School Year Reading Reflection

I know many book bloggers reflect on their reading life at the end of the calendar year, which I do as well, but as a teacher I like to also reflect on my school year reading. It helps me plan my summer reading so I can work on filling in any gaps I may have had over the school year. I don’t like to plan my summer reading too much, however, because it’s my time to truly dig into my reading pile and relax. Plus, I don’t know what my new group of students will need in terms of reading, but it’s still good for me to always be mindful about my reading choices.

During the 2015-2016 school year I read 56 books which is an increase from last year. I’m sure most of that has to do with Jack being older and I made a concerted effort to listen to more audiobooks this school year. For this post, I’m going to break down my reading life by different categories and some books will be listed more than once depending on the category. It’s important to remember that one book can appeal to a variety of readers for different reasons.

School Year Reading

Historical Fiction/Historical Novels (10 novels read): This school year I tried genre binges which I can tell REALLY helped me diversify my reading since I tend to read mostly contemporary realistic fiction. Through this process I discovered a real interest in reading historical novels.

  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
  • Jackaby by William Ritter
  • Girl at War by Sara Novic
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowry
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • American Ace by Marilyn Nelson
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince

Fantasy (Roughly 8 novels read): Another binge reading genre for me was fantasy novels mostly because of my fantasy panel at ALAN this past year. I always enjoy reading fantasy, but I’ve noticed that a fantasy novel isn’t always the first one I grab from my TBR pile when choosing a book. I really need to work on that because I sometimes feel like I’m always recommending the same fantasy novels to my students.

  • Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (I reread this as a read aloud/paranormal fantasy)
  • Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins (one of my classes wanted me to read the sequel as a read aloud)
  • Jackaby by William Ritter (this has paranormal elements)
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough (I go back and forth about whether to qualify this as fantasy)
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk (maybe paranormal because of the whole Cupid thing)

Mystery/Thriller (8 novels read): My students this year, maybe more than previous years, love and often requested more mystery titles. This category is tough for me to break down because so many books can be viewed as mystery depending on the plot and the reader.

  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • Jackaby by William Ritter
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen
  • The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  • The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
  • Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
  • Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
  • Perry’s Killer Playlist by Joe Schreiber

Science Fiction (3 novels read): I simply don’t read enough of this genre. I would love some current (2015-2016) sci-fi recommendations!

  • Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin
  • Inherit the Stars by Tessa Elwood
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Racially Diverse Characters (10 novels read): I’m really trying to expand my knowledge of books with racially diverse characters because even though the district where I teach is not racially diverse, I don’t want a “white-washed” classroom library. And I know my students don’t want that either; they want broader perspectives than their own. This is still an area of improvement, however.

  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt (this also works as a loose Romeo & Juliet retelling)
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
  • The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blockmon Lowry
  • American Ace by Marilyn Nelson
  • Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins (features racially diverse characters in some of the short stories)

LGBTQ Characters (5 novels read): I’ve been working on this area of my reading life for years now. Within the last few years I can tell that it’s making a difference because more and more of my students are openly requesting more of these titles and sharing them once they’ve read them. Also, for the purpose of this post I’m only listing books that feature an LGBTQ main character.

  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
  • We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins (features multiple LGBTQ short stories)

More Than One Point of View (13 novels read): My students love books written with more than one point of view.

  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  • The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (occasionally see the serial killer’s POV)
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • Violent Ends edited by Shaun David Hutchinson
  • The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
  • Unrivaled by Alyson Noel
  • Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

Graphic Novels/Illustrated Novels (3 novels read): I really enjoy reading graphic novels, but I know I don’t read enough of them during the school year.

  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blockmon Lowry
  • Tomboy by Liz Prince

Romance (22 novels read): Not all of these are strictly romance, but many of them feature romantic storylines.

