Review: A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I cannot even begin to explain how much I loved this book! Ove is the grumpiest, most OCD curmudgeon I have ever encountered. He's worse than Scrooge! Yet, underneath it all, he has a heart of gold and a set of principles that you just don't find anymore.

The cast of characters in this novel - from the crazy neighbor with a yippie dog to the foreign family who moves into the neighborhood, to the neighbor Ove feuds with because he bought a BMW to the cat that Ove reluctantly adopts - are just wonderful and make for a highly entertaining novel. I lost count of the number of times that I laughed aloud while listening to this book in my car. The narrator of the audiobook was spot on and perfectly read the story.

Through his interactions with his neighbors and flashbacks to his past, Ove is revealed to be more than just the resident grump. Mixed in with all the hilarity is actually a really sweet love story and a portrait of a man of integrity and upstanding character. I loved this book from start to finish. I highly recommend this one.

2016 Reading Challenge: A book translated to English

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Review: Zlata's Diary

Zlata's Diary Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipović
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was one of the choice books that our English department decided to offer students as part of our nonfiction narrative unit. Since I had never read it, I decided to read it along with my literature circle group. I liked the book. Zlata is a bubbly adolescent and I admire her ability to remain so even in the face war and hardship.

In terms of our big question - How do people respond to and overcome challenges? - Zlata's Diary generated a lot of great discussion amongst my literature group. Many of my students were able to connect with Zlata and imagine themselves in her shoes. They found the diary to be easy to read and they were able to make some great connections between it and some of the other pieces we read.

My only criticism of the book is its lack of context. I was around Zlata's age in the 1990's and remember hearing about the conflict in Sarevjo, but being a child myself, I didn't pay much attention. My students, of course, were born well after this conflict and had no real knowledge to work from. I wish the book had a forward or introduction that provided a bit of information on the conflict so that it was easier to understand the narrative in context. There are, of course, other resources out there, but finding ones that are simplistic enough for middle schoolers and accessible to a wide range of reading levels is challenging. It would have been nice to have something as part of the published work to use, especially since it has been so many years.

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Review: Zac and Mia

Zac and Mia Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have read and loved many "cancer books," but this isn't your typically "cancer story." First, it's not a romance. It is really the story of a friendship. The type of friendship where you can truly be yourself, warts and all, where you find complete and total acceptance, and deep understanding.

The characters are the true heart of this story. Zac is one of the most loveable characters I have come across. You literally cannot help but love him. He is funny, affable, self-deprecating, cautiously optimistic, caring, and his family is adorable. However, the real star of the story is Mia. Her character arc throughout the novel was brilliantly done. She was raw and real, and she made no apologies. Her anger and grief were such true emotions in the situation that it made the story so relatable and engaging.

I liked how Betts didn't attempt to sugarcoat anything. Even loveable Zac, when faced with a heartbreaking and seemingly insurmountable challenge, reacted in a real way. He became angry and withdrawn, he didn't pretend that everything would be alright. But the beauty of Zac and Mia's relationship is how they pick each other up when they stumble or fall. I thought it was a beautifully written narrative. It was funny, sad, hopeful, entertaining, and a very satisfying read.

I only have one complaint about the audiobook version of this novel. It is about two teenagers who live in Australia, yet neither narrator had an Australian accent. They kept referring to kangaroos and places in Australia and it bothered me every time I was reminded of the setting of the story. Don't get me wrong, I liked the narrators. Other than their complete lack of Australian accents, I thought they embodied the characters wonderfully. It may just be my OCD talking here...

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Review: Inferno

Inferno Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been a fan of this series from the very first novel. Dan Brown has done a remarkable job of sustaining this series and the character of Robert Langdon. I love the mix of art, history, suspense, and mystery that Brown brings to life in these books. I love Robert Langdon. He's the quintessential professor with an intimidating intellect, yet an affable and approachable personality.

Inferno is probably the best yet. I remember studying Dante in college so it was fun to have it serve as the backdrop of this story. This is an action packed book that goes from zero to sixty and doesn't let up on the gas pedal. There were several instances where I thought I had figured part of the mystery out, only to be surprised by an unexpected twist. I think the conflict, which centers around the environment, population control, and sustainability, is timely and thought provoking.

The ending took me completely by surprise because I was anticipating something completely different. This novel is not predictable at all. I loved it from start to finish.

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Review: Every Last Word

Every Last Word Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There were things about this novel that I really liked and some things that I didn't. First, for what I liked...

My favorite thing about this novel was the characters. I liked Sam and found her to be a relatable character. I could sympathize with her desire to be normal despite having to cope with OCD. I adored the characters from Poet's Corner and would love to spend an afternoon hanging out with them in their secret room. I loved that Sam was able to connect with others and herself through poetry and I loved the idea of a secret poetry group. Ever since I saw the movie, Dead Poet's Society I have harbored a desire to belong to a secret poetry society. Unfortunately, I haven't come across one just yet. I liked the relationship between Sam and AJ because it was all about forgiveness and second chances. This book had me hook, line, and sinker until about three-quarters of the way in.

Now, onto what I didn't like...you might want to stop here to avoid spoilers. I'm going to try not to give too much away, but just in case...

I thought I knew exactly where this story was going til Mrs. Stone through me a supernatural curve ball. Then she lost me. The introduction of a ghost was just too left-field for me. Although, Stone did a good job explaining the situation and connecting it with Sam's mental disorder, the story just lost steam for me after that.

What I liked about this novel far outweighs what I didn't like about it, but that supernatural element keeps me from being about to give it four stars. It's really like a 3.5 for me.

