Posted in Teaching - Thoughts and Things

New Planner!

Every year, I debate on whether or not it is worth it to buy a planner for the next school year, and every year, I end up getting one. I have yet to regret it. Do I plan every single week on paper? Absolutely not! Does it help me when I need to? Yes!

This year, I went with an Erin Condren planner. These are among the higher priced teacher planners out there, and they are bulky, but those are really the only two negatives for me. They are sturdy, the paper is thick so there is little bleeding, and the layout is exactly what I need in a planner.

Below is a video I took of my new planner and if you’re interested in purchasing your own, please use my referral link here

2022-23 Planner

Posted in 2022 Books, Book Reviews, ProjectLitBookClub

Felix Ever After

This was my first book by Kacen Callender which is weird because I have followed them on Twitter for a while. But I checked to make sure, and I haven’t read anything else on their publication list. I think I started following them after watching BookCon back in 2020 when it was all virtual.

This story is about Felix (bet you couldn’t tell that by the cover) who is a trans boy living in New York City. Now, I listened to the audiobook on this one, and I tend to listen very fast, so I’m sure there are things along the way that I missed. But Felix and his best friend Ezra have a very sweet, close relationship. Although, it was a little weird to me that Ezra had his own place, and Felix’s dad was always okay with Felix just leaving the house and staying with Ezra for days at a time. I get it, kids in New York City grow up differently, and then Ezra is super rich, and they go to this private school, so all things I don’t understand. As a parent, it was just weird to me that Felix was able to do his own thing all the time.

Felix struggles a lot throughout the book, and honestly, he did get on my nerves just a little when he would complain about his dad, but again, I think that comes from my vantage point of being a parent and not a teenager while reading this book.

Felix also has no relationship with his mom. She left ‘a while ago.’ I don’t think it’s clearly stated how long Felix and his dad have been on their own, but Felix writes her emails, a lot, but never sends them. So he’s just got an inbox of 400+ drafted emails. This part kinda broke my heart. He does eventually send one, but I’ll leave what happens out to avoid spoilers.

What I liked about this book was that it had a transgender main character. Representation matters in life, and more so in books. I liked that Felix struggled with his identity. The book shows him reaching out for help, doing research, asking questions, and discovering himself. I think it definitely got the point that it’s okay not to know all the answers across really well.

I also enjoy Felix’s journey figuring out love. If anyone can ever figure it out. It was a very sweet story, and I think it was nice that he figured himself out first.

All that to say, if you’re looking for a well-written book with a trans main character, this is definitely a good one.

If you’re looking for a book about finding yourself and finding love, again, this is a good one.

Posted in 2022 Books, Book Reviews, Gateways 2022-23


Gateway Nominee for 2022-23 School Year

If you like the sea and all sorts of talk about the water, boats, storms, dredging, and sea trading, then you will like this book. It took me most of the the book to get into it. I get that with every fantasy book there is a lot of world building that takes place, and this book is no exception.

Fable, the main character, is alone on Jeval making her own way as a dredger. You know what a dredger is right, everyone does? No? Oh, me either. Had to look that one up. I’ve heard the word used as a cooking term, but apparently, as it is used in this book, it means a person who searches underwater for things. You learn early on that she doesn’t have many, if any, friends, and her whole purpose in life is to make enough money to get off Jeval and make it back to Saint. Her one ally, if you can even call him that, is West who consistently buys findings from dredging.

I have to admit, I was pretty bored with this book until about page 200 (of 353). I’m not too interested in sea-life, so all the world-building and back stories that are needed in a fantasy book were pretty uninteresting to me. This isn’t to say that the book was written poorly. It absolutely wasn’t. I was just not interested.

Now, after Fable reunites with this Saint guy, that’s when it picks up and gets interesting. I will read the follow up book Namesake because the book ended on a cliffhanger (of course), and now I do want to know what happens. I may even come back and read Fable again after I finish Namesake, because the beginning may make more sense to me. All in all I would recommend the book for my fantasy-loving students and friends.

Posted in 2022 Books, Book Reviews

Obsession – Review

This year I made a list of 125 books that I wanted to read by the end of the year. Frankly, it was silly of me to make such a list because I’m constantly being suckered in to read other books by friends, bookstagram, or when my favorite authors put out new books. Eventually I’ll get through those 125 books.

