Hi book friends!
HAPPY 2017! WHAAAAT? (Yes, stereotypical reaction to new year but still WHAT!) We're kicking off the year with a great book for a new year! Big Magic is all about finding your best, creative life.
Like the last time I read / listend to an audiobook, I feel the memoir / self-help genre was a good fit for me in audiobook form because I could basically listen-skim.
Big Magic is about Elizabeth Gilbert's journey to help others find their creativity and embrace their creative lives. One of the things I loved most about this book was listening to Gilbert read it. I am pretty obsessed with her podcast on the same topic (seriously go listen to it right now, I'll wait.)--Big Magic--and really enjoyed listening to her so the audiobook felt like a bit of an extension of that. I also really enjoyed listening to stories from Liz's (she calls herself Liz in her podcast so that's what I call her) professional life. I found it interesting to hear about her choices, struggles, and various moments as an author.
I felt that parts of the book, I think like a lot of memoir and self-help books, were much better than others. At the beginning Liz says that a creative life is just a life in which you do your own thing and you make something for no reason other than that it brings you JOY. So, if you make art or great food or decorations or do interior design or knitting or whatever (not just being an artist or a writer) then you live a creative life. I love this idea but then I found that most of her book was about her own experiences--being an author--so it was hard to generalize that to a creative life beyond a career as an artist.
Also, I adore her podcast; I really can't even recommend it enough. She is witty and insightful and is such a brilliant listener--she will often tell people she's helping how their voice changed or the words they used and use it to help them see the traps they're in and how they can learn to live a more creative, freer life. I find all of her podcasts very inspiring and yet I didn't find a lot of her book as motivating or inspiring, which was disappointing. At the same time, this is a great book if you're trying to find your creative zone.
You would like this book if. . .
*you are or you want to be an author
*you are a creative type (I'm not!)
*you like Gilbert's work
Are you an audiobook fan? Any recommendations for me?
Hi book friends!
I've been on a bit of a change of pace book kick ever since I got a few awesome recommendations from Penny Kittle at a recent conference. When she recommended this book I knew I had to get it. I'm not really a history fan but I find The Holocaust so important and horrifyingly engaging that I knew I would enjoy reading this book.
The Nazi Hunters is about a group of Jewish spies (who are also Holocaust survivors) who are on a quest to hunt down and bring to justice a Nazi war criminal. Throughout the book I was on the edge of my seat -- will they do it? Is it him? Will he slip away again? Will this really work? THE SUSPENSE! I talked about this with The Martian and I dare say I felt even more suspense in this book. I also love spy and action movies so this fit in very well with that love-- even better that it's a true story! I finished this book in about three days and I told every kid who asked me about it that they HAD TO READ IT.
I think this is a wonderfully approachable way for middle schoolers to learn about The Holocaust--it definitely provides some level of detail to give you a sense of the absolute horror of that time BUT, since its main focus is on capturing the Nazi war criminal, it's not overwhelming like in a lot of Holocaust literature.
One of my favorite things from this book is that it includes documents and photos from the time period. The author did excellent research and it really shows here. I just think multi media in a book gives it so much depth and life, which you might remember from my review of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.
You would LOVE The Nazi Hunters like I did if you like. . .
-SUSPENSE! Action! SPY STORIES!
- a great, quick read!
Okay, tell me you'll AT LEAST give this one a shot! I'm trying to convince everyone to read it. Read on friends!
Hi book friends!
Are you ready for a great, different book? I'm always on the lookout for "boy books" and when the great Penny Kittle talked about this book at a recent conference, I pretty much pulled up Amazon and ordered it that minute. This one did not disappoint!
Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly is about a boy named Arlo who recently and tragically just lost his mother. His sister, Siouxsie, has a degenerate disease and really relied on their mother. Their father has lost his way. Arlo turns to tricks and speed on his dirt bike and a drone video game to deal with everything. Arlo gets so good at the drone video game that the U.S. government takes notice and tries to recruit him to fly drones for him ( teen boy fantasy, am I right? ).