On an unrelated note to the novel, I listen to the audio version of this novel and found the narrator's accent or maybe it was her intonation off-putting. Just an FYI in case you might be considering the audiobook. If you have a choice, I would suggest a non-audio version.

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Review: Everything is Illuminated

Everything is Illuminated Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have read a few of Foer's novels now, but this is definitely my least favorite. For a book that is entitled, Everything is Illuminated I found this novel to be anything but illuminating. The narrative was confusing and I think it was supposed to be funny, but I just didn't get it.

The characters were flat and uninteresting. The plot was disjointed - switching between past and present, different perspectives, prose and letter format, etc. - and it was hard to follow. I found myself having to re-read whole sections just to make heads or tails of it. At times, Foer drops plot lines abruptly and never comes back to them, which left me questioning their relevance to begin with.

It took me a long time to get through this novel. Normally, I don't mind a novel that requires a more active approach, but about halfway through, this one became a chore for me to get through. I think it lacks the witty, descriptive prose that I have come to expect from Foer. This novel just felt gimmicky. Not one of my favorites.

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Review: All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This has been hailed as "The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park" but I fail to see the comparison, other than it's about two teenagers who fall in love. But, the love story is not even central to the story. This book is about mental illness and all its forms - depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, etc. - and the stigma that is placed on those who suffer from these disorders. Most of the characters in this novel are dealing with some issue to varying degrees.

Theodore Finch is the poster child for how mental illness is viewed in today's society. He is clearly a young man who is suffering from an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness. I suspected around that halfway mark that he might be bipolar. He is labeled as a freak and shies away from seeking real treatment because being labeled as "bipolar" would simply confirm what others think of him and he refuses to live his life under a label. His family dismisses his erratic behaviors, saying simply, "that's Finch." The whole family is clearly in denial of not only Finch's mental health, but their own.

Violet, on the other hand, is a prime example of grief and the hold that it can have on a person. Finch was a flawed but very likable character. He seemed to lack insight on how to help himself, but he certainly pegged Violet and I enjoyed watching him bring her out of her shell and move through her grief surrounding her sister's death. Both are likable characters. The narrative was highly entertaining and funny at times. I think both Finch and Violet were relatable characters who were easy to connect with.

I think this book approaches a very serious and pervasive issue in an accessible way. Removing the stigma surrounding mental illness is so important. Many people don't seek the treatment they need because they fear being labeled and judged unfairly. As a middle school teacher, I see so many of my students dealing with mental help issues and the fear of others finding out about it. Unfortunately, because of this, too many chose the path that Finch did.

This is a YA novel, but because of its subject matter, I would say it's more Mature YA. In the end, I was left with mixed emotions. I felt incredibly sad but also hopeful. I urge anyone who sees themselves or someone they love in Finch or Violet to know that you are not alone and to seek help.

2016 Reading Challenge: The first book you see in a bookstore

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Review: Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now

Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now by Ayaan Hirsi Ali
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have seen a few TV interviews with Ayaan Hirsi Ali and find her to be an intelligent and articulate woman. It is quite easy to see why she is controversial with her opinions on Islam and its need for reform. To be upfront, my understanding of the Islamic faith is basic. I do not pretend to have knowledge or understand all of Islam's long history, subgroups, and intricacies.

Until September 11, 2001, Islam was just another religion to me. Something that I learned about in a textbook in World History class. However, after 9/11 and in the subsequent decade, Islam has stepped into the spotlight on the world stage and in the media with the rise of groups such as the Taliban, ISIS, and other terrorist organizations.

I fully believe that not every Muslim is a terrorist and that Islam is not alone in having extremists, but I also find it interesting that a proclaimed "religion of peace" is shrouded in violence, oppression, and has followers who are willing to carry out such atrocious acts in its name. Unlike many other world religions, Islam seems to have stayed in a time capsule, never experiencing the progressions and modernizations that others have and continue to have.

While I am by no means qualified nor do I know enough to decide whether Hirsi Ali is correct in her assertions, I do think she puts forth some thought provoking arguments for the reformation of Islam. For example, how can Muslims argue that Islam is a religion of peace when one of its central tenants is jihad, a holy war against infidels (any non-Muslim)? Countless acts of violence have been carried out in the name of jihad. Violence is correlated with reward in the afterlife. To call it a peaceful religion seems contradictory and irreconcilable without some change to Islam's core values and beliefs.

If you are looking for a book to help you better understand Islam, this isn't the book for you. If you are interested in learning about some of the modern challenges facing Islam, this book certainly contributes to that discussion. It's a discussion that I believe is worth having, especially if we have any chance of combating such an extreme ideology.

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Review: Let the Great World Spin

Let the Great World Spin Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a very interesting narrative. It consists of several disparate stories that McCann somehow manages to overlap and weave together. The vastly different characters deal with love, loss, grief, hope, and a gamut of other emotions with 1970's New York City serving as the backdrop.

I was impressed by this book. At first, I didn't see how the narrative would come together. The interweaving of Philippe Petit's famous tightrope walk between the Twin Towers seemed too simple and superficial connection, but as the book progressed, the connections between the stories and characters became deeper and more meaningful, and there were a few surprises too.

This book is not for the impatient reader. You will need to give it several chapters before you begin to see the bigger picture. This shouldn't be too hard, though, as McCann's prose is well structured, engaging, and well written. I liked the book and thinks it's worth a read.

2016 Reading Challenge: A book recommended by a family member

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Review: Here I Am

Here I Am Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one was just okay for me. It is the story of an American-Jewish upper middle-class family and its implosion. The characters were both endearing, yet completely off-putting at times. The prose was funny and witty, yet ridiculous and crude. The novel seemed to be fighting with itself over its own identity, just like its characters fought with each other. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Are we meant to vilify or sympathize with certain characters? I don't know. It almost felt bi-polar to me.