  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen (this one isn’t as romantic as her others, but there’s still an element there)
  • Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt
  • Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
  • The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
  • The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson
  • Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (I like that this one applies more as dealing with mental illness)
  • Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
  • Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  • Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • This Raging Light by Estelle Laure
  • Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger
  • Suffer Love by Ashley Herring Blake
  • Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom
  • Arrows by Melissa Gorzelancyzk
  • Dreamers Often Lie by Jacqueline West
  • Look Both Ways by Alison Cherry
  • The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
  • When We Collided by Emery Lord
  • Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins
  • Unrivaled by Alyson Noel

Some other areas of reading/genres/categories I want to read more of are memoirs, books dealing with mental illness, books featuring characters with disabilities, and more books dealing with sexual violence/rape culture. I read a couple books this school year with characters in poverty and I’d like to read more like those. I also noticed that I only read one novel in verse this school year, which is really unusual for me.

Blog Tour & Giveaway: A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood

I’m so happy to be part of this blog tour for a historical fiction, kickass book! A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers, and Other Badass Girls was edited by Jessica Spotswood and includes short stories from a variety of female YA authors. Three questions were asked of all contributing authors; today I’m featuring answers from Leslye Walton, Elizabeth Wein, and Jessica Spotswood.

A Tyranny of Petticoats

Also available as an e-book and in audio

Summary (From the publisher): Crisscross America, on dogsleds and ships, stagecoaches and trains, from pirate ships off the coast of the Carolinas to the peace, love, and protests of 1960s Chicago. Join fifteen of today’s most talented writers of young adult literature on a thrill ride through history with American girls charting their own courses. They are monsters and mediums, bodyguards and barkeeps, screenwriters and schoolteachers, heiresses and hobos. They’re making their own ways in often-hostile lands, using every weapon in their arsenals, facing down murderers and marriage proposals. And they all have a story to tell.

Our authors are as diverse as their characters. To give readers a better sense of their diverse processes and experiences writing for this anthology, we asked three questions of each contributor:

  1. What inspired you to write about this particular time and place?
  2. What was the most interesting piece of research you uncovered while writing your story?
  3. Who is your favorite woman in history and why?

Here are their answers:

Jessica Spotswood is the author of the Cahill Witch Chronicles, a historical­ fantasy trilogy, as well as the contemporary novel Wild Swans. She grew up near the Gettysburg battlefield but now lives in Washington, D.C., where she works for the D.C. Public Library system as a children’s library associate.
Twitter: @jessica_shea, Facebook, Instagram

Jessica_Spotswood credit C.Stanley Photography (1)

What inspired you to write about this particular time and place?
I’ve been fascinated with New Orleans since my first visit when I was twelve. The city was French, then Spanish, then French again briefly, was sold to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase, seceded to join the Confederacy, then became part of the United States again. The architecture, food, and music all reflect this unique history as well as Creole, Cajun, and Haitian influences. By 1826, there was a large number (according to the census, perhaps as many as twelve thousand recorded in a city of forty-six thousand) of gens de couleur libre, or free people of color, which made New Orleans unique among antebellum Southern cities. Most free blacks were mixed-race; some were descended from slave mothers and white fathers, and others emigrated from Haiti after the revolution. They were educated property owners, a thriving middle class of businessmen, shop owners, and tradesmen who went to mass at Saint Louis Cathedral, attended the theater and the French opera, and sometimes had slaves of their own.

What was the most interesting piece of research you uncovered while writing your story?
In 1786 Governor Miró passed the tignon laws, which required women of African descent — slave or free — to cover their hair and refrain from excessive attention to their dress. In response, women of color began to wrap their hair in beautiful, colorful scarves called tignons and were still as beautiful and eye-catching as ever. The law was basically to preserve racial and class distinctions, because some free women of color were so light-skinned and richly dressed that they were mistaken for white.

Who is your favorite woman in history and why?
I’m fascinated by Nellie Bly, who was an intrepid lady reporter. She wrote about the problems of poor working girls and called for the reform of divorce laws. She was a foreign correspondent in Mexico, but the editor of her Pittsburgh paper kept assigning her stories for their women’s section about fashion and flower shows, so she resigned and moved to New York. Most famously, she feigned madness while working undercover to write a series on the abuse of institutionalized women at the asylum at Blackwell’s Island. In 1888, she also tried to recreate Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days and filed dispatches to her paper via telegraph. She only took seventy-two days, like the boss she was.

