Caraval – Book Review

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you). I only recommend books and products that I genuinely use, read, and love!

Last year there was a lot of buzz about the 2017 release of Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I put it on my list of books to read this year. It took me a while to get to it but I’m so glad I did!

Caraval is an intriguing game in which the audience participates. The game takes place once a year and the events that occur within the game are just as mysterious as Legend, the mastermind behind the Caraval games. Scarlett and her sister Tella long to attend the Caraval games for years but knew that their abusive father would never let them go. Finally, as Scarlett is preparing to marry and give up her dreams of attending Caraval, Legend sends a personal invitation to the sisters.When the girls arrive at Caraval they are told to be careful to avoid getting caught up in the game. The must remember that it is only a game no matter how real it seems. Caraval forces the sisters to question reality as well as their own relationship with each other.

I’m so happy that I finally got around to reading this book. Garber paints such an imaginative picture of the Caraval world. Her descriptive writing kept me engaged through the entire book. It proved to be a quick read for me.  The characters and the imagery were the two things that appealed to me most.  If you are a fan of The Night Circus, I really think you will enjoy Caraval as well.

Caraval is also the first in a series.  I have heard that the second book will be released in 2018 and I honestly can’t wait!  I rated this book a four out of five stars! If you like fantasy, great imagery, and mysterious stories, Caraval is one you should definitely check out!

4 Star Rating

 

 

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner
The Maze Runner

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on December 9, 2014.

James Dashner’s The Maze Runner is the first book in the Maze Runner series.  It is one of those books that has been hanging out on my “to-read” list for a long time.  The movie is currently in theaters and I have heard a lot of good things about it so it prompted me to finally pick this book up and read it.

Thomas doesn’t remember anything prior to waking up in an empty box in the Glade.  He doesn’t remember where he came from or who he is.  The Glade is filled with boys who arrived in the same fashion as Thomas and also do not remember anything.  Thomas must quickly learn to navigate life in the Glade and something about this place seems vaguely familiar to Thomas but he can’t remember why.  And then, everything changes.  The next box to arrive doesn’t contain a boy.  Instead, the Gladers find the first girl to ever be sent to the Glade.  Things quickly change and Thomas soon realizes that he holds the key to the maze and many of the problems at the Glade…if only he could remember his past.

One of my students recently told me that James Dashner was one of his favorite authors.  I have to agree with that student.  Dashner definitely seems to be an author that I am going to enjoy reading more books from.  His writing is smooth and flows well.  He also kept his chapters engaging.  Every chapter ended in a way that made me want to just keep reading,

The Maze Runner is the first book in series and ended accordingly.  Dashner leaves the reader with only partial answers to most of the problems in the book.  I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

This is a book that I think fans of the dystopian genre will really enjoy.  It is also considered a young adult book so it will appeal to younger readers.  Overall, I rated this book four out of five stars.  You can grab a copy here and check it out!

4 Star Rating

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

February Recap

It’s the last weekend in February. I wanted to give a little February Recap and let everyone know what we’ve been up to this month!

Bye, Bye Illness

Our February wasn’t totally illness free but it was so much better than January.  The first two weeks of February saw the babies still recovering with the bout of RSV that they caught at the end of January.  Our oldest daughter, Emily, also tested positive for the flu that week.  Jackson, our oldest son, was diagnosed with the flu four days after Emily so we did have a little bit of a rough start to the month.

We finally all made it back to work and school on the thirteenth, just in times for Valentine’s parties.  It was our first full week of work and school after several weeks of illness.  Everyone seems to be feeling so much better and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.  The babies are still a little stuffy but nothing too terrible.

Growing Up and Growing Teeth

Harrison and Katherine are six months old today! I can’t believe how quickly the past six months have flown by.  It seems like just yesterday we found out that we were expecting our second set of twins.  They are both growing like weeds.  Both can sit up but aren’t very good at it. They’re still pretty wobbly. They aren’t getting nearly enough time practicing independent sitting.  With three older siblings, they are always being held and carried around.

Harrison and Katherine are doing great at rolling over.  Katherine isn’t really interested in rolling over like Harrison is.  We can no longer keep him on his back.  He rolls all over the place.  He scoots around the floor when we put him down for tummy time.  We’re anticipate him figuring out the crawling thing soon.

Harrison and Katherine had their first bite of baby food this past Thursday.  We started with pears.  Katherine loved them! We can’t get baby food into Katherine’s mouth quick enough! Harrison had a little bit of trouble warming up to them.  He does seem to be enjoying them a bit more by today.  Harrison also cut his first tooth this week.  He had been fussing for a while so I knew one was coming.  I’m just happy that it finally broke through.  No teeth for Katherine yet but I’m sure she won’t be far behind him.

