Reading Resolutions

I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful 2014 is over. I’m ready for a fresh new year that will hopefully have fewer big life changes in store for me. The big changes that came my way in 2014 were fantastic (new job, new baby, new house), but WOW! are they stressful! I welcome 2015 with open arms.

Girls Like UsNew Year’s resolutions never work for me, however. I always pick something like drinking more water, but already that hasn’t been working since my little one has decided to wake up multiple times a night so now I’m drinking more caffeine than normal. The idea of a reading resolution sounds like something I can stick to though. Today during class my students and I were silently reading and I decided to make a reading resolution and share it with them. My reading life is hard to navigate right now with Jack in tow and it’s hard not to stress about it. I want to sit on my couch with a warm blanket, a cup of tea, my cats, and read uninterrupted. I want to read EVERYTHING. But I know that’s not likely to happen, so I need to read with intention. That’s my reading resolution.

I’m in the middle of reading Girls Like Us by Gail Giles–which is fantastic, by the way–and decided that I’m going to read more diverse literature. I told my classes about Quincy and Biddy’s stories and why I think this book is diverse. I don’t know of any other YA titles that feature special education characters the way Girls Like Us does. To me, diverse lit isn’t always about race. It’s about mental illness, it’s about exploring religion, it’s about marginalized characters, and more.

I also want to read for myself. I often look at my reading life door to make sure that I’m reading a good mix of books. I don’t want to read too much realistic fiction and not enough fantasy. Or too many romances and not enough mystery. I’m always seeking balance, but this year, I think I’ll allow myself to go off-balance, especially since I plan on reading more diverse lit. If a book I’ve been looking forward to for months releases or an ARC comes my way, I’m going to read it. If I’m reading a book that’s moving too slowly, I’m going to put it down without guilt. My reading life is precious right now, so I want to make it count. I want to read a book that I can’t put down.

Time will tell if this works for me. I certainly hope it does. I’m constantly putting pressure on myself to reach a numeric goal and to keep up with all of the new releases. It was refreshing to listen to the audioThe Summer I Turned Pretty for The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han because it was a book I wanted to read, a book that allowed me to connect with a specific student, and a book that’s a backlist title. When it comes right down to it, I’m still making reading a priority and I’m still reading books that I can add to my class library.

Hopefully my students will make some reading resolutions as well. Have you made any reading resolutions this year?

Maternity Leave Reading

I started the school year on maternity leave unfortunately. Thankfully I have an amazing sub! Despite not working, however, reading hasn’t been the same since Jack was born. I’ve been trying to listen to more audiobooks since that’s often the only way I can experience a book right now. I have been able to read a few books though.

Since time is a huge commodity right now, and since I REALLY miss blogging, I’ve decided to write some quick reviews about what I’ve read since Jack was born. I’d also love to get some audiobook recommendations since I know I’ll be listening to those even more than I normally do. I like listening to them while I’m feeding Jack in the middle of the night or when he and I are out and about. It’s good for him to hear the audiobooks as well since it will add to the vocabulary he’s exposed to.

What I’ve Read:

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga (Goodreads): This is the third (and I’m guessing last) book in the I Hunt Killers trilogy. Let me tell you, it is SO GOOD. And SO INTENSE. Jack was sleeping pretty much all day for the first couple weeks so I had a little more time to read and was able to finish this. Barry Lyga knows how to write a gripping murder mystery. My seniors last year loved these books so much that one of them emailed me a week before this released (September 9th) to find out the official release date so he could buy it. There are plenty of twists and turns that I wish I could bring up, but I don’t want to spoil anything for you. If it’s been a while since you’ve read Game, you might want to revisit the last chapter or two because Blood of My Blood picks up right where that left off. Read this trilogy!