I liked the parts about Jacob and his relationship with his sons and wife, but a lot of the plot was just ridiculous. Foer has a unique writing style, which is not for everyone. It's a long book, so it definitely requires a time commitment. I'm not sorry that I read it, but it was just okay for me.

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Review: Tales of the Peculiar

Tales of the Peculiar Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every culture has it's own fairytales, myths, and legends. Stories that we hear as children growing up that speak to the values and lessons important for us to internalize. I love when authors release books like this because it adds another dimension to the world that they created in their novels. It also gives readers another connection to the characters. Now we too can read the stories that are known by our favorite characters and referenced in the novels. I loved that Millard added his own annotations to the tales because it brought humor and a sense of interaction to the collection of stories. I highly recommend this book for fans of the Peculiar Children series.

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Review: Library of Souls

Library of Souls Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this was my favorite book in the series. I liked how Jacob's character was developed in this novel. I just felt like he was so much more mature and I enjoyed watching him discover and develop his peculiarity. I almost felt like a proud parent watching their child blossom and come into their own. I felt more connected to his character in this book and could appreciate his struggle between his old life and his new one and the weight of responsibility he felt. Jacob became a rounder character for me in this novel.

Library of Souls was full of action, mystery, fantastic new characters, fun plot twists, amazing photography, with a dash of romance. It was a highly entertaining read and I enjoyed it from start to finish. I was satisfied with the series' resolution and don't have any complaints about how it all ended. I am sad that there are no new books to look forward to, but all good things must end, and this series is definitely a "good thing."

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Review: Beautiful Ruins

Beautiful Ruins Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love old Hollywood movies and the glamorous actors and actress, like Elizabeth Taylor, that starred in them. So, I especially loved that they were the backdrop for a lot of this novel. I liked the "behind the scenes" approach to telling the story. I also liked that this story had many moving pieces. It was interesting to have different perspectives and see how the lives of so many characters intersected and overlapped. Jess Walters really did a masterful job of weaving them all together in a way that didn't feel contrived or predictable. He even managed to work in a few surprises!

I found the narrative to be funny, heartfelt, engaging, and well written. I would give it 3.5 stars.

2016 Reading Challenge: A book set in Europe

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Review: The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?

The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anyone who is even slightly familiar with the Christian faith has probably heard of Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Life. I, of course, had heard of the book before reading it and had heard mostly good things about it, so I decided to give it a read.

In this newest edition, the book is broken up into 42 chapters, each one with a short online introduction video and "Message to Hear" sermon attached to it. In addition to the book, I also purchased the companion journal which has reflection questions for each chapter. The idea is to set aside time each day to watch the introduction video, read the chapter, listen to the corresponding sermon, and journal. This is the schedule that I followed over the course of 42 days. It is a time commitment, requiring about one and a half to two hours a day to complete, as the "Message to Hear" recording were of previously recorded full-length sermons.

As a fairly mature Christian, there was nothing in this book that I didn't already know. It speaks about building a relationship with God, getting connected to a Church and small group, serving, and outreach. For me, there was nothing Earth shattering. Nevertheless, I did find it helpful for identifying areas for continued spiritual growth. Pastor Warren also references several free self-assessments and other resources throught his website that I found helpful.

I thought the chapters and journal were paired nicely together and would recommend that you purchase both if you chose to take this study on. I found the journal to be very helpful for reflection and recording my thoughts as I moved through the different chapters. I didn't always see the connection between the "Message to Hear" and the chapters. Each message is a previously recorded sermon from Saddleback Church, Pastor Warren's church. I wish that they had been a bit more tailor-made for the book itself.

I think this book has a little something for everyone, no matter where you are in your spiritual journey. For those who are new to the faith, it provides direction on how to begin walking in faith. For those who have already been walking in faith, it can help identify areas for continued growth. I found it worth the time.

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Review: Hollow City

Hollow City Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such a unique series and Riggs delivered an excellent second installment. This book picks up right where the first ended and sets off on another wild adventure. The Peculiars, in search for a cure for Miss Peregrine, find themselves traveling to new loops and encountering all new Peculiars along the way. This novel builds on what made the first so great - adventure, fantasy, amazing photography, and plenty of surprises. It even has a little bit of romance drama! This is an excellent YA series. Can't wait to see what happens in book three!

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Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was quite an enjoyable suspense thriller. I liked that it switched perspectives because it gave the narrative a puzzle-like feel and kept the plot from being too predictable. I was able to figure out certain elements of the mystery fairly quickly, but it was harder to put all the pieces together than I thought it would be. For example, I knew that Rachel's ex-husband was involved, but I couldn't quite figure out how, and there were certainly other things that acted as distractions from the truth. I didn't see how the ending played out coming at all.

The story is suspenseful and thrilling, there are plenty of twists and surprises, and Hawkins does a good job fitting all the moving pieces together. In the end, I think this book was worth all the hype.

I saw the movie and it closely follows the book with minor changes (i.e. the story is set in New York rather than London). Overall, I think it was a pretty good adaptation of the novel. Of course, the book was still better. ;)

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Review: The Awakening

The Awakening The Awakening by Kate Chopin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The truth is, I have always struggled to understand feminism, and I'm a woman. For me, feminism has always been about choice. It's about women being able to define for themselves what they want for their lives, regardless of what society (or anyone, really) says. It means that if a woman chooses to get married, have children, and be a stay-at-home mom, she can. If a woman chooses to focus on her career, travel, and not have children, she can. If she chooses any number of combinations in between, that's her prerogative. It means recognizing that women are more than just their gender and not judging how they choose to live their lives. We are human beings with our own ambitions, thoughts, and value.

