What these statistics tell me is that you NEED to give students ample time to read in class and let them choose their own books. Does that mean your whole class gets to be a free-for-all? Not at all. There was tons of structure in my class. Students knew what was expected of them and they worked and read at their own pace. I was more a facilitator than a direct instructor. Yes, I still created "required reading" experiences for them with literature circles and whole class readings out of their literature textbooks, but the primary focus was making sure they met their 20 book requirement and that they followed the genres I mandated. It was so rewarding to watch so many of these kids go from non-readers to voracious readers or at the very least, appreciators of books rather than haters of books.

    A few days ago, I had students write the number of books they read on a piece of construction paper (I totally stole this idea from Donalyn Miller who stole it from Penny Kittle) and then I took their picture. We added up the number of books in the entire 6th grade, and out of 43 students + their teacher, this was their total:

    This was my contribution:
    What can I tell you? I just can't stop reading! :) Hopefully my students feel the same way even now that I'm not their teacher anymore.

    Monday, June 6, 2011

    Ruby Red Giveaway

    Macmillan Children's Publishing Group is offering the readers of my blog a giveaway for the first book in bestselling author Kerstin Gier's Ruby Red Trilogy. 

    Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

    Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
    Check out the trailer here:

    Giveaway rules:
    • Must be 13 years or older to enter
    • Open only to US/Canada
    • You are not required to be a follower to enter but it is greatly appreciated
    • Contest ends June 14th at 11:59 EST
    • Winner chosen at random using 
    • To enter, leave a comment with your email address 

    Sunday, June 5, 2011

    Alison Pace Video + Giveaway Reminder

    Alison Pace's A Pug's Tale comes out on Tuesday. Here is a great video interview with her about this adorable new book:

    Don't forget to enter my giveaway of A Pug's Tale that ends Tuesday June 7th.

    There are pugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

    Hope McNeill has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for years, but this is the first time she's been able to bring along her pug, Max. (Officially at least. Previously she's had to smuggle him in inside her tote bag.)

    The occasion: a special "Pug Night" party in honor of a deep-pocketed donor. Max and his friends are having a ball stalking the hors d'oeuvres and getting rambunctious, and making Hope wonder if this is also the last time she gets to bring Max to the museum.

    But when a prized painting goes missing, the Met needs Hope's--and Max's--help. In her quest for the culprit, Hope searches for answers with an enigmatic detective, a larger-than-life society heiress, a lady with a shih tzu in a stroller, and her arguably intuitive canine. With luck, she'll find some inspiration on her trips to Pug Hill before the investigation starts going downhill.

    Saturday, June 4, 2011

    In My Mailbox (32)

     In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  The books you share do not have to be ones you actually received in the mail.  They can be ones you bought at the book store, checked out at the library, or downloaded to your e-reader.  The idea is just to share what's on your TBR pile for the upcoming week.

    This was another prolific week for me at the used book store.


    James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
    Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
    The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O'Roark Dowell
    Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan
    The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau
    Matilda by Roald Dahl
    Holes by Louis Sachar
    Skinnybones by Barbara Park
    The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaugherean
    The Secret Blog of Raisin Rodriguez by Judy Goldschmidt
    Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
    The Afterlife by Gary Soto
    Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
    Anne Frank and Me by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld
    The Year of the Hangman by Gary Blackwood
    Ready or Not by Meg Cabot
    Summerland by Michael Chabon
    Impossible by Nancy Werlin
    The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
    Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar
    Stravaganza: City of Flowers by Mary Hoffman
    The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit
    Jacob Have I Loved by Catherine Paterson
    Under a War-Torn Sky by L.M. Elliott
    Star in the Storm by Joan Hiatt Harlow
    Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
    Feather Boy by Nicky Singer
    My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville
    Nim's Island by Wendy Orr
    Crank by Ellen Hopkins

    Football Genius by Tim Green
    Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
    Frozen Fire by Tim Bowler
    Resurrection Men by T.K. Welsh
    Notes from a Liar and Her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko
    Small Steps by Louis Sachar
    Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
    Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
    An Innocent Soldier by Josef Holub
    Fade by Lisa McMann
    The Opposite of Music by Janet Ruth Young
    Freeze Frame by Heidi Ayarbe

    I used up some of my Scholastic bonus points to finish off the school year and add to my library for next year:

    Strings Attached by Judy Blundell
    The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
    Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
    Bang! by Sharon G. Flake
    Will Work for Prom Dress by Aimee Ferris
    The Suburb Beyond the Stars by M.T. Anderson
    The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman
    Immortal by Gillian Shields
    My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath
    The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio by Lloyd Alexander
    Wolves, Boys, and Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler

    Some of you may have noticed that I get books with quite a variety of age-ranges. Sixth grade is one of those years where kids can have such a wide range of reading abilities and maturity-levels. Every year I have some students who are inevitably ready for those "mature" young adult books even though they're only twelve, but then I also have kids who struggle and still need to read those books like Skinnybones or Bunnicula. In order to ensure that I serve all my students, my library has to be wide-ranging.

    Library Loot:

    Chick 'n' Pug by Jennifer Sattler
    Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein
    Me & You by Genevieve Cote
    The Other Dog by Madeleine L'Engle, illustrated by Christine Davenier

    My Dog May Be a Genius by Jack Prelutsky
    Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxanne Orgill, illustrated by Sean Qualls

    And then of course there's the picture books. Why would I be reading picture books if I teach sixth grade? Let me tell you something - there will always be places in your curriculum to use picture books. I used them a lot this year for journal topics and the kids loved it. Don't assume that just because they're older that picture books are babyish. I can almost always find a way to apply the lessons of these books to middle school kids. For example, I just recently read the picture book The Honeybee Man by Lela Nargi and not only does it apply nicely to science, but the writing was so wonderfully vivid and sensory, that I used this book as a lesson in using sensory details in writing. Then, there's also the book One by Kathryn Otoshi. This book was certainly written for younger kids, but the symbolism and message about what it means to be a bystander vs. taking a stand is so powerful that I simply cannot overlook such a teachable moment for junior high students. I think it's a message that's even more important for junior high students to learn - or at least be reinforced. So yes, picture books most certainly have a place in a junior high classroom.

    What did you get in your mailbox this week?