Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Books on Living Well

If there's one thing I've learned from the combined experience of going through college and earning a degree in psychology, it's that my mental health just as important as my physical health. The combination of graduate school and student teaching can be stressful, but over the course of the last four years I've learned some great strategies for managing my time and for dealing with unsettling situations. The next year holds a lot of big moments for me: I'll be taking over a classroom for a few weeks, earning a second degree, and making some big decisions about where I want to work and how I'm going to transition my life to a new place after graduation.

I've been slowly evaluating my habits and picking up new ones that help me practice self love. This more intentional attitude towards my well being is helping me look to the future with anticipation rather than anxiety. I have a few books that are my go-to when it comes to being conscientious about my mental health, and I've recently picked up a few more to add to that list. These books include meditations on mindset, on materialism, on happiness and on beliefs. They're not spiritual per se, but they give me a boost of energy and a fresh perspective when I need it most.

Do you have any strategies for practicing self love during stressful times? I am always looking for new habits to add to my repertoire!

What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey // I have an addiction to O Magazine; I soak up everything and anything that Oprah has to say. Her column is my favorite part of the magazine but this collection is on my wish list.

The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff // Another (new-to-me) one that I'm looking forward to reading!

The Velveteen Principles: A Guide to Becoming Real by Toni Raizen-D'antonio // This is one of my favorites. It speaks to materialism and really putting your attention towards what matters most.

Spontaneous Happiness by Andrew Weil, MD // This is another recent purchase for me. I'm really interested in positive psychology and looking forward to hearing the perspective of a doctor. Plus, this guy looks pretty cheery so there must be some wisdom in there somewhere, right?

Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord // This is one of my absolute favorites. I first read it a few years ago and still adore it. Definitely recommended if you're not a huge fan of self-help books in their normal form.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. // If you're only going to pick up one book from this list, make it this one. I read this book as a junior in college when I ran into some trouble with physics and felt like a complete failure. It speaks to the nature of failure and what it means to approach things as challenges rather than impossible feats. Since then, I've had it assigned as a textbook and constantly refer to it with my peers in terms of approaching this year (which is full of challenges) with a growth mindset. We've even taught explicitly about Dweck's theories in my classroom. This one is a game changer.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin // This is my latest acquisition and my current read. I'm loving it so far. I really like that Rubin took on this project not when everything was going wrong, but when her life seemed just fine. Her whole purpose was to make a good life even better, and she approaches it humbly. It's nice to know that we're all just human in the end. 

Which books do you turn to when your mind needs a chance to reset?

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Inspired: Katherine Applegate's Newbery Medal Speech

Happy Friday, and Happy Autumn!

With the start of the semester comes the start of new courses, and this fall I'm taking one course in particular that has me giddy. Last week my children's literature course started off with The One and Only Ivan. I wanted to make sure I shared a quote from the author's speech when she won the Newbery Medal for the book in 2013 because it had me smiling ear-to-ear when I came across it.

"...every time you find the right, the necessary, book for a child--a book about sadness overcome, unfairness battled, hearts mended--you perform the best kind of magic. It doesn't matter if it's about a gorilla or a nuclear physicist, a puppeteer, a motherless girl, or a clueless fish. If it's the right book, you've allowed a child to make a leap out of her own life, with all of its limitations and fears--and yes, sometimes sadness--into another, to imagine new possibilities for herself and for her world. Every time you book-talk a new title, every time you wander the stacks trying to find that elusive, well-thumbed series paperback, every time you give just the right book to just the right child, you're saying, 'You, my friend, have potential.' That is a gift. That is a miracle."

This spoke to me as I work to bring the joy of reading to all of the littles (and sometimes, the grown ups) in my life. If this is you, too, then be proud of your magic.   

You can watch the full speech on youtube here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My Kindle Library

You may remember that I have a penchant for collecting more books than I can read, and I'll admit that my kindle collection is no exception. In working with publishers to review books in anticipation of the busy publishing season, I've been reading more on my kindle than ever before. And despite the number of advanced copies that I have on my virtual shelves, I've still been collecting quite a few books via the amazing deals from Bookbub. You can read my rave review of Bookbub's services here. I started using Bookbub early this year and I still get a feeling of excitement when the e-mail pops up each day. I've downloaded a huge amount of books since I signed up for Bookbub, so I thought I'd share a peek at just a few of the books that currently reside on my virtual shelves! I like having books ready on my Kindle shelves in case I'm feeling uninspired by my library picks or my current read. It's always nice to have a back up for moments when I'm dealing with a lot of wait time and can settle into a good story!

Voice of Gods (Blood of Gods & Royals #0.5) by Eleanor Herman
(This book is currently free!)

