Thursday, December 19, 2013

YA Superlative Blogfest Class of 2013: Day Four





I am so excited to participate in the YA Superlative Blogfest again this year!  It's hosted by some of my favorite ladies: Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, Alison Miller, and Katy Upperman.   I'm trying to bust my recent reading and blogging slumps, and I have a hunch this just might do it!  Here's the best of the best!

 




Favorite Cover: 

Well, this one is a tie--one of my favorite covers has already been changed to match more closely with the upcoming sequel, and one is for a book that hasn't been released yet but WILL (just barely) be a 2013 book.

Starglass by Phoebe North


Seriously, when we finally get around to painting/decorating our house, I think I may bring this book with me because THE COLORS.  I bought socks because they match this color scheme.  Love. (The new cover is also pretty great, though, and mayyyyybe even matches the story better.)











My other favorite cover of the year?

Control by Lydia Kang
Never mind how excited I am to read this...LOOK how pretty.  I just want to stare at it all the time.


Cutest Couple:



Ellie and Graham from This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith.  



Most Likely to Succeed (Pick a Printz Winner.)
 

Hmm...Code Name Verity didn't win last year, but it was a Printz Honor Book.  I don't know if that affects Rose Under Fire's chances one way or another, but I think that one has to be a contender.  My other favorite that seems Printz-able is The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr.  But then again, Nova Ren Suma's writing is pretty fabulous, so...maybe 17 & Gone?







Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime (Book you couldn’t put down.)

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
The drama!  The suspense!  The violence!  The romance!




Best Repeat Performance (Favorite sequel or follow-up.)

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
A surprise to exactly no one.



Favorite Finale or End of Series Novel


Sever by Lauren DeStefano
I didn't get to a lot of the series-enders I meant to this year (I am really, really hoping to get to Allegient over break!) but the few I did read were excellent.  I heard mixed things about this series so I went in kind of skeptical, but the characters and the world really took hold of me and I really enjoyed this ending.

I mean...but also:

Shades of Earth by Beth Revis



Breakout Novel (Your favorite book by a debut author.)


Sorry to go all broken-record on you, but:

Starglass by Phoebe North






Best Old-Timer (Your favorite read of the year published BEFORE 2013.)


These two are hardly old--in fact, one came out DURING the YA Superlative Blogfest in 2012!

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

I was convinced to read Unspoken by all the love it got during last year's YA Superlatives and I'm so glad I did!

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
And according to Goodreads, The Darkest Minds came out on Dec. 18th, 2012--too late for last year's superlatives and too early for this year's!  But man, was it an awesome read.

Favorite Outlier:


Adult: 

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer




Middle Grade: 

The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
 



My category: 

Book You're Rooting For: What book did you read in 2013 that you just can't stop pushing on your friends, nominating for awards, and sneakily turning cover-side-out on bookstore shelves? (Sorry, bookstore employees.  I promise I don't do this often.)

My answer: Starglass, by Phoebe North.  I loved it so much, and with its sequel coming out in the summer, there's plenty of time for people to get caught up!  This is the rare book for me that I loved for reasons very specific to me but I also think most all of my reader/blogger/writer friends would love it because it's such a good story.  You know?  

What 2013 book are you rooting for?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

YA Superlative Blogfest Class of 2013: Day 3



I am so excited to participate in the YA Superlative Blogfest again this year!  It's hosted by some of my favorite ladies: Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, Alison Miller, and Katy Upperman.   I'm trying to bust my recent reading and blogging slumps, and I have a hunch this just might do it!  Here are some of the best bits of the books I read this year:


Most Formidable World (Setting you definitely would NOT want to visit.)

Space, Starglass and Shades of Earth.  No way.  No how.  These books do not do anything to change my mind (although I loved reading them.)

Wanderlust-Inducing (Setting you’d happily travel to.)


Henley, Maine from This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith.  The perfect summer getaway--Maine totally has the best beaches, and Henley is the ideal beach town.

Loveliest Prose


The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.   I mean, this category was made with her in mind, right?

Best First Line


"Today is the last day I will see my brother." --Taken by Erin Bowman

Most Dynamic Main Character


Sybella, Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers.  She is a force to be reckoned with.


Most Jaw-Dropping Ending


Starglass by Phoebe North.  No spoilers, but...I am DYING for Starbreak to come out.

