Friday, December 28, 2012

2012~blogging fail

So I know everyone is sick of hearing me say that I'm going to do a better job of blogging. I'm sick of hearing it. Everyone who has probably heard, or read, me saying this has probably already given up on actually following this blog. Well, I'm sorry. It has been a crazy year. I graduated (finally) with my BA in English and just finished student teaching, so life has been a little crazy. I haven't read nearly as much as I had hoped and when it came to writing in general, I just got lazy.
Well, a new year is upon us (thank goodness, with all that has been going on in the world, I was beginning to get a little worried about the Mayan prophecy), and here I am again vowing to blog about my journey through everything literature. I'm not going to make any promises, I obviously am no good at those, but I would really like to try and do better in 2013. So many great things happened this year and I really wish I would have documented them.
I started this blog to keep track of my reading, to have a place where I, and others, could go to discover great and not so great books. I also wanted this to be a place where my students could go to find a book that they may want to read. Since I actually have my teacher licensure now, perhaps I should actually create that space. I want to not only develop into a better reader, but a better writer as well, and I truly believe that in order to this, I must write more. I love that blogging allows writers to just write. If this blog does only one of these things it will be successful. To me it is not about how many followers I have, or who comments on what I write, it is about sharing my love of literature with the world, even if it is the world wide web ;).
In the year and a half that I have had this blog my love for literature and reading has not diminished, if anything it has grown and evolved. So here is to 2013, a year of reading and new discoveries. I hope whoever still follows this blog will continue to be patient with me, I know I need to make this a routine, something that is very difficult for me :)  If you are lucky, one more post might happen before the end of the year, but if not, I hope everyone has a safe and happy NEW YEAR!! Happy reading (and writing)!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Before I begin about this book, I just want to say this book is not to be confused with the very popular erotica series Fifty Shades of Grey. These two books are very different and if you are looking for a review of "Fifty," you are in the wrong place.

This book opened my eyes to a whole "new" part of WWII that I had really had no idea about. Yes, I have heard of Stalin, but I had no idea of his evil to the Lithuanian people. While many Secondary students in today's schools have learned about Hitler's evil, it was interesting to hear a story about what was happening in other parts of Europe at the time.

Between Shades of Gray follows fifteen-year-old Lina as she is about to embark on art school. She has a loving family and all seems to be going well. One night, as she was preparing to write her best friend and cousin, she hears a loud knock on the door. What unfolds will change her, and her family's life forever. Much like holocaust stories, Lina and her family are rounded up, along with other "criminals" in her town, and loaded on to cattle cars. This story follows their stories through Nina's writing and drawing as they are taken far away from their home in Lithuania with no explanations.

As with many YA stories there is a love story that also develops within the pages of Between Shades of Gray. I continued to ask myself if this was possible, but as I continued to reflect, I believe it showed how strong Nina's character was in such a horrific experience. This love story is based on surviving and allowing someone into the deepest and scariest part of your soul.

As Nina and her family are uprooted, they are separated from their father and husband. The entire preface of this book was to show how Nina was trying to reach her father. Nina used her art work to send messages to other prisoners to let them (and her father) know that they were okay.

I felt this book was so beautifully written and it drew my attention to a piece of history that has been forgotten my many. Nina's story opened a new world of research for me to remind myself that there are so many lost voices out there that parished during this trying time in history. Even as a adult, I find that I love books that teach me new things that I had no idea happened, I had this same experience when I read Persepolis. 

While I loved this book, there was one thing that really disappointed me. While the book was about so much more, the preface of this book was for Nina and her family to reconnect with the man in their life.  I felt, at some points in the novel, that this was lost and we never get closure on the reaction of others when they received Nina's art. I would have loved that perspective. Overall, however, this book was a gem and look forward to recommending it to the history buffs in my future classroom. I think they will surprised as well.

Between Shades of Gray:

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler Art by Maira Kalman

Yay! I'm blogging about actual books again, so very exciting.