From Goodreads: 
As the end of an age approaches, gods whisper horrors, families scheme for power, and one woman may hold the secret to a lost legacy.

At 19, Ada of Caria yearns to take the Snake Blood throne from her mad older siblings—and seeks the help of a young orphaned girl named Helen, the first True Oracle to have walked the earth in more than three hundred years. 

Helen may be able to channel the voice of the gods, but she hates her gift, and will do anything to get rid of it—even lie to her best friend, Myrtale, the priestess-princess of Epirus who is destined to marry King Philip II of Macedon even though she loves another. And in the shadows lurks a handsome green-eyed stranger who has more at stake—and more to lose—than anyone could possibly imagine.Amid jealousy and heartbreak, torrid affairs and secret rendezvous, it is spoken by the gods that either Helen or Myrtale —newly named Olympias— will carry the destiny of the known world within her womb.
The prequel to LEGACY OF KINGS, VOICE OF GODS traces the intricate web of love and betrayal that led up to the birth of history’s most powerful leader, Alexander the Great.

Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale by Carolyn Turgeon

From Goodreads: Princess Margrethe has been hidden away while her kingdom is at war. One gloomy, windswept morning, as she stands in a convent garden overlooking the icy sea, she witnesses a miracle: a glittering mermaid emerging from the waves, a nearly drowned man in her arms. By the time Margrethe reaches the shore, the mermaid has disappeared into the sea. As Margrethe nurses the handsome stranger back to health, she learns that not only is he a prince, he is also the son of her father's greatest rival. Sure that the mermaid brought this man to her for a reason, Margrethe devises a plan to bring peace to her kingdom.

Meanwhile, the mermaid Princess Lenia longs to return to the human man she carried to safety. She is willing to trade her home, her voice, and even her health for legs and the chance to win his heart...

A surprising take on the classic tale, Mermaid is the story of two women with everything to lose. It will make you think twice about the fairy tale you heard as a child, keeping you in suspense until the very last page.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer
(I paid $1.99 for this but it's currently only $3.99!)

From Goodreads: 
1985. After the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix, and the break up with her long-time lover, Nathan, Greta Wells embarks on a radical psychiatric treatment to alleviate her suffocating depression. But the treatment has unexpected effects, and Greta finds herself transported to the lives she might have had if she'd been born in a different era.

During the course of her treatment, Greta cycles between her own time and her alternate lives in 1918, as a bohemian adulteress, and 1941, as a devoted mother and wife. Separated by time and social mores, Greta's three lives are achingly similar, fraught with familiar tensions and difficult choices. Each reality has its own losses, its own rewards, and each extracts a different price. And the modern Greta learns that her alternate selves are unpredictable, driven by their own desires and needs.

As her final treatment looms, questions arise. What will happen once each Greta learns how to stay in one of the other worlds? Who will choose to remain in which life?

Magically atmospheric, achingly romantic, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells beautifully imagines "what if" and wondrously wrestles with the impossibility of what could be.


I'll be sharing more of my Kindle Library in future posts! Do you keep a collection of to-read books on your Kindle, or buy as you go?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Children's Review: Max the Brave {with Giveaway!}

{on Goodreads}
You may remember my excitement (way back in July) over a little picture book called Max the Brave. Sometimes the best picture books are the simplest, and I can tell you that this is one book you want on your shelf, whether you're an early childhood teacher, a parent of young children, or just a children's literature lover. In this, we meet Max, a little kitty who's so cute that sometimes people even dress him up in bows. But don't be misled by his sweet appearance, because Max is actually a fearless kitten who chases mice. The only problem is...he's not sure what a mouse looks like. He goes on a quest to find a mouse to chase, and along the way runs into quite the cast of characters. He asks each one, "Are you mouse?" and each time he is told no, until he comes across a very large, green, and hairy creature who he concludes must be mouse. In this case, curiosity gets Max in a spot of trouble.

The text in this story is very simplistic, great for young listeners and even good for emerging readers to practice their skills! There's repetition throughout and a few moments that are sure to make kids laugh as they listen or read along. I also love the colors and the style of art (Ed Vere is both the author and illustrator) and I can certainly see Max becoming a staple character in early childhood classrooms. It's an excellent book for classroom or library displays as well, as the colors are eye-catching and that illustration of brave little Max makes readers want to learn more! This would also make a great gift for new parents and for children, as it's sure to be one of those bedtime stories that gets requested over and over again.

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

This book has a ton of resources to go with it -- I love how the team has worked to make this book a really big experience for young readers!