Best Performance in a Supporting Role


Roza, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein.  Really, all the women Rose meets at Ravensbruck.  But Roza especially.
Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.)
Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you definitely would NOT want to visit.)
Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you’d happily travel to.)
Loveliest Prose
Best First Line
Most Dynamic Main Character
Most Jaw-Dropping Ending
Best Performance in a Supporting Role
Best Use of Theme
- See more at: http://thewordsonpaper.blogspot.com/2013/11/class-of-2013-ya-superlative-blogfest.html#sthash.DuO7luR5.dpuf
Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.)
Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you definitely would NOT want to visit.)
Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you’d happily travel to.)
Loveliest Prose
Best First Line
Most Dynamic Main Character
Most Jaw-Dropping Ending
Best Performance in a Supporting Role
Best Use of Theme
- See more at: http://thewordsonpaper.blogspot.com/2013/11/class-of-2013-ya-superlative-blogfest.html#sthash.DuO7luR5.dpuf
Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.)
Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you definitely would NOT want to visit.)
Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you’d happily travel to.)
Loveliest Prose
Best First Line
Most Dynamic Main Character
Most Jaw-Dropping Ending
Best Performance in a Supporting Role
Best Use of Theme
- See more at: http://thewordsonpaper.blogspot.com/2013/11/class-of-2013-ya-superlative-blogfest.html#sthash.DuO7luR5.dpuf
Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.)
Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you definitely would NOT want to visit.)
Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you’d happily travel to.)
Loveliest Prose
Best First Line
Most Dynamic Main Character
Most Jaw-Dropping Ending
Best Performance in a Supporting Role
Best Use of Theme
- See more at: http://thewordsonpaper.blogspot.com/2013/11/class-of-2013-ya-superlative-blogfest.html#sthash.DuO7luR5.dpuf
Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.)
Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you definitely would NOT want to visit.)
Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you’d happily travel to.)
Loveliest Prose
Best First Line
Most Dynamic Main Character
Most Jaw-Dropping Ending
Best Performance in a Supporting Role
Best Use of Theme
- See more at: http://thewordsonpaper.blogspot.com/2013/11/class-of-2013-ya-superlative-blogfest.html#sthash.DuO7luR5.dpuf

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

YA Superlative Blogfest Class of 2013: Day Two


I am so excited to participate in the YA Superlative Blogfest again this year!  It's hosted by some of my favorite ladies: Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, Alison Miller, and Katy Upperman.   I'm trying to bust my recent reading and blogging slumps, and I have a hunch this just might do it!  Here are some of the characters who stood out to me in 2013:


Mostly Likely to Start a Riot

Ronan, The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.   A riot with explosions.



Biggest Flirt



Orla, The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.  Orange.  Bikini.
 
Fashion King and/or Queen 

Rachel, Starglass by Phoebe North.  She even winds up assigned to work in a clothing shop--sometimes those dystopian job assignment systems work out!

Girl You’d Most Want For Your BFF 

Lucy from My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi.  As a fellow theater nerd, I think we would have a ton of fun belting out showtunes together.  Many of my best relationships have been built on showtune sessions.

Boy You Wish You’d Dated in High School 

Noah, The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.  I mean...kind of.  Probably not the early Noah that's hinted at in The Raven Boys.  And I mean, later Noah is problematic for the obvious reason.  But I do just find him so dear and lovely.

Most Likely to Become President 

Adam, The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.  Gansey seems the obvious choice...but he fights his roots so hard while Adam's ambition is boundless.
 
Quirkiest Character 

Iko, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.  Everyone's favorite vain, snarky, android takes on a new role in this second book!

Monday, December 16, 2013

YA Superlative Blogfest Class of 2013: Day One





I am so excited to participate in the YA Superlative Blogfest again this year!  It's hosted by some of my favorite ladies: Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, Alison Miller, and Katy Upperman.   I'm trying to bust my recent reading and blogging slumps, and I have a hunch this just might do it!  Here are some of my favorites from 2013:



Favorite Dystopian
Sever by Lauren DeStefano



This trilogy stood out in a crowded field; while the premise (all women die at 20 and men at 25, due to a plague) is similar to others I've seen, the execution feels very different and I got sucked into the world.

Favorite Science Fiction
Starglass by Phoebe North



This is one of my very favorites of the whole year.  A generation ship, centuries removed from Earth, guided by principles and traditions that have evolved from contemporary Judaism.  Fiddler on the Roof meets Across the Universe: I'm in love.

Favorite Contemporary
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr



This could also easily have gone under favorite family drama.  Sara Zarr creates amazing, complex families for her characters, and they are as well-drawn and central as ever in this novel.  Lucy struggles to determine what she wants over the deafening roar of what her family wants, and I couldn't put the book down.

Favorite Action/Adventure
False Sight by Dan Krokos



This is not my usual genre, but Krokos does a great job of grabbing the reader's attention and not letting it go.  (Plus, he was really nice to my students when we met him at the Rochester Teen Book Festival last year, so I'll always give his books a try.  I hope they stay this awesome!)

Favorite Historical Fiction
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein



One of my overall favorites of the year.  This was a very different read from Code Name Verity but just as riveting. 

Favorite Mystery
17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma



This is also a genre-bender, but I think it qualifies as a mystery (among other things.)  And I was certainly in suspense and wondering what was actually happening (in a good way!) most of the time I was reading.

Favorite Romance
This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith



Just the most fun.  So much fun.  A fabulous summer read but I'm tempted to revisit it now to bring some sun back into my snowy, snowy life.

