Monday, March 31, 2014


Recently, I got the best surprise ever from my {favorite} daddy.

The new Kindle Paperwhite

Isn't it beautiful? My dad had been researching the new Kindle lately and we had been talking about upgrading mine, but it was a total surprise when it arrived in the mail over Spring Break.

My other Kindle is the 2nd generation one and I've had it since I was a junior in high school. In Kindle years, that makes it about 100 years old. It still works but there are some big differences: mainly that it's the same size as my mini ipad and doesn't connect to wifi. (How weird is it that I can own a piece of technology that doesn't have wifi capability?) It also has a crack in the plastic, which doesn't hinder my ability to read but still made me wary about putting it in my backpack, where it's subject to a lot of rough movement throughout the day.

Here are some things that I LOVE about my new Kindle:

1. It connects to my Goodreads account and automatically updates my currently reading shelf when I start a new book. Genius partnership, if you ask me!

2. It's a touchscreen, so instead of pressing a button to turn the page I just tap the screen.

3. It has a built-in (adjustable) light, which has been such a convenience because my cat loves to position herself on my stomach while I read at night and does not like it when I shift over to turn off my lamp. I actually feel like I can fall asleep faster now reading with just the backlight on, and it certainly makes the creepy story I'm reading right now that much more disturbing. (Good or bad thing? I'll let you know...)

4. I can highlight any word or section and instantly translate it into a foreign language. I'm a language lover- I've studied Latin, French, Spanish, Swahili, Thai and a teensy bit of Arabic at different points in my life- and one of my goals is to make sure that I continue learning French this summer, so this feature will definitely come in handy for that.

5. When you tap a word to look up the definition, it saves it to your personal vocabulary builder. You can then look up alternative uses for those words and practice them with flashcards. I'm much more apt to look up a word when the definition is immediately available (not that it would take so long to google it on my phone) and I love learning new words, and I've already added a few to my vocabulary this week!

Needless to say, I am so in love with it.

Do you use an e-reader? What do you love most about it?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Currently Coveting {March}

It feels like only yesterday that I was curating my list for February's currently coveting, and now here I am with another few books to add to my wishlist. Thank goodness these months are going by quickly, because I am ready for Spring {and Summer too}! One of my favorite things to do is lay out on my deck or in the hammock and read for hours on end. It's relaxing and the perfect way to unplug, and I am so looking forward to doing that once the temperature warms up {and stays warmed up}.

Here are a few picks that I've had my eye on this month...

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman
A memoir of a year in prison, written by a woman who is the opposite of a hardened criminal. Lately, I've been interested in differing perspectives (and trying to get into memoirs) and this offers up a new way to look at the criminal system and the women who are in it. My mom is currently reading it and I'm waiting to hear her feedback before I dive in.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I'm not even sure I can give a description of this book that doesn't sound like complete gibberish. Its description (which you can read on Goodreads by clicking the title link) is so intriguing, and it's a whopping 1,168 pages which means that I'd really have to commit some time to it... meaning it may have to wait until summer break.

A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch

I love a good series, and this one is the first of seven mysteries that have caught my eye recently. Here's the problem about reading a series that has seven books out already: I'll want to read all of them in a row, then I'll be sad when I finish and have to wait for the next one (which is actually supposed to be published this year). Here's what I love about this series already: the covers. They are gorgeous and I'm already excited for how great they'll look on my shelves. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

My Week As a Preschool Teacher

This blog is dedicated to books, but a big part of my future plan involves reading and teaching, and the children in my life are a big influence when it comes to a lot of the literature that I read. I was lucky to have some really great teachers throughout my life, and as I'm preparing to pursue a career as a teacher I've spent more time reflecting on the different lessons that they've taught me about being a great role model in my own classroom. 

While it certainly would have been nice to jet off somewhere warm for my Spring Break (and I wouldn't have refused a trip if one had been offered...) I just finished up a week as a substitute in a preschool classroom and...I'm so sad that I'm not going back on Monday. I already miss them.

I spent the week with twenty 4 and 5 year-olds, and I had a blast. It was exhausting, chaotic, and exactly what I needed to reinforce my dream of being a teacher. 

Here are some thoughts to sum up the week:

  • Preschool children have I am "the young one" when it comes to teachers in that school, and yet I was probably the most tired at the end of the day. Think Starbucks lattes every morning and not moving from the couch as soon as I got home. Holy moly. 