When I first saw this book at the book store I was automatically intrigued. I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of books with pictures in them, however, I could not walk away from this book. While this book was a little pricy, I had to buy it.

Why We Broke Up is an epistolary/ stream of consciousness novel that follows the cliche teenage relationship of Min and Ben. The entire book is made up of artifacts of their relationship with the text explaining the significance behind them. I don't want to give too much away, but although the title of this book is Why We Broke Up, I kept reading and hoping that everything would work out for these two in the end.

I know, I know, the track record for teenage relationships is not great, myself included, however, the deepness of Min and Ed's relationship brought me back to how important these things were when I was at the ripe age of 16. What I loved most about this book was the intertwining of pictures and text. We all know we had that box of treasures from the days of our relationships that we all wanted to think of as love. Each artifact had me thinking about how everything meant something when I was young and "in love."

I also love books that keep me wondering after the last page has been read. I fell asleep last night still thinking about Ed and Min's relationship and wondering what Ed would do after he received Min's box of artifacts that she is spitefully returning to him. Most importantly this book reminded me that teenagers, since this fall I will be working with hundreds of them, are most of the time not focused on what we teach them in our classrooms, but are focused on the relationships that are building and crumbling around them. I was reminded how sensitive we can all be when faced with what we think may be the love of our lives.

As I mentioned earlier, I really was rooting for Ed and Min's relationship to pan out and was hoping Handler was just tricking me with the title of his book. However, this is not the case and if you are someone who is disappointed when books don't end with a happily ever after, you probably shouldn't read this book. However, if you are someone who likes to reflect on the years of your own adolescents, this book holds many treasures. If Ed and Min were real, I know Min is living happily with a man who was right for her, not some trivial high school relationship. I am so glad I picked up this book and devoured it in one sitting. I will be thinking about this one for awhile and look forward to the time when I can re read it again.

This book also was a Printz honor award for 2011

Why We Broke Up:

Monday, May 28, 2012

New Ideas

I know, I know. It's a little ridiculous how excited I was about a year ago to start this blog. I spent a lot of time planning it and had big aspirations to blog frequently. Well, here I am a year later with only a couple of posts on this blog. I really have no excuses of why I couldn't keep up with my blog except for pure lack of motivation to do so.

In the past year I have accomplished so much. Last year at this time I was still three semesters away from graduating. I can happily announce that three weeks ago I walked across the stage at Metropolitan State College of Denver and finally received my diploma (actually the diploma cover, the diploma will come in the mail soon, I hope). It was an amazing feeling at throughout this twelve year journey, I often wondered if this day would actually come. It feels amazing to finish something I set out to do so many years ago.

So, what's next? This fall everything I have been working towards will be tested. I will walk into the lives of hundreds of high school students as I begin my student teaching. I have to be honest, I am so very frightened, but not in a bad way. I can't stop thinking about it. It's usually the thing I fall asleep thinking about. I want to teach so bad and I'm looking forward to this amazing opportunity at an amazing school. I feel ready, however, know I still have so much work to do. I know I will learn a lot about myself through this journey and I look forward to the ride.

Since graduating three weeks ago, many people have asked me why I have chosen teaching as a profession. It seems so cliche, but I truly feel that teaching is a way that I can contribute to this country's future. I observe what's going on around the world in many different ways. People in general are fascinating to me. It is so interesting to think about the everyday choices we as individuals make. As a teacher, I not only want to instill a passion for reading and learning in my students, but I also want them to begin to discover how important it is to reflect on the choices we make often. I hope that I am a good model to my students and my children on what insights reflection can bring us.

I am sure any one who is reading this is wondering what this has to do with this particular blog. Let me explain...