Favorite Paranormal
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater



This could go in half-a-dozen different categories, but paranormal certainly fits.  I love Blue, and I remain incapable of picking a favorite Raven Boy. 

Favorite Family Drama
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers




Ok, this genre is a bit of a stretch, but this book turns family drama up to 11.  And by drama, I mean worst possible family amounts of drama.

Favorite Genre Bender
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer



Fairy-tale?  Sci-fi?  Adventure?  Romance?  Comedy?  Yup.  In a year when I was TERRIBLE at reading sequels to things I loved, this was one of the few that I made time for--and I will be making more time when the next installment comes out!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Time, Customer Service, Grandparents, New Things, Laundry Chute, Books, Mr. S, Technology, Remote-Controlled Light

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

I'm such a rotten ingrate!  I went eight days without a gratitude post!  Well, I guess that's sort of fitting as we gear up for a very early Hanukah?  

Time: I'm grateful that I've been able to find time, even amidst all the boxes and end-of-term grading and holiday stuff, to start reading again.  I finished The Raven Boys (love!) and started The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (also loving!)  Little by little, I'm training myself to find the time I already have--time spent reading Buzzfeed lists and poking at mindless iPad games--to read (and soon, SOON--to write.)

Customer Service: I know customer service can be a totally awful and thankless job, especially at this time of year.  But lately I've had small issues with two companies I love (some tea tins missing from an order at David's Tea and my Indiespensable shipment went to my old address because I didn't change it in time.)  Customer service can absolutely make or break my opinion of a company, and the customer service at both David's and Powell's Books (which runs Indiespensable) was stellar.  Prompt, helpful, personable...there's a reason I love them!  

Grandparents: Today was Grandparents' Day at one of my schools.  We had an incredible turnout (and remember, I teach high school!)  I loved seeing our students show their grandparents around, and a ton of girls got up to speak in our packed morning meeting because everyone wanted to show their grandparents their own special part of our school.  It made me think of the grandparents in my life--my own grandmother just moved four hours closer to me than she used to be, to an independent living facility near my mom, and it's so nice that we can see her more often.  My great-grandmother lived to be 106 years old and until about the last six months or so of her life, she lived at home with my grandmother.  So it's only been the last few years that my grandmother is on her own, and it's almost like she's an empty-nester for the first time!  When we visited her, she showed off the pub where she has dinner, the pool where she swims every day, and the room where she competes in a senior Wii bowling league!  I love that she's having such a good time.  And closer to home, Mr. S's grandmother lives in an assisted living facility just a few minutes away from us.  We had dinner with her there this weekend and she's the same as ever--cracking jokes, shaking her cane at us, and insisting that we take home leftovers!  I'm grateful to have both grandmothers in my life!

New Things: This weekend, I helped the residential students (mostly from China or other Asian countries, with a handful of German girls who are here for a semester) make pumpkin and apple pies to bring to the families who will host them over Thanksgiving.  For many of the girls, it was their first time baking, or at least baking these desserts!  (The German girls informed me that pumpkin pie was "weird" and they would need to take apple pies where they were going.)  Seeing the girls try something new and have so much fun with it was really a great experience.

Laundry Chute: We have one.  In our bedroom.  It is glorious.  (I am not, by nature, a tidy person.  Neither is Mr. S.  This is going to make our lives so much better.)

Books: Ok, so we're getting to the end of the month, and it's time to start busting out the obvious ones.  Like I mentioned before, I'm finally reading again and I'm SO happy about it.  

Mr. S: Another obvious.  But just as an example: I had grades due at the end of this weekend, plus the aforementioned pie-baking.  So Mr. S quietly did all the laundry AND started unpacking the rest of the clothes.  Because that's just how he rolls.  (Also: I forget if I've mentioned this or not, but this blog can now be reached at ReadingOnTheFTrain.com!  The domain name was a birthday present, way back in September.  Because he's awesome.)

Technology: Well, yeah, duh.  But I've really been up to my ears in tech this year, as one of my schools is a one-to-one tablet computer school, which means that every student gets a laptop that they bring back and forth to school and to all their classes.  We also have a great learning management system that lets me put up calendar assignments, documents, links, etc. very easily.  Printer's broken?  Ok, I'll just upload the handout for today and they can fill it out using their styluses and email it to me!  I'm not totally paperless yet, but it feels plausible here.

Remote-Controlled Light: This combines technology and books and time and our new house: the light in our bedroom has a remote!  That means I can get in bed and read until I can't keep my eyes open...and just click the light off without getting up!  It is genius.  GENIUS.

Monday, November 18, 2013

30 Days of Gratitide: School Theatre, Neighborhood, Triple A, Optimism

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

Ok, so I guess it was unrealistic to expect that I would go from no posts in two months to posting every day.  That said, I have a lot to be thankful for, so here goes: 

School Theatre: On Thursday night, Mr. S and I went to see my students in the fall theatre production at one of my schools.  The whole show was gorgeous--dance, music, storytelling, and the most fabulous costumes that were made by the students in the production class.  It was a great evening and I was proud to know the girls involved.  