  • Children say the funniest things, and this week I laughed harder than I have in months. I'm not sure I'm allowed to repeat anything that they said (legally) but I had so much fun eavesdropping on their conversations. Oh, and their giggles? So stinkin' cute. Not to mention their little squeaky voices and adorable clothing and complete reverence for their parents. I loved seeing them greet their moms, dads, grandpas, and grandmas at the end of the day. Those squeals of excitement and hugs and kisses were so genuine, it almost gave me baby fever. (Not that I haven't had baby fever since I was four, but still let's return to this subject in at least 7 years.)

  • I definitely need to teach a grade in which children are allowed to go to the bathroom on their own. I took at least 10 bathroom trips a day and I am so tired of being in those bathrooms. Although I am glad I wasn't changing diapers, that's for sure. 

  • It's so important to approach each child as an individual, rather than a stereotype of their age or friend group. Throughout the week I saw each of them shine in their own way, and I wish I was going to be there to witness more of their growth this year. 

  • The more time you spend with children, the easier it is to access your own imagination. I was less engaged in their imaginative play on my first day, but this afternoon I found myself jumping into their games and coming up with the wackiest, most random ideas to keep our play going. I saw a child simply tapping on a wall with a plastic trowel today during recess and exclaimed, "Oh thank goodness you're here fixing that brick wall, it's been falling apart all year and I'm afraid all of the birds will start nesting in the holes soon!"The wall was not in disrepair, but my little friend was totally into it and spent the next ten minutes patching up the wall and shooing away the aforementioned birds, and it was totally entertaining for both of us. 

At the end of the week, I can say that I cleaned up countless globs of glue and scraps of paper, spent more time repeating my own directions than having them followed, made lots of new friends, was turned down by the most gorgeous little boy when I asked him to be my boyfriend (he said maybe when he's a teenager by the way, so it's not a total loss), spent a lot of time strategically choosing my line leader, learned so many new techniques/phrases/skills from the other teachers, fell in love with more than a few children (and thought about trying to take them home with me), and now feel a total sense of despair that I still have a few more years until I can be in my own classroom. 

Overall, I think it was a pretty great week.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Children's Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

{on Goodreads}
This second installment in the series picks up six months after the resolution of the four friends' first assignment as The Mysterious Benedict Society. This time around, the children and their families are reuniting at Mr. Benedict's- and he has a surprise for them. Just as they arrive, eager to enjoy each other's company, it is revealed that Mr. Benedict and Number Two have been taken by none other than Mr. Curtain. In this sequel he returns as the villain, have escaped the clutches of the government's top agents. It seems as though Mr. Benedict's big surprise- a sort of scavenger hunt on an international scale- is cancelled. The children know that it's up to them to disobey orders and save Mr. Benedict and Number Two, as they're the only ones who could solve the clues he's left behind. And so they set off on their second adventure together, during which they find out more about each other and about themselves; though they must learn how to play to each other's strengths in order to survive and rescue their friends.

Although I am a huge fan of this series overall, this sequel was not quite as impressive as the first novel (see my review for it here). It was a little slow to start- I wouldn't say I was completely captured (and by that I mean exclaiming aloud as I read) until about 300 pages in (for reference this book is 440 pages). My impatience for some action/more intellectual stimulation led me to pick up the book less often, resulting in a longer read time and therefore...more impatience. Once the story got going though, I was totally caught up in it. I loved that the four children's characters were developed a bit more in this book. There was conflict within each of them and their actions were reflecting their new depth, resulting in more dynamic relationships. In addition to that, the stakes were completely different (think personal rather than global) and the injuries sustained more serious- a definite draw for young male readers. I'll definitely be picking up the third installment at some point this year.

Recommended for grades 3-7 (ages 8-12).
Bottom Line Rating: 4/5

Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey
Author: Trenton Lee Stewart
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co., 2008
Price: $7.20 (Paperback, on Amazon)
ISBN: 0316057800
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public Library
Book # 6 of 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

5 Biographical Books For Your To-Read List

This list comes to you courtesy of my dad (Kevin) who, unlike me, is a big reader of non-fiction books. When in a bookstore or looking for books online, I tend to gravitate towards the historical fiction and fantasy genres, so when it comes to these kinds of books my list of recommendations is rather short. I asked my dad to put together a list of five books that he'd recommend to other readers, and you'll find his picks below: 

I found it difficult to commit to a handful of books that I would recommend because as I began to develop a list it revealed my tendency to read mostly biographical material.  Ultimately I approached this as my list of autobiographies and biographies that I found relevant and engaging to read.  What seems to resonate throughout many of these books is how notable it is that the complexity of genius is so often shrouded by serious character flaws. 

