Monday, December 31, 2012

50 Books in a Year: Book #56 Mare's War #59 Dark Water #60 The List #63 Let It Snow

So, the above four books are pretty amazing and I'm kind of sorry that I'll be speed reviewing them. I hope you'll  get the idea of how much I love them, although they are all quite different. I'll be putting up full reviews on Teen Text Talk and will link to those as I complete them...which, um, may be the 12th of Never....we'll see.

Dark Water 
(edited from a conversation on YA Reads for Adults...where you too can join and I love that this was our guest author selection and Laura McNeal was there to talk with us about her book)

I love the ending so much. It's so hopeful and romantic and uplifting that I was willing to accept that even her cousin's, who is truly much weaker than she, hatred couldn't deter her from the goal of finding Amiel. 

I suppose I just see the whole book as being uplifting. I see it as a struggle for a girl to find her own identity, who is forced to find it faster than most because of what happens, and in the end she knows exactly who she is, what she wants and how she's going to get it. Pearl is much more than just a girl of divorced parents, much more than a poor girl et cetera, and while Amiel helped her on this road in the end she did this alone and I can take comfort in that. To me she is more alone than lonely and alone isn't all that bad. I don't think she was lonely just a little bit lost and I could/can/will identify with that.  All the people are experiencing  something that so real that at times it's painful. 

 I totally remember those times in my life when I felt like I was changing, and the world around me was staying the same...I think that's one of the many steps towards maturity. I also lived in my head a lot, um, er, still do and could be that extroverted cheerleader, but was also the person who thought about everything too much. I had to learn to balance those two me's a little better and in the process I grew up and realized that it's OK to be quiet sometimes and sometimes it's OK to yell. I think that Pearl is that the beginning of that journey.

Finally, this discussion has reminded me of this poem:

Song by Adrienne Rich

We're all just diamonds and wood after all. 

The List 

Although I was a black girl in a pretty much all white school, I mean I was the first African-American to graduate from Lebanon High School and that was 1994 (you can read more about that here). Aside from my early years of school, I wasn't really teased. And in high school I wasn't blacklisted or whatever it is teens do to other teens. I do remember being in a clique that would rival that one in Mean Girls and reading this book reminded me so much of those, what I thought were harmless, lists of pretty girls and boys. I never thought about what it meant to be on those lists or to write those lists or to even see those lists floating around.

Popularity contest are not cool.

I love how this book shows this, but doesn't really tie up any of the loose ends...the ending is neither happy nor sad. Everyone learns lessons and everyone suffers. How could you win when the list is so horrible and intrinsic to the very backbone of the school. Vivian really has shown us every example of the teenage boy and girl. I'm pretty sure every adult will see him or herself in the characters and be glad that time is over. I hope teenagers read this book (yes, I bought it for my classroom in hard-cover) and see themselves and use it as a tool to change.

Mare's War 

This book was first introduced to me during our Missouri Reading Initiative meetings. Our presenter Kae read a couple of really great descriptive passages from the book and then we used them as writing assignments. Those passages really made me want to read the book.

This book is quite lovely as it encompasses historical fiction, Mare is a African-American girl fighting in WWII, strong females, and it shows how African-Americans were discriminated against even in the face of war. The book is told alternately through flashbacks in Mare's voice and in the voice of Mare's youngest grand-daughter. It's important to appreciate your heritage and to not take for granted any member of your family.

Let It Snow

Super cute stories centered around a small town and the teenagers who get snowed in on Christmas and Christmas Eve. There are three stories that interweave the characters and each story is written by a prominent YA author.

The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson
I love this story. I enjoy a good meet cute. Stuart sounds just too perfect. I could go on, but I'd just feel like some sort of moron. Is it wrong that I want to collect little Christmas themed knick-knacks one day...with a train running through the whole town? I don't think so.

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green
This story is kind of like Road Trip meets Pineapple Express meets Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist. I loved. I rooted for the good guy. I wanted there to be cheerleaders. I wished I had a cool nickname like The Duke.

The Patron Saint of Pigs by Lauren Myracle
I'd been reading about how this one wasn't as good as the other two. At first I totally agreed the main character is a whiny, selfish girl who doesn't really deserve to have friends let alone a boyfriend. Despite my dislike of her I really thought she acted like many of the teen girls I see today and in the end she learns some really valuable lessons from her guardian angel and the only entirely tea-cup pig thing was adorable.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

30 Days of Truth: Something You Love About Yourself

I found this meme here and here.