Neighborhood: As much as we miss our old neighborhood--an eclectic and diverse residential area just off a dining and shopping area widely regarded as the best in town--I'm really starting to love our new neighborhood.  It's quieter over here, and people really care about knowing their neighbors (we've already met our two nearest, because they made a point of stopping by.)  The houses are beautiful, and they're from a variety of different eras and styles.  We have a good neighborhood market a few blocks away, and some great Italian restaurants nearby.  We enjoyed a great meal at one of those restaurants with my mom and stepdad this weekend, and I have a hunch it may become our go-to place when they visit in the future.  And Mr. S grew up just a few blocks away, where his parents still live, so there are many family friends in the neighborhood as well.

Triple A: Today when I came out of School #1 on my way to School #2, I got in my car and drove about fifty feet before realizing something was really off.  I pulled over and hopped out to find that my two front tires were beyond flat.  Like, demolished.  So after a moment of panic, I remembered that my mother-in-law (for whom, you'll recall, I have already been grateful on this blog!) signed me up for Triple A.  I gave them a call and then all that was left for me to do was a bunch of waiting around (well, and buying two new tires.  But what can you do?)

Optimism: I think I am pretty good at finding the good in a situation, or at least the "it could have been worse."  This month's blog theme helps with that as well, since I'm in the mindset of looking for things to be grateful for.  It definitely helps when things go wrong--in the space of an hour or two today, I was thankful for: 
  • the fact that I pulled over when I first felt my car driving weirdly, instead of trying to drive to my next job on two flat tires
  • the fact that my second job is not the kind where I will get fired for missing a day and IS the kind where people are kind and understanding
  • the fact that missing a day of work and/or having to buy new tires will not be a financial derailment
  • the fact that it wasn't as cold today as it had been, so I could sit in my car and wait for the tow to make sure I didn't get ticketed for being on the wrong side
  • the fact that the tire place was near the subway so I could have gotten home if the car needed to stay overnight
  • the fact that the car didn't have to stay overnight
  • the fact that the tow truck driver and tire shop manager were both nice guys
  • the clean, pleasant waiting area with HGTV on in the background at the tire place.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Oven Window

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

This one is so simple but SO exciting.  In our last two apartments--so, for my entire adult life--our oven doors have not had windows.  I never considered that an oven might not have a window, or what effect that would have on my baking, but holy GEEZ was it frustrating to have to open the oven door--which wreaks havoc with oven temps--to check on baked goods.  Now, I just switch on the oven light and peer right in.  

Since I tend to binge bake--like the seven dozen cookies I baked last night (five dozen for the school play concession stand; two dozen that kind of melted into flat, weird-looking sheets that my husband and I have been nibbling on but aren't fit for public consumption)--the oven window brings me a huge amount of joy and gratitude.  I'm almost grateful that I didn't have one for so long, because I love this one so much as a result.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Tea, Sweaters

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

Today's edition is brought to you by the cold snap that has settled on Buffalo lately!  In our move, I was excited to discover a stash of cozy sweaters that I can finally wear to work (my school in New York was heated to about 90 degrees at all times.)  I love sweater weather and after a few chilly weeks at school I'm especially grateful to have re-discovered my pile of sweaters. 



I've also been drinking a ton of tea from my collection.  As I may have mentioned before, tea is kind of my weakness (although just recently I've been able to start drinking coffee again without ill effect!  Hooray!)  I'm a big fan of David's Tea (a Canadian chain that has expanded into the states but, sadly, not to Buffalo yet) and my collection is...a little bonkers. 


This picture is from the apartment we just moved out of; I have to find it a spot in our new house.  In the meantime, I've got canisters and cups scattered around everywhere so I can still unwind in the evenings.

Monday, November 11, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Veterans

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

Since today is Veteran's Day, it only seems right that I should stop and give thanks for the men and women who have served (and are currently serving) our country.   I am particularly grateful that my friends and family who have served have, so far, remained safe.  I am also grateful to the military families whose lives are subject to far more change and stress than I can imagine taking on, but who bravely support the servicemen and women in their lives.  (Katy, I'm looking at you!) 

(I am, of course, also thankful for the day off.  But I am thinking about the men and women we honor today as I go about my business.)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Sleep, Family, New Home, Colleagues, Cat

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

Yikes--I'm several days out of date on my gratitude posts!  But I'm really excited about today's, because I can FINALLY explain the BIGGEST reason I've been so bad about blogging this fall.  In mid-August, we somewhat abruptly learned that we'd have to move out of our apartment.  We looked at other rentals but also decided to look at some houses, since our plan had always been to rent for a few years and then buy a home.  And before we knew it, we'd fallen in love and signed a contract on a house!  That was early September...and since then we've been packing and making arrangements and waiting and waiting and waiting to move!  I was too nervous to say anything online until everything was really, truly official, but we closed on Friday and moved in yesterday, so I guess it's really ours now.