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (Goodreads): I bought this book a couple nights before Jack was born because I’ve read so many positive reviews and because of the comparison to The Perks of Being a Wallflower. So many of my seniors last year loved Perks, so I’m positive my group of seniors this year will enjoy this book as well. Personally, I thought Perks was just an okay book. It didn’t resonate with me like it has with my students, but I really liked Love Letters to the Dead. I listened to this and thoroughly enjoyed the narration. This is an audiobook that I could listen to and relax. The narrator’s voice is soothing and really fits Laurel. The story is written as a series of letters to a few famous dead people and through these letters we understand Laurel better. We also understand her sister and her relationship with her sister better as well. I definitely recommend this one.

What I’m Reading:

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn (Goodreads): If I didn’t have Jack, I would have read this book in one sitting. I was hooked immediately, but unfortunately I don’t have time right now to just sit back and read for hours. Jamie is an intriguing character and although I’m only halfway through, I have some suspicions about what might really be going on in Jack’s life. This will be a popular title when I return to work.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (Goodreads): I still haven’t read The Bell Jar, but I’m really curious about Sylvia Plath and really enjoy reading books that are about her or are inspired by her work. Belzhar is one of those books and thanks to Penguin, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the audiobook. The narrator is perfect for Jam, although sometimes I have a hard time distinguishing the voice for her male characters. Belzhar is another story of grief, but it has an interesting twist that I predict will engage quite a few of my students. I’m *this close* to finishing it. Jack and I need to go for a walk so I can listen to the last twenty minutes or so.

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller (Goodreads): If you haven’t read any of Trish Doller’s books then you’re missing out on excellent books. This is her third book and it doesn’t release until June 2015. I’m so thankful to have received an ARC of this already and will certainly write a full review of it once I’m finished. I’m reading it now because Trish is part of the NCTE session I’m co-chairing with Jillian Heise. Plus, it’s a Trish Doller book and there’s no way I can let it sit unread. I’m about 100 pages in right now and the mystery part of the plot is coming together. I value sleep more than I ever have before, but The Devil You Know is so good I’ve been reading instead of napping when the chance arrives. Add this to your TBR list if you haven’t already.

Is YA Fantasy Really YA?

Within the past couple years I’ve made it a point to read more YA fantasy since I have so many avid fantasy readers in my classroom. For the past week or so I’ve been listening to the audio of Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood & Starlight (the sequel to Daughter of Smoke & Bone) since the third book in the series, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, released this week. As I’ve been listening to this book I’ve found myself questioning whether it’s truly YA.

I adore Laini Taylor’s series and her writing. My students adore it as well. What exactly about this series qualifies it as YA though? Karou’s a teenager, but is she going through any sort of specific teenage struggle? Karou’s major conflict, especially as the series progresses, is about past lives and how she fits those past lives currently. (I don’t want to spoil the series for anyone.) So is it the questioning of identity that qualifies Karou’s story as YA? The Daughter of Smoke & Bone series could easily appeal to an adult audience, especially when I consider Taylor’s lush writing style and how layered the story is. Some adults unfortunately dismiss YA because of the angst and many other reasons, but I wonder if a non-YA reading adult would realize that this series has been published as YA after having read it.

I’ve started thinking about this about many of the YA fantasies I’ve read. Besides the age of the character, what makes those books YA novels exactly? Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson are two other books that have made me question this. I don’t have a problem with these books; I think they’re fantastic. I love that my students love them. But some of the elements to these stories, like characters marrying adult men and taking on adult roles like protecting and ruling a kingdom, causes me to pause and think about this. Could these stories be marketed and published in the adult market and be as successful? Would teens still find them and love them? Would more violence and sex, like in The Game of Thrones series, push these novels into the adult market? I understand that many fantasies are set in feudalistic worlds where teen girls are getting married and teens are ruling realms/lands, but it still seems like some other young adult aspect is missing.

This series of questions crossed my mind briefly while reading Cinda Williams Chima’s The Seven Realms series, but I didn’t find myself reading  Han’s or Raisa’s characters as if they’re adults. Their voices still rang true as teenagers to me while I read their stories. While those characters are also worrying about kingdoms and arranged marriages and so on, many of their thoughts, discussions, and actions still fit those of a teenager’s.