 

Leslye Walton is the author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, which was a 2015 Pacific Northwest Book Award winner, as well as a 2015 YALSA William C. Morris YA Debut Award finalist. She lives in the Pacific Northwest but has recently been finding her dreams filled with vast desert skies and the gorgeous pink flowers of the prickly pear cactus. Her short story is the result of those dreams.
Twitter: @LeslyeWalton, Facebook

Leslye_Walton

What inspired you to write about this particular time and place?
I was interested in exploring the juxtaposition of power and limitation, a blurred line that has defined the lives of women throughout history. I wondered what it might have been like to live as a young teenage girl during a time of upheaval and change in American history, while also capturing a time and place where cultural and national identities felt at odds. I suppose these thoughts wove themselves together, because suddenly I had Valeria, Rosa, and Maria Elena, three immortals sent down to live as Mexican-American sisters during the years after the Texas Annexation.

What was the most interesting piece of research you uncovered while writing your story?
I loved learning all the intricate details about the family ranchos of that time and the lush Rio Grande landscape of yucca plants, honey mesquite trees, and prickly pear cacti.

Who is your favorite woman in history and why?
Oh, this is an impossible question! There are so many admirable women in our world’s history, all with incredible and oft times terrible stories; it’s virtually impossible to pick a favorite. I suppose, though, if I had to choose one, I’d have to admit that I am currently infatuated with Petra Herrera, a revolutionary war hero who led over four hundred female soldiers during the Mexican Revolution, if only for the sole reason that she proved that women could be just as effective as men in the art of combat.

 

Elizabeth Wein is the New York Times best­selling author of Code Name Verity, Rose Under Fire, and, most recently, Black Dove, White Raven. All three feature women as pilots in the early twentieth century — such rare birds in their own right that a black woman among them is a veritable phoenix. “The Color of the Sky” is a closer look at one of the real pilots whose life inspired a character in Black Dove, White Raven.
Twitter @EWein2412

Elizabeth Wein_credit David Ho

What inspired you to write about this particular time and place?
Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to become a licensed pilot, inspired me!

I earned a private pilot’s license late in 2003. That year also happened to be the one hundredth anniversary of the Wright brothers’ historic first powered “heavier than air” flight. I took part in a worldwide celebratory fly-out on December 17, the exact anniversary. But I was also the only female student pilot on the airfield where I learned to fly, so I became interested in flight, the history of aviation, and women in aviation all at the same time.

Bessie Coleman is one of the most amazing early female aviators. She got her international pilot’s license in 1921, and she was not only the first black woman to do so, she was the first American to do so — male or female, black or white. No one — of any color — would teach her to fly in the United States, because she was black and/or because she was a woman; so she took some French classes, found some sponsorship, and went to France to learn to fly. I am in awe of her initiative, her positive outlook, and her determination.

Though she died young, and tragically, in a flying accident (which is what my story in A Tyranny of Petticoats is about), Coleman was committed to opening a flying school that would allow young people of all races and sexes to learn to fly. Until her early death she traveled around the United States giving lectures and film presentations in schools to encourage young people to learn more about aviation, as well as fund-raising for her flight school dream.

The time and place of my story was dictated by the focus on Bessie Coleman — but to make it authentic, I ended up finding out quite a bit about Jacksonville, Florida, in the 1920s — its schools, churches, neighborhoods, and transportation systems!

What was the most interesting piece of research you uncovered while writing your story?
It was undoubtedly the amazing real historical characters I discovered as I was peopling my fictional tale. I want to write stories — books, even! — about all of them.

Except for my main character Antonia and her family, most of the named characters in “The Color of the Sky” are based on real people. In addition to the obvious — Bessie Coleman herself — I also had to find out more about the lives of Myrtle and Henry Wade Vencill, Louis Manning, William Wills, Robert Abbott, and John Thomas Betsch. I desperately hope I’ve been respectful of their historical counterparts — especially Betsch, who is in jail when my story ends!