School and Activities

We’re all still hanging in there.  I don’t know about the kids but I am so, so ready for summer break.  I’m just not feeling this semester for whatever reason.  I am really looking forward to some down time and summer activities.  Snow cones and swimming, any one? Graduate school is probably part of the problem. It’s my last semester and I have just really lost all motivation.  I’m finding it more and more difficult to get all the things done that I need to do.  76 days until graduation!  I can make it!

The kids are keeping us busy as usual.  Dance practice is still taking up three nights of our week.  Soccer sign ups are next week and I have two kids that are planning to play.  Baseball sign ups start in just a few weeks so we will be adding that to our schedule in late March or early April.

Looking to the Future

We have a lot of things coming up that I am really looking forward to.  I’ll be spending my spring break in Italy and I can’t wait.  I leave in 18 days!  The kids will be staying home with Daniel.  I’m a little nervous about that since we have little ones this year but if anyone can handle it, it is Daniel!  He is so fabulous with the kids.  He always has been!  I am looking forward to the break though…and cheese…and pasta…and gelato.  I honestly plan to eat my weight in gelato.

Like I said earlier, I graduate with my master’s degree in 76 days.  I can’t wait.  Daniel and I have been married eleven and a half years and it seems like at least one of us has been in school the entire time between us both getting bachelor’s and master’s.  I’m not sure we are going to know how to function without one of us being in school but I’m looking forward to this new chapter in our lives.

I’m really looking forward to spring and summer sports and activities.  Soccer, baseball, dance recitals, and swim team are some of my favorite parts of this time of the year!  Bring it on!    What are you looking forward to this spring?

Every Day

Every Day
Every Day

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on September 24, 2014.

Every Day by David Levithan follows A, a being that inhabits bodies. Every day A wakes up in a new body and becomes part of someone else’s life. There is no family, no friends, and no routine for A. And then, A meets Rhiannon and A’s reality becomes something painful. A is in love and desperately wants to stay in the same body to be with Rhiannon. But, how can Rhiannon love A if she never knows who A is going to be each day?

I enjoyed this story for the most part. The concept is interesting and the story moved quickly enough to hold my attention. However, I did often find myself frustrated with the story. A is a wonderful protagonist and I was constantly rooting for A but things just never seemed to go the way that I wanted them to. While that doesn’t make for a bad book, I just had trouble getting really into the book because I was so frustrated at times.

As typical for David Levithan, Every Day is very well-written. Levithan does an excellent job of including necessary details and tying all the ends of the story together. I think he also did an excellent job of creating a wide variety of characters for A to inhabit. Each one was different yet believable. Levithan managed to represent an entire spectrum of teenagers with different background stories that clearly influenced the lives that A experienced.

Overall, I rated this book three stars. It is well-written and has a very interesting plot. The first fifty pages or so were very slow for me but I slowly found myself more involved and interested in the story. Check it out if you are looking for a quick, interesting read.

3 Star Rating

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you).

2017 Reading List

Making Plans and Setting Goals

I am obsessed with setting goals.  Always have been.  So every year I make a New Year’s resolution to read a certain number of books.  I set my yearly reading goal in January and track it throughout the year.  I typically aim to read a book a week so I usually set my goal around fifty books per year.  My reading goal has been much lower the last couple of years thanks to grad school.  My graduate studies require me to read a great deal but I usually don’t count those books towards my yearly reading goal since I almost always don’t finish the required books or I skim a large portion of the book.

I graduate in May and I am so excited to be finished with required reading for college.  I am looking forward to being able to read the books that I want to read instead of what needs to be read for class.  As I do every year, I have set a yearly reading goal.  My goal for 2017 is to read fifty books.  That is roughly a book a week and I am already behind.  I have faith that I will easily catch up once I graduate in May.

I had intended to share this list in January but life got in the way. This list is in no way comprehensive.  I will undoubtedly pick up random books at bookstores and grab new releases throughout the year.  Also, many of the books on my list for this year are not recent releases.  While there are some current and new releases that I am looking forward to, grad school has kept me from reading the past two years so I plan to catch up on some older books this summer.

2017 Reading List

So, without further ado, the beginning of my 2017 reading list:

  1. The first book on my list is Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne.  I bought a hard copy of this book when it came out last summer and then the babies arrived.  It sat on my nightstand patiently waiting for me to pay attention to it.  I included it on this list since this is a list of books that I plan to read in 2017 but I actually ended up reading this book in January. (Review coming soon!!)
  2. I have jumped on The Fixer Upper bandwagon.  Chip and Joanna Gaines seem to be so genuine so their book The Magnolia Story is on my list. My husband bought this book for me for Christmas since he knew it was one that I wanted to read this year.  I started it right before my spring graduate classes started but I haven’t had time to finish it.  I’m hoping I will get to finish before the end of February.
  3. Wonder by R. J. Palacio is about a young boy who was born with a facial deformity and how that deformity affects his experience as the new kid at school.  This book is geared towards young readers.  My nine year old daughter recently read this and has been begging me to read it as well.  My daughter is quite a reader and she enjoys it when I read the same books as her.  I think she is starting to appreciate having someone who can discuss books with her.  I think this book may also work for some of my students who have lower reading levels.  I’m sticking it on my list to read this year so I can discuss it with Emily and make genuine recommendations to students who I think it could work for.
  4. The fourth book on my list is one that I’m not sure how I feel about.  A couple of years ago, the school I work for hosted a program for our students called Rachel’s Challenge based on one of the victims of the Columbine shooting.  The program was geared towards encouraging students to be kind to one another and help end bullying.  As I was sitting in this program, I realized that I really don’t know that much about the events that happened at Columbine.  I was only 12 when the shooting occurred and I’m sure the adults in my life sheltered me from that event.  However, now that I am an educator at a high school, I often feel consumed with the possibility of a school shooting.  On a weekly basis, I find myself running through my own personal plan of action and how I would react to help my students if something were to happen.  As a historian, I believe that some of the best preparation is studying what happened in the past.  I bought Columbine by Dave Cullen after that program was held at our high school and it has sat on my bookshelf for two years.  This year I am finally going to read it.  I’m hoping that, while it may be a difficult read, it may make me more aware of my students and my own kids.
  5. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb is next on my list.  I intend to read this one shortly after I read Columbine.  The subject matters of the two books are related.  While Columbine is nonfiction, The Hour I First Believed is a fictional account of one of the school nurses at Columbine High School that fateful day.  I have heard good things about this book and about Wally Lamb as an author.  I have never read any of Lamb’s work so I am excited to check his writing out.
  6. My mom text me a few days ago and told me that I needed to read The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck.  I had honestly never heard of this book until I received that text but it was published in 2012 and has TONS of positive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads.  The book summary compares this book to To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help, two books that I love so I’m hoping that I will love this one as well.  Sometimes, you just have to trust your momma!
  7. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Yance is a memoir of the author’s experience growing up in a middle-class, white, working family that started out poor.  I have heard many people discussing how this book relates to America’s current political climate and provides insight to how the current president won the election.  I’ve heard and read rave reviews on this book so I’m looking forward to digging into this one.
  8.   Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone is about a junior high school suffering from mental disorders that she hides from those around her.  Samantha’s mental struggles are intensified by the social struggles that many high school girls often face until Caroline befriends her and introduces her to a group of misfits that help Sam to begin to feel more “normal.”  I think mental health is such an important topic in our culture right now.  I’m excited to read this book.  I have several students who have read or are reading this book and I think it resonates with so many of them.  I’m hoping that by reading it myself I will better be able to identify students who might need a book like this in their lives.
  9. The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney was published last year and I’ve heard quite a lot of chatter about this one.  This book is about four adult siblings who share an inheritance.  Even though all four are at different places in their lives and have different goals, they must work together to decide what to do with their shared inheritance.  This seems like an interesting story about a dysfunctional family which has been the premise of some of my favorite books.
  10. Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent trilogy, is at it again.  The first book of her newest series, Carve the Mark, was released in January.  I honestly haven’t heard much about this book but I really liked the Divergent series so I’m excited to see what else Veronica Roth has to offer.

 

What are some of the books that you are hoping to get your hands on this year?  What does your 2017 reading list look like?  Drop me a comment and give me some more ideas and suggestions to fill out the other forty books I need to read in order to reach my goal of 50 books in 2017!

Happy reading!

 

Reconstructing Amelia

Reconstructing Amelia
Reconstructing Amelia

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on September 13, 2014.

When fifteen year old Amelia Baron dies after falling from the roof of her prestigious Brooklyn private school, everyone assumes it is a suicide.  Just a few weeks after her death, her mother, Kate, receives an anonymous text message suggesting that Amelia didn’t jump.  It wasn’t a suicide.  This revelation sends grieving, single-mother Kate on a whirlwind journey to reconstruct the last few weeks of Amelia’s life and find out what really happened to her daughter in Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.

This book had some tough subjects in it, including suicide, bullying, and homosexuality.  However, I really enjoyed this book.  While these are difficult subjects to talk about sometimes, it is reality for many of today’s youth.  As a high school teacher, I see much of this play out in the lives of my students so I think this is a really relate-able book, especially for the young adult age group.  Not only were the characters easy to relate to, the book was also very well written.  The author does a fabulous job of engaging the reader in the story.  It is fast-paced with lots of plot twists throughout the book.  The author also does a great job of tying up all the loose ends in the book as well.  The ending left me feeling satisfied rather than still asking questions.