Unfortunately, we women are still fighting many of the same battles that Edna faced in this novel. We are still fighting against a male-dominated society who still wants to keep us in our traditional roles. On top of that, we are fighting against each other. It saddens me to see women attacking other women because they do not prescribe to the same brand of feminism. Feminism should be about equality and valuing women, and embracing the many different and unique talents and traits women bring to the table. We are more than our gender, but our gender also makes us uniquly qualified to contribute to society.

I could keep going, but I'll step down off my soapbox for now. Back to the novel...I can see why The Awakening is hailed as "feminist" literature. Edna starts out as a "traditional woman" - she gets married to a suitable match, has children, and fulfills all of the social obligations expected of her, seemingly without stopping to ask herself if that is what she really wants. As time goes on, she begins to realize that the life she leads is not the life she would have choosen had she known herself better or had other options. She falls in love with a man who is not her husband; while she still appears to love her children, she reconsiders whether motherhood is really right for her; she pursues her own desires, rather than engaging in social niceties that she abhors. In short, she refuses to continue defining her life by what society and other people say it should be, which ultimately leads to her downfall.

People seem to either love her or hate her. In reading other reviews, Edna is harshly critized for her choices and I have to wonder why? Do I agree with everything she did? No. But I also have to ask myself how I would feel and respond if I felt trapped in my own life. It's important to consider the time period of this piece as well. Women did have the options they had today. However, I wouldn't go so far as to say that she was a victim because she made choices and knew the potential consequences of those choices. I find her to be a sympathetic character. This book certainly sparks great discussion and I can see why it was so controversal when it was first published.

I suggest giving it a chance. It would certainly make a great book club read.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit

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Review: Love in the Time of Cholera

Love in the Time of Cholera Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting one for me. Marquez's prose is beautifully descriptive, yet not pretentious or complicated to understand. The novel has a very laid back, casual tone. The plot is simple - boy meets girl, girl marries someone else, boy waits for girl for 50 years, and the couple reunites. But it's not the story that makes this novel special, it's Marquez's writing style. The plot is almost secondary to his crafting of words that make it up.

However, it's supposed to be a romance and I did not find it very romantic. I wasn't able to really emotionally connect to the characters and the overall story lacked the passionate fire I look for in a good romance. At times, I found the plot ridiculous and almost comical (maybe that was the point?). This wasn't one of my favorites. Perhaps something was lost in translation?

2016 Reading Challenge: A book from Oprah's Book Club

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Review: Hard Choices

Hard Choices Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have always respected Hillary Clinton and her long career dedicated to helping families, especially children. I admire her ability to break "glass ceilings" and be a force in a male dominated field. I picked up this book because I wanted to learn more about Clinton's time as Secretary of State. Listening to the audio book was somewhat jarring because Hillary read the first chapter of the book and the narrator, Kathleen Chalfant, who read the rest of the book have very similar sounding voices.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy the book. It was written and structured well. The narrative was engaging, even funny at times. There were parts that were more candid than others and some that were more "P.C." than I would have liked. I think Clinton was honest, but let's face it, politicians never stop being politicians, so I'm not sure that some of her opinions were censored.

What I came away with from the book was an appreciation for how complicated foreign policy is. It is a delicate dance where every move, no matter how small, is significant. The color outfit you wear, the gift you send, where you travel or don't travel, every word said and every gesture made - it all matters. And yes, hard choices must be made. It's a job that I can't imagine anyone ever wanting, but it is a job that I know have a greater appreciation for.

Overall, I liked the memoir.

2016 Reading Challenge: A political memoir

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Review: Darcy on the Hudson: A Pride and Prejudice Re-imagining

Darcy on the Hudson: A Pride and Prejudice Re-imagining Darcy on the Hudson: A Pride and Prejudice Re-imagining by Mary Lydon Simonsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this P&P reimagining for so many reasons. First, I loved that it was set in the Hudson Valley. I grew up in that area and I loved all the references to places that are familiar to me. It added a little sense of home to me while I was reading and provided me with a unique connection to the story. I liked the cultural aspects that Simonsen injected into the story with Elizabeth being American and Darcy being British, coming to America after the American Revolution. It added a whole new dimension to Elizabeth and Darcy's relationship. I also loved that Darcy kept getting seasick on all the ships. I don't know why, but I found it to be very endearing. I found myself completely lost in this story and didn't want it to end. This is my second Simonsen book and she's definitely become one of my favorite P&P reimagination authors.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book that takes place in your hometown

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Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think I would love J.K. Rowling's grocery lists. I swear the woman can do no wrong in my eyes. While I think I like the novel format better than the script format, I still enjoyed reading this story. Like so many other HP fans, I loathed saying goodbye to Harry and the gang at the end of the series and always wanted to know more about Harry's life.

I loved the direction that the authors took with this story. Harry's life isn't a fairytale and I love that he is facing real life struggles - balancing work and family, parenting, and work stresses. It's so normal and for a boy who always wanted to be normal, I found it fitting. Yes, it hurt my heart to see Harry struggle to get along with his son, Albus. And yes, I felt bad for Albus and his struggle to live in the shadow of Harry's legacy, but in the end, I felt that it all worked out for the best.

