Monday, September 29, 2014

30 Authors in 30 Days: Jamie Ford on China Dolls by Lisa See

30 Authors in 30 Days is a first of its kind event aimed at connecting readers, bloggers, and authors. Hosted by The Book Wheel, this month-long event takes place during September and features 30 authors discussing their favorite recent reads on 30 different blogs. There are also some great prizes provided by and BookJigs

For the full schedule of participating authors and bloggers, visit The Book Wheel or join the Facebook group. You can also follow along on Twitter with the #30Authors hashtag!

I am so excited to participate in 30 Authors in 30 Days and host Jamie Ford on My Life in Books today! I have read and loved both Jamie Ford and Lisa See's books...coincidentally, I reviewed two of their previous books in a joint post, about this time last year! Check it out here.

Author Jamie Ford on China Dolls by Lisa See

Before reality TV, there was this thing called reality. And I miss it.

As I look around, press the remote, and surf the Web, I’m not sure what passes for everyday life in the year 2014 is all that interesting, honestly. I guess that’s because my Chinese grandparents met at the Wah Mee Club, a back-room gambling parlor in Seattle, in 1928. My grandfather was a croupier and my grandmother was a coat-check girl, and that kind of “meet cute” just doesn’t happen on


My perpetual longing for the past is why I’m drawn to historical fiction. And why I absolutely adore books like Lisa See’s China Dolls, which explores the glittering golden age of Chinese nightclubs in the 1930s and 40s.

In China Dolls we get to see the world through the eyes of three young women, three dancers, three hearts beating to the rhythm of San Francisco’s famous Forbidden City nightclub. And sure, this is complex exploration of social and racial conventions based on real-life performers and crooners who worked the clubs, but China Dolls is also, at its core, a story of love, friendship, and forgiveness—and just an all-around page-turning, captivating, oh-no-you-di’int, kind of book that is impossible to put down.

Oh, and before I forget, on a personal note, the Forbidden City nightclub was run by the charismatic Charlie Low, a maverick showman whom I’m actually related to (on my grandmother’s side of the family).  

So this is a juicy slice of history that I’m very familiar with, and one of those stories that I’ve always wanted to tell. But Lisa beat me to it.

And bravo, she did it better than I ever could!

For more information about Lisa See and her amazing books visit: 

If you are interested in purchasing China Dolls, check out Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

For more information about Jamie Ford and his amazing books visit:

If you are interested in purchasing Jamie Ford's newest book, Songs of Willow Frost, check out Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Begin the Week with Words

Finishing up Juliet's Nurse and finding that I love the way Leveen has brought the Nurse to life. She is an amazing woman living in a harsh time period. Her wisdom is life giving. Look for the full review later this week.

"There's only so much insult given as what we choose to take." Juliet's Nurse, by Lois Leveen

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Lit Report

Finally, finally, I was able to tackle one more book on my TBR Pile Challenge. The Lit Report by Sarah N. Harvey has been sitting on my self since 2009. At 197 pages, it fit perfectly into my small breaks from the massive grading I've been doing the past two weeks.

The Lit Report is the story of Julia and her best friend Ruth. Ruth finds herself pregnant a few weeks after a party and she and Julia decide they are better off hiding it from Ruth's overly involved, Christian fanatic parents. Lucky for Julia, her own stepmother is also pregnant and Julia is able to collect all kinds of supplies and information about caring for a pregnancy and birth.

The girls' plan for birth? A log cabin "home delivery," where their parents will think they are on a church retreat. And the baby safely laid on the steps of Ruth's father's church for someone to take to the hospital. There is one thing they didn't count on: falling in love with the baby.

A simple story, written to a younger audience, The Lit Report was okay. My age and experience definitely affects my view of it, but I can see a preteen or early teen audience enjoying this book. Julia, the narrator, makes books references throughout her entire reporting of the experience, which I enjoyed.

Woo hoo! for having one more challenge book done! How are your reading challenges for 2014 proceeding?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Begin the Week with Words

From a book whose narrator likes to read and write, comes this little gem of an Watch for the review on The Lit Report later this week.

"Usually I don't mind lying - I think of it as a legitimate creative exercise for a budding writer." The Lit Report, by Sarah N. Harvey

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Can Dream, Can't I?

It's been one month of school this week. My students and I have settled in nicely. They seem like a great bunch of far. The Freshmen are in the midst of writing their first essay and the Juniors have finished theirs, which will hopefully show up on the blog here next week.

But ohhhhhh, hooowww looonnnggg it takes to grade writing assignments.

And that's where the year has already caught up with me. I have approximately 110 students this year, a couple dozen more than I've had for the past couple years. Between the two grade levels, someone's always writing something, which means, I'm always grading something. I'm halfway through a set now and have a test coming up Friday with some essays that are, thankfully, pretty straightforward. Those shouldn't be too bad. Hoping to be in the clear by this time next week!