This book was NOT on my original list. It was published last year, but I hadn’t heard of it until a friend of mine from work posted about it on social media. I decided to get it from her and read it myself. It was such a quick read. I finished it within a day just picking it up from time to time and reading while my summer school classes worked on independent work.

The basic premise is captured on the cover of the book. Boy meets girl, boy stalks girl, girl gets revenge. However, there are two sub-plots that I would have loved if more time had been given to them. The book is told from dual narrators Logan and Delilah (called “Dee” most of the time). We learn that Delilah is not the first girl Logan becomes obsessed with pretty early on, and we also see that he has some major problems as our first scene with him is in the guidance counselor’s office.

Dee is meant to seem innocent, but as the book plays out, you see that’s not completely true. In fact, I left the book wondering who the true victim/villain really was.

While I did like this book there were a few things I wish the author would have spent more time on:

  • The Logan/Sophie story – we get to know a little about this, but I still feel that the author could have given us more details. Maybe from conversations between Dee and Logan’s friends.
  • Dee’s dad. Like he had an accident and the town hates him. I didn’t get why. Maybe a skim read over that explanation.
  • The whole Brandon/abuse/cop story. I feel like a little more explanation would have been great here.
  • The drug selling. Everything here was vague.

All in all, I would definitely recommend this. I think it would be good for struggling readers too as the pace moves very quickly. Definitely a high school book.

Also trigger warnings of physical/mental abuse, drug use, and stalking.

Posted in 2022 Books, Book Reviews, ProjectLitBookClub

Sadie – Review

This book has been on my TBR list for over a year. Everyone I knew who had read it really liked it. So one day this past semester, I was down in our school library chatting with our media specialist, and I saw it. I went to grab it and she stopped me, “Don’t do it,” she said. My initial thought was that I had heard such good things, what was her problem with the book. She went on to tell me that the audio book was SO GOOD that I would probably enjoy that much more than the physical copy.

At that time I had about 4 other audio books on my Libby app, so I put off checking it out. It wasn’t until about 2 weeks ago that I added it and started listening to it, and within minutes, I was hooked! The book is told from a dual narrative perspective, so when Sadie is telling her story, it is a narrative, but when its West McCray’s turn, it is like listening to a podcast. There is even intro music for the show. I definitely enjoyed the audio of the book.

The basic premise of this one is that Sadie is a teenage girl whose younger sister, Mattie, is found dead and now Sadie is missing as well. You find out pretty early on that Sadie believes she knows who is responsible and has taken up on a search to find him and kill him.

As the story unravels from the two perspectives, we learn a lot about Sadie and Mattie’s past and the trauma they endured. We learn that the man Sadie is after has a much more troublesome past (and present) than Sadie even realizes as she sets off on her journey.

I feel like this book was very well put together. I haven’t read anything else by Courtney Summers, but once I make a dent in my TBR, I’ll be sure to check more of hers out.

Posted in 2021 Books, Book Reviews, NetGalley

Meant to Be: If the Shoe Fits

If the Shoe Fits: A Meant to be Novel: Murphy, Julie: 9781368050388: Books
I received this book as an ARC from Netgalley back in April, and this review is scheduled to post the day the book releases.

So far this year, I have read 50 books. Most of these books have heavy subject matter: death, rape, abuse, and even murder. When I requested this book from Netgalley, I wasn’t sure when I would even have a chance to read it, but I was able to read it during the first few days of July, after summer school ended, and I was just enjoying a few days of nothing.

It was the perfect, relaxing summer read. This book is a retelling of the classic Cinderella story. As you can see from the cover, our Cinderella isn’t the typical model thin beauty. The author also makes the change with the relationship between the stepmom and siblings and Cindy. They actually have a good relationship, and I loved how the author incorporated Jaq and Gus Gus (my personal favorite characters from the Disney version).

Brief summary – After having a less than stellar senior year in design school, Cindy leaves New York for Los Angeles to help her television producing step-mother by nannying her three younger siblings. Upon arrival, Cindy and her step-sisters Anna and Drew find themselves contestants in their mother’s next season of Before Midnight (basically The Bachelor) due to some last minute drop outs. But how will America, the women in the house, and the suitor respond to a plus sized contestant? Cindy is willing to take a chance in order to give herself the exposure she needs to get her foot in the fashion industry.