Two: Something You Love About Yourself
There are many things I love about vast pop-culture knowledge, my mixed heritage, my family, hmm, I don't know if these are actually things about myself, like the deep within me self, but they are things I like about me.

I love that I am self-aware.

I am amazed that there are people who aren't self-aware.

I don't do things I know I can't do. I know when I'm being lazy. I know when I'm working too hard or not enough. When someone asks me a question, I can answer truthfully because I've already thought about the answer or because I think about the answer and, if I can't do either, I say, "Here's my gut reaction, but let me think about that. Unless you like my gut reaction."

I wonder if I learned this from my mother???

Saturday, December 29, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #53 Just for Fins and #62 In Over Her Head

Just for Fins
Reason for reading:
It's the third book in the series and I was a little worried I wasn't going to like it as I was not impressed with book 2, but I wanted/needed to finish the series.
Read this if you like:
Tera Lynn Childs, mermaids, Forgive My Fins (the first book in the series), stories about family, royalty, the ocean without being too technical
My thoughts:
What a lovely ending to the series. At least I hope it's the ending...I know how writers are nowadays. I also like that Lily kind of redeems her not so academic self by having such a passion for the ocean. I like how she is willing to learn from others and I like how she is quite the brave communicator.Quince must complete three challenges to win over Lily and everybody including Doe is rooting for him. This is such a fun, light series and I appreciate that!

In Over Her Head
Reason for reading:
I was curious about what an 'adult' mermaid book might be.
Read this if you like:
Romance novels, books about buried treasure, Splash, the sea and the ocean as it goes into great detail about both
My thoughts:
Gah! There's wayyyy to much ocean description. I don't need to know the name of every creature present. Heck, as a Midwestern I found myself looking up or Googling images just to get an idea of what the flip was going on. Also, I'm beginning to hate this new (?) trend that romance novels have of waiting until about 200 pages in before there's any 'action' and then the 'action' is so prevalent that it is distracting. Parts of this book were really cute, but most of it required too much from me to make it work.

2012 Mermaid books read in order of how much I like them
  1. Tangled Tides *****
  2. Between the Land and the Sea ****
  3. Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings ****
  4. Just for Fins ****
  5. The Lure of Shapinsay ****
  6. Fins are Forever ***
  7. The Little Mermaid ***
  8. Sea Change ***
  9. In Over Her Head ***
  10. Everblue **

Friday, December 28, 2012

55 Books in a Year: Book #52, #54, #55 The Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy

So, I've got 12 books to review in, um, 3 I'll be chunking them up. If you want to see full reviews of the young adult books check out Teen Text Talk...for the others, well that's all she wrote.

For this post, I'll be doing the three 50 Shades books...

I find that when I'm overly stressed out and busy I read books that entertain, but do not challenge...enter this trilogy. I'm not going to lie I found these books fun and entertaining and a bit more like Twilight than I thought they would be, even though I knew they were fanfiction. I also didn't really find them all that dirty (not really sure what that says about me...), but I've read loads of romance novels and you can only talk about having sex so much before it becomes bland, and, frankly, I found the sex scenes so similar that after the first book I breezed through the sex to read the story. And, just as I did with the Twilight Saga (everytime I call it the Twilight Saga I cannot help, but chortle...saga, really?), I really liked the first book and eventually got bored with the story and with the love story and just wanted some action...real action by the end.

Fifty Shades of Grey
Story line
From Goodreads:
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

  • Christian Grey...I really tried not to like him as I felt he would be an affront to the virtues of men and women everywhere, but alas he had his good qualities.
  • Ana seems to be a bit more powerful in this book than the other two.
  • There were some laugh out loud moments...hmm...I hope they were meant to be funny, at least they were to me.


  • the phrase 'inner Goddess'...who edited these books, they should be ashamed of themselves for allowing that phrase to appear at all, let alone in the amount that it does.
  • no matter what i tried, i could stop Ana from being Bella...why is that you ask? because this book is the Twilight can change the location and you can muddle up the names, but still...
  • the use of the word 'baby'...ugh.
  • Ana...double ugh.