There were so many "360" (and some "180") moments in this novel. I liked the reversals - Albus ending up in Slytherin, being best friends with Scorpius Malfoy - and the playing with time that allowed old friends (and enemies) to visit. I found the story to be as magical and well crafted as all the others in the series. There were plenty of twists and surprises, but the heart of what makes the Harry Potter stories so endearing is there in spades. It's a beautiful edition to one of my favorite series of all time.

Rumor has it that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming to the U.S. in 2018. I'm praying that it's true. Time to start saving!

2016 Reading Challenge: A book you can finish in a day

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Review: Frankenstein

Frankenstein Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I was expecting more of a horror story than I got with this classic. I've only ever seen Hollywood versions of this story, so the expectations I had in mind did not match the words on the page at all. It was far more existential than terror inducing. I thought the themes surrounding creation, the connection between creator and creation, and human connection were interesting. I can see the connection between Frankenstein and Prometheus, but I'm not sure the connection is strong enough to befit the title of the "modern day Prometheus." I didn't dislike the story and I appreciate it for the classic that it is.

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Review: Autobiography of a Face

Autobiography of a Face Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm glad that I discovered this memoir (thank you, Rory Gilmore!). Grealy's story is both heartbreaking and inspirational. Grealy is a survivor of cancer and yet all anyone can see is her deformity. Instead of celebrating her survival, she is stared at and forced to deal with the shallowness of others. I'm guilty of it, too. We all judge people by their outward appearances, never stopping to think of their journey. I admire her courage for battling through several reconstructive surgeries, her tenacity in the face of obstacles, and her vulnerability in sharing her story.

Grealy is a poet and it comes across in her prose style. It is clear that each word was chosen carefully and each sentence was crafted with care. For the most part, I liked Grealy's style, but there were times that it became distracting. Nevertheless, her honesty in telling her story forged a real connection to me as a reader. It was a good reminder about the importance of looking beyond the surface to the heart of a person. Autobiography of a Face is certainly worth your time.

2015 Reading Challenge: A memoir

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Cover Reveal ~ Riveted (Saints of Denver #3) by Jay Crownover

Jay Crownover’s RIVETED (Saints of Denver #3) is coming February 14, 2017! 

Check out the amazing cover and preorder your copy today! #YallNeedChurch #LoveIsStrongerThanFear #Riveted

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Marked Men books comes the next installment in the Saints of Denver series.

Everyone else in Dixie Carmichael’s life has made falling in love look easy, and now she is ready for her own chance at some of that happily ever after. Which means she’s done pining for the moody, silent former soldier who works with her at the bar that’s become her home away from home. Nope. No more chasing the hot as heck thundercloud of a man and no more waiting for Mr. Right to find her; she’s going hunting for him...even if she knows her heart is stuck on its stupid infatuation with Dash Churchill.

Denver has always been just a pit stop for Church on his way back to rural Mississippi. It was supposed to be simple, uneventful, but nothing could have prepared him for the bubbly, bouncy redhead with doe eyes and endless curves. Now he knows it’s time to get out of Denver, fast. For a man used to living in the shadows, the idea of spending his days in the sun is nothing short of terrifying.

When Dixie and Church find themselves caught up in a homecoming overshadowed with lies and danger, Dixie realizes that while falling in love is easy, loving takes a whole lot more work…especially when Mr. Right thinks he’s all wrong for you. 

About Jay Crownover:

Jay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked MenThe Point, and the Saints of Denver series. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she'll settle for writing stories with interesting characters that make the reader feel something. She lives in Colorado with her three dogs.  


Such Wicked Intent (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein #2) by Kenneth Oppel

When does obsession become madness? Tragedy has forced sixteen-year-old Victor Frankenstein to swear off alchemy forever. He burns the Dark Library. He vows he will never dabble in the dark sciences again, just as he vows he will no longer covet Elizabeth, his brother's betrothed. If only these things were not so tempting. 

When he and Elizabeth discover a portal into the spirit world, they cannot resist. Together with Victor's twin, Konrad, and their friend Henry, the four venture into a place of infinite possibilities where power and passion reign. But as they search for the knowledge to raise the dead, they unknowingly unlock a darkness from which they may never return.


If I struggled to get through the first book in this series, This Dark Endeavor, it is nothing compared to the way I struggled to finish Such Wicked Intent. Again, I found myself struggling to connect with the characters, especially Victor, the main character. I just found the characters and their development to be so inconsistent. One moment I was able to connect with them and understood their motivations and what made them tick, and the next moment they were doing or saying something that made me either confused or instantly dislike them. This constant flipping back and forth made it difficult for me to fully understand them. 

While I realize this book is a work of fiction, the plot line of this story was so far fetched and bizarre that I had a hard time buying it. For me, fiction works best when it has some (even the smallest bit) basis in reality. I think the first book in the series had that, but this one did not and because of it, I had a hard time buying into the story.

Don't get me wrong, the story wasn't all bad. There was plenty of adventure and mystery, and some parts of the narrative were really good. But as a whole, this book just didn't come together for me in the end. 


Yes Please by Amy Poehler

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.


This is perhaps the best audio books I have ever listened to. In fact, even if you have already read Yes Please, I highly encourage you to go back and listen to the audio book version because Amy has created quite the listening experience with her book. She has enhanced her audio book not only with her unique voice and personality, but with guest commentators who add further dimension to the narrative.

I found Yes Please to be highly entertaining and it made the minutes (sometimes hours) of my daily commute home pass that much more quickly. The narrative is pure Amy and is presented in a humorous, but real and honest way. I enjoyed it from start to finish and highly recommend that you check it out.     