View the trailer here.
View the Max the Brave website here (where you can find the cutest wallpaper downloads!)
Download an activity kit here.
Download educator resources here. (And yes, they're CCSS aligned!!)
Buy the book on Amazon
Buy the book on Barnes & Noble

Something really exciting? The team behind this book is giving away five copies of Max the Brave, along with Max's red cape for one lucky reader to win! The giveaway runs until October 31st, and you can earn up to five entries!
 Enter the giveaway below, and good luck! 
Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and participation in the Max the Brave blog tour. All opinions are my own!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Favorite Fantasy Series

Now is the time to start stocking your to-read pile with heavy tomes of magic, mystery, and far off places! September, October, and November are by far my favorite months of the year. Fall can feel so fleeting compared to the long winters, so I absolutely relish the chance to match my reading picks to the mood outside. I love reading books with darker settings, gruff and moody protagonists, and bits of magic sprinkled throughout. You'll probably be hearing a lot about my fall picks this year, but I thought I'd get started with a list of my favorite fantasy series.

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling // I mean, I can't start this list without my favorite of favorites. Harry Potter is suitable reading for any time of year, but I especially love snuggling up with any one of the books in this series during our cozier months.

The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness // Fun fact: the author of this series is an alumna of the very place that I am now attending for my Master's program. I raved about this trilogy last year and am hoping to re-read it sometime soon. It has witches, vampires, time travel, romance, suspense -- basically anything you could hope for in an Autumn read.

The Paper Magician Trilogy by Charlie N. Holmberg // This is another one that I'd be happy to re-read. I own the series on my Kindle but the covers are some of my favorites. The premise is super inventive and I find the story to be comforting. Ceony Twill is one of my all-time favorite female characters, too. You can read my review of the first in the series here.

The Mapmakers Trilogy by S.E. Grove // I just finished the second installment in this trilogy over the weekend and absolutely loved it. I sound like a broken record when it comes to this one but I'll say it again: this is some of the best world building I've come across in my many years of reading fantasy. You can read my review of the first one here. This is one of those series that I just happened to stumble upon and then fall totally in love with (don't you love when that happens?) I cannot wait for the final installment!

The City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte // This is another (unfinished) series that I've really enjoyed so far. It's not terribly complicated but the cast of characters is really quirky and I'm looking forward to the next in the series.

A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R. R. Martin // Also a no-brainer for this list. This is an epic series that I watched on TV before I started the books, and although I'm not usually a proponent of TV-before-book, in this case it helped me to visualize the enormous cast of characters that span these books.

Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children Series by Ransom Riggs // I've only read the first in this series (the third just came out recently) but it's one that's stuck with me since. I recently bought the second and have been saving it for those cooler, darker days.


I made this list with older audiences in mind, though I believe a few of these are classified as young adult series. I've stumbled upon a few more series that I want to dive into before the year is over, so keep an eye out for those as my favorite reading season commences!

If you're a lover of children's lit, you might also want to check back here on Thursday for a little surprise!


Happy Reading!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Children's Review: The Fires of Invention

Note: This title will be released from the publisher on September 29, 2015.

Fires of Invention is the first in a new middle grade series that is sure to be a hit with both girl and boy readers. In this first installment, we are introduced to the world of Cove, a sheltered and strict community buried deep in the center of a mountain. Inside the walls of Cove, the community is separated into levels, each one filling a need for the population. Readers see Cove through the eyes of Trenton Coleman, a 13 year-old boy who has a penchant for creativity and a dangerous impulse to improve upon the mechanical objects that surround him. Unfortunately for Trenton, creativity is forbidden in Cove, and inventions are so feared that being an inventor is equivalent to being the worst kind of criminal. I thought that this was the most unique thing about this book -- I talk a lot about world building on here, and this series has a dystopian premise (which has been overplayed in recent years) but also some really interesting touches that makes it stand out from the ever-growing crowd of dystopian novels. The idea that creativity is so forbidden that the mere speaking of the word "invention" could cause shivers is one that I think could prompt some great discussions for young readers about the power of words and why freedom of expression is so important.

Trenton first runs into trouble when he builds a new machine to impress a girl in his class (typical pre-teen antics), only to wind up threatened by the highest authorities in Cove. To make up for his crimes, Trenton offers to perform a dangerous stunt. In trying to recompense, Trenton discovers something unique -- a tool otherwise unknown to the mechanics of Cove. Which means that someone (other than Trenton) has been inventing. Though Trenton tries to resist the pull of new discoveries, he finds himself involved with a girl named Kallista, whose own quest for answers aligns with Trenton's mystery. The two of them band together and soon discover that there are great and dangerous secrets buried inside the walls of Cove, and that without their help, the people that they love will never discover the truth about the world in which they live.