Fifty Shades Darker

Not that I want to admit this, but I probably found this book to be the best one. I like the story line and the locations. I don't really know if that's because I got used to the horrible writing. I feel like the first book is all about how sensational Christian and Ana are and this book actually has more dialogue, less 'baby's' and less of that friggin' inner goddess bull-crap. We also get to meet Ana's family and Christian's family and so there's less of that awful romantic conversation crap.

Story line
From Goodreads:
Daunted by the singular sexual tastes and dark secrets of the beautiful, tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Anastasia Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a Seattle publishing house. 

But desire for Christian still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, Anastasia cannot resist. They rekindle their searing sensual affair, and Anastasia learns more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades. 

While Christian wrestles with his inner demons, Anastasia must confront the anger and envy of the women who came before her, and make the most important decision of her life.


  • I really do like Christian Grey...I loath myself.
  • The setting...I've never thought of Seattle as a place I'd want to visit. I guess it's more than the 90s Grunge scene and coffee houses.
  • I also like Christian's house-keeper, well, actually, I like all the people that work for him on a personal level--the office bimbos I could do without.


  • OK, so I always imagined Rochester from Jane Eyre as talking like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. About half-way through this book, I realized that Christian was taking on some of these traits...who wants to fantasize about Gaston from Beauty and the Beast.
  • Oh, Bella, er, I mean Ana get over are the worst character ever written...I still don't quite grasp what you conflict is and you make me want to punch you in the kidney.
  • Christian is a bit, ok more than a bit of a STALKER, and, since when is this an attractive quality in a man.

Fifty Shades Freed
I don't know why this book exist...the first 100 pages are so dull.
Not that I know a lot about S&M and I had to Google often to understand what was going on, but I really don't like the story arc of the lady (I don't the flip remember her name) who 'helped' Christian and then turned psycho and I don't like the treatment of the all the reasons Christian is the way he is. Why can't he just like doing it because he likes to? And, I really thought that woman would become a friend, not a jealous old lady with nothing except her money and boy toys.

Story line
From Goodreads:
Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past.


  •'s that house that sounds just amazing.


  • What the heck was that honeymoon about???
  • What the heck was that ending about???
  • Ana is the most static character ever!
  • And, I am done with the Britishisms...why are people from America living in Seattle talking like they live in the West End!!!???

OK, so for all my dislike of what these books have done to mainstream America, I couldn't help, but read them and like them and like talking about them. The characters aren't roll models, the sex is pretty much used to propel the plot, but, if you told me you were going to read them I wouldn't stop you.

And, I'd want to dish about it.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Implementing New Units...gah!

So, I've been really busy since the school year started. One would think that after 14 years of experience, teaching would be a breeze. You would think that all I'd have to do is make copies and sit at my desk and, well, put my feet up.

But, alas, no...

I started writing this post in September and assumed that I'd have it finished in early October, but here we are. Anyway, I just wanted to show you a typical unit process.

And, I also wanted to say I'm thankful that I'm only doing this for one class not two, I'm thankful that I have two lovely ladies teaching the same class with me to help, and I'm glad that, other than our approach to grammar, the 2nd semester isn't full of drastic changes.

This is the book we used for our short story unit.
It's from the 1990s, my colleagues husband remembers
using it when he was in high school.
Frankly, I love this book, but I understand that it is quite old.
Planning a unit looks a bit like this:

  1. Is there a test already created? If so, does it follow the CLEs, and, for this year, does it follow CCSS?
  2. If not, create a test...which means we have to look at our learning targets and our ELOs. If not, revamp said test. Thank goodness this particular unit already had a test created like my 2nd year of teaching, shared with others and revamped my 6th year of teaching and only needed to be updated a little.
  3. From the test create a calendar of what goes where (we're all about backward design)...for this unit that meant: 1] reading strategies 2] what stories or activities should be homework 3] what stories or activities should be completed in class 4] what's for enrichment 5] what's for remediation 6] what's for a grade 7] what's for practice and 10 years ago all of this looked different. Heck, 3 years this looked different. 
  4. Create what needs to be created...when there are three people working together that's pretty awesome because you can divide the work load and, if you are the veteran teacher you can say, "Since I made ---, could someone else make ---?"
  5. Implement said plan. This, of course, means writing new lesson plans or revamping old ones...ugh.
Here's are the lesson plans for this unit:


We've made three new units for 1st know and then there's the usual grading and takes up a lot of time. My blog has suffered.

But, I gotta tell you, this has been one of the best year's of teaching EVER! Really! And, I thank my PLC for making that possible. We're quite a team!


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