I enjoyed this book for what it was: a romantic, fun read. The main character was likable, but she still had her flaws. You definitely want to cheer for her. This is my first book that I have read by Murphy, but I’m pretty sure I’ll pick up another one in the future.

Posted in 2021 Books, Book Reviews, NetGalley

Trouble Girls Review

I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley, and I was very excited to read it. It was hyped as a modern day Thelma & Louise story integrating the #metoo movement. I’m all about girl power, so, like I said, very excited to dive in.

Now, I don’t know if the advanced reader copy I received had not gone through its final edits, but right from the start there were major continuity-type errors. The scenes would shift abruptly where a new chapter should be, but there were no chapters in the book. Like you will literally be reading one paragraph and in the very next paragraph, you are in different location. There isn’t even a gap to indicate a shift in time. The lack of chapters in books always makes it hard for me to read because it’s hard to find a stopping point, but this book desperately needed page breaks for it to even make sense.

The story, though, is super interesting. The girls find themselves on the run after Trixie, the main character/narrator, makes a snap decision. And in all honesty, what she does is completely justifiable self-defense. But, of course, when something traumatic happens, many people lose the ability to think clearly. While on the run, the girls meet some interesting people, but they are constantly running into problems. The major one being the lack of money. I don’t want to say too much here in case you choose to read it, so I’ll stop with that.

I did scan a few other reviews and the blurbs people wrote for the major retailers, and it seems that this is a “fast-paced, thrilling novel” according to them. It was definitely not that way to me. The book dragged, and I was bored through a lot of it.

The other part I have issues with is Trixie and Lux’s (the other main character) relationship. The author never really develops Lux since it is told through Trixie’s point of view. This was really hard for me as a reader because Trixie honestly felt obsessive and a bit possessive over Lux. The beginning of the book, Trixie makes it clear through her narration that she’s in love with Lux, but Lux sees them as friends (this opinion apparently changes, and it’s stated that Lux has always loved Trixie, but I just didn’t get that vibe from anything else that happened in the book). The idea of this being written with dual narrators would have been something I would have suggested if I were an editor.

All in all, I’m not mad I read the book. Like I said, the story was good. The execution of the story could have been much better. This is a book that I wouldn’t personally buy for my classroom, but if someone donated it, I would add it to my class library. Some people, who may be less critical than I am, would probably really enjoy this book.

Posted in Book Reviews


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Recently, my friends and I started up our book club. We used to meet pretty regularly a few years ago, but people moved, got different jobs that required more time, kids got older with more activities, and we eventually just fizzled out. As more and more of my friends started getting vaccinated and the weather here in the Midwest was at least pretending to be more spring-like, I decided to reach out and see if there was interest in starting again.

We met in March where we read Wings of Ebony by J. Elle. Apparently YA fantasy wasn’t this groups favorite category. We all liked aspects of the book, but it wasn’t a group favorite. (Personally, I really enjoyed the book, but I also pretty exclusively only read middle school and YA books, and fantasy tends to be my favorite category. If you like YA and you like fantasy, you will probably like it too.)

At that meeting, we decided that for April, we would read Piranesi by Susanna Clark. It had appeared on a NPR list for best book club books and one of our group members had read and enjoyed it, so we decided to give it a shot.

It. was. weird.

This book is not like anything I have ever read before. It’s a fairly short book, around 250 pages, so it’s a quick read. But I have to admit, I was not feeling this book for about the first 30-40 pages. I thought my friend who had suggested it was in a completely different place from me in terms of book interests.

But, after I understood a little more of the writing style of the book, I began to really enjoy it.

Piranesi is the main character. We know all about Piranesi and where he lives through his journals which is how the book is written: journal entries. Unlike most journal entries (Monday, January 1, 2021), Piranesi marks time in…unique ways. The journals are full of information about the house in which Piranesi lives, room upon room, endless halls, stairs, and statues. He goes into great detail about all aspects of the house which is so vast that he does not believe he has been to all the places within it. We learn early on there are three levels to the house. The top layer is where the clouds are, and the bottom is full of the waters. (I told you…weird.)

There is only one other person that Piranesi ever sees in the house, and it is why Piranesi believes he is only the 15th person who has ever lived. EVER. As in, there have only ever been 14 other people who have existed. He comes to this conclusion innocently enough, but I won’t spoil that here.

