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.

Book Trailer Thursday (186)–Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

Book Trailer Thursday

I’ve read mixed reviews for Wink Poppy Midnight, but I’m still interested in reading it because my students and I love a good mystery. It will be interesting to hear what they think about the book trailer after showing it since it’s so simple compared to other book trailers. If you’ve read this already I’d love to know what you think!

Wink Poppy MidnightSummary (From Goodreads):

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

Book Trailer Thursday (183)–If You’re Lucky by Yvonne Prinz

Book Trailer Thursday

Psychological mystery for the win! So many of my students want more mysteries to read so I need to get a copy of If You’re Lucky for my classroom pronto. I’m confident that once I show them this trailer they’ll ask me if I have a copy for them to read. I’m surprised Yvonne Prinz’s book slipped past my radar until now.

If You're LuckySummary (From Goodreads):

Is Georgia’s mind playing tricks on her, or is the entire town walking into the arms of a killer who has everyone but her fooled?
 
When seventeen-year-old Georgia’s brother drowns while surfing halfway around the world in Australia, she refuses to believe Lucky’s death was just bad luck. Lucky was smart. He wouldn’t have surfed in waters more dangerous than he could handle. Then a stranger named Fin arrives in False Bay, claiming to have been Lucky’s best friend. Soon Fin is working for Lucky’s father, charming Lucky’s mother, dating his girlfriend. Georgia begins to wonder: did Fin murder Lucky in order to take over his whole life?  

Determined to clear the fog from her mind in order to uncover the truth about Lucky’s death, Georgia secretly stops taking the medication that keeps away the voices in her head. Georgia is certain she’s getting closer and closer to the truth about Fin, but as she does, her mental state becomes more and more precarious, and no one seems to trust what she’s saying.

As the chilling narrative unfolds, the reader must decide whether Georgia’s descent into madness is causing her to see things that don’t exist–or to see a deadly truth that no one else can.  

“A remarkable page-turner . . . Keep[s] readers wondering, twist by twist, if Georgia’s universe will simply burst apart.” —Andrew Smith, author of Grasshopper Jungle

 

Waiting on Wednesday–Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

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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 adore Jessica Spotswood’s historical fiction trilogy, The Cahill Witch Chronicles, so discovering that she’s written a contemporary realistic novel has me over the moon excited! I like that the summary provides a mysterious vibe to the story and the idea of legacies and curses. I just know this is going to be a fun book to read!

Wild SwansTitle & Author: Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood

Release Date: May 1st, 2016

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Summary (From Goodreads):

The summer before Ivy’s senior year is going to be golden; all bonfires, barbeques, and spending time with her best friends. For once, she will just get to be. No summer classes, none of Granddad’s intense expectations to live up to the family name. For generations, the Milbourn women have lead extraordinary lives—and died young and tragically. Granddad calls it a legacy, but Ivy considers it a curse. Why else would her mother have run off and abandoned her as a child?

But when her mother unexpectedly returns home with two young daughters in tow, all of the stories Ivy wove to protect her heart start to unravel. The very people she once trusted now speak in lies. And all of Ivy’s ambition and determination cannot defend her against the secrets of the Milbourn past….

Waiting on Wednesday–A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

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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.

Review: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Suicide Notes from Beautiful GirlsTitle: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Author: Lynn Weingarten

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Mystery / Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gone Girl meets 13 Reasons Why in this stylish, sexy, and atmospheric story about friendship packed with twists and turns that will leave you breathless.

They say Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather’s shed. They say it was suicide.

But June doesn’t believe it.

June and Delia used to be closer than anything. Best friends in that way that comes before everyone else-before guys, before family. It was like being in love, but more. They had a billion secrets, tying them together like thin silk cords.

But one night a year ago, everything changed. June, Delia, and June’s boyfriend Ryan were just having a little fun. Their good time got out of hand. And in the cold blue light of morning, June knew only this-things would never be the same again.

