Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Two on Tuesday: More Middle Grade Reads

My stack of new middle grade novels never seems to get any smaller.  These two new books have come my way these past few weeks and are too good not to share.

Ava and Taco Cat by Carol Weston - I loved Carol Weston's Melanie Martin series and I loved Ava and Pip, the first book about Ava written by Weston.

Now, Ava is back. This time she's the owner of a cat that she and her family rescued from a shelter.  Just as Ava and Pip are palindromes, the new pet must also have a palindromic name. Taco Cat is the newest member of the household and although Ava loves her new pet, he doesn't want to have anything to do with his new owners.

Adding to Ava's worries are some friendship problems.  Her best friend has been hanging out with a different girl in their class and Ava is feeling a little lonely.  And the story she writes about her new pet end up creating more problems than anyone could imagine.

Weston's book is full of palindromes along with other wordplay, something I thoroughly enjoy.  I'm excited to see where Ava's next adventure takes her.


Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith is a middle grade novel featuring two boys, Zavion and Henry who have both endured tragedy.  Zavion is a black boy from New Orleans who has lost his home to Hurricane Katrina. He and his father are forced to flee when flood waters become too high, and are homeless as the city begins to rebuild after the devastation.

Henry, from Vermont, is ten years old and has recently lost his best friend Wayne in an accident.  

When Henry loses the good luck marble he and Wayne passed back and forth between themselves and fears it may be in a pair of jeans that has been sent to New Orleans to help the homeless, he jumps at the chance to go to help there with Wayne's dad.

Henry and Zavion are brought together due to unfortunate circumstances, but their connection is powerful and shows the way in which life unfolds seemingly randomly, yet with real purpose.

Smith's writing is beautiful, poetic.  And this middle grade novel is a great story to add to the growing collection of books centering around Hurricane Katrina.

If you're looking for something that tween students will enjoy these are both great choices.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Movie Star

Lizzie Pepper went from a middle class existence to stardom when she became the star of the television show American Dream.  

Now, Lizzie chronicles her marriage to Hollywood icon Rob Mars, a celebrity twenty years her senior.

When Lizzie first meets Rob she is immediately charmed. Their relationship appears to read much like a fairy tale.  They wed and have twin boys and despite the fact that Rob is often gone shooting a new movie, to most people Lizzie has an ideal life.  

Except that Rob is involved in a mind-body group that know Lizzie's every move, and that seem to have the ability to control her and who she has contact with. Despite the fact that Lizzie and her boys have everything money can buy, she longs for her freedom.

I have read the other reviews which aren't glowing, but I loved this novel.  I thought often of the possibility of the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes relationship being used as the inspiration for this book, which didn't bother me at all. (I loved American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld which received some press about how closely Sittenfeld's book mirrored George and Laura Bush's story).  

If you are looking for a fun, easy beach read, Movie Star is your novel.  I hope to see plenty of people sitting by the pool with this novel in hand.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Salon: Memorial Day Weekend, the Whole30, and a Finger Update

The Memorial Day holiday is upon us and I am feeling a little bit like it's summer, even though school doesn't end until Friday.  

We've done some relaxing, shopping, cooking and cleaning.  So far there hasn't been much time for reading, but I'm hoping this evening I can get a bit more of that in.

Today is my husband's birthday which we celebrated with grilled salmon, rice, asparagus, watermelon, and a cookies and cream cake.  I was able to eat several of those things which tasted great!

The Whole30 that I am in the middle of is going well.  I eat really good food.  

Almond flour pancakes for breakfast with pure pomegranate juice as the syrup is my breakfast favorite.

Another favorite is sweet potato nachos with ground beef and guacamole

I am being very inventive and creative with what I make and liking a lot of what I am eating. I'm not imposing this diet on my husband and children - who would hate it! - so I'm feeling good that I've made it halfway without cheating despite having temptations all over my house.

Apparently eating like this makes me think about food a lot since I now have three pictures of food in this post!

My finger is healing up.  The picture below is only for those with strong stomachs.

The stitches are now out and I am waiting for the fingernail to fall off.  I still have to keep it covered and need to go see the doctor in two more weeks so he can check to see if I am able to bend it.  I started running on Friday and after a week of doing nothing it felt good (but tiring) to do something that exerted some energy.

The week ahead is full of lots of "lasts" at school as another school year ends.  There is a lot to do and although I'm looking forward to summer, I'm sad to see this year ending already.

Enjoy your Memorial Day, friends!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Picture Book Biographies: Three Athletes Who Pursued Their Passion

This spring I've had so many great picture books come to me that it has been nearly impossible to look at all of them. I'm slowly working my way through them and taking note of how I can use them with my students.  These three picture book biographies are the latest I've had the chance to read.

Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeborah is an intriguing and inspiring story. Emmanuel was born in Ghana, West Africa, a child who was healthy except for a leg that was crippled.

Although his mother was told he would be worthless, she didn't believe it.  She didn't allow any disability to stand in her son's way and instilled in him a belief in himself.

Things were not easy for Emmanuel as he made his way in the world, eventually giving people with disabilities a voice in West Africa as he embarked on a four hundred mile bike ride.