So, working backward through the week, here is what I've been grateful for each day since I last posted:

Sleep: Mr. S and I stayed up until 4am Friday night/Saturday morning getting the apartment all the way packed up, then woke up at 6 to finish stuff up before the movers came.  My in-laws recently got a new bed, so they gave us the one that had been in their guestroom, and between the new bed and the exhaustion, I don't think I've ever had a better night's sleep than I did last night.

Family: My in-laws were with us all day yesterday, helping clean and move and organize, and supplying us and the movers with food.  My mom and step-dad are coming to visit next weekend, and my mom is planning on bringing me her snowblower.  Our families are looking out for us big-time and I'm so glad we have them.

New House: I just love it so much, and I keep finding little things that make me love it more.  The kitchen is pretty much perfect, one of the bedrooms has built-in bookshelves, and in our bedroom, the overhead light has a remote control--genius for reading in bed!

Colleagues: The people I work with, at both schools, are such interesting, dedicated educators that I would love working with them even if they weren't also just all-around awesome human beings.  They've patiently talked house stuff with me for the last two months and one of them even brought me a container of homemade tomato soup on Friday!

Our kitty: Willow (who has been a champ about this whole move, by the way) is such a sweet girl and really helps both me and Mr. S manage our stress--important during this crazy moving period!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Students

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

Today I'm grateful for my students.  At both of my schools, I teach some really delightful, funny, thoughtful kids.  While my two schools are demographically very different, students in both places consistently make me smile more than they provoke any other response in me (although probably second place goes to an eyebrow-cocked, "Really?" because goodness knows teenagers are pretty goofy sometimes.)  And I have to mention the students I taught in New York--the ones who taught me how to be a teacher.  I will always and forever be grateful for them.

Monday, November 4, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Veronica Mars and Welcome to Nightvale

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

Oops--four days in and I've already missed a day!  Well, I have an excuse: we're getting ready to move (more on that in a future post!) and we spent the weekend packing.  So today's post is a double, to make up for yesterday's goof-up.


Today I'm grateful for the TV show Veronica Mars and the podcast Welcome to Nightvale.  Both of them made a long weekend a lot more fun.

Source


Like the rest of the internet, we contributed to the Kickstarter to fund the Veronica Mars movie, and some of the backer updates made me impatient to re-watch the series.  It's great storytelling and makes hours of packing fly by.  (In a nutshell, if you're not already a fan: Veronica is a teenage private eye with a razor wit and unstoppable skills.  Watch if you like humor, great family relationships, messed-up family relationships, scheming, class tensions, high school stories, smart procedurals, witty repartee, bad boys, or good television.)

Source


Also like the rest of the internet, Mr. S and I have been listening to and loving the creepy-goofy-strange-delightful podcast Welcome to Nightvale.  We started over the summer so we're still getting caught up but we just listened to their one-year anniversary show and all I can say is: EEEEEEEEE!  (Listen if you like Edward Gorey, public radio, adorable crushes, glow clouds that rain animals and emit feelings of crushing despair, floating cats, two-headed quarterbacks, hating the next town over, or stellar continuity.  Also, DO NOT GO NEAR THE DOG PARK.  DO NOT LOOK AT THE DOG PARK.)

I am grateful for both Veronica Mars and Welcome to Nightvale--grateful that they exist, that I have access to them, and that someone convinced me to try them out.



Saturday, November 2, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Farmers' Markets

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

Today I am grateful for the wonderful farmers' markets that exist in my community.  While the time for most fresh produce is past, this morning's trip yielded a loaf of the best whole wheat bread--the people who bake it grind their own wheat flour, so it has a ton of flavor and a great texture--as well as a ton of other real, delicious food made without chemicals or preservatives.  We also had breakfast there: sausage-egg-cheese-potato wraps (from the same family that makes our bread), apple cider that was pressed yesterday on a local farm, and doughnuts fresh out of the fryer.  Everything was delicious. I'm thankful for the farmers and local food producers who come out in the cold and rain to keep the markets going well into the holiday season, and I'm thankful that I live in a community that supports them.  I'm also thankful that I have the resources to shop there: while there are great markets very close to where I live, the bread people and the doughnut people are only at the market that's about a 20-minute drive, and I am thankful that I can get out there when I feel like it. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: GSAs

Because I want to get back into the habit of blogging, and because I've been meaning to do this for a few years now, I will be doing 30 consecutive days of blog posts focusing on 30 different things I am grateful for.  Who says Thanksgiving is only one day a year?

Source


Today I am thankful for the GSAs (gay-straight alliances) at both of my schools.  I've been sitting in on meetings at one school, and last week I participated in the Ally Week rainbow dress days (wear red/orange on Monday, yellow on Tuesday, and so on) at the other school.  I am thankful that so many students at both schools either participate in the clubs directly, or at least support their activities.  I am thankful that I work in two schools that work hard to support their students and encourage open-minded acceptance of others.  

Join in: what are you thankful for?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where Have My Words Gone?