And now, a year later, Delia is dead. June is certain she was murdered. And she owes it to her to find out the truth…which is far more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

Sexy, dark, and atmospheric, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I’ve been on a mystery kick this summer for some reason, so I decided to give Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten a shot. Simon & Schuster sent me the ARC months ago and it’s been in the back of my mind since I first saw the cover. I’m happy I finally gave it a try because I really enjoyed it.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls takes an interesting look at friendships and relationships. We find out early on that June’s former friend Delia has killed herself, but we don’t know why or why the two girls are no longer friends. June is dating a guy named Ryan and there’s also a hint that he may be part of the reason why the girls’ friendship ended. A couple chapters into the novel the point of view switches  to third person and we get a glimpse of June and Delia as friends. I wasn’t expecting this switch, but it adds an interesting layer of mystery to the story.

These flashbacks of sorts help us see Delia as a character and another side of June. June doesn’t act the same way when she’s with Delia; she often came off as needy and insecure in these scenes. I would describe Delia as a taker and June is very much a giver and a people pleaser. June loves how different Delia is and that Delia wants them to be the best of friends who share everything. As the story progresses it’s easy to see that their friendship isn’t healthy, it’s actually quite toxic. June is wrapped up in Delia, even more so once she learns of Delia’s suicide, and this is when we see just how easy it is to be blind to what’s right in front of you. Delia has an unhealthy hold over June; they are very much co-dependent.

Honestly, it was hard to really like any of the characters in this novel, but that didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying it. And when I say that it’s hard to like them, it’s because they’re not good people. The characters are written well, but they’re awful to one another and those close to them. In this regard, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is very much like Gone Girl. I loved that book, but those characters are horrendous. I want to go into this more, but Lynn Weingarten wrote a book that’s difficult to review without revealing major spoilers.

Recently I was watching VH1 early in the morning since nothing good was on TV while I played with Jack and the music video for “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato came on. I love the song, but I had never watched the video before. As I watched it, I instantly thought of Delia. She’s wild, shameless, and daring. If anyone else has read this book, please let me know if you think this is off-base or if you agree. I watched the video again before I started writing this review and I still feel the same way.

Anyway, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is a page turner for sure.  It will keep you guessing until the final page. When I finished my instant reaction was “I need to discuss this ending with someone ASAP!” I have spoken with two friends about it, but I’m still not sure what I think. I’m leaning mostly towards one idea, but there’s still a small part of me that thinks something else could have happened. Read it and let me know what you think!

Similar Reads: Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, You by Charles Benoit

Review: The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The FixerTitle: The Fixer

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Mystery/Thriller

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

This thriller YA is Scandal meets Veronica Mars.

Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick has spent her entire life on her grandfather’s ranch. But when her estranged sister Ivy uproots her to D.C., Tess is thrown into a world that revolves around politics and power. She also starts at Hardwicke Academy, the D.C. school for the children of the rich and powerful, where she unwittingly becomes a fixer for the high school set, fixing teens’ problems the way her sister fixes their parents’ problems.

And when a conspiracy surfaces that involves the family member of one of Tess’s classmates, love triangles and unbelievable family secrets come to light and life gets even more interesting—and complicated—for Tess.

Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for this compelling teen drama with a political twist.

I forgot how much fun it is to read a good mystery until I read The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. This is going to be a class favorite this upcoming school year.

I’ve only watched the show Scandal a handful of times, but I know enough about the show that fans will enjoy The Fixer. The political intrigue is there, as well as the personal backstories. The suspense is paced well and nothing was ever in-your-face obvious about how the story would end. In fact, one element of the plot really surprised me.

Something I really appreciate about Jennifer Lynn Barnes’s latest release is that there isn’t a strong love element. I thoroughly enjoy a good love story, but it’s refreshing to read a book without love at the forefront of the story. And while I encourage my students to see books not as books for girls or books for boys, but as books for readers, I do understand that many of my boys don’t want to read a romance. Not all of my girls want to read a romance. I know those students will be thrilled to read The Fixer and know that they can focus on the fun of the mystery.

As much as I enjoyed the mystery, I really enjoyed the characters and their relationships in this story. Tess is tough and independent like her older sister Ivy, but despite their similarities they have a tense relationship. Watching their relationship grow and evolve was a definite highlight for me. Tess’s friends really made The Fixer shine. The friendships allow readers to see Tess as a champion for the underdog, Vivie and Henry in particular. Asher really brings out Tess’s quick wit.

