Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Eve Readathon: Update

It's been a fun night!  I don't know if I've ever mentioned, but I have two holidays that I associate with a bad break up and some emotions that I'd love to put away for good.  Yes.  New Year's Eve is one of them.  Why I manage to forget the good times, especially those amazing years in Hawaii with their overwhelming celebrations, I'll never know!  Anyway, I tend to really dislike New Year's Eve.  Thanks to a readathon that gives me a reason to avoid pretending to be over the moon with the celebrations going on, I am attempting to reshape the holiday.  :)  Thanks to Picky Girl for all her work on this one!

I'm getting ready to dive back into my reading and wanted to do a bit of an update, since I have a feeling I'll be falling asleep soon.  Here is my update:

Books Read:  0 that I can count as finished
Pages Read:  400-500 so far, but I've been bouncing between four different books
Rationale:  I actually didn't want to finish anything (which sounds crazy, I know), but that's because I want to start off 2013 with a number of books read.  :)
Snacks/Meals:  Only one break for food and sustenance.  Shocking, I know!
Text Messages:  About 20+ thanks to a flurry of texts sent between myself and my family and friends out of state.  My poor family and friends locally!  (Now I'm feeling guilty that I didn't text them too. Sorry!)
Papers Graded:  10 AP Essays during the course of this readathon.  If you know me, that is nothing shy of a miracle and puts me right on track to have them finished before I head back to work.  (This also makes me nuts, yet very happy.)
Craziest Distraction, Outside of Grading:  Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin on CNN's New Year's Eve.  Watching Kathy made Anderson uncomfortable and giggle incessantly while trying to change the subject, just made me laugh.

I'm off to do some reading and to ring in the New Year.  Thanks to everyone who put up with my endless tweeting about nonsense and my lack of focus.  You've all helped me lift the dark cloud off of this holiday a little more.  Maybe next year I can sweep the bad memories away for good!   Have a great one!

New Year's Eve Readathon: Starting Point

I'm starting my actual "reading" a bit late for the readathon, but better late than never.  I finished my "Best of 2012" list for the year and am now ready to settle in to do a bit of reading.  Sadly, I also need to do some grading along the way, but I've decided I'll trade off to make it all easier.

Since I'm just getting started, I need to answer both surveys to get me going.  Over at "The Picky Girl" you'll find the sign up and check ins.  It's going to be a great time, so join us in ringing in 2013 with a great read!

1. What are you reading today?  I'm going to do a bit of rotating today, so I can't really say for sure yet!  A lot of them are on my iPad, so I have a hard time making a list until I open up and jump in.
2. Are you a comfy reader, or do you get dressed, wear shoes and socks, and sit in a straight back chair?  I'll be comfy, for sure!  We got some wispy snow overnight, so I'm in no mood to get dressed up; I'd much rather stay in warm pajama pants and cozy socks, curled up on the couch with a blanket--for now.
3. Food. What will you be eating/imbibing today?  Yesterday I cooked up a lovely Chicken Biryani, so I have leftovers, along with some blackberries for a healthy snack, taquitos for an unhealthy snack, and plenty of Diet Dr. Pepper by my side!
4. Have you finished a book yet?  Nope.  I'm just getting started, so we'll see what I accomplish today and this evening.
5. What book do you want to be reading to close out 2012?  That's a good question.  I'm thinking that maybe I'd like to finish Meg Cabot's Insatiable, since I'm about 100 pages from finishing it up.  It might be nice to ring in the New Year with a book checked off my list.

Here's the second check up:

1. Have you napped yet? Or are you still going strong?  No naps, although I feel one coming on.
2. Do you have a favorite book of 2012? If so, what is it?  I really loved The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.  That book really rocked me emotionally, and was so engaging and sweet!
3. Any reading goals for 2013?  I'm going to up my Goodreads challenge to 103.  I don't dare go up to 113 to match the year, so I'll just match that last number and increase a little at a time!
4. Is anyone listening to any audiobooks?  I might be.  I was listening to Cinder before Christmas break and I'm ready to dive back into it, but we'll see.  If I'm not driving as I do it, I'm afraid I'll nod off!  :)
5. What book are you most excited about in 2013?  You know, I don't even know!  That's something I need to look into.

Well, I'm off to go get some reading done.  I'm going to grade a couple of essays first, and then I'll escape into a great book!  Have a great one today.

Top 12 of 2012

I tried to boil my list down this year to just 10, but after seeing I had a solid 14, it was all I could do to toss two and call it my top 12!  Honestly, there are so many books that I really enjoyed this year, that I focused on the ones that kept me thinking (or feeling) long after.  Here are my choices for the year:

 I first heard about The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight on Angie's blog over at Angieville.  Her glowing, emotional review of this book got me to put it on my list and finally get it read not long ago.  Since then, it's all I could do to stop recommending it to everyone I knew.  Emotional, gripping, and beautiful, this had to be on my list this year!