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer traces the very intriguing journey of Christopher McCandless from college graduate to his ultimate demise on the Stampede Trail in Alaska. The fact is I would highly recommend anything written by Krakauer. 

  Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson qualifies as a must read based simply on the enormous impact that Steve Jobs and his life’s work has on modern day society. Has it been more than 5 minutes since you last touched a piece of technology whose origins can be traced back to Steve Jobs? 

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US History by Chris Kyle is an account of how this Navy Seal sniper came to accumulate more than 150 confirmed kills. The ironic prologue makes this a very compelling story.   

The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods by Hank Haney makes the list because Tiger Woods is, well, Tiger Woods. Around my house that is enough motivation. 

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O’Reilly is a pseudo history lesson that, unlike most in my experience, did not bore me to tears.    

One of the things that I love most about my family is that we are all readers. My brother and dad share most of their books (like father, like son) and my mom and I read some of the same adult literature but really connect when it comes to children's literature. Books are always a topic of conversation in our house, and I'm so glad my dad was willing to curate this list for you all. Thanks daddy!

Do you have a recommendation that you'd like to share? E-mail me at

Monday, March 10, 2014

Children's Review: The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book I)

{on Goodreads}
The first book in this series introduces us to Miss Penelope Lumley, a fifteen-year old recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She has accepted a position as a governess for the children of Ashton Place, but when she arrives at the sprawling estate, she finds not the hopeful, young pupils she's expecting, but rather a trio of wild children whom Master Frederick Ashton had found in the woods while hunting. Penelope is taken aback, but as the wise founder of her alma mater once said, "No hopeless case is without hope." Penelope sets about educating and acclimating her new wards, and soon finds out that Mistress Ashton- who has no interest in playing the role of mother- expects the children to be fully adjusted in time for her first Christmas ball as lady of the house. It seems as though the children have little chance of being ready for the party, but Penelope takes on the task with all of the determination of a true Swanburne girl.

This book was serious and playful in equal measure. I loved the character of Penelope; she is a confident, bright young woman with a true sense of justice and a kind heart. I found myself thinking that perhaps I could try to be a bit more like her. Besides the endearing qualities of Miss Lumley (and the children), Wood has created a quirky and intriguing environment for this series. This first book ends with a subtle foreshadowing and a somewhat eerie cliffhanger. I couldn't wait more than a day before ordering the next two in the series, as I am keen on discovering whether my own predictions are correct.

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5
Recommended for readers age 8-12 (grades 3-7)

Title: The Mysterious Howling
Series: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book I
Author: Maryrose Wood
Publisher: Balzer & Bray, 2010
ISBN: 9780061791109
Price: $6.99
Format: Paperback
Source: Amazon
Book #8 of 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: Bellman & Black

{on Goodreads}
Bellman and Black is a mix between a ghost story and an immensely detailed work of historical fiction. William Bellman is just ten years old when he makes the most incredible and legendary catapult shot, killing a young rook and setting into motion a chain of events that will haunt him for life. As his story unfolds and he becomes a great success in his small community in Victorian England, he suffers many personal tragedies. Always lurking during his times of sorrow is a shadowy figure upon whom Bellman bestows the name Black, a man always in the periphery whom Bellman seeks out but can never seem to find. During a moment of grief and desperation, Bellman and Black finally meet, and out of their meeting comes the idea for a business venture.

I am so glad that I finally got my hands on this book. I was reluctant to buy it when it was first released in October (I am big on bargain hunting when it comes to books), but this January I finally broke down and bought the hardcover off Amazon. I do not regret spending the extra money in the slightest, as this is one of those books that I see myself reading many times over. Diane Setterfield captured my attention with her first novel, The Thirteenth Tale, which I still cannot stop thinking about three years after choosing it randomly off of a library shelf. I'm especially glad that Setterfield did not try to write another novel of the same vein as her first, because it would have been extremely difficult to reach that level of expectation. I'm reluctant to give you many details about Bellman and Black because so much of the story depends on the mystery of it; what I can say is that this is a book that, while not fast-paced or heart-pounding, had me enthralled and intrigued from the start. I'm still not sure that I caught on to all of the many details that give us clues as to who Black really is, but I do still enjoy the lingering feeling of mystery that I feel now more than two weeks after finishing it. Definitely a recommended read for anyone who loves the type of characters that are betwixt and between.