I’d really love to get some opinions on this. Has anyone else found themselves thinking like this? I think this discussion could cross over into the dystopian genre as well. I hope we can get a discussion going through the comments!

Blog Tour: The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle Read Alikes

I’m happy to be part of Rebecca Serle’s blog tour for her sophomore release, The Edge of Falling. I love a good contemp and love it even more that Rebecca agreed to compile a list of read alikes for her newest book. I’m halfway through her book right now and I’m already thinking of students who will enjoy this.

The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle releases on March 18th and is published by Simon Pulse. I’m including the summary so you can learn a little more about it before reading  Rebecca’s list of read alikes.

The Edge of FallingSummary (From Goodreads):

Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.

List of Comps for The Edge of Falling 

So, you’ve just finished reading The Edge of Falling, and you want to know what to read next? Or maybe you want to know what books are similar to The Edge of Falling so you’ll know if it’s your type of book? No worries, I’ve got you covered! Some of these books are in a similar genre, some deal with issues like grief or hidden secrets, and some actually inspired ME to write The Edge of Falling! So let’s jump in:

  1. Speak– Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is a beautiful book about Melinda, a girl who is alienated from her friends and suffering the burden of a huge secret. Caggie still has her voice in The Edge of Falling, but her journey is similar to Melinda’s because she is plagued by the things she can’t say out loud: her grief about the role she played in her sister’s death; the separation she feels from her family; and the one big secret that, if revealed, would cause everyone to call her a liar instead of a hero. I highly recommend Speak if you’re looking for a book about family, grief, and overcoming silence.

2. Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegar

Yep, you read right- the Gossip Girl books! These books (and the TV show, of course) inspired the world of The Edge of Falling. I wanted to write about the privileged elite of the Upper East Side, and their complex relationships with their finances and their feelings. Caggie comes from a privileged family as well, but sometimes instead of opening doors, privilege closes them: the doors of communication and intimacy, the doors of honesty and forgiveness. Caggie seeks these things from her family, but in their time of grief they depend more on material things than on each other. The characters in Gossip Girl go through their fair share of grieving as well, but beneath the lens of the paparazzi and the public eye, even their private suffering becomes public scandal.

3. This Song Will Save Your Life- Leila Sales

Ok, so, full disclosure: this next book was written by my BFF Leila Sales. But I am not remotely alone in thinking it is one of the best YA books not just of last year, but of all time. This Song Will Save Your Life tells the story of Elise, a girl who just wants to have friends, and feel loved, but who is bullied mercilessly in her school. After she self-harms and ends up in the hospital, Elise feels more trapped than ever: but now by uber-watchful parents who don’t trust her. Everything changes the night she discovers  START, an underground disco club, and ends up in the DJ booth. Elise finds her place making people dance—and meets a pretty cute boy along the way. Caggie and Elise come from two very different worlds, but they both discover that loving yourself gives all other kinds of love meaning. Plus Leila and I wrote This Song Will Save Your Life and The Edge of Falling sitting across from each other—true story!

4. We Were Liars-E Lockhart

Okay, I confess: this book hasn’t even come out yet. But I read it and loved it, so I’m putting it on my list! We Were Liars is the story of a girl who comes from a prestigious, wealthy family (like Caggie’s) and the life-changing events that happen to her on the private island where her family spends every summer. It’s a literary, dark, poetic book about first love, the bonds of family, and the fragility of secrets. I was told to lie about the ending, so…I will just keep quiet J

5. The Catcher in The Rye– JD Salinger

I’m closing out my list with this classic novel, because not only is Caggie descended from the Caulfield family, which JD Salinger famously fictionalized, but because Holden and Caggie have more in common than their last name. Holden’s journey in The Catcher in the Rye is a coming-of-age story: he is disillusioned by wealth, jaded by the inconsistent and seemingly false bonds of family, and feels uncomfortable in his own skin. He, like Caggie, lost a sibling, and spends time reflecting on the cruelty of his world changing and progressing so much over time, while his lost loved one never will.  The Catcher in the Rye is one of the books that inspired me to write The Edge of Falling and I would definitely recommend you read it, if not re-visit it after you read Edge.

