Seriously. Nine. I've been on a reading roll lately. Here are some brief recaps.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell- This was my first book by Rainbow Rowell. I loved her writing style and should really probably bump this up to a 5 out of 5 because I've spent every library trip since reading this trying to find another book by her that is available at my library! It just stuck with me. It's definitely worth reading!
I gave it 4 out of 5 on Goodreads & Shelfari
The Distance Between Us by Kasie West- This was just a cute young adult book. It's nothing heavy, just fluff really, but enjoyable enough! I went through a little young adult fluff phase here for a few books.
I gave it a 4 out of 5 on Goodreads & Shelfari
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins - I love the way Stephanie Perkins writes the setting into her story. The first book I read, Anna and the French Kiss, was set in Paris & left me really wanting to visit Paris ASAP. This one was set in San Francisco & again I felt myself wanting to find a flight immediately. She just makes the setting a part of her whole story. It's weaved into every aspect and I really enjoy that. There is another of her books coming out in May called Isla and the Happily Ever After. I'm definitely reserving a copy at my library!
I gave it a 4 out of 5 on Goodreads & Shelfari
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesay - This one I'm kind-of torn on. It's not a young adult book and it's a retelling of Jane Eyre, which I've always liked. I really enjoyed the book Jane by April Lindner, which is another retelling of Jane Eyre, but it's a young adult version and I liked it a lot better. I did like that this explored the idea of independence & not relying on those around you to make you complete, but I just didn't totally connect with Gemma Hardy and I got kind-of down about her whole situation.
I gave it a 3 out of 5 on Goodreads & Shelfari
A Beautiful Wedding (Novella) by Jamie McGuire - I read Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster, which are the 2 actual books in this series. This is a novella that goes along with it and it's just as great as the other 2 books. It left me wanting to reread both books!! I just love this series. It was a quick read, but super fun.
I gave it a 5 out of 5 on Goodreads & Shelfari
The Perfect Game by J. Sterling- This was kind-of an "eh" book for me. It was fine, I read it quickly, but I don't think I'm interested in reading the 2nd and 3rd books in the series. It just didn't really grip me.
I gave it a 3 out of 5 on Goodreads & Shelfari
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - I liked this one. It was a unique story and you're trying to figure out what's happening through the whole thing. I enjoyed the relationship between the 2 main characters and I liked seeing how the story develops & finding out what had really happened to Echo. It's a young adult book and not the best one I've read, but it's good enough!
I gave it a 4 out of 5 on Goodreads & Shelfari
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- Okay this one...whew. This will go down as the year I discovered John Green. I had read Paper Towns before and I liked it fine, but it didn't knock my socks off or anything. I knew that I liked the way he wrote his characters and the uniqueness and quirkiness of them. I just relate to that, I guess. I was really nervous about reading this one because I just didn't know how well I'd handle a love story about 2 high school kids with cancer, but wow I LOVED it. I have talked about it with several people since reading it and I keep thinking about it. He has such great quotes that I have found myself wanting to find a copy of the book at Half Price Books so that I can own it and write in it and highlight all my favorite parts! And it's another one that left me trying to find any John Green books at my library.
I gave it a 5 out of 5 on Goodreads & Shelfari
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr- This was another interesting one. I really liked the exploration of a young girl who has made a tough decision and had to live with the social consequences. Man, it's a book I would love all high school girls to read when they are entering high school. It's another one where I'm trying to find more books by this author! Definitely worth picking up, but it's tough to get me to give a book a 5 out of 5 lately, so it didn't quite make that cut, but it's worth reading!
I'm taking a Young Adult and Children's Literature class right now, which I've mentioned a couple of times already. I have read several books for this class that I'm counting toward my 50 because they're chapter books and I've really enjoyed them! I already talked about The One and Only Ivan and Paper Towns.
This was another of the books I read for class. It's about a little 6th grade girl who is an orphan in Tupelo Landing, NC. She lives with the 2 people who found her floating up the river as a baby. The first is the Colonel, who named her Moses because of how they found her, and the second is Miss Lana. The book features really colorful and interesting characters, a small town with lots of gossip and relationships, and then a murder mystery! It's great for kids 10 and up. I've recommended it to students in my class. It does have the murder mystery aspect, but very kid-appropriate. It's really adorable and I loved the characters! The second book has come out called The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and I've ordered it on my Scholastic Book Order to have in my classroom! I definitely recommend this one to anyone with kids about that age!
This is also a great book for kids about 9-12 years old. It's about a little girl named Turtle who has to move and live with her aunt in Key West, FL during the Great Depression. It's a historical fiction piece and it definitely captures the feel of the Great Depression at that time. It also features the hurricane in Key West about that time. Turtle is a feisty kind of girl who speaks her mind and I like that a lot. In both Three Times Lucky and Turtle in Paradise, you find strong female characters in the lead who struggle through things and figure things out on their own and they're great little models for other girls reading the books. I enjoyed this one a lot as well!