Bottom Line Rating: 4/5

Title: Bellman and Black
Author: Diane Setterfield
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books, 2013
Price: $18.61 (on Amazon)
Format: Hardcover
Source: Amazon
Book #10 of 2014

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why I Love Goodreads

You might be wondering why I do so much linking back to this crazy book site called Goodreads. Why do I use it? What is it for? Is it worth having another online login to remember and keep track of?
I realized that I've mentioned Goodreads quite a few times without actually explaining what it is. Goodreads is an online platform for bookworms, writers, authors, and pretty much anyone who knows how to read. It's a great place to keep track of your books, find recommendations, and see what your friends and family are reading!

When you make a profile on Goodreads, here's what it looks like:
{Click to enlarge}

This is my profile. I include some personal information (like my age) because I like knowing what other people my age are reading. I also include a short description of how much I LOVE to read!

On my page you can view my featured bookshelf and a list of all my shelves, my friends list, what I've recently added, and any authors or quotes that I've recently liked. It's basically the same concept as a Facebook timeline, only it's all about reading (which makes it way better than Facebook, if you ask me).

My Bookshelves:

This is the best aspect of Goodreads, in my opinion. Your profile comes with a few basic bookshelves (read, to-read, and currently-reading), but you can create as many of your own as you want. A few of the ones that I've created and use to organize my reading are: classics, memoir/biography, guilty pleasure, historical fiction, and the lists that I compile for breaks. For example, I went home for a 5 week winter break with 25 books on my list. I read only 3 of those books, but I knew where to look if I needed a new one!

One time, my little brother glanced at my profile and saw that I have 550 books on my to-read list. He laughed and wished me luck. I know I'll probably never get to them all (not since I add new ones every week), but I can sure try!

When you finish reading a book...

Once you've finished reading a book, you mark it as to read and give a rating, out of 5 stars. This is why I do my ratings on the blog out of 5, because it's then easy to sync both of my reviews. When you pull up a book's profile, you can see a whole bunch of information about it. This includes a description, the average rating, the number of ratings and reviews, all of the different editions, publisher information, places to buy/borrow a copy, and on the right hand side, a list of similar books. If you scroll down, you can read community reviews, quotes, and trivia. If you click on the author's name (right below the title), you can read their biography and view their other works. Anything you need/want to know about a book, you can find it here. (Oh, and you can add your own review to the mix too!)

When you're looking for a new read:
When you can't decide what to read next or where to even look for a new book, you can come to your recommendations. Now, to be fair, this isn't the best feature of Goodreads. It really depends on how often you update your reviews and how many books you have on your shelves. The more you read, the more accurate your recommendations will be!

 When I started out on the site in 2011, it kept recommending books written in Arabic. I have no idea why these books kept coming up, because besides a 3-week stint in Morocco (where I only learned how to ask where the outhouse is but still wouldn't have found it without copious hand signaling), I cannot understand Arabic one bit. It gives you recommendations based on your shelves, and if you read a description for a recommended book and you're just not into it, you can click "Not Interested" and it will generate a new book in its place. Easy, simple, and (most of the time) a great option when you're feeling lost!

The Goodreads Challenge:
At the beginning of each year, Goodreads hosts a reading challenge. You get to pick how many books you want to finish, and when you complete a book, you simply set the date you finished it and add it to your "read" shelf. Goodreads tracks all of your books for the challenge and tells you how you're doing. For example, if you look at the above image you'll see that I've completed 14 books for my challenge so far. Goodreads tells me that I'm 5 books ahead of schedule, but I know that will even out to be on track by the end of the semester.

Looking Back:
At the end of the year, you can view the details of your challenge and see how you measured up when compared to previous years. For me, a big part of my personal challenge includes not just reading more each year, but also reading a variety of genres. I love seeing that last year, the majority of my reads warranted four or five stars. That means that I really enjoyed most of the books that I read, which makes me only want to keep reading more! I think it's neat that I can see my longest book read each year (I just now realized how extremely long Don Quixote is, holy moly!) and see the breakdown of shelves/genres that I read.

This, my friends, is the online version of bookworm heaven. I've connected with lots of different readers, and even been contacted by a few authors (thrilling!) when I added their book to my to-read shelf. This is a platform that you can use as much or as little as you want, but in the long run I think it's such a great use of resources, especially when you read as much as I do!

Making a profile is easy (and free!) and the amount of people who have joined Goodreads in the past few years is astounding. They're growing exponentially, and in my experience, it's changed the way that I find new books! If you are on Goodreads or decide to join, make sure to send me a friend request! 

You can view my Goodreads profile here.

*I have not been compensated by Goodreads, nor has anyone representing Goodreads asked me to do this post. I just love this site!*