This Dark Endeavour (The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein) by Kenneth Oppel

Victor Frankenstein leads a charmed life. He and his twin brother, Konrad, and their beautiful cousin Elizabeth take lessons at home and spend their spare time fencing and horseback riding. Along with their friend Henry, they have explored all the hidden passageways and secret rooms of the palatial Frankenstein chateau. Except one.

The Dark Library contains ancient tomes written in strange languages and filled with forbidden knowledge. Their father makes them promise never to visit the library, but when Konrad becomes deathly ill, Victor knows he must find the book that contains the recipe for the legendary Elixir of Life.

The elixir needs only three ingredients. But impossible odds, dangerous alchemy, and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. Yet his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science and love—and how much he is willing to sacrifice.


I first encountered Kenneth Oppel when I read Airborn, which I absolutely loved. I loved the mix of adventure, humor, and mystery. Naturally, because I liked it, I sought out other books by Oppel. I came across This Dark Endeavour at my school's book fair and snatched it up. It's been sitting on my shelf for awhile, which is why I decided to make it a part of my reading challenge. 

I must confess, I didn't like this novel as much as Airborn. I found myself comparing this book to Airborn a lot while reading, which perhaps isn't fair. As it is supposed to be a prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, it has a gothic twist, which gives it a very different feel from Airborn. It has plenty of adventure and mystery, with a dash of humor and romance, just like the other story, but for some reason, this story did not come together as well for me. Perhaps my experience with Airborn led me to have unfair expectations for this one. I enjoyed the story, but I wasn't completely drawn in and captivated like I was before. I still think the book is worth reading and I liked it enough to read the sequel.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book you own but have never read


Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom: Everything Educators Need for School Success by Mary Cay Ricci

Ready-to-Use Resources for Mindsets in the Classroom provides educators with tools they need to help students change their thinking about their abilities and potential. The book features ready-to-use, interactive tools for students, teachers, parents, administrators, and professional development educators. 

Parent resources include a sample parent webpage and several growth mindset parent education tools. Other resources include: mindset observation forms, student and teacher “look fors," lists of books that contribute to growth mindset thinking, critical thinking strategy write-ups and samples, and a unique study guide for the original book that includes book study models from various schools around the country. 

This book is perfect for schools looking to implement the ideas in Mindsets in the Classroom so that they can build a growth mindset learning environment. When students believe that dedication and hard work can change their performance in school, they grow to become resilient, successful students. This book contains many of the things that schools need to create a growth mindset school culture in which perseverance can lead to success!


This is a great companion book to Ricci's Mindsets in the Classroom. I found the resources to be straight-forward and easy to understand. Most can be used as is, others will serve as a great starting point for modification. I found the video and book resources to be great. It's always nice when someone else does the "leg-work," especially as you prepare to begin something new in the classroom. The only think I would have liked is access to electronic versions of some of the handouts, which would make modification easier. However, with this book, Ricci provides several resources that will hopefully make creating a growth mindset environment that much easier. I'm looking forward to utilizing many of these resources in the upcoming school year.


The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Kim Edwards's stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964 in Lexington, Kentucky, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down syndrome.

Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split second decision that will alter all of their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution and never to reveal the secret. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins this beautifully told story that unfolds over a quarter of a century--in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by the fateful decision made that winter night long ago. 

A family drama, The Memory Keeper's Daughter explores every mother's silent fear: What would happen if you lost your child and she grew up without you? It is also an astonishing tale of love and how the mysterious ties that hold a family together help us survive the heartache that occurs when long-buried secrets are finally uncovered.


This is a hard one for me to review. I really liked the premise of the book. I thought the idea of how one split decision could alter the course of one's life and have a ripple affect was intriguing. However, I had a hard time connecting with a lot of the characters, especially David and Norah. I had an easier time connecting with characters like Caroline and Paul, but even they got on my nerves.

Instead of being wrapped up in the story, I found myself checking the bottom corner of my Kindle for the "percent left" number. At times, the narrative felt like a chore to get through. It dragged and took turns that made no sense. I kept waiting for the climax, the big reveal, the lesson learned, but when it came, it felt incredibly anti-climatic and flat to me. In my opinion, this one was just okay.


No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen

From the streets of Iraq to the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean, and from the mountaintops of Afghanistan to the third floor of Osama Bin Laden's compound, operator Mark Owen of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group--commonly known as SEAL Team Six--has been a part of some of the most memorable special operations in history, as well as countless missions that never made headlines.

No Easy Day puts readers alongside Owen and the other handpicked members of the twenty-four-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives. The blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen's life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death, is an essential piece of modern history.

In No Easy Day, Owen also takes readers onto the field of battle in America's ongoing War on Terror and details the selection and training process for one of the most elite units in the military. Owen's story draws on his youth in Alaska and describes the SEALs' quest to challenge themselves at the highest levels of physical and mental endurance. With boots-on-the-ground detail, Owen describes numerous previously unreported missions that illustrate the life and work of a SEAL and the evolution of the team after the events of September 11.

In telling the true story of the SEALs whose talents, skills, experiences, and exceptional sacrifices led to one of the greatest victories in the War on Terror, Mark Owen honors the men who risk everything for our country, and he leaves readers with a deep understanding of the warriors who keep America safe.


What always fascinates me when I read these types of books is the difference between what the participants and the politicians say about the same event(s). The raid conducted by the U.S. Military that killed Osama Bin Laden is a historically significant event. However, to the brave men and women who made it possible, it was just another "day at the office." They were given a job to do and they went out and did it. They weren't concerned with the historical or political implications. They were just trying to do their job and get back home safely.