As my teaching journey begins, I know there is still so much for me to learn and practice. One thing that I know needs work is my writing. I have always wanted to be a good writer and I have been so effected by good writers. For this reason I have decided that it was important for me as an educator of writing to start this blog up again. When this blog began it was intended to be a place where I can share my love for books and everything reading. While this will still be its main focus, I also want this blog to be a place where I can share my reflections on teaching, parenting, inspiring, and just living in general. I think it will be important for myself to have this place that I know is mine where I can share what I am going through with the world (or the few of you who actually read this blog). The next seven months are going to challenging but I know they will also be so fulfilling. I am excited to share it all with you.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

"Dear God," she prayed, 'let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me hungry...have too much to eat. Let me ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere-be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost'" A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Chapter 48.

I finished this book yesterday and had to let it settle before I wrote about it. I had to think long and hard before summarizing this book because it's not really about anything but at the same time about so much. The quote posted above from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn I felt sums up the entire novel. Francie Nolan, an 11 year old girl at the beginning of the novel, is a child growing up in pre WWI America. Her family is poor and struggle everyday to live. Francie, while she understands here family's poverty, doesn't let her situation hold her back. Her education is important and she learns new things about people and the world everyday. Francie's journey into adulthood is documented throughout Smith's novel.

I can not say enough about this book. I loved it so much and am sad that this is the first time that I have read this book, I know it will be one I will pick up many times in the future. Throughout the novel, I found myself traveling back to my own childhood and comparing it to Francie's. Francie also reminded me how important the written word is and what it is to be a passionate and well balanced person. It is no wonder why many before me have read and loved this book and I recommend it to all who are looking for a new perspective on life. While I have so much to say about this novel, I feel that I don't have the words to express what this book now means to me. All I can say is that everyone should read this book. For those who have, I would love to hear what your thoughts on the novel were.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cures for Heartbreak by Margo Rabb

I read this book back in January for my Young Adult Lit class. Some of the following posts will be reviews on the books I read earlier in the year.

Cures for Heartbreak follows 15 year old Mia Pearlman as she is faced with the sudden death of her mother. While trying to cope with this loss Mia is forced to recognize the relationships that surround her. Her father is dealing with his own grief and her older sister doesn't seem to understand her at all. In the whirlwind of her family difficulties, Mia is also still faced with the feelings of self loathing and acceptance that most 15 year old girls face in high school. In everything Mia does and everyone she meets, she begins to develop a new understanding of her dead mother, her surviving family, and the friendships she begins to develop. In everything Mia is asked to deal with throughout her ordeal, she begins to understand the importance of accepting herself in the midst of her tragedy.

While recognizing that this book has a lot to do with loss, upon finishing Cures for Heartbreak I felt that it had more to do with identity. Rabb, while using the death of a significant role model, introduces how major life events shape one's identity and it is how they deal in different situations that make them into their individual self. Mia recognizes things in a different way that she might not have because of the death of her mother and they are experiences that wouldn't of happened if her mother had survived her diagnosis. However, Mia's ultimate problem is being able to face the rest of her life without the guide of her mother and so she must come to terms with not only her faults but the faults of the people that surround her.

I really enjoyed this book but I think that it wasn't personal enough for me. I have never faced a tremendous loss, so it was difficult for me to connect to the character. I think this will be an interesting book to re-read someday and will probably get more out of it. However, I really was interested in Mia's story and was rooting for her throughout the novel.

Cures for Hearbreak:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New Blog Design is Here!

I am so excited, my new blog is up and running and it is more beautiful then I ever imagined. I have to give a huge thanks to Lori of Use Your Imagination Designs for the design, it is absolutely awesome! I am so excited that it is done in time for a great summer full of wonderful books. I hope you come back often to check out what I am reading and even give me some hints on what to read next. I look forward to all of your input and discussing books with everyone. My ratings for books are on the right side of the page and will be posted at the bottom of each review, 1 cute bird for really disliking a book and 5 cute birds for a book that I really enjoyed. I will do my best to post at least twice a week but during a difficult semester I can't make any promises...I will try my best! I hope everyone enjoys my blog as I look forward to this new adventure. Happy reading everyone!!!
Blog Design by Use Your Imagination Designs images from the Sundri kit by MK-Designs