And then what will I do (in the week before the Freshmen's character analysis essays come in)? READ! I'm going crazy with the fact that I haven't been able to read. I actually want to pull my hair and yell about it! I seriously think I'm going to make a deal with myself about grading and reading: Divide number of essays by the number of nights to grade. And once I've graded that many in a night, I can let myself quit...and read!

So, what will I read? Glad you asked. Here are the top ten books I'm itching to get my eyeballs on:

1. Gutenberg's Apprentice, by Alix Christie. This is my next review book, from Harper. It's about the history of books, wrapped in a fiction story...what's not to love?

2. Landline, by Rainbow Rowell. I won a free copy! That's a good enough reason, but there have been good reviews of it. What tipped my decision to read it sooner than later was a post on my FB wall by a fellow English teacher/book nerd that said, "You say you won Landline? Read it. NOW!" You don't have to tell me twice!

3. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh. This is the special copy I received from the parents of my student, Erin, who passed away this summer. It belonged to Erin and she had brought it to me to read in part and laugh with her last May, the week she graduated high school. And how fitting that Brosh's writing voice, which emanates from the pages of this particular book, fits Erin's personality so well, it is like having a piece of Erin with me. I was very honored that they would think to give it to me and it will always be a most treasured book in my collection.

4. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs. Rave reviews from students more than anyone else have convinced me to put this on the "read now" list.

5. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, by David Wroblewski. This is on my TBR Pile Challenge and would count toward my Chunkster reading challenge as well. And I've had it forever, so I need to get reading!

6. Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. We ordered this book for Freshman English and I've never read it. So, best get on the ball. I think we are going to pick it up soon, so you may be seeing a Student Spotlight on it in October.

7. The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst. A book on when and how to say no instead of being a people pleaser. I've never thought of myself as a people pleaser and I don't think that's the case for me. But I do have a heart for helping people and I will help whenever I possibly can, even when it's obvious (to myself) that I really can't or shouldn't. Reading this one along with a group of friends.

8. Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education, by Glenn Beck. Now, if you know me, you know I have very little interest in politics. So while I know Glenn Beck is a big name in that game, and I have faint recollection that there was something even his own people have against him, I don't know much about any of it and don't care either. I picked this one up purely because of the title. Anything common core related, I will read. The topic is kind of consuming my career/public education right now, so I'd like to hear all sides of it and sort my thoughts.

9. Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. I remember this being reviewed in a positive light. Also that it's historical fiction, with a piece of history not well known, which is always interesting to me.

10. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. This is number ten because if it is as good as everyone claims, I will follow it with a reading of the entire series. Tell me current Outlander fans, how many are there anyway? And are the half mark books between two main books (labeled like 7.5 or 8.5) worth the read?

So, those are the dear friends waiting patiently at my bedside. Hopefully you'll be hearing from me on one of them soon...I can dream, can't I? What are your eyeballs itching to read?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Begin the Week with Words

My Honors English 9 classes are reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Easy reading for them, yes...thought processes, no. The story is so full of elements beyond the surface happenings, that it makes for a good teaching tool. Since the story is easy to comprehend, we can spend all of our time on analysis. As we read, the students are tracking: Joseph Campbell's "Hero's Journey," allegory, specific character analysis, and questioning and observing, which is basically reading between the lines. That's quite a few things to do as you read. So in rereading this childhood classic, I stumbled upon a sentence that caught my eye. Enjoy.

"But in general, take my advice, when you meet anything that's going to be human and isn't yet, or used to be human once and isn't now, or ought to be human and isn't, you keep your eyes on it and feel for your hatchet.” The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

Monday, September 8, 2014

Such Good Girls - Children Holocaust Survivors

Such Good Girls, by R.D. Rosen
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Category: Narrative nonfiction
Source: I received this e-galley from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for my honest review.

It is hard to pass up a Holocaust story. Although they are always filled with atrocities that we as post WWII citizens can barely comprehend, the stories of survivors and the futures they built summon that sense of hope everyone yearns to hold in their hearts despite their own situations and life experiences. The narrative nonfiction work Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust's Hidden Child Survivors, by R.D. Rosen, starts with the stories of three Jewish girls who survived the Holocaust by hiding, but lost their childhood and identity just the same.

Sophie Turner passed the war by hiding in plain sight with her mother. Sophie's story interested me because I've heard very few actual stories of Jews who survived by "passing" as a nationality other than Jewish. Flora Hogman had several name changes and religious conversions throughout the war years for the sake of hiding her Jewish heritage. However, Flora was passed from home to home, from stranger to stranger, as no one had many resources to feed and raise an extra child. Carla