The week following Bessie Coleman’s death in April 1925 must have been a heartbreaking time in John Thomas Betsch’s young life. He was only twenty-one at the time. College-educated, Betsch was the publicity chairman of Jacksonville’s Negro Welfare League and an aviation enthusiast; he was also a strong advocate for racial and sexual equality in Florida and continued to be so throughout the first half of the twentieth century. His legacy is evident in the lives of his children: MaVynee Betsch, who graduated from Oberlin College with a double major in voice and piano in 1955, sang with the German State Opera, and then devoted her later life to conservation; Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, who became the first female president of Spelman College, president of Bennett College for Women, and co-author of Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women’s Equality in African American Communities; and John Thomas Betsch, Jr., a jazz musician who has lived in Europe for the past thirty years. It makes me happy to know what a better world John Betsch helped to create for his own children and for generations to come. I’d never have known about these people if I hadn’t been digging for information about the circumstances surrounding Bessie Coleman’s fatal accident.

Another fascinating woman I learned more about while writing “The Color of the Sky” is Willa Brown. I’d known about her because she turned up in the research I did for my novel Black Dove, White Raven, and I like to think that the life of my original character Antonia will closely follow that of Willa Brown. Brown graduated from Indiana State Teachers College in 1927 and went on to help establish the Coffey School of Aeronautics in Chicago. Willa Brown was the first African-American woman to earn a private pilot’s license (which had not been established when Bessie Coleman earned her international license). During World War II, in addition to training black pilots and flight instructors, she joined the Civil Air Patrol and became its first African-American officer. Throughout most of the twentieth century, Willa Brown was a tireless activist for racial and sexual equality, both on the ground and in the air.

I would love to go on — every single one of the characters who appear in “The Color of the Sky” has a fascinating history — but perhaps these brief portraits will inspire readers to do some digging for themselves!

Who is your favorite woman in history and why?
This isn’t a question I’ve thought about before — I don’t have a tried and tested answer that I give. I have many favorites, for different reasons at different times in history and at different times in my own life. If you’d only asked me to name “my favorite woman of all time,” I’d have said my grandmother, Betty Flocken.

But I’m going to go with Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906–2001), because her voice as a writer and a pilot sings to my soul. I knew and read her written work long before I became a pilot myself. Her inspirational Gift from the Sea, which has never been out of print since it was first published in 1955, has been my guide throughout my adult life — as it was to my grandmother fifty years ago. Indeed, it was my wonderful grandmother who introduced me to Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s writing.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the wife of Charles A. Lindbergh, the early aviator who’s best known for his pioneering flight across the Atlantic in 1927. As a couple they skyrocketed into the media in 1932 when their infant son was kidnapped and murdered. Charles Lindbergh bordered on being a Nazi sympathizer in the years leading to World War II and, though he flew fifty combat missions in the Pacific for the United States and finished his life as an environmental activist in 1974, his image never entirely recovered in the public eye. Anne Morrow Lindbergh soared to fame on her own as a gifted diarist and travel writer, managing to transcend the brightness and shadow that her husband cast. Her clear-sighted and lyrical voice is one of the most prolific and honest of the twentieth century.

She was the first American woman to earn a glider pilot’s license and accompanied Lindbergh on early global exploration flights as his radio operator as they attempted to discover the best long-distance routes for future commercial airlines to places like South America and eastern Asia. She was a friend and deep admirer of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, another of my pilot-writer heroes (and author of The Little Prince). Despite the tragic loss of her first baby, she went on to raise five children, a free-thinking collection of writers and aviators in their own rights.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh was a quiet, private, shy, and privileged woman and didn’t have to do the kind of groundbreaking work that Bessie Coleman had to do. But her dedication to her craft, her prolific life’s work, and her ability to recover and forgive make me strive to be like her.

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Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the tour so you can learn more about each author!

 

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Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the SeaTitle: Salt to the Sea

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publisher: Philomel Books

Release Date: February 2, 2016

Interest: Author / Historical Fiction

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

I finished Salt to the Sea Saturday morning and I really have no idea where to begin this review. Simply put, it’s tragic and amazing.