In addition to neglecting my blog lately, I've also been getting really bad at returning emails--especially fun emails, from friends and former students with whom I'm typically pretty chatty.  What gives?

  • I'm back in the swing of school, and with two schools and two sets of students and colleagues, I'm using a lot more of my words during the day!  
  • I'm reading a ton--I'm in two professional development book clubs, running three different student book clubs, and teaching two different novels and a history text book at any given time.  At the moment, the novels are Speak and wrapping up Emma, about to transition into Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, plus Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Salinger's Nine Stories for book clubs.  All books I love but MAN, the pace is intense.  And I got halfway through The Dream Thieves before I had to tear myself away and focus on school reading, so that's calling my name as well!  So maybe I'm taking in so many of other people's words that I need some silence in my brain when I'm done.
  • I'm simply out of the habit of writing!
So, although I'm not going to have time to say much, I'm going to try to get back into the rhythm of posting and ESPECIALLY of reading and commenting.  I've really missed you all!  And I've missed writing, even if that muscle feels a little rusty. 

So, help me dive back in: tell me the best thing that's happened to you in the last two months!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Love: One Book At A Time Edition

I'm easing back into this whole reading thing and I have to say, I LOVE IT.  Snuck in another book this week.

I also wanted to post today to say congratulations to the newly chosen Cybils panelists and judges for 2013!  I applied again but then went on extended blog hiatus so I wasn't surprised to find that I wasn't chosen this time around--and I also wasn't at all surprised to find that many of the awesome people I worked with last year on the YA Fiction Round 2 panel are back in action!  Congrats to everyone who was chosen--I can't wait to nominate some books and see what makes the cut this year!

What I Read This Week:


The Lucy VariationsThe Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sara Zarr's writing makes me feel like there is an inflating balloon inside my chest. Like when you make a pinata? Except I feel like it is going to keep inflating and crack open my ribcage from the inside.

The Lucy Variations, more than even any of Zarr's other books, made me feel--actually physically experience--the anxiety and excitement of being a teenager. I read chunks of this book with my teeth gritted against how awful so much of it felt, the way I have always ridden roller coasters. My limbs were tense, my stomach ached--not because Lucy was any more cringe-inducing than any other teenage protagonist, but because Zarr gets her so achingly, awfully right that it zaps me back into feeling all of those feelings (oh god all those FEELINGS--we don't give teenagers enough credit for being able to walk and talk, never mind go to school or have careers as concert pianists.)


I don't normally write in my books but I kind of want to read this again with a pen and a highlighter, because I stopped so frequently to celebrate a line or an idea. While my own experience is a long way off from Lucy's, her general story of pursuing a career in the arts, walking away from the arts, and finding a way back on her own terms has some things in common with my life. This is one of those books that feels like it belongs to me in a way most books don't.

That said, this is not a book to be reserved for the artsy set. As always, Sara Zarr creates a whole world here, with other people who have reasons for doing what they do, and who matter in the story and to the protagonist (yes, even her parents! And the rest of her family: her brother and grandfather and housekeeper. Zarr is a master of giving other people something real to do in the story, even the adults. In so many YA stories--including my own WiP, at the moment--adults mostly exist to give advice or create story obstacles; here, they are irreplaceable real people, part of the story because how could they not be.) If you've read Zarr before then you get it; if you haven't--please, please do.



View all my reviews

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I'm Alive!

Oh. Emm. Gee.  I don't even know where to start.  The last month or so is an absolute blur--a lot of hard work, a couple of unexpected bumps in the road, a lot of excitement.  Mostly just life stuff but all at once, you know?

Anyway, this is probably not a return to regular posts just yet.  Both of my schools had their first day last week, and this week marks the first week of my regular routine--one school in the morning, the other in the afternoon--teaching my regular classes.

I got to meet most of my students last week, and I asked the rest of them to email me a little bit about themselves this weekend, and I am so stoked for this school year.  I am teaching such awesome kids.  I'm still pinching myself that I get to teach at both of these schools.

I've been driving myself back and forth this week--got my license in mid-August!  As nervous as I was preparing for the driving test (and actually taking it) I find that I am not nervous at all driving on my own!  I'm sure I will be the first few times when I go out on the expressway around town, or on the highway, but I've got the home-work route down pretty well.  However, my new school owns two small buses (like, seriously, not large vans, but true buses) that we are supposed to learn to drive in order to take students places.  I am not keen to do that anytime soon!

But the real reason I am blogging right now is because I picked up Eleanor & Park off my shelf around 11:30 pm last night, and finished it around 11:30 am today, with sleeping in between.  And it. was. glorious.  Reading, how I've missed you!  (Although I did get to read Ready Player One, since it was my new school's summer reading!  I highly recommend it--it's totally a YA book in a lot of ways, although the MC transitions from HS to adulthood partway through.)

Anyway, here are some barely-coherent thoughts on E&P!


Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the perfect book to sneak into the busiest and craziest month of my life. I've been missing reading and I don't know when I'll find time to read another book for fun; it's been at least a month since I read a book off my shelf just because I wanted to and I was hurting for a good story. I got a great one.

Eleanor & Park is a love story that reminded me of how things actually felt when I was a teenager. There was a delicate balance at school, in the lunchroom, on the bus. Your life in school is different from your life outside school; one can change while the other stays (outwardly, at least) the same. Holding hands can be life-changing enough to make anything else seem unnecessary, for days or weeks or months.

The thing I loved the most about this book was how well it captured the awe on both sides of the relationship. The how could this amazing person possibly be interested in me? that can be so toxic when it's one-sided but so lovely when it's mutual. The complete fascination with another person's ears, or hands, or laugh.

I also love that both characters had lives outside of their blooming relationship, and their lives affected the course of their relationship in large and small ways. Park kept eating lunch with his same friends; Eleanor made friends of her own to eat with; both of them navigated the waters of their families' reactions to the relationship as well as they knew how. Eleanor and Park love music and comics, sometimes the same ones, but not always. I love that they disagreed sometimes--that this wasn't a relationship based on the kismet of complete similarity of opinion (which is probably feigned by at least one party in 100% of situations that ostensibly fit that description.)

Mostly I loved how perfectly this story was told, and how much it swept me away with it.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Back to Work Edition!


What's Up Wednesday is a meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to bring reading and writing bloggers together once a week. Go to Jaime's blog to add your link and check out posts from other writers!


What I'm Reading

I'm still beta-ing, but mostly right now I'm reading the textbook I'll be using this year in my American History class!  It's consuming pretty much all of my time but I'm also getting really into it. 


 

What I'm Writing

Little did I know how much time this textbook project would take up...so my goal for this week is to write every day, even if it's just a hundred words or so.  As school approaches, I have to give priority to my teaching jobs, so just keeping the writing habit alive is challenge enough.  


What Else I've Been Up To

This weekend was the first one in a long time that Mr. S and I were just at home, with no travel plans and no big family plans.  As fun as travel and family are, it was nice to just have two days to ourselves.  We drove around listening to podcasts for part of it: our long-time favorite Pop Culture Happy Hour, and the recently-popular-on-Tumblr Welcome to Nightvale
What Inspires Me Right Now  
Taking a day off!  Yesterday, I woke up a giant ball of stress.  Work stuff is already piling up, and my road test is a week from Friday.  I had a driving lesson around noon, so I spent the whole morning messing around online and worrying.  The lesson went ok-not-great (it had been a while, so I had gotten used to our car, not the car I do lessons in--which will also be the car I take my road test in--and it took some time to get it back) and when I came home, I decided: I was calling a "sick day."  I made myself some soup and tea, and curled up on the couch to watch Little Women.  Mission: Chill Out went nicely, and I'm feeling energized and excited about working again.
 
I apologize in advance as well as retroactive to last week for not posting, commenting, or responding to comments as much as I normally do--I may try to keep up with WuW check-ins, but until school is clicking along, I'm going to be online a lot less than usual.  I'm hoping things get back to normal by the end of September!

What's up with you?

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Love: Taking a Break Edition

One book this week!  Oh my goodness--school is coming up SO FAST!  There are not enough hours in the day.  I'm gonna call a hiatus on reading and reviewing for a little while, but here's a great one I read this week!


 PinnedPinned by Sharon G. Flake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this one up after reading a review and praise for the cover at Bookshelves of Doom. For serious, though, the cover: not one but TWO characters depicted with FACES and everything, both African-American teenagers, one a girl, one in a wheelchair. For that reason alone, I plunked down the ol' Visa. (It's called voting with your dollars, folks: if you have the money to buy books, you gotta buy the books you ask for when the publishers put them out. A non-white-washed, non-hidden-disability, non-chopped-off-head-girl cover? Yes. More please!)

But when Pinned finally made its way to the top of my TBR, I was happy to see that the story inside was just as great. Autumn and Adonis are not characters I've really seen before--in books. I've seen Autumn in my classroom, FOR SURE--I thought of two of my former students in particular reading this, and it really made me miss them and hope they're doing ok. Autumn is a stellar baker, a hard-working and gifted wrestler, a student who really struggles with reading and math (but has a ton of integrity in the classroom), and a gregarious, chatty girl. Her best friend Peaches--whose high grades are a reflection of her mother's pressure, who finds a way to shine at any price, who just wants to live in Paris and have a glamorous life, who knows how to put her best foot forward and rock a speech or presentation to state officials--is another character who felt more like a person than a story. Even Jaxxon, a relatively minor character who is in some classes with Autumn, clearly had his own thing going on, and his brief confrontation with a teacher put me right back in the moments when my students shouted at me: they always had a reason, and it's clear he does too. I adored these kids. In fact, all the supporting characters in the book clearly had other things happening in their lives that the POV characters--and therefore, readers--aren't privy to. The one character I had trouble connecting with was Adonis--and I think that was intentional. Adonis isn't interested in connecting; he is so disciplined that other people's failures confuse him, and he is still making sense of a traumatic incident that rattled his ironclad self-image. So while I didn't connect to him, I was fascinated by him, and by this story about a pair of students who seemed unlikely to ever find themselves on the same page. I can't wait to share this with students when the school year starts.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Getting Serious Edition


What's Up Wednesday is a meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to bring reading and writing bloggers together once a week. Go to Jaime's blog to add your link and check out posts from other writers!