I have read other reviews that criticize it's action-thriller approach to telling the story, but it didn't bother me. I didn't chose to read this book for a textbook account of the raid. I wanted to hear the "boots-on-the-ground" perspective, which is what this book gives. Was it a flawless literary work, no. But I don't think that was the point. In the end, I was left with a feeling of respect for these brave men. Not everyone has what it takes to become a SEAL and sacrifice the way they do. I enjoyed listening to this novel and would recommend the audiobook.  

2016 Reading Challenge: An autobiography 


Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools by Mary Cay Ricci

When students believe they can that dedication and hard work can change their performance in school, they grow to become resilient, successful students. Inspired by the popular mindset idea that hard work and effort can lead to success, Mindsets in the Classroom provides educators with ideas for ways to build a growth mindset school culture, wherein students are challenged to change their thinking about their abilities and potential. 

The book includes a planning template, step-by-step description of a growth mindset culture, and "look-fors" for adopting a differentiated, responsive instruction model teachers can use immediately in their classrooms. It also highlights the importance of critical thinking and teaching students to learn from failure. The book includes a sample professional development plan and ideas for communicating the mindset concept to parents. With this book's easy-to-follow advice, tasks, and strategies, teachers can grow a love of learning in their students.


Mindsets in the Classroom was my next step in my research on mindset. While Dweck's book was excellent for building a foundational understanding of the two different mindsets, it didn't provide a lot of practical strategies that could be taken from the page and brought into the classroom. 

Ricci's book does just that. It takes the mindset philosophy and shows teachers, administrators, and even parents how to use mindset to foster a growth mindset in children. The lesson plan ideas, tips and tools are easy to understand and are practical, which is always a plus. I hate when I attend a professional development that is full of great ideas, but has unrealistic or faulty application. I found many of Ricci's strategies and tools to be something that I could easily integrate into my current classroom structure. I also felt challenged to rethink some of my current classroom policies and practices, and felt that there were tools in this book that I could use as a jumping off point for redesigning things. I plan on trying several out in the upcoming school year as I attempt to foster a growth mindset in my students.


Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success.

With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals—personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.


I have been a special education teacher for almost a decade now. Over the years, I have noticed that my students have struggled more and more with effort and motivation. In the instant gratification, blue-ribbon culture we live in, I find that many students are unwilling to put forth the effort it really takes to master new concepts and skills. Many have a "one and done" attitude and are unwilling to go back and make corrections and try again. They want to avoid the things that are hard for them and don't see the value in hard work. I have found this attitude to be especially prevalent among students with special needs.

So like any good teacher, I set out to discover new ways to change this and build a classroom environment and culture that fostered effort and better motivated students. I had heard of Dweck's book before and heard good things from my colleagues who had read it, so I decided it was as good a place to start as any other.

This book is life altering. While I was somewhat familiar with the concept of mindset before reading the book, I had always thought of it in relation to education. I never considered how a person's mindset could affect their parenting, business, or relationships. In this book, Dweck outlines the two different mindsets: growth and fixed, and provides information on various studies used to develop these mindsets. She also gives several examples from various fields - business, sports, education, domestic life - that exemplify the two different mindsets. She gives information on practices for implementing a growth mindset and talks about several studies that show the power of having a growth mindset.

I had several mind-explosions throughout the reading of this novel and found myself  underlining and flagging pages for future reference. After reading this book, I truly believe that developing a growth mindset in my students, as well as myself, will make a difference both inside and outside of my classroom. Reading this book as energized me and changed how I think about a lot of things in my personal and professional life. I think this is a book that everyone should read.


Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

A sensual and protected young woman, Antoinette Cosway grows up in the lush natural world of the Caribbean. She is sold into marriage to the cold-hearted and prideful Rochester, who succumbs to his need for money and his lust. Yet he will make her pay for her ancestors' sins of slave-holding, excessive drinking, and nihilistic despair by enslaving her as a prisoner in his bleak English home.

In this best-selling novel Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.


I was intrigued by the idea of this novel because Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels of all time. Despite my many readings of Jane Eyre, I have never really given much thought to Rochester's crazy wife. She was always an obstacle and I'm sorry to say that I probably didn't have as much sympathy for her. I think mostly because her story was told through Rochester's bias. So the idea of getting her story from her point of view drew to this novel.

However, I thought this novel was lack luster. I found the narrative to be convoluted, disjointed, and confusing. Despite being a fairly short novel, it took me some time to get through it. I frequently had to re-read sections in order to understand them. I found most of the characters to be flat and underdeveloped, making it hard to connect with the characters, especially with Antoinette. In the end, I was left with the same indifferent attitude towards Antoinette that I had prior to reading the novel. I was disappointed.

2015 Reading Challenge: A book written by an author with your same initials


The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

M. L. Stedman’s mesmerizing, beautifully written novel seduces us into accommodating Isabel’s decision to keep this “gift from God.” And we are swept into a story about extraordinarily compelling characters seeking to find their North Star in a world where there is no right answer, where justice for one person is another’s tragic loss.


This is an incredibly beautiful book, desperately sad, but beautiful. It's remarkable how choices can send a ripple affect, not only through our own lives, but the lives of those around us. With it's ever changing point of view, this novel leaves the reader feeling sympathy for each character in turn, only to find themselves questioning those same feelings when presented with another side of the story. This multifaceted story is woven together wonderfully. It is a powerful book about forgiveness, justice, and loss. I loved every minute of it.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The first ten lies they tell you in high school.

"Speak up for yourself--we want to know what you have to say." From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her.

As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication. 

In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.


I thought this book was nicely written and I liked Melinda, the main character. The thing I liked most about her was her sarcastic humor. I found myself chuckling at the things she said or thought throughout the novel, which is not something I expected considering the novel's heavy content. Ultimately, I think this story is about healing and reclaiming your voice. 