A couple weeks ago I listened to Ruta Sepetys speak about Salt to the Sea at her book signing at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor. I was in the middle of reading another book, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying, but after listening to her talk about this maritime disaster and the research she did, I knew I had to read it right away. So I set my book aside that night and started reading her third novel.

Let me tell you, I cried and gasped multiple times while reading this novel. The tears weren’t always full-fledged, but I certainly sniffled and wiped my eyes a time or two. And then of course the end really got to me, but I knew that would happen considering the story. Ruta Sepetys is a passionate writer and it comes through in her stories. So many of the images she created were vivid and often shocking. Also, this was a tough read as a mom considering how many children were lost and the idea of having to choose which children would live and if they’d live at all.

Another part of the Salt to the Sea that really worked for me was the short chapters and the multiple character points of views. It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of the characters switching and hearing their voices, but once I did it made for smooth, quick reading. I was attached to all of them, even the characters who didn’t have their own chapters. Although, I never really connected with Alfred; he rubbed me the wrong way.

I feel like I’m moving through this review too quickly, but it’s because my thoughts are still all over the place. I’m still picturing those last scenes; my heart is still heavy. It doesn’t matter that these are fictional characters because I know they’re based on real people who suffered the way they did. And it’s even harder thinking about the Syrian refugees who are suffering today. Salt to the Sea is a book that I want my students to read and teachers to read as well. I wish I could bring Ruta Sepetys to school because I know she’d inspire my students to not only read this novel, but to also become passionate about research and finding stories.

Book Trailer Thursday (181)–Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Book Trailer Thursday

Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors because she’s a fantastic writer and storyteller, but also because she writes about untold stories. I love learning something new and exposing those stories to my students. I can’t wait to read Salt to the Sea!

Salt to the SeaSummary (From Goodreads):

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

Book Trailer Thursday (178)–Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

Book Trailer Thursday

I don’t know if I can call it a trend (yet), but I’m enjoying the YA historical fiction gold rush/Oregon Trailer novels that have started releasing in 2015. I couldn’t get enough of Walk on Earth a Stranger and now I’m listening to Under a Painted Sky. I was looking up more books to come from Stacey Lee when I came across this book trailer. I’m happy I did because now I have a good way to introduce her debut to my students.

Under a Painted SkySummary (From Goodreads):

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.
 
This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

Audiobook Review: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

Audio Review

Walk on Earth a StrangerTitle: Walk on Earth a Stranger

Author: Rae Carson

Narrator: Erin Mallon

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: September 22nd, 2015

Interest: Author / Fantasy / Historical Fiction

Source: Audible purchased via Scribd

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.

Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.

She also has a secret.

Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.

When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.

The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.

Audio Review: I couldn’t buy a physical copy of Walk on Earth a Stranger yet, but I really wanted to read it so I decided to download the audio via Scribd. I’m so thankful that I did because the audio is great and so is the story. Erin Mallon has a voice suitable for a sharp shooting girl who’s fleeing to the west. It’s just the slightest bit gritty and easy to listen to. Also, the audio is almost 11 hours long and I finished it within a few days because I kept finding excuses to keep listening. There were a few times I walked into work a little late so I could keep listening in the parking lot. And I did the same thing in my garage. I was thoroughly entertained.

Book Review: I’m a big Rae Carson fan so I had high expectations for Walk on Earth a Stranger and I’m sure her other fans feel the same. Looking for epic world building? You’ll feel like you’re trekking into the wild west with Leah. Want to feel a crazy bond with the characters? I haven’t felt so close to a group of a characters in a very long time. I was hoping for more fantasy elements, but this is a stunning piece of historical fiction.

Did any of you play the Oregon Trail game in elementary school? I remember playing in my 4th or 5th grade social studies class and loving it. I clearly remember the wagon I built with my dad for our class project. Reading Walk on Earth a Stranger was like playing the Oregon Trail game on steroids. There’s an especially vivid buffalo scene that made my hair stand on end. I’m sure the audio helped, but I really felt like I was alongside Leah throughout the story. Her magic sense added an extra layer of excitement, but I liked the historical elements even more. For some reason I’m not always quick to pick up a historical fiction novel, but if they were all this entertaining I’d read more from the genre.