Emmanuel's story kept my students' interest and they marveled at his ability to ride a bike with just one leg.  They also noted how different the United States treats people with disabilities than Yeborah's Ghana.

Queen of the Diamond: The Lizzie Murphy Story by Emily Arnold McCully share the story of a time when baseball was the national pasttime.  Lizzie was an amazing baseball player. She loved the sport.  However, as a girl in the early 1900s, she was discouraged from playing by her mother who didn't see any future in it for her.

Lizzie didn't give up.  She pursued her passion and found a place for herself doing what she loved.  Lizzie Murphy became the first female to play professional ball.  

Despite the fact that baseball doesn't receive as much attention as it once did, this was still a book my students (and my second grade daughter) enjoyed a lot.

Pedro Martinez is a name I have heard for years, yet I knew nothing about him except that he was an amazing baseball player.  Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares tells Pedro's story along with his older brother, Ramon's.  The two boys grew up poor in the Dominican Republic. Ramon's baseball skill eventually landed him in the major leagues in the United States, something Pedro also strove for.  

Despite the fact that he was small for a pitcher the Dodgers decided to give him a chance.  And Pedro never looked back.  His work ethic helped him achieve his dream.  

Pedro's success on the baseball field also allowed him to help his family and community and give back to his people. I loved this look at the Martinez brothers.

All three biographies are recent addition to my school library collection.  My students have been big biography readers this year so I'm happy to add a few more stories to the collection and broadening their knowledge of little known people who made contributions to the world.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Five

It's hard to believe that it's Friday once again....and Memorial Day Weekend!  I can't wait for the extra day off, even though we are down to just 4 days of school until summer vacation.  Amazing.  I've enjoyed looking around online for a few things this week.  Although I've gone to work, I've had to mostly direct other people how to do my job since I'm essentially down to one hand right now.  And that means I'm online a lot, doing a bunch of nothing.  

 I'm still planning on buying  a pair of white shorts for the summer and this shirt would be great with it.

Gap Muscle Tank
I'm not sure I would buy this color of muscle T, but there are a variety of colors in this style.  This would be perfect for summer - with jean shorts, to exercise, whatever.  And they're on sale right now.

Sahalie Dress - I get the Sahalie catalog frequently, but I have never ordered from them.  I might have to change that. I love this dress.  It comes in a beautiful blue as well as a few other colors and is only $39.

My mom and  I have an annoying habit of liking the same clothes- and sometimes buying the same thing without knowing it.  It's always a little bit humorous (and perhaps embarrassing) when we show up somewhere with the same item on.  The other night when I stopped by and was looking at her Pendleton catalog she quickly showed me this anorak.  And since my mom has such good taste (wink, wink), it's making my Friday Five.

Someday I'm going to get myself a nice beach towel.  The ones we bought from Target years ago are fine, but no longer soft.  Vera Bradley has some beautiful beach towels right now.  I'm thinking of getting one for me for the summer since I will need mine to just sit by the side of the pool and read books.  What do you think?

I've heard the Memorial Day sales are fantastic, but I'm trying to keep myself from looking too much since in my case looking leads to buying.

Enjoy the long weekend!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Summer Secrets

Already this week I have reviewed two fantastic beach books for this upcoming summer.  However, Jane Green's novels are also the perfect book to take to the beach with you.  Her latest book, Summer Secrets, will be out just in time for readers to pack it to take along with them to enjoy over the summer months.

Moving between 1998 and 2014, we see Cat, a sometimes recovering alcoholic - and sometimes drinking alcoholic- navigate dating, work, marriage and motherhood, never quite getting her disease under control.

When she finally meets her biological father, her alcoholism becomes a bit easier to explain as he struggles with the same demons.  However, even though the two have that in common, her father isn't able to allow Cat to stay with him after what she does to her half-sister Julia whom she has just met.

Banished from Nantucket where Cat met her father, Julia, and Julia's older sister (another half-sister) Ellie, Cat spirals out of control.  

Green's novel didn't provide any new insight into alcoholism and follows the formula of her other novels, but despite the fact that the story was a bit predictable, I enjoyed Summer Secrets, which should be a big beach read over the summer months.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

This week's pick: Days of Awe by Lauren Fox
Due out: August 4, 2015

The celebrated author of Friends Like Us now gives us a raw, achingly funny novel about a woman who, after the death of her best friend, must face the crisis in her marriage, the fury of her almost-teenage daughter, and the possibility that she might open her cantankerous heart to someone new.

Only a year ago Isabel Moore was married, the object of adoration of her ten-year-old daughter, and thought she knew everything about her wild, extravagant, beloved best friend, Josie. But in that one short year: her husband moved out and rented his own apartment; her daughter grew into a moody insomniac; and Josie--impulsive, funny, secretive Josie--was killed behind the wheel in a single-car accident. As Isabel tries to make sense of this shattering loss and unravel the months leading up to Josie's death, she comes to understand the shifts, large and small, that can upend a friendship and an entire life. Heartbreaking and wryly funny, Days of Awe is a masterly exploration of marriage, motherhood, and the often surprising shape of new love.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Two on Tuesday: Beach Reads for the Summer

It's getting to be the time of year I enjoy most for the reading I can get done.  Many of my summer afternoons are spent at the swimming pool watching as my daughters have fun in the water.  So, I'm always on the lookout for books that would be great to pack along for these afternoons.  Two new books I read this past week are recommendations I'll be passing along to others these next few months.