It was a fast read and the story sustained my attention throughout. It does deal with some sensitive issues but is not graphic in any way, and is appropriately written for the young adult age group. I think the book's message - the importance of speaking up/the consequences of silence - came across nicely through Melinda's story and is an important message for young adults. Overall, a worthwhile read.  

2015 Reading Challenge: A book based entirely on its cover


13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff

13 Hours presents, for the first time ever, the true account of the events of September 11, 2012, when terrorists attacked the US State Department Special Mission Compound and a nearby CIA station called the Annex in Benghazi, Libya.

A team of six American security operators fought to repel the attackers and protect the Americans stationed there. Those men went beyond the call of duty, performing extraordinary acts of courage and heroism, to avert tragedy on a much larger scale. 

This is their personal account, never before told, of what happened during the thirteen hours of that now-infamous attack.


"It [13 Hours] is not about what officials in the Unites States government knew, said, or did after the attack, or about the ongoing controversy over talking points, electoral politics, and alleged conspiracies and cover-ups. It is not about what happened in hearing rooms of the Capitol, anterooms of the White House, meeting rooms of the State Department, or green rooms of TV talk shows. It is about what happened on the ground, in the streets, and on the rooftops of Benghazi, when bullets flew, building burned, and mortars rained. When lives were saved, lost, and forever changed."
I think that thing that I most appreciate about this book is what it's not. It is not just another political diatribe about the events surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attack. While it is certainly not entirely free of bias and does have an agenda, it is clear from the beginning what that agenda is and the narrative doesn't deviate from it. In other words, this book doesn't say it's one thing when it's really something else.

My purpose in reading the book was to get a better understanding of the events that occurred over the thirteen hours when terrorists attack US safe holds in Benghazi. Now I realize that as a civilian, there are parts of this story that I will never know. I am a firm believer in government transparency, but I am also aware that there is a delicate balance between transparency and national security. In the days, weeks, months, and years since the 2012 Benghazi attacks much has been said on both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C., but what appealed to me about this book was that it was written in conjunction with the brave men who were on the ground and lived these events.

Overall, I found the book to be well written. It's narrative style made the text accessible and easy to follow. The downside to this is that it is easy to forget that this isn't some work of fiction. Yes, the narrative was as exciting, intense, and dramatic as an action movie, but I had to stop a few times and remind myself that this was not just another series of plot events and characters, but real-life events that actually happened and people who exist. This seems to be an ongoing challenge between civilians and the military. We are so bombarded with images of war in movies, video games, TV shows, and in news media that we forget that there are real people behind those images. Technology has further widened the gap between soldier and civilian, making it possible for the average American to go through their entire day without once pausing to think about the men and women who serve in the military and make our way of life possible.

For me, the brave men of the Annex security team, their fellow operatives, and our government officials serving in Benghazi are the heart of this story. It takes a special type of person to not only see danger and not run from it, but willingly chose to put yourself in harm's way to save the lives of others. My respect and awe for these men and women are deepened each time I read or hear about events like Benghazi, or meet a veteran in person. It saddens me to know that their life of service and sacrifice does not get the respect it deserves. It's so hard to understand how people can continue to use religion to justify violent actions and a lust for power. While this narrative did make some things clearer, it in no way even attempts to answer some of the bigger questions posed by the conflicts in the Middle East.

In the end, what remained with me the most were the stories of the security team operatives. I am in awe of them and their fellow service men and women and feel nothing but profound pride and gratitude for their service. I pray every night that God would bless and keep them and their families wherever they are.

2016 Reading Challenge: A New York Times bestseller


Stars Above (The Lunar Chronicles #4.5) by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above is a collection of nine stories, four of which were previously published and can be read for free on the Wattpad app, that are connected to the stories in Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles series or take place in the same world.

Previously published stories include:

"Glitches": In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….

"The Queen’s Army": In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.

"Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky": Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.

"The Little Android": A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.

New stories include:

"The Keeper": A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.

"After Sunshine Passes By": In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.

"The Princess and the Guard": In this prequel to Winter, we see a young Winter and Jacin playing a game called the Princess and the Guard…

"The Mechanic": In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.

"Something Old, Something New": In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century…


I enjoyed all the stories in this collection, but my favorites were "The Mechanic" and "Something Old, Something New." I always love when authors retell scenes from books from different perspectives and getting to read about Kai's first impression of Cinder was fun. "Something Old, Something New" provided me with much needed closure I needed after finishing Winter. Plus, what girl doesn't love a good wedding? It made me smile and gave me that wonderful uplifting feeling that all happy endings leave you with.

Even though several of the stories have been previously published, more than half the book is full of new stories, which makes this a worthwhile read if you are a fan of The Lunar Chronicles. I'm a little sad to have reached the end of this series, but have discovered a new favorite author in Meyer. I'm looking forward to future releases from her. 


Winter (The Lunar Chronicles #4) by Marissa Meyer

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend—the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters?


In this final installment of The Lunar Chronicles, Marissa Meyer delivers one of the best finales to a YA series that I have read recently. She somehow manages to balance four robust story lines and weave them together in a way that creates a seamless narrative, all while uniquely infusing elements of some of the most beloved fairy tales. It had everything needed for a great read - action, excitement, a few surprises, and a dash of romance. I was satisfied with the endings for all the title characters, with the exception of Cinder. I felt like her and Kai's story was left a little unfinished. I read that there is a short story in Stars Above that serves as an epilogue to Winter, and I'm hoping that it will give me sense of completeness I currently lack. Overall, a very satisfying read.