In the dirt bike trick, dare devil, drone flying, video game loving, teen boy way, it's for sure a boy book BUT I loved this book. Yes, I read a wider range of books than most teen girls and it's not for everyone, but a major theme in the book is also how Arlo and his family try to cope with the loss of Arlo's mother. This part of the book I found really relatable. This loss, as well as a few other conflicts in the book, force Arlo to figure out who he really is and who wants to be so it's a coming of age novel as much as anything else. Dealing with loss and figuring out who we are -- that's relatable and what I loved about this book, which is partly why it reminds me of The Sky is Everywhere. They're very different books but this, to me, is like boy version of that book.
You would love Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly like I did if you like. . .
coming of age books
dirt bikes or drones, of course
books about grief or moving on
a good read!
I was pleasantly surprised by this one and I think you will be too!
Today's gift guide is probably no surprise if you've been reading the blog for a while--I had to do a book gift guide. My husband and I try to make it a goal to give at least a few people on our list books and I can't imagine a better gift than the gift of reading a great book! Here are some of my favorites:
Before we get into book specifics, Audible is worth mentioning. With Audible, you get one book to listen to a month. As a commuter, I've loved being able to listen to audiobooks on the drive to make that time feel a bit more productive and go by faster. It's also great if you like to workout, especially run; walk; or bike, or just to listen to while you cook or work around the house.
Whenever someone says they're looking for a book I always ask them what type of book because we all have such different reading tastes. So, if your person likes science, space, or more of a realistic fiction read then they'll love The Martian. You can read more about it in my review, too!
If they're more into fantasy and / or horror then they'd probably love Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I don't know why I resisted this one for so long but it was really good and seems to appeal to many types of readers in my classes. Read more about it in my review!
If your reader likes historical fiction, non-fiction, spy, or action books then they'll love The Nazi Hunters. This was one of my favorite reads of 2016 and the review will be up on the blog at the end of December, but needless to say you have to get this one!
If your reader is interested in current events, is in high school, or likes realistic fiction, they will appreciate All American Boys. This was the Global Read Aloud choice for high school this year so I picked it up and really liked how realistic and complex it was. Read more about it in my review!
If your reader likes emotional books or ones that deal with mental illness then they will love All the Bright Places as much as I did. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone below 8th grade as there are some very dark moments (contemplating suicide and such) in the book, but Niven does it in a realistic and honest way that I think will resonate with all readers. This one really touched me and reminded me why I'm a teacher of young people.
If your reader likes science fiction, fantasy, or magic, then they'll love The Young Elites. I'm a big Marie Lu fan from Legend and really enjoyed this one as well. I love that the protagonist in this one isn't a "good guy" and in fact struggles with her "evil side." Your reader will be hooked and the third book came out in October so you could even buy the series!
If your reader likes sports, particularly basketball, then they'll love Boy 21. This is somewhat more of a boy book since it's a male protagonist but it's also part romance, part mystery and suspense, and part drama with a twist ending. This book has something for everyone and was a favorite among some of my reluctant readers last year.
If I had to pick one book for an unknown male teen, I would pick Winger. This book is constantly getting passed around from boy to boy in my class. It's much less of a girl book since the protagonist is definitely a male teen but it is SO funny, like laugh out loud in a quiet room funny. I love the illustrations, the wit, the humor, the surprising seriousness in some parts, the adventure, and more. If you're not sure, as long as your reader is at least 13 and doesn't mind swearing, get. this. one.
My third boy book choice is Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly. It's about a boy who loses his mother and channels his emotion into riding dirt bikes and flying drones until he gets recruited by the U.S. government to fly drones for them. It has some adventure and has a male protagonist so it's more of a boy book BUT it has so many relatable parts that anyone would love it. Again, if your male teen reader is at least 13 then totally get this one.
If your reader loves dystopian novels then I have three choices for them--I couldn't pick! First up was one of my favorite series of 2015. I am obsessed with this series. The main character, Lena, lives in Portland, Maine (!!!) in a society where love is a disease. Big life and existential questions are raised, there's a romance, a crisis, some action, and lots of complications. It's definitely more of a girl book than boy book but if you have a female teen definitely pick this one up!