 This was a graphic novel that I found during nominations for the "Best of" on Goodreads.  I quickly found myself looking up and checking out books that were nominated, and thankfully our school library had this one.  Told in pictures, news articles, and text messages, the story unfolds in a pretty surprising way.  I was intrigued by this story and liked the literacy skills you had to use to read it.

This little jewel was sitting on the "New Arrivals" shelf in our school library.  Seeing it was told in verse, I snatched it up and decided to read it to possibly recommend to my students.  The story of a young girl loaned (and paid for) by another homesteader to help he and his new wife survive on the prairie.  Her story is gripping and gut wrenching.  Honestly, a perfect read for anyone wanting to dabble in verse literature.

I know I'm a bit late coming to this party, but better late than never.  Divergent is another dystopian novel with a real twist.  In this story, people are put into factions and must learn the skill of that group.  What happens in you don't fit into any of those factions though?  Where do you go and how do you develop a "divergent" number of skills?  How do you go against a system bigger than yourself?  A great read, and one I was excited to teach to my Popular Literature students this year.  They loved it!

I'm a big fan now of all things written by Harriet Evans.  Her stories tend to not just be wistful and joyous happiness.  Instead, they feel real and emotionally raw as her main characters deal with what life has set in front of them, often times to realize the beauty of love and friendship right in front of them.  This one made me literally cry, gasp, and talk aloud as I read it.  Stick with it, and you will be justly rewarded with an amazingly deep story and set of characters.

As a newbie to graphic novels, I've loved discovering the emotional depths that these stories can reveal through pictures.  In Stitches the main character has grown up in a highly dysfunctional family, coupled with a hideous health problem that changed his ability to deal with life.  This was not a graphic novel for the squeamish or easily offended, but one that I could not put down and found emotionally raw, honest, and inspiring in the bravery of the human spirit.

On my 8th birthday, my parents surprised me with The Little House on the Prairie series.  From that time forward, I read and reread this series at least a dozen times, completely escaping into a story of frontier living and a quainter time.  Because of that love, I was an easy audience for The Wilder Life, about Wendy Mc Clure's journey to recreate and discover the places, recipes, and real stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I loved this piece of non-fiction and would love to take the same journey into Laura's world!

Sophie Kinsella's stand alone novels have to be some of my favorite reads.  This one was no different.  The text flirting and misunderstandings made it a delightful romantic comedy of sorts.  By far, a favorite read of 2012!

One of my best friends from high school is the author of another choice of mine from 2012, Breaking Beautiful.  I didn't pick this just because I happen to really like the author either!  :)  Set up as a type of mystery, with no magic or paranormal elements, this is just a great story with great characters and conflicts.  I'm happy to say that this realistic fiction was one of my favorites this year!

Cake Boy was a surprising find this year, and yes, it's a cookbook!  I really love the layout, pictures, fonts, and recipes featured in this cookbook.  I've tried to stop purchasing cookbooks, in favor of checking them out from our local library, but this one was a quick exception.  The cakes and desserts in this great cookbook are simple and amazingly delicious.  If I had one cookbook to recommend, this would be it.

I am SO late to this phenomenon that I'm almost embarrassed to just now be putting in on my list.  I'm not sure what I thought it would be about, but I just didn't buy the hype and avoided it until this summer.  I had to attend a conference in Idaho, followed by a quick return home to teach at a different conference.  This was one of the only audio books they had on the shelves, so I gave it a try.  Since I could only listen to it in my car (and it was a great reading) and I quickly was pulled into this gripping love story, I grabbed the book and finished it on my own.  Honestly, I reread the last couple of chapters three times before the tears subsided, and I felt sad to let it go.  If that doesn't count as a top read of the year, then I don't know what does.

Finally, I had to include Ransome Rigg's quirky and unpredictable story.  Coupled with spooky black and white photographs, we follow a young man who wants to understand where his grandfather had lived as a young boy and the mystery surrounding his life.  The story is unpredictable and fresh, something that I really love.  As far as interesting and new, this was one of my favorites of 2012

There we go for 2012!  Earlier in the year I wondered if I would find my top reads, but you never know what a year will bring.  Thankfully, I also met my goal of 100 books this year, and have actually read around 106.  That's a new record for me!  With my "40 Book Challenge" with my students at school, and my own voracious reading habit, it has been a great year.  Here's to another great year ahead!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all!  It's been awhile and I have to start making a reappearance online soon.  What better time than on Christmas Eve?  I have nothing big to report this year, nor a real reason for disappearing on here for about a month.  Honestly, I'm in the midst of the biggest burn out of my entire career and just trying to refuel the batteries to make it another five months.  Christmas comes at a wonderful time so I can start to do just that.

I've actually been reading quite a bit, so I'll be back with reviews aplenty, as long as I can stave off the weary-drearies I've been having!  Here's hoping all of you have a wonderful holiday season and I'll be back soon!

*By the way, if you're interested, Jenn, Tasha, and I are going to be doing another New Year's readathon to ring in 2013.  It was fun to read, tweet, and socialize a bit, all while working our way through some great reads.  Join us for the fun!