What I'm Reading


I am in the weirdest of all states: between books!  I finished off my Little Women project yesterday, and haven't picked up a new book yet.  I did just start beta-ing a really exciting MS, though.

 

What I'm Writing

I did pretty well last week, meeting goals and even hitting my challenge goal once or twice.  Monday I spent doing some necessary legal research that helped me pin down the details of how my story will end.  And yesterday...well, I wrote MAYBE 100 words...and then started a new project entirely.  Sigh.  (But I wrote almost 1K on that project without batting an eye!)  Turns out I hate writing endings.  But it's gotta happen...so that's my goal for this week.  Finish this MS!!!  


What Else I've Been Up To
This weekend we had the first of a couple celebrations of my father-in-law's 60th birthday.  Most of the family went kayaking while  I sat in a lovely park and read/babysat the picnic stuff, and then we had a great homemade lunch by the water (fun fact: Buffalo is a waterfront city!) and later went out to dinner. 




Now that August is TOMORROW, I'm also starting to kick into high gear with school stuff.  I think I may be slowing down my creative projects soon in favor of some heavy-duty planning.


What Inspires Me Right Now  
The new project I started yesterday!  It's the treat I get to work on if I get a decent amount done on my real WiP.

What's up with you?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Love: Wonder-ful edition

This week, I finished the fantastic At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson, which took me quite a while to read.  So I wanted to switch up to something I knew I'd read quickly and something I was confident I'd enjoy: Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  I'd heard so much great stuff about that book that it was a natural choice; I didn't know how much it would crawl inside of me and make me spend the rest of the day looking at things that make me happy-cry.

What I Read This Week: 

  At Home: A Short History of Private LifeAt Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this ramble through the history of modern civilization, organized by the rooms in Bryson's old English parsonage. Bryson is the king of anecdotes that make you turn to whoever is sitting next to you and go, "Whoah, did you know..." I highly recommend this for anyone who's curious about the details of history: why does "toilet water" mean two very different things, why forks have four tines, and why jackets have those useless sleeve buttons, to name just a few.

View all my reviews

  WonderWonder by R.J. Palacio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is going to be a terribly incoherent review because I've just finished reading this book and I'm still in pieces. Ok. Let me see. You know how, when you have a massage, you feel tired afterward, because your muscles have been mushed around for an hour? So even though you did something relaxing and enjoyable, now you feel like you just need to sit and sip water and recuperate? That's how I feel about this book. Like I need to spend the rest of the afternoon meditating or something, even though the actual experience of reading it was mostly a lot of fun.

The thing about this book is that even though it's a serious book, it's a fun-serious book, because Auggie and the people around him are people, and like most people they enjoy fun things and have senses of humor and don't go through life never cracking a smile because a person in their lives has medical issues. Wonder does an especially great job of capturing the moods of the gala days of growing up: science fairs and school plays and graduations. It's also got things in it that are sad and things in it that are frustrating. It's got song lyrics and quotations from books and plays that I love. It's the kind of book that makes me want to teach fifth grade (and it also reminds me of the hard parts of teaching kids that age.)

I know I'm a little late to the party on this one, but if you haven't read this yet, do yourself a favor and set aside some time (preferably by yourself, in your home, as the likelihood of tears in the second half is strong) and read it.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Short and Sweet Edition


What's Up Wednesday is a meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to bring reading and writing bloggers together once a week. Go to Jaime's blog to add your link and check out posts from other writers!


What I'm Reading
Still loving A Short History of Private Life!


 

What I'm Writing


I've gotten back on the horse, now that my brain has re-formed in our air-conditioning.  I've been meeting my goals, so I think I'm ready to try for a few days of 1K words this week.  


What Else I've Been Up To
Had a nice visit with my mom and step-dad this weekend, including a lovely brunch with them, my in-laws, and my husband's grandmother.  And driving: I had a double lesson Tuesday, and I have another one today.  Getting my license by the end of the summer is starting to feel like a very real possibility!

Also, congrats to Jaime, who was the winner of my giveaway!  She'll be getting a copy of My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi, as well as a giftcard for DonorsChoose.  Thanks to everyone who entered!

What Inspires Me Right Now
 
The calendar!  I've got four more full weeks before we really start up again with meetings and professional development, but for part of one week we're going away to celebrate my father-in-law's birthday, and I have to plan my classes, finish learning to drive, finish up my Little Women project, etc.  So making time to write is feeling pretty urgent.
What's up with you?