This is the last book I've had to read for my Young Adult and Children's Literature class, although there are several more I will be reading anyway that I've put on my list for the rest of the year! But this is the last one I'll be writing about in class. This book is about a girl named Anna, whose dad is a sort of Nicholas Sparks type of writer who sends her to an American boarding school in Paris to help her and himself look more "cultured." This book is aimed toward high school students and is more grown up that the other 2 mentioned in this post. I really enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to high school girls because it's very different than the normal young adult books you find that are focused on relationships. For one thing, they stay friends for the majority of the book and their relationship grows and changes as they get to know each other - not that there isn't sexual tension, but it definitely wasn't one of those "we met and immediately we're in love" kind of things. I enjoyed that aspect of it. I also like that both the girl and guy in the story aren't the typical dreamy types. The guy is pretty short and the girl has a gap between her 2 front teeth. It's just an adorable, really real view of a high school relationship. Nothing really unrealistic or silly or far-fetched. I just thought it was a great, sweet story that adults as well as high school students would enjoy! The one thing I didn't like was the name. I hate when great books have silly names that make me feel stupid when I tell people what I'm reading...but oh well.
On a side note, there is one book I started, but wasn't able to finish. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray was one that I got about 14 chapters into, but it took me 2 1/2 weeks and I just wasn't loving it. Maybe I wasn't really in the mood for something magic-related or maybe I just didn't get invested enough in the characters right off the bat, I'm not sure what it was exactly, but I put it down after 2 1/2 weeks and I picked up Anna and the French Kiss at 4:00pm one night....and I finished Anna and the French Kiss at 11:00pm the same night. Couldn't. Put. It. Down. So there ya go.
I can't decide which one of these books to talk about first. The Rosie Project was by far my favorite of anything I've read in 2014, so I think I'll talk about that one first.
The Rosie Project is another book I read with a very different narrator than any other story I've read before! I'm reading a lot of those lately! See my post on The One and Only Ivan, where the narrator is a gorilla, and then I'm currently reading The Book Thief, where the narrator is Death. So this book is narrated by Don Tillman. The way he is described in the book's description is "a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics who has decided it's time he found a wife." It sounds kinda weird, but if you watch Big Bang Theory, you will immediately identify with him as someone similar to Sheldon Cooper, except with a little more flexibility and understanding of appropriate social cues, even if he doesn't always follow them. Maybe I loved this because I love Sheldon on Big Bang so much, I'm not sure, but I just found the whole story so endearing! He decided to take a wife and then created a questionnaire to use to eliminate people who just aren't compatible. The process of finding a wife and in the middle of developing this friendship with Rosie, who doesn't fit anything he's looking for in a wife, is just so fun and adorable. I really enjoyed it. I can't say enough about it. I loved seeing the world through Don's eyes for a while and I found him just really funny! I laughed out loud when Rosie takes him on an impromptu drive to the coast in a convertible and he just starts telling you that he's going to enter that pattern of thinking that he only uses when he's at the dentist. I just found all of his little quirks to be so funny. I really loved this and I think you will, too - whoever you are!!
Paper Towns is my first book I've ever read by John Green. It was on the NPR Best Young Adult Novels list, which is where I have to find several books for my annotated bibliography in my Young Adult and Children's Literature grad school class. So I have a couple more John Green novels on my list to read. I'm not sure what attracted me to this book as far as which one to start with of his, but I think it had something to do with the mystery aspect of it and the search to find someone who has disappeared. I did enjoy following all the clues and figuring out what had happened to Margo Roth Spiegelman, but more than anything, I enjoyed the idea that the book is about discovering who we really are and about discovering the truth about people who have maybe idealized in our minds. We all remember high school and having this perfect picture in our mind of our crush and what they are really like. This book just dove into what it looks like when that picture unravels and not because there is anything specifically wrong with them, but because there's something wrong with everybody. We're all flawed. Nobody is really perfect and learning to love and appreciate people is learning to see them for who they really are and accept them there. I loved that theme in this book. I enjoyed reading about the change in relationships between some of the characters and just about the discovery of who we all really are in general. It makes me excited to pick up another one of his books!
I've been reading quite a bit, but haven't had much time to post! I'm currently taking 2 grad school classes in an 8 week session. I'm about to start a second 8 week session with 2 classes. So to say I've been busy is an understatement. Here are the highlights and I've got 2 special books I'm saving for their own post!