If your dystopian reader is male then I would definitely recommend The Maze Runner. It has become a cult favorite over the last few years and is even a movie now. I liked the second book even better so consider getting the series!
Okay, my other favorite series of last school year is Red Queen. I ADORE this series. It's SO GOOD. In their society there are red blooded people (who are second class citizens) and silver blooded people (who have magic powers and are the elite) until our main character, Mare, discovers that she is both red blooded and silver powered. There are twists, turns, surprises, action, suspense, and power struggles. The third book comes out in February and I'm dying to pre-order it so I can power read it the day it comes out. I've seen both girls and boys enjoy this one so pick it up for your reader for Christmas!
If your reader enjoys historical fiction or is in high school / an adult then definitely pick up The Nightingale. I grabbed this as a Christmas present for a few people last year and then read it myself and we all loved it. The story follows two sisters and their struggles through World War II and you'll be hooked.
On my list of books to read in 2017? When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir written by a neurosurgeon who was suddenly faced with terminal cancer and decided to delve into questions such as "what makes life worth living?"
If you're looking for a thought provoking, deep read then this one looks good. I've also heard great things about A Man Called Ove which is about a crumugeny old man whose life gets disrupted the way all of ours do -- by happy accidents. This is also making my list!
I'm usually not into non-fiction but Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? sounds fascinating. I'm pretty sure you know what it's about, but the examples in the Amazon description for why animals are probably just as smart as we are sounded really interesting so I'm checking this one out too.
Salt to the Sea is marketed as a young adult novel but it sounds like anyone who likes historical fiction would enjoy it. Set in World War II and inspired by true events, it's about three women who unite to survive. It sounds so good!
Finally, I've been a Liane Moriarty fan since Big Little Lies (then The Husband's Secret and then What Alice Forgot) so her new book, Truly, Madly, Guilty is obviously on my list. Her writing is engaging, descriptive, and just a good, quick read. Her books are like your favorite pajamas and a cozy night in.
What book gifts are you picking up this year? Tell us in the comments!
Hi book friends!
You've probably already seen the movie ( which I haven't! ) BUT this was a great book. I originally bought it for my dad for Christmas last year because so many people had recommended it. I'll start by saying that my dad and I have very different reading tastes so it took me a while to get around to reading this one. It's intensely packed with science and I'm definitely not a science person ( as an aside, when my husband and I were friends he had to help me through Chemistry, which was a science class I actually enjoyed ). So, I was intimidated by this book and almost gave it up at the beginning BUT I'm glad I didn't!
In case you've been living under a rock like I have, The Martian is about one very unlucky guy named Mark Watney, who, in a freak accident, gets left on Mars, alone, and has to attempt to survive until help arrives, if it arrives. There were a lot of things I loved about this book but here are the biggest two: One, Mark is funny. Totally my sense of humor--witty and dry and entertaining and sarcastic. Even during all of the science blah, blah, blah, the author made Mark funny and entertaining so I didn't mind! ( I will be honest and say I skimmed, assumed, and skipped over a lot of the science, though! ) Two, THE SUSPENSE! Will he make it? Won't he make it? Is this the moment that messes everything up and irrevocably decides his fate? Now? Now? NOW?! You'll have to read it to find out and that's certainly one of the things that kept me going ( even though I thought I knew how it ended! ).
You would like The Martian if you like. . .
(mostly) realistic fiction
humor, witt, sarcasm
books that are movies
perhaps a different kind of read for you too!
Books make great Christmas, Hanukkah, and holiday presents!
Hello book people!
You may remember from many of this summer's life lately posts that we moved and so now I have a commute. I've been playing around with what works for me during the commute-- podcasts, music, talk radio, etc. A few weeks ago I decided to try Audible because they are always running free trial through Amazon. Even though this is not at all an ad for them, they give you two free books during your trial (which is worth like $30-$40! ) so I thought I'd give it a try! I'm not usually an audio book fan BUT I've found my commute going faster when I have something else to occupy my brain ( I'm also a safe driver, promise! ). I think this audio book worked for me because I don't have to pay attention to every single detail in a self-help / memoir kind of book like I would with a true story.