Karen White's novel The Sound of Glass was sent to me for review and I owe her publisher an extra thanks. This is my first experience with White's writing and I now have White's other titles to enjoy as well.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Sound of Glass. 

 Set in the South, Merritt and Loralee alternate narrating chapters of this novel that brings many secrets to light.

When Merritt's husband dies she finds herself starting over in his grandmother's house that she had inherited.  Joining her are her step-mother, Loralee and half-brother Owen who she has never met.  Although Merritt is surprised by their arrival, and not very happy about it, she allows them to temporarily move in with her.  And as if these unplanned houseguests weren't enough for Merritt to contend with, she is also learning about her dead husband's family and the secrets they kept.

The story is full of secrets and surprises along with friendship and a glimpse of history.  I loved this novel more than I ever thought I would and I have plenty of people I will be recommending this to.


Mary Kay Andrews' latest book Beach Town got me through my day on Thursday as I rested and recovered from my smashed finger.  Andrews doesn't ever disappoint me, and her newest novel is a perfect book to tuck along in your beach bag.

Greer has finally found the perfect location for a movie shoot she is in charge of.  The small Florida town looks like it has seen better days, and is the type of location where the town's mayor also owns nearly all the town's businesses.  And that man, Eb Thibadeaux, seems to be in direct opposition to everything that Greer wants and needs to make her movie a success.

The longer Greer stays in this small town, the more she finds to like about it- and even though she and Eb should be sworn enemies, she is attracted to him.

There is drama with the making of the movie that adds to Greer's stress, and the reappearance of her father who she hasn't seen in a few decades that round out this story.

I always enjoy Andrews' novels, and am thankful she continues to publish at a regular rate, although this story was over far too soon and I am once again left waiting to see what she will next create.

As beach weather approaches and Memorial Day is right around the corner, both these books are ones that should be hits this summer season.

Monday, May 18, 2015

9 1/2 Narrow: My Life in Shoes

Patricia Morrisroe can trace many events in her life back to the shoes she was wearing during that time.    

I, too, love a good pair of shoes.  I can still remember my pair of powder blue terry cloth tennis shoes I had in first grade.  So, it's not surprising that 9 1/2 Narrow: My Life in Shoes would be a memoir I could relate to.

At each rite of passage Morrisroe shares, she shares the type of shoe worn as well.  As a Catholic school girl in brogues and eventually a bride in Manolos, the life event is shared along with interesting information and tidbits about the shoes and their history.

Morrisroe is a little older than me, which left me out of the loop a time or two as the types of shoes she wears aren't necessarily ones I could remember. However, her book is about more than shoes.  Her life experiences are ones that women everywhere can relate to.  Growing up, leaving home, getting married, and assisting aging parents are all life events that Morrisroe covers.

This was a fun memoir and although shoes might be at its center, there's much more to it than the pair of shoes that catches your eye. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Salon

This week has been interesting to say the least.  My finger injury on Thursday morning is the highlight, but I've been having cell phone problems as well.  And early this past week I was notified by my credit card company that my number had been used for a purchase that I didn't make, so I am now without a credit card.  Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but I have had a few things I need to register for online and simply cannot do it right now.  

I missed work on Thursday and Friday because of the pain I was in and the pain meds I was on.  I slept a lot and read a lot.  

However, yesterday was a full day.  Middle Sister had a soccer game in Decorah, a beautiful college town.  My brother-in-law attended Luther College in Decorah, so I have been to the town before and enjoyed some of the things people come there to do.  Yesterday our trip was short but we still made it to the trout hatchery and Mabe's for pizza (which I had none of since I am plugging away on the Whole 30).  

The Eagle's nest.  There is one adult eagle in the nest in this picture.  Our view from the ground wasn't nearly as good as this one, but it was fun to see in person.

We ended our evening with a movie:

I hadn't seen the first Pitch Perfect movie, so I know there were a few things I missed in this one because of that, but I still really liked it.

So now today I have a lot of cleaning to do that is taking a much longer time than I want.  I have school stuff to think about.  I might try and ride the Airdyne bike which seems like it might be the one form of exercise that won't make my finger throb.  

I mentioned The Whole30 before.  It is going fine.  I wish I could drink a water with a flavor, but can't.  I haven't cooked the last part of the week which has really restricted my food choices.  I am hoping I can get a few things whipped up for the week and that will help a lot.  I have eaten a lot of scrambled eggs and ground beef with mashed avocado.  Although fruit is on the list of approved foods it isn't supposed to be eaten all the time. I will admit to eating it on Thursday and Friday when I felt like I needed some sugar in my system.  

Enjoy your Sunday, everyone!