I have some pretty independent, sensitive and strong-willed children. I appreciate all these things about my kids, but I also know that without proper boundaries and discipline, these things can lead to some rather out of control kids. Enter Love and Logic. I had read the general Love and Logic book last year, but then I found out they had this one that is specifically aimed toward birth through age 6. I completely agree with and embrace everything they talk about in this book. I found myself at a difficult point with Isis were I wanted to encourage her independence, but I also wanted to help her make good choices and recognize the consequences of bad choices. I love his this book talks about helping children learn that their decisions have consequences, but doing it naturally and with love. Everything they do is focused around a calm, controlled and very loving parent. It encourages lots of choices for kids so that they feel ownership of their behavior. It increases their confidence because they feel that they are making decisions and learning how to work through bad choices. I have started implementing these things with Isis and I can already tell a huge difference!!! She has started going into our dining room by her own choice to sit down and calm herself down so that she doesn't yell or scream at us. She's learned that otherwise, she will have to go spend some time in her room for yelling at mom or dad. This is tip of the iceberg as far as how this has changed things for us and I just cannot recommend enough that parents look into the Love and Logic series. They have books all the way up through teenagers and they have them for teachers and for couples. We are currently reading their book on entitlement, which is another conversation for another day. I'll probably add that to my 50 in 2014 later.
This is a book I had to read for my grad school class called Writing in the Content Areas. This book is written by several individuals who were close to the writers of the Common Core State Standards. As a teacher, I found the information in the book invaluable. I know that it's probably strange that I'm posting a book like this on my 50 in 2014, but I read the entire thing cover to cover. I loved it. It gave me a lot of insight into the purpose behind CCSS and the change it encourages as far as teaching and understanding for student benefit. I know there are a lot of debates about the implementation of the CCSS in the US and I encourage parents or those who are interested to also read this book. While I understand the argument against big government and standardizing curriculum, I do believe in what the CCSS emphasizes and the standards it holds our children to. After reading this book, I felt like I was more confident going into understanding how best to help my students rise to the levels required by the CCSS.
I am about to start a Young Adult and Children's Literature class for my Masters program and I have given myself a headstart on reading some of the books for this class. I emailed the professor and got a copy of the syllabus for the class and it includes an Annotated Bibliography with several different types of books. The One and Only Ivan was the 2013 Newberry Medal Winner. The Medal is given each year to the American Library Association's choice for the most distinguished American children's book published that year. I loved this book! It's told from the perspective of Ivan, who is a silver-backed gorilla living in a big top mall. I loved that the story was told from his perspective. It was just a really fun take on all of it. At the same time, the book raises some great issues and questions about the treatment of animals in captivity. It would raise some great conversations with students if read in a classroom or with your children at home. I definitely recommend it! According to Amazon, it's recommended for ages 8-12, grades 3-7, but I believe it was enjoyable for anybody older than that as well! I wouldn't read it to younger children just because some of the treatment of the animals could be upsetting. There is an elephant who deals with some pretty sad stuff. I don't want to give anything away, but I loved it!!!
So now I've had a little young adult breather in terms of my reading for the year. I read Avalon High by Meg Cabot and What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen.
Avalon High is sort-of a retelling of the King Arthur, Lancelot & Guinevere story. It centers around this girl named Elaine who starts at a new school only to realize that something seems weird & that there are a lot of similarities to the old King Arthur story. It wasn't my absolute favorite book, but I do like retellings, so it was interesting on that front. It was also a really quick read, which is why I call these breathers. They just don't take me any time really to read & there's not much complicated thoughts going on while I read them.
What Happened to Goodbye is about a girl, McLean, who moves around frequently with her dad. His job basically has him go into restaurants that aren't doing well and he helps them get back on their feet - or sometimes says that can't be done and has to close them down altogether. Her parents got a divorce & there's some complication with her & her mom. But she's shown up in a town in the beginning where she finally finds herself wanting to stick around. Again, it was good, not great. Quick, easy read. I actually realized that the ebook was going to expire from my library in like 3 days, so I read it really quickly before it expired.
So I find myself wanting a little more depth in my next reads. I'm trying to decide on something more like a Beth Moore or Andrew Murray book. When I decide & finish one, I'll let you know!
Finished 2 more books! Nadia Knows Best is the 2nd book I've read by Jill Mansell. The first was Rumour Has It. I talked about that one when I went over my summer reads last year. I actually felt about the same about Nadia Knows Best as I did about Rumour Has It. It was pretty enjoyable. I read it fairly quickly. But again, I wasn't super invested in the characters. I'm not sure what it is, but I just don't get into her characters like I do in some other books. The weird thing for me, though, is that I'm still willing to pick up another one of hers if I'm in a book slump & just need something to read. I have a couple more on my Kindle that I got for like $1.00 one day. So maybe I'll try out another sometime in the future.