Rebecca Serle has a fantastic blog tour set up (with some of my favorite blogs!), so make sure to check out these upcoming posts to learn more about Rebecca, The Edge of Falling, and much more!

March 11- Fangirlish
March 17- Forever YA
March 20- Cuddlebuggery

Abandon It or Stick With It?

I’m out of sorts as of late. My mind is going in all different directions and I can’t focus. Consequently, I continue to pick up new books and none of them are holding my interest. I’m starting to think it’s me, not the books. So I need your help.These two books have A LOT of hype around them (from bloggers, friends, pubs, etc.). But I can’t get into them.

Quite a few of my friends have raved about The Living by Matt de la Pena, but I’m 85 pages in and I’m not really interested. I have SO MANY books to read and I want this to grab me and keep holding on. I want to be excited about The Living so I can rave about in my classroom. And this is completely nit-picky, but I hate the name Shy. I keep reading it as “she” and then I get confused. Have any of you struggled with this book? If you loved it, how much longer do you think I should keep reading before giving up? Is it worth the time?

Another book that has been receiving rave reviews from my friends, bloggers, and especially the publisher is These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner. I was incredibly excited to receive an ARC at NCTE because I love the cover and it sounds fantastic. Unfortunately, I wasn’t grabbed at all when I started reading These Broken Stars. I usually like it when the author(s) throws the reader right into the story, but this one confused me more than anything. Also, this is probably way too nit-picky but the font is much smaller than I prefer and quite a bit of text is condensed on the page. I only just made it to Lilac’s point of view for the first time so I feel like I haven’t given this a fair shot. But at the same time, I’m 18 pages in and questioning whether I want to continue.

What do you think, readers? I’d love for you to chime in and give me some advice!

What Should I Read Next?

I need your help. I’m currently suffering from Too Many Books to Choose From syndrome. I’m currently reading and about to finish Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder. I started Reality Boy by A.S. King and stopped mid-way so I could read a few NetGalley books before they archived. I’m probably going to finish that next, but I’m wondering what I should read after that. I’m including a few of the books I’m considering, so I’d love to know which book you think I should pick up next!


Smoke by Ellen Hopkins

**Beware of spoilers in the summary!**

Summary (From Goodreads): Pattyn Von Stratten’s father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run. After far too many years of abuse at the hands of her father, and after the tragic loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn is desperate for peace. Only her sister Jackie knows what happened that night, but she is stuck at home with their mother, who clings to normalcy by allowing the truth to be covered up by their domineering community leaders. Her father might be finally gone, but without Pattyn, Jackie is desperately isolated. Alone and in disguise, Pattyn starts a new life, but is it even possible to rebuild a life when everything you’ve known has burned to ash and lies seem far safer than the truth?

I went to Ellen’s signing for this in Ann Arbor this week. I’ve been hoping/waiting for a sequel to Burned for years now. One of my seniors just read Burned and made sure I knew that he gets to read Smoke after I finish it.

How to Love

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Summary (From Goodreads): Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.

This is an Edelweiss title I have on my Kindle so I feel obligated to read it soon, although I really do want to read it (not just because I requested it and need to write a review).

The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez

Summary (From Goodreads):

From the author of Virtuosity, a novel about two sisters and the secrets they tell, the secrets they keep—and the secret that could tear them apart.

Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.
     Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.

I loved Jessica’s debut Virtuosity so I automatically want to read this one. I finally bought a copy today when I found it at a library sale.

More Than This

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Summary (From Goodreads):

From two-time Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness comes an enthralling and provocative new novel chronicling the life — or perhaps afterlife — of a teen trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.

