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