Though I liked Trenton's character and really enjoyed seeing all of these discoveries made from his perspective, which was torn between those he loved (who feared authority) and Kallista (who did not), my favorite character was Kallista and I would love to see the story from her perspective as well. Female readers who find themselves drawn towards more traditionally masculine roles and hobbies (in this book, mechanics) will appreciate how Savage took that gender role and completely obliterated it. I think it's rare to find books that have strong male and female characters that work together so nicely and still have authentic conflicts and I have to applaud Savage for that. The story is engaging the entire way through-- with mysterious clues and lots of secrecy that are mirrored in the mechanics as Trenton and Kallista fit together a mysterious invention left behind by Kallista's father. When the truth was unveiled, I was shocked and wanting to pick up the next book immediately, though no word yet on when it will be out. I will certainly be purchasing this for my classroom library and would recommend it for middle grade readers who enjoy fantasy worlds and dystopian themes.

Bottom Line Rating: 5/5

Title: Fires of Invention (The Mysteries of Cove #1)
Author: J. Scott Savage
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Expected Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Price: $17.99
ISBN: 1629720925
Format: E-book
Source: Advanced Reader Copy provided by Net Galley

Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Currently Coveting {September}

September is a month for really good reading. Though it's a month of transitions (a new school year, a change in wardrobe, the setting of new routines), I always feel like September is the start of a reading season full of potential. I tend to set aside books for September and October because I want the weather outside to fit the mood of the book. And while I can't claim that there's a crisp breeze outside (what with 90+ temperatures this week), I am anxiously awaiting that first hint of fall so that I can dive into darker and spookier reads. I'm also nearing the end of my towering pile of ARCs coming out this season, so I'm back to being able to dictate my own list and read books on a whim rather than have deadlines for publishers -- I love getting sneak peeks at new releases but I'm rather excited for the books I have waiting on my shelves!

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas // This is one that I've seen all over Instagram lately. The latest book in this series just came out (the fourth installment) and there's been an explosion of people talking about it, so I'm finally feeling like maybe I should check out what all the fuss is about. I'll start with Throne of Glass, which is the first in the series. This series is high fantasy, so I'm expecting it to be pretty intense and darker than my typical picks.

The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick // This is one that I just spotted this morning and it's definitely going on my to-read list for this fall. A seaside New England town, a touch of magic, and an old mystery. It just came out on the first of the month so it might be easy to spot in your local bookstore!

Ash & Bramble by Sarah Prunes // This is a new version of Cinderella and it looks really good. I'm a sucker for retellings and I'm completely intrigued by the premise of this one. It's young adult (I'm trying to read more of those) and it's out mid-September, so keep an eye out!

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling // Not exactly a "fall" book, but I loved Mindy's first book of short essays and I'm definitely going to put this on my wish list when it comes out on September 15th. She has such a good sense of humor and while I disliked her character on The Office, The Mindy Project is one of my favorite TV shows. 

What are you looking forward to reading this month?

P.S. Don't forget to check out two more new releases this month: this enthralling first installment of a new historical fiction trilogy, and this first installment in a new historical fiction mystery series.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Looking Forward To: Fall Middle Grade Books

Today is our first day of school and I am all aflutter with nervousness and excitement for the new school year! We've been working away in our classroom to set up and though I've been in the building for several weeks now, today is going to be a whole different story! I'm channeling some of my favorite teachers from childhood (my sixth grade teacher and Ms. Frizzle come to mind) and I already can't stop smiling! Fourth grade, here I come!

Other things I'm looking forward to lately? This list of middle grade books arriving this fall!

I have to say that since I've starting working with publishers, I love that feeling of being able to read a book before the general public, but the best feeling is being able to rave about those reads to all of you. I love helping to launch books and I look forward to each month's new reads with lots of anticipation. That doesn't mean, however, that I'm privy to every new book before it comes out. In fact, I've come across a slew of upcoming books lately that have positively piqued my interest. It's not likely I'll be getting around to them very soon, but I'm still very tempted to pre-order quite a few of them. (Those pre-order prices are hard to beat!)

A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano // Published September 1, 2015
A Sliver of Stardust by Marissa Burt // Expected publication: October 20, 2015
A Pocketful of Murder by R.J. Anderson// Expected publication: September  8, 2015
The Weaver's Riddle: Mist & Whispers by C.M. Lucas // Expected publication: September 21, 2015
The Peddler's Road by Matthew Cody // Expected publication: October 27, 2015
Any of these catch your eye? Have a middle grade book that you're looking forward to reading this fall? Share below!