Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Due out: February 3, 2015

Product Information taken from Goodreads:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an epic novel of love and war, spanning from the 1940s to the present day, and the secret lives of those who live in a small French town.

Viann and Isabelle have always been close despite their differences. Younger, bolder sister Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann lives a quiet and content life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. When World War II strikes and Antoine is sent off to fight, Viann and Isabelle's father sends Isabelle to help her older sister cope. As the war progresses, it's not only the sisters' relationship that is tested, but also their strength and their individual senses of right and wrong. With life as they know it changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions. 

Vivid and exquiste in its illumination of a time and place that was filled with great monstrosities, but also great humanity and strength, Kristin Hannah's novel will provoke thought and discussion that will have readers talking long after they turn the last page

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I'm trying to get through some of the books that I know my students will enjoy.  Dash, Kirby Larson's most recent novel, will appeal to a variety of middle grade readers.

Set during World War II, Mitsi was born in the United States, but is relocated along with the thousands of other Japanese Americans to an internment camp in the desert.  Although she is upset about leaving her home, most upsetting is that she will have to leave Dash, her dog and constant companion, behind.

Mitsi is dealing with the loss of her dog, but also realizing that her Japanese heritage has caused her friends to look at her differently.  With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the life that Mitsi knows changes dramatically.

Once relocated, Mitsi and her family find ways to endure their time in the internment camp.  Mitsi is able to find a friend or two, but it is her brother and his friends that most worry her.  

Larson's Dash is a great animal story, but it is also a good tween historical fiction book that will provide young readers a look at the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blue-Eyed Boy: A Memoir

Robert Timberg was injured in Vietnam just days before he is to be sent home to his wife.  In just the span of time it takes for his vehicle to drive over a landmine, Timberg's life is changed forever.

In Blue-Eyed Boy Timberg takes us on the journey he goes through to reclaim his life after suffering third degree burns on his face and neck.  

His appearance is forever altered, and Timberg endures and endless number of surgeries as skin grafts and reconstruction take place. His wife, Janie, stands firmly by his side, encouraging and loving him.

Although a career as a writer was not on Timberg's radar prior to his accident, he had always enjoyed reading, and with few other prospects, decides he will attend graduate school and become a journalist.  

Blue-Eyed Boy is a well written memoir, clearly Timberg's decision to pursue a writing career was a good one.  Timberg shares the details of his time in Vietnam and his personal life, but what he is most focused on in the last third of his memoir is his research and the process he went through to write The Nightingale's Song.  

Had this memoir been less well written, I may have given up on it at that point.  As it is, although this was not my favorite portion of his memoir, I enjoyed Timberg's writing and felt invested enough in Blue-Eyed Boy that learning more about The Nightingale's Song was still enjoyable enough reading.

Memoir lovers, journalists, and readers with an interest in Vietnam will all enjoy Blue-Eyed Boy.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Salon

This weekend has been a whirlwind of activity. I so appreciated staying home by myself on Friday night while my husband took all three girls to the football game.  That was the one bit of relaxation I managed to get.

Little Sister had her first soccer game yesterday as did Middle Sister.  The weather was cool, definitely fall-like. Unfortunately I missed both games since I worked yesterday morning.  In the afternoon we watched the Iowa/ISU game with friends. By the time we got home it was nearly bedtime.  And today.....well, I have been up cleaning and then we are signed up to play in a 4 person best shot.

What? You've never heard me mention that I golf?  Well, my ten year old asked me if I knew how to golf.  That means I haven't golfed in the past decade. What was I thinking when I agreed to this?  I'm sure it will be memorable.

Big Sister had her second XC meet.  Her time was slightly slower than her first meet. This week I won't be able to get to her meet in time to see her run.  I don't get off work in time to get there, so my husband will be her cheering section.

My mom, who has been on vacation with her brother (visiting another brother) for the past ten days returns today - finally!  She helps out a lot when she is around, so we've really been missing her while she was gone as I tried to juggle where everyone needs to be - which seems to be three different places all at the same time!

What's up for your Sunday? I would love to relax with a book....but maybe after the golf that can happen.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

I always kind of enjoy the little lesson I teach at school on using the thesaurus.  One of my favorite books, Chicken Cheeks, adds a bit of humor to this lesson and the kids (and usually the teachers) enjoy it.

I am so excited to add The Right Word by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet to my tool bag of resources to use when helping students learn how to use a thesaurus.

And, even though I have a perfect time to use this in my teaching, I just plain love this book and think I might just find a time to read it to every class, thesaurus lesson or not.

Usually it is the story that grabs me and reels me in.  In The Right Word, it is the illustrations (although the story is good).  I absolutely love Melissa Sweet's work.  The collage art is always unique and eye catching, and I think this latest work by Sweet may be her best yet.  I couldn't help poring over the many items she included in each and every page.  

Although I have used a Thesaurus, and taught others how to use one, there is little I knew about Peter Mark Roget until I read this biography.  The actual text in The Right Word is succinct enough that even a very young child can enjoy this biography. A timeline is included at book's end highlighting the major points in Roget's life along with important historical events, giving a bit more information about this little known man.

I've added this book to my own library at home and can't wait to add it to my school's library.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Five

I've been at an all day in-service without technology which means that my Friday Five post is just a few hours later than normal.  I thought about skipping it altogether, but there were still a few things that have caught my eye over the week.  Check out what I've been looking at online:

You know all the people who think books are outdated and are really pushing technology? They need to watch this video. A very inventive little blurb from IKEA about their new catalogue, which OK, really isn't about libraries or books, but I can totally find a way to springboard off this video and have a great discussion advocating for good old fashioned books.