Present Over Perfect is pretty much what you'd think it would be about -- the desire to be more present than perfect. The author talks about being BURNT OUT trying to do it ALL, and perfectly at that. She talks about how all of the stuff in her life ( obligations, work, things she thought she had to do, dishes, etc.) took up so much time in her life that it had come to the point where she was missing out on what she wanted in life -- rest, connection, time with family, heck, JOY! If you can't relate to this feeling then this book won't be for you. If you can, pick this one up!
I love that the author said a lot of relatable things and used stories rather than just preaching at you the whole time. There weren't a whole lot of strategies for how to do this but I guess it's more of a memoir than a guided self-help book. Especially at the beginning there were so many times that I nodded and went, "YES, THAT'S ME!" and I know it's a good read when that happens.
She did put a lot of emphasis on God so if you're really not into religion then it also might not be for you. I don't mind a little religion sprinkled in but I think a little goes a long way and I found some parts too much, to be honest, but it was definitely still worth the read. I did like that she talked about how our drive to do so much is really because of two sins--pride in trying to prove ourselves and gluttony for not wanting to miss out on ANYTHING. I had never thought of it this way and appreciated the perspective. It certainly makes me feel better about feeling like I need and want to rest more and just DO LESS.
I really did enjoy that she didn't take a single moment to say that any of us are doing it wrong. She talked about deciding what's wrong for her and how we all need to do that and learn to take better care of ourselves. I never felt like she was shaming me into resting more, which is nice since a lot of us get shamed (often unintentionally) into doing more.
You need this book in your life if you. . .
-are feeling worn out
- feel like you're missing out on important things for unimportant things ( HELLO LIFE! )
- like the self-help / memoir genre
- are a writer or creative person
- are really BUSY ( uh, hi all of America )
Honestly, this year has been SO MUCH and I really needed this book at this time. In part of the book she said that as adults we have to be responsible for ourselves and that means taking care of ourselves. There's no joy in wearing yourself out to prove yourself. It made me think about what I really NEED to do and what I tell myself I need to do ( no, the dishes don't HAVE to get done tonight; no, I don't have to make dinner every night or meal prep every Sunday; no, I don't have to browse the internet! Yes, I do want to do LESS -- and that's a GOOD THING! and so on). If you're feeling tired and wanting to do less, I highly recommend this one!
Hi book friends!
In my classes we've been reading Orbiting Jupiter for the Global Read Aloud, which has been a fantastic experience. When I looked at the book choices for this year, I noticed All American Boys right away. First of all, I love the cover but I also love that the book is very relevant to an important issue in America right now. All American Boys is about two boys, Rashad and Quinn, who become part of a situation that ignites racial as well as police and citizen tensions.
Rashad is a black teenager who plays basketball and is being constantly lectured by his father to do the right things and be a good citizen. So, it's a complete shock to him when, just after changing out of his ROTC uniform and into his baggy pants, he's shopping in a store, a woman trips over him, and a nearby cop assumes he's stealing.
Meanwhile, Quinn happens upon the scene and watches the officer violently arrest Rashad. He later realizes that, even worse, Rashad is a basketball teammate and the officer is none other than Quinn's best friend's older brother who has acted like a father to Quinn after Quinn's father died serving his country. Quinn is left confused and spinning trying to figure out what is right and wrong, what racism really is, and what it means to be loyal.
You might love All American Boys as much as I did if you like. . .
a book that is truly relevant to today's world and current events
stories in dual perspectives
a book that makes you think
or even a change of pace.
I loved that we got both boy's stories, that they intertwined, that the characters were incredibly complex and real, and that even the "victim" and "aggressor" weren't treated as such. The authors ( love that it's two authors! ) took a complex issue and dealt with it honestly -- not over-simplifying or jamming a lesson down your throat. It's a book that makes you think about the world and yourself. I highly recommend it!