A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . . .

I love Patrick Ness and this book sounds great.

Great Lakes Great Books Award Reading

During last night’s #titletalk chat on Twitter, I started talking to Heather Jensen (@hmjensen31) about books she should read for the Great Lakes Great Books Award.  She serves on the committee, which is part of the Michigan Reading Association.  During our conversation I asked how I could get involved with the committee, so she passed my information on to her chairperson.  Today I was extended an invitation to join the committee!

I’m thrilled to join the Great Lakes Great Books Award committee.  I think I’ll be focusing mostly on YA reading, but I’d also like to read more MG to help with that area as well.  The committee likes to read a wide variety of books, so I need your recommendations.  I’m looking, primarily, for YA/MG books published in 2013.  We can also read titles published in 2012.  I’d love to find some non-fiction and poetry titles since that’s a weak area for me, but of course I want to read some great fiction titles as well.

I’ve put together a Google form for you to share titles with me.

Book Trailer Thursday (113)–The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a publisher-made book trailer for a Sarah Dessen book before, so I’m a little excited to have found this one.  I’m currently reading and enjoying The Moon and More.  The trailer is a quick one, but it fits the book.  And even though we don’t really “see” Theo in the trailer, I’m happy to have a better idea of what he’s supposed to look like because I’m having a tough time imagining him for some reason.  Enjoy the trailer!  The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen released this week, so hopefully you’ll get your hands on a copy soon 🙂

The Moon and MoreSummary (From Goodreads):

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

Sarah Dessen’s devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.

What a rut!

I’m not sure why, but I’m in a major blogging and reading rut, friends.  Usually when I’m at home I can’t wait to start reading and relaxing after a long day.  Or I’m looking forward to writing my next review.  But recently I haven’t been interested in doing either.

This month I’ve been wanting to read more back list titles since there are so many worth reading.  I loved Jessica Brody’s 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and my students are big fans as well, which is why I bought her older book My Life Undecided.  It’s cute, but I’m not excited to pick it up during SSR or when I get home from work.  Is it the book or is it me?  I hate to put it down because I think it’s me.

Have any of you gone through this before?  Which book(s) brought you out of your rut?  Which back list titles should I try to escape this rut?  Should I break my “challenge” and read Just One Day?  It’s sitting in a stack of books on my coffee table, and it’s staring at me.  Or maybe I should try The Lonely Hearts ClubGoing Underground sounds pretty good as well.  I just don’t know what to do!

If you’ve been in a similar situation before, I’d love some book recommendations that you think will wake me up.  Maybe even some blog ideas to spark my blogging rut as well.

I’m looking forward to your recommendations! 🙂

Let’s Try Again: My List of Six

I don’t remember when I tried Michelle from Galleysmith’s idea of creating a list of books to read in a certain amount of time, but I do know it helped a little bit even though I didn’t completely succeed.  I’m a list maker, but I’m horrible at setting books-to-read goals because I’m such a moody reader.  If I’m in the mood for something lovey, but I’m currently reading something suspenseful, there’s a good chance I’ll switch books.  I’m not always that way, but I know myself enough as a reader to recognize that I do this.  I’m trying Michelle’s idea again because it’s the end of the school year, I have books to read for our new curriculum, I’m starting my second to last Masters class, and I’m going to be overwhelmed.  So I figure if I create a list of books to (try t0) stick with, then maybe I’ll be less stressed and more productive.

Here’s my list of six (six because I’m not getting over my head with this):

The Forgetting Curve by Angie Smibert (Goodreads)

Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg (Goodreads)

Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender (Goodreads)

Vicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer (Goodreads)

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima (I WILL finally finish this!) (Goodreads)

Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore (Yay!!) (Goodreads)

Alternates in case I can’t get into one of my six:

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (Goodreads)

A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger (Goodreads)

Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday (Goodreads)

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