Just when I think I am so over my peanut butter obsession, Jif goes and makes another peanut butter product I have to try.  I like this one (of course) and after I get this tub eaten up, I absolutely cannot allow myself to buy it again. 
I don't want to start thinking about Christmas quite yet, but these magnatiles are worth ordering now and saving for the holiday.  My girls have enjoyed playing with them at a friend's house. However, when I found out about them and wanted to purchase them, the factory where they are made had suffered some major natural disaster like a tsunami. The prices skyrocketed.  Usually a set of 100 pieces is $120.  Right now Zulily has them for just $80.  It's still expensive, but a toy that is well worth it.

I love wearing sweaters and with a high temperature in the low 50s today, can't wait to break some of my favorites out.  I did do a bit of a purge this past summer and got rid of some of the sweaters I haven't worn for quite a while, so this would seem to be a great time to add a few new ones to my collection.  
The blue swirly sweater can be found at Boden, while the plum one is at LL Bean. I wish I had an unlimited budget because there are several others out there that I would also love.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Working Stiff: Been There, Done That

For the first ten years my husband and I were married he was a funeral director and we lived in a home attached to a funeral home.  I seem drawn to books about dead bodies and forensic science because of that, and honestly, find it really quite fascinating.  I had started reading Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies and the Making of a Medical Examiner, when my husband, looking for a good book to read, took over my kindle and read Working Stiff himself.

Because of his work background I was interested to hear what he thought of this book. His first words were, "been there, done that."  Which is sort of true.  But, Melinek has had a lot more experience with autopsying bodies.  My husband met with families, made arrangements, and embalmed the bodies that he picked up from hospitals, nursing homes, private residences, and occasionally from a medical examiner's office.  He does have a lot of really great stories to tell, and reading this book has reaffirmed my belief that he should write a memoir about his previous life as a funeral director.

Melinek shares vignettes from various bodies she became acquainted with through her work.  Luckily she is not easily grossed out, because many of the bodies she works with are not in good condition.  Although I was intrigued by her various tidbits, (such as the fact that a dog will stay next to his deceased human companion, but a cat will eat the companion), I was most interested in the time she spent working on identifying bodies after 9/11.  

Melinek shares a unique perspective to death and what she has made her life's work.  This is non-fiction that will appeal to a wide audience, and is easy to read. Melinek is someone I felt I could relate to, and her own experience of losing her father to suicide when she was an early teen gives her an understanding of how death affects those left behind.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday

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

This week's pick:  I Was Here by Gayle Forman
Due out: January 27, 2015

Product Information taken from Goodreads:

Cody and Meg were inseparable.
Two peas in a pod.
Until . . . they weren’t anymore.
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Middle grade realistic fiction is absolutely one of my favorite genres, and I am always so frustrated when all I see lining the shelves of the public library are fantasy novels.  Especially since that would have really frustrated me if that is all that was out there when I was growing up.  

So, I love it when I see a great new realistic fiction novel for middle grade students.

Nest by Esther Ehrlich will be out in just a few days, and I was lucky enough to have an ARC on my kindle.

Chirp (Naomi) and her older sister, Rachel, live on Cape Cod with their parents in 1972, growing up happily.  Their father, a psychiatrist, enjoys having conversations with his children, and his dancer wife has made a happy home for the family.

And then, Chirp's mom is diagnosed with a serious illness.  Not only must everyone adjust to this new normal, but Chirp's mom must also deal with the depression that comes with the diagnosis.

This is kind of a heavy book (I seem to gravitate toward those), as Chirp and her sister try to deal with the many changes happening at home.  Ehrlich's writing is perfect, capturing what Chirp experiences beautifully.

I'll be passing this off to my middle school daughter, knowing she will fall in love with Nest as I did. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Good Girl

Mary Kubica's book, The Good Girl, has the sort of cover that sticks with you, and a story that does the same.

I've seen this one mentioned a few places as a fall title to watch.  I can honestly say that it was absolutely amazing.  In fact, I was nearly late to work on Thursday because I couldn't leave for work until I finished it up. And once I had, I wanted to talk to someone about it.  

Kubica's novel is narrated by three people: Eve, Mia Dennett's mother, Gabe, the private detective looking for Mia, and Colin, Mia's captor.  These voices share bits and pieces of what the search for Mia entailed, while Colin shares what his time with Mia in a remote Minnesota cabin was like.

Mia Dennett, the daughter of a prominent judge and his wife, goes missing.  She is an adult, and although a bit prone to some wild behavior in her teen years, is now holding a steady job as a teacher.  Her disappearance is noted by her friends, and her family soon begins looking desperately for her.  Although she is eventually rescued, Mia is not the same girl she was before her kidnapping.  And to top it off, she can't remember her time in captivity.

It isn't until the last chapter that we get to hear Mia's voice. And when we do, the entire story is turned upside down.

I see the average ratings Amazon reviewers have given this book, and honestly, I'm not sure why.  Maybe I am not reading this book critically enough, but I was so engaged right from the start, I just wanted to sit and read.  I also liked Kubica's way of telling the story, changing narrators, as well as time periods with part of the story being told while Mia was missing, and part being told after she had returned home.

I am looking forward to more work by Kubica.  Definitely recommending this one to friends, and can't wait to discuss it.