If you’re looking for a fun page-turner, then look no further than The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Other reviews of The Fixer:

The Fixer easily becomes one of my favorite reads this year. Without doubt, this book is joining my Top Ten Favorite Reads of this year.” ~Young Adult Hollywood 

“It’s fast paced, tense, brilliantly plotted and filled with a whole host of intriguing characters.” ~The Review Diaries

Book Trailer Thursday (171)–Keepers of the Labyrinth by Erin E. Moulton

Book Trailer Thursday

Many of my reader friends are fans of mythology and action/adventure, so I’m surprised Keepers of the Labyrinth by Erin E. Moulton isn’t on more to-read lists. It releases on August 25th, so it’s my plan to try and read it before schools starts I can book talk it to my students.

Keepers of the LabyrinthSummary (From Goodreads):

Courage is tested, myths come to life, and long-held secrets are revealed

Lilith Bennette runs at midnight. She scales walls in the dark and climbs without a harness. She hopes that if she follows exactly in the steps of her strong air force pilot mother, she’ll somehow figure out the mystery of her mother’s death—and the reason why her necklace of Greek symbols has been missing ever since.

So when Lil is invited to Crete for a Future Leaders International conference, the same conference her mom attended years ago, she jumps at the chance to find some answers. But things in Melios Manor are not what they seem. Lil finds herself ensnared in an adventure of mythological proportions that leads her and her friends through the very labyrinth in which the real Minotaur was imprisoned. And they’re not in there alone. What secrets does the labyrinth hold, and will they help Lil find the truth about her mother?

This book is perfect for older fans of Percy Jackson and the Olympians and the Heroes of Olympus–and anyone who wants to find out the true story behind the magic of the Greek gods.

Book Trailer Thursday (150)–Conversion by Katherine Howe

Book Trailer Thursday

So it’s been two months since I’ve written a Book Trailer Thursday post. Sorry, all! I do have what I think is an interesting trailer/book featured today. I like the idea of pairing Conversion by Katherine Howe with The Crucible, although I’ll have to read it first and see just how well it parallels the play. Either way, this book has my attention.

ConversionSummary (From Goodreads):

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane comes a chilling mystery—Prepmeets The Crucible. 
 
It’s senior year at St. Joan’s Academy, and school is a pressure cooker. College applications, the battle for valedictorian, deciphering boys’ texts: Through it all, Colleen Rowley and her friends are expected to keep it together. Until they can’t.
 
First it’s the school’s queen bee, Clara Rutherford, who suddenly falls into uncontrollable tics in the middle of class. Her mystery illness quickly spreads to her closest clique of friends, then more students and symptoms follow: seizures, hair loss, violent coughing fits. St. Joan’s buzzes with rumor; rumor blossoms into full-blown panic.
 
Soon the media descends on Danvers, Massachusetts, as everyone scrambles to find something, or someone, to blame. Pollution? Stress? Or are the girls faking? Only Colleen—who’s been reading The Crucible for extra credit—comes to realize what nobody else has: Danvers was once Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago . . .
 
Inspired by true events—from seventeenth-century colonial life to the halls of a modern-day high school—Conversion casts a spell. With her signature wit and passion, New York Times bestselling author Katherine Howe delivers an exciting and suspenseful novel, a chilling mystery that raises the question, what’s really happening to the girls at St. Joan’s?

Waiting on Wednesday–Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

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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.

My husband and I are in the process of preparing for our first child to be born (we’re having a little boy!) and we’re in the process of getting our house ready to sell. Life is a little hectic in our neck of the woods. Consequently, I’m trying my best to save money which means I’m buying fewer books. Let’s be honest, it’s not like I don’t have enough books to read in my house! 🙂 HOWEVER. Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn just might be one of the few books I let myself buy this summer because it sounds THAT GOOD.

ComplicitTitle & Author: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Release Date: June 24th, 2014

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Summary (From Goodreads):

Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell. 

Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award-winning author of Charm & Strange.

 

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