Now, the second book I read was The Art Forger. This book was actually really good! I enjoyed the mystery aspect of it. It's about a woman who is a painter and her job is to do reproductions or famous paintings for a website called reproductions.com. She is asked to do a reproduction of a famous painting and when she is investigating the famous painting, she actually starts to believe that it is a forgery itself! So it was really interesting! I don't know much about art or paintings, but I still was able to get into it! I definitely recommend that one. Again, not my absolute favorite, but it's great writing & great characters & definitely one of the better books I've read.
I finished 2 more books! Splendor, the final book in The Luxe series was great! I wasn't sure that I liked the ending, but after giving it some thought, I really did. I think the character of Diana Holland is one of my favorite female characters in a young adult book. She's really strong. I definitely recommend this series! It's not my absolute favorite series ever, but it's up there!
I also finished Hopeless by Colleen Hoover. This one was ok. I mean, on the one hand I must've liked it because I finished it in less than 24 hours. Literally couldn't put it down! But on the other hand, now that I've finished it, I just don't think it was the best. For one thing, it was a little more risque than I usually like to read. Nothing too bad, but just more than I usually go for. I also wasn't crazy about reading what happened to the characters - and by that I mean it's very sad. It's about abuse and stuff and I didn't totally realize that before I started it. I got it for free on Amazon and I figured I'd give it a shot. Again, if you're looking for a quick read, this is great for that, but don't expect to be blown away by great literature or anything.
Just checking in to say I finished book 3 in The Luxe series! I flew right through Envy and enjoyed it as much as I did the first 2! It's been a while since I've gone through a series like this! I'm really enjoying it. Onto book 4!!
Books 1 and 2 on my list of 50 for the year were actually finished in 2013. This was unintentional. I started reading The Luxe on December 29 and thought I'd finish it in 2014 and it would be ok. Well, instead I got totally sucked into it and finished the first 2 books in 3 days. It is currently January 1 and I am on the 3rd book right now, Envy.
The Luxe is basically Gossip Girl, but set in 1899. So if you are at all interested in Gossip Girl, or the lifestyles of the rich & fabulous back when girls wore beautiful dresses like those on the cover, then this book is for you. It has drama, romance, forbidden love, family struggles, money, social climbing, etc. I was really impressed by how quickly I was drawn into it.
The second book, Rumors, just continues the story and I was just as captivated by it as I was by the first one. There are 4 books total in the series and as I said already, I'm currently in the beginning of book 3.
I'd definitely rate both of these at least a 4 out of 5, so check them out!!
I've chosen a word for 2014 that I'm going to focus on. I prayed about it for a while and honestly didn't have to do as much soul searching as I thought I would because it was pretty apparent to me what word I needed to focus on.
I'm going to try to simplify in all areas of my life: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, relational and financial. I'm trying to give myself a goal with each area to help myself simplify. Some may not seem like simplifying to you, but to me they are.
Physical: Work out at least 3 times a week
This strangely adds more to my week, but I want to make sure my time is spent on things I should be prioritizing and not on things I shouldn't.
Mental: Read 50 books this year
Again, this adds more time in this area, but it means I have to take time away from other areas. I'm going to stop watching some TV shows and stop surfing around on my iPad and focus on reading.
Spiritual: Spend time daily reading the Bible
This is something I strive to do anyway, but it just can get pushed aside in the day to day and it should be the first thing I focus on. I'm going to try to wake up earlier and do this really intentionally.
Emotional: Blog more
I know this is a weird place to put blogging - as an emotional goal - but for me, blogging has always made me slow down and stop and think for a little bit. And the reason why I haven't done it much in the last year is because I haven't allowed myself time to slow down and stop long enough to do it. So setting aside time to stop and reflect through blogging is helpful for me emotionally.
Relational: Monthly dates outside the house with Lewis (& friends)
Lewis and I have regular time throughout the week that we hang out and watch a movie or something, but we need to focus on getting out of the house for some dates. It requires us to stop and talk and it's just exciting. I also need to do the same with some of my girlfriends. We will fit time in here and there but it's never really consistent and I want some intentional time with people I love.
Financial: Do not purchase clothing in 2014
This is the hardest one for me. It really is going to be a huge challenge, but I've been thinking a lot about it and I didn't think a month or even 2 months was enough time to set this goal. I want to cut it out for the entire year and see what kind of a difference it makes.
Honorable mention thoughts:
I have signed up for an account with mint.com to try to track our finances. I would love to pay off some student loans this year.
I'm also going to try to not bring school stuff home unless it's absolutely necessary. I've gotten into this habit of working a lot at home and I just won't have time honestly.
I will finish my Masters in June and I want to start my Rank 1 in August. These are huge steps for me and I'm excited about them!
I would also like to save up the majority of our money for Christmas gifts before December. I have a few ways I'm going to try doing that and I'll post later about how that goes.