All Fall Down is a book that's been in my to-read stack for a while. It's not that I didn't want to read it; in fact, I kept saving it as my reward for when I finished some other reads. It is totally up my alley: mystery, intrigue, action, possible romance, and a strong female lead--YES.
All Fall Down is about a girl named Grace who comes to live at the U.S. embassy in Adria. Grace is still reeling from the loss of her mother three years ago. Everyone in her life keeps insisting that "it was an accident" but Grace isn't buying it. The only problem is that she's been causing problems trying to prove it for three years and has unearthed, well, nothing except a whole lot of issues for her family, including her grandfather who is the U.S. ambassador.
Her predicament changes a bit when she meets a few friends and also catches a glimpse of someone she thinks may have been involved with her mother's death but she and her family have been down this line before and she can't afford to be wrong this time.
You'd like All Fall Down if you like. . .
friendship + / teamwork
I can't wait to read the next book and the third one is coming out soon! What are you reading recently?
Last week we talked about The Heir and how, while I liked it, I was left kind of wanting more and hoping I'd find it in the last book, The Crown. GOOD NEWS: I did!
The Crown is the fifth and (so far) final book in The Selection series. Princess Eadlyn is starting to narrow down and finalize her selection while trying to deal with the crises from the last book and keep the media and people happy. She has quite a lot to deal with!
I don't want to say too much because we all know how I hate spoilers--BUT, I DID have the same experience that I did with the 2nd & 3rd books where in the 2nd I was disappointed but the 3rd made up for it. Eadlyn definitely came around and was a much more enjoyable character to spend time with in this book. I really loved how the author chose to tie everything together at the end and resolve some of the conflicts. I will say she didn't end up with who I was rooting for (which I'll only tell you if you read the book!) but I think it was still a good outcome.
You would like The Crown if you. . .
*read the rest of the series
*liked The Elite
*enjoy "girl books"
*enjoy complications and suspense
*want to see character growth
I definitely liked this book and would recommend it if you liked the rest of the series or other romance centered books.
What are you reading this weekend? I'm thinking about starting either All Fall Down or The Martian but I'm also reading Minds Made For Stories for my non-fiction and teacher read. Have a great weekend everyone!
Hi book fiends!
Today, I'm talking about a book that is part of a series that convinced some of my reluctant girl readers last year. If you've been around the YA romance block, you've probably heard of The Selection series written by Kiera Cass. The Selection series is basically The Bachelor in YA book form with some political intrigue thrown in. The Heir is the fourth book in the series and follows the heir (see what she did there) of the marriage from the selection in the first three books. It is more of a spin off than part of the series, in my opinion.
What I liked about this book was that we still got to be in the same world that Cass started in The Selection and yet meet new characters. I also enjoyed that she kept it interesting with the under current of political unrest, similar to the first three books.
But. . . I felt that the whole book was the prologue to the next book where ( I hope! ) all of the action will happen. Don't get me wrong--I read it; I liked it, but it lacked the, well, action that the first three books had. In all honesty I felt this way about the second book in the series as well (that she was dragging things out) so I have high hopes for book 5. Though, I'm really hoping it's just going to be a book 5 and not to be books 5 and 6.
I liked that The Heir had a female lead but I found her to be self centered and immature, which I think Cass intended. I'm not sure Cass' gamble of making the narrator an irritating character paid off--I spent a lot of the book rolling my eyes at the heir, Eadlyn, but I can see that Cass is going to win us over in the end (if the reader makes it to the next book) because there are times when she's caring and sincere. If you liked The Selection, I would definitely recommend this book. First of all, then I could have someone to talk to about it! Also, I think you would also enjoy seeing the characters of the first three books nineteen years later and I think book 5 will be great so you want to be ready for it.
You would like this book if you like. . .
*The Selection series
*guilty pleasure / beach reads
Have you read The Heir ? What did you think?
"'Have you really read all those books in your room?' Alaska laughing- 'Oh God no. I’ve maybe read a third of ‘em. But I’m going to read them all. I call it my Life’s Library. Every summer since I was little, I’ve gone to garage sales and bought all the books that looked interesting. So I always have something to read.'" -John Green