Let me tell you, I experienced so many emotions as I read this book. Some of the men in this book made my skin crawl. During the Gold Rush era women still weren’t respected and treated fairly. I love that Leah fights that and so do some of the other women she meets. It was also difficult listening to characters depict Native Americans in such a backwards and bigoted manner, but that’s sadly true to the time period. There were also a few moments that had me tearing up and had my heart swelling. There’s a good reason why Walk on Earth a Stranger is on the long list for the Young People’s Literature category for the National Book Award!

I wish I didn’t have to wait a year to read the second book in the series. I’m expecting more magic as the series progresses, so I know it will continue to be a fun series to read. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson is a must read!

Waiting on Wednesday–A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

wow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

I was looking at my last WoW post and in it noted that I try not to be swayed by pretty covers. It made me chuckle reading that because the cover for A Madness So Discreet grabbed my attention right away. It’s so pretty and haunting! The tone of the cover is perfect for an October release. I love reading mysteries in the fall around Halloween, so this will be perfect.

Title & Author: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Release Date: October 6th, 2015

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

A Madness So DiscreetSummary (From Goodreads):

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

Book Trailer Thursday (139)–The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Book Trailer Thursday

First, thanks to all of you who commented last week with suggestions for Book Trailer Thursday! One of the suggestions was to feature more middle grade book trailers. Thankfully I was able to find one today!

A couple months ago I went to a local overstock store and found a copy of The Apothecary by Maile Meloy. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds like a fun book that middle grade students would really enjoy. The trailer has elements of mystery and whimsy that I really like, too. What do you think?

The ApothecarySummary (From Goodreads):

It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows—a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies—Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.

Book Trailer Thursday (134)–Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Book Trailer Thursday

I’m leaving for NCTE in Boston today! I was hoping to get a few more blog posts written & scheduled before leaving, but it simply didn’t happen. Oh well. I’ll get caught up when I get home. I’ll make sure to post about NCTE/ALAN as well. Today I have the book trailer for Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger and a music video made for it and its sequel Curtsies & Conspiracies. Enjoy!

Summary (From Goodreads):

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger’s legions of fans have come to adore.


Audiobook Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Audio Review

The Book Thief audioTitle: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Narrator: Allan Corduner

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers/Listening Library

Release Date: March 14th, 2006/September 26th, 2006

Interest: Printz Honor / Movie

Source: Purchased book & audio (via Audible)

Summary (From Goodreads):

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that will be in movie theaters on November 15, 2013, Markus Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Audio Review: I chose to listen to The Book Thief because I couldn’t get into the book reading it traditionally. Thankfully, Allan Corduner is an excellent narrator and really made Markus Zusak’s book come alive. His voice is easy to listen to and his accent fits the story perfectly. His voices fit the different characters well, which added to my enjoyment of the audio. If you’re like me and are either hesitant to read The Book Thief traditionally, or you’ve tried reading it and couldn’t get into it, I suggest giving the audio a try.

Book Review: I enjoyed The Book Thief, but I didn’t love it to pieces like so many others. I appreciate the story, and I love that Death is the narrator, but something is missing for me. I guess I sort of felt like, “So what?” when I finished listening. Thinking that and writing that makes me feel like a horrible person. I understand that “books feed the soul” but I think I needed something more than that from the story.

Maybe I need to admit to myself that World War II/Holocaust stories don’t work for me anymore. I’m a history minor and understand the importance of the time period. I have a tough time finishing these novels because I know how all of them end–tragically. Yes, that’s a generalization, and yes, The Book Thief ends with a sense of hope. But from this story in particular, which I did finish, I needed something more.

I will say, however, that the writing it beautiful and the character development is wonderful. I can easily see why it received the Printz Honor. Hopefully the movie will affect me more than the book did.

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