Overall, I gave this book four stars.  It was a book that kept me interested and gave me a lot to think about.  If you like fast-paced mysteries, check this book out.

4 Star Rating

I Am The Messenger

I Am The Messenger
I Am The Messenger

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on September 5, 2014.

Ed Kennedy is an underage cab driver who doesn’t have a whole lot going for him.  He is in love with his best friend, Audrey, but she doesn’t seem to feel the same way.  His mother can’t stand him and he lives alone with his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman.  Everything changes for him when the bank he just happens to be in becomes the site of a robbery.  Ed acts heroically and foils the robbery.  His name is in every paper and the would-be bank robber is not happy.  At the trial, the robber tells Ed to watch out and vows to seek revenge after he completes his jail sentence.  Ed just wants things to go back to normal.  However, some one else has other plans for him.  Shortly after the trial, Ed receives the first ace in the mail.  A simple playing card with a cryptic message.  Ed has been chosen to figure out the message and carry out his new duty.

This novel follows Ed as he discovers each message that he is supposed to deliver.  This story kept me guessing the whole time.  It is far from predictable and I really enjoyed each of the twists and turns.  I also enjoyed the messages that Ed had to carry out.  Essentially he was challenged to care about those in his community which is something the world, as a whole, could use a little more of.

Markus Zusak is probably most well-known for The Book Thief.  If you have read and enjoyed that, then I would definitely suggest picking up I Am The Messenger.  It felt a bit more fast-paced than The Book Thief but just as well written. One of my eleventh grade students actually recommended this book (and let me borrow it).  I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started reading it.  I hadn’t heard anything about this book but it grabbed my attention quickly and drew me in.  It ended up being one of those books that I couldn’t stop reading and was a little disappointed that it was over when I finished it. Overall, I rated this book with four stars.

4 Star Rating

Where She Went

Where She Went
Where She Went

This book review was originally published on The Wordy Nerd Books on August 22, 2014.

Where She Went is the sequel to Gayle Forman’s If I Stay.  I mentioned in my review of If I Stay, which you can find here, that I felt as though the ending was a bit abrupt and I would like some more information about Mia’s recovery.  I was hoping to get that with this sequel and I did get a little bit of it.  The first book really followed Mia and her plight over whether to stay alive or not.  The sequel is much more focused on her ex-boyfriend, Adam.

Rock star Adam’s band has made it big.  He is touring the country with thousands of girls swooning over him.  He has a famous actress for a girlfriend.  To everyone else, Adam has everything.  He should be happy but instead, he is miserable and heartbroken.  As Mia recovered from the fatal accident that took her entire family, things began to change between Adam and Mia.  Suddenly, Mia stops returning his phone calls and Adam is left without closure.  Where She Went chronicles Adam grieving over the loss of their relationship until one fateful night Mia and Adam run into each other in New York City.

I enjoyed this book almost as much as the first book.  As a narrator, Adam was not quite as likable Mia for me but I still liked the book.  While the story was fast paced and a pretty easy ready, I was blown away by the emotions that Forman is able to capture with her writing.  She did a wonderful job at articulating what it is like to be heartbroken.  The emotions portrayed in this novel are often raw and heartbreaking. I think that portraying emotions and putting them into words is one of Gayle Forman’s biggest writing strengths.

Overall, I liked this book.  It was a quick read and very easy to relate to the characters. I only wish that there had been more.  I always feel like I want to know more about Adam and Mia’s lives when I finished both the first book as well as this one.  I gave this book four stars. Check it out if you’ve read the first one and need a quick read.

4 Star Rating

If I Stay

If I Stay
If I Stay

This book review was originally posted on The Wordy Nerd Books on August 10, 2014.

Mia is a seventeen year old musician with her whole life ahead of her.  She has just auditioned for a place at Juilliard.  Everything seems to be falling into place for Mia until one February morning when her entire family is killed in a tragic car accident.  Mia is the only survivor.  If I Stay by Gayle Forman follows Mia’s conscience as she makes the decision to either stay alive or pass on with the rest of her family.

I’m a bit late to this bandwagon but with the movie version coming out in mid-August I thought I should go ahead and read this one.  The premise of this story is that we have a choice.  Mia could have chosen to either live or die.  This decision is one that really forces the reader to think and to consider that choice.

Overall, the book is well written and the characters are very relate-able.  The ending to this book is a bit abrupt, however.  It leaves the reader wanting to find out more about the ending and what happens next.  Thankfully, Forman did write a sequel called Where She Went which I hope to read soon.

As I mentioned earlier, this book has been made into a movie and will be released on August 22.  You can find out more about the movie and watch the trailer here.

Overall, I liked this book and gave it four stars.  I think that young adult readers will enjoy this book and I plan to recommend it to my high school students this fall.

4 Star Rating