Piranesi’s journals are like that of an innocent child. He is continuously surprised by the beauty and “generosity” of the house. He treats all things with respect and has a great appreciation for the birds that frequent the house. Through his careful observations, he has learned many of the house’s mysteries…that were not so mysterious if one simply paid attention.

The Other, as Piranesi refers to the other person in the house, is quite a contrast to Piranesi. He does not seem to value the house, but instead is searching for the answers to his own question, and uses Piranesi to help him solve it.

There is a lot to unpack in this book, and I do intend to read it again. I could see using this book to discuss theme as there are quite a few you could pull from it.

It was definitely one of my favorite books of the year.

Posted in 2021 Books, Book Reviews, Possible Trumans 2021-22

The Unteachables – A Review

Goodreads summary here. And while you’re clicking things, add me as a friend on Goodreads.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My quick summaryMr. Zachary Kermit is beginning his very last year of teaching. He has worked the numbers and he can claim early retirement at the completion of this year. He’s in for a surprise at the beginning of the year when he is told he is teaching the “self-contained” classroom. (Side note – as a public school teacher, the way this classroom is described hopefully does not exist.) The classroom has been labeled by the staff and the district as “The Unteachables”, and no teacher lasts. Mr. Kermit doesn’t fight the placement. He’s been pushed around from class to class, and he knows this is the superintendent’s way of getting him to quit. However, Mr. Kermit is not going to quit. He’s got one more year, and he can do anything for one year.

This was my third Gordon Korman novel. Only three! From someone who has written over 80 books. I cannot even imagine writing that many books. From a quick glance at his website, he writes mainly middle grade/teen books. The three I have read are all more for middle grade, maybe even upper elementary.

The Unteachables was definitely my favorite of the ones I have read by Korman. The book is written from multiple different perspectives. While there have been a lot of novels published over the last couple years from dual perspectives, this novel dedicates at least a chapter to nearly every character in the book. I’m torn about this writing technique. It’s nice to see the story from different view points, but I also feel that I’m sometimes not getting enough character development. I didn’t feel like that with this book.

The book is really funny. There were plenty of times that I laughed out loud which drew looks from my daughters as I disrupted their video gaming. I do think that even though this book is clearly written for middle schoolers that many adults (especially teachers) will really enjoy it. I will probably purchase it for my classroom library, and I could see using it at a whole class read to discuss point of view.

Posted in 2021 Books, Book Reviews, ProjectLitBookClub

Dear Justyce Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Check out the summary from Goodreads here.

When I first read Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, I was blown away. Her style of writing drew me in from the first sentence. Dear Martin is still one of my most favorite books, and when students are searching for a book to read during SSR, it’s one of the first I grab. When I found out that Dear Justyce was coming out, I did something I have never done before. I pre-ordered it…twice.

When we first went home for the pandemic, I started searching for new people to follow on social media. Finding Nic Stone on social media was probably the best little gem I found. Through her, I have been introduced to a host of other authors as well as Project Lit. If you aren’t following her, you should. She is full of wisdom, inspiration, and just realness.

Dear Justyce is just another example of the wisdom that Stone has for us all. We follow the main character Quan throughout most of his life. In the present, Quan is in holding at a detention center awaiting trial. I think the blurbs out there give it away at to what sentence he is facing, but (as I’ve mentioned many times) I try to stay away from any sort of information about a book before I read it, and by doing that, it was a real mystery to me as to why Quan was in the detention center. It does come out, but not before the reader has a true sense of who Quan is.

I feel like this novel really opened my eyes to the way our justice system works. I’m not naïve enough to think the the system is flawless, but I had no idea how many people are in prison simply because they are awaiting trial. Have not even been convicted, yet they’re locked up, sometimes for years.

Another thing that really stood out to me (probably because I’m a teacher) was how Quan’s downward spiral happened after an incident with a teacher. He had a teacher that believed in him, supported him, encouraged him, but when she went out on maternity leave, the substitute didn’t have the same thoughts. This lack of faith, support, encouragement, and downright belief that Quan was a bad kid had a direct impact on the choices he makes.

Reading this book has made me really examine what I am doing with my students. Where do I need to be more encouraging, supportive? Where do I need to push them a little more?

I HIGHLY recommend this book to all educators. It will definitely be another Nic Stone books I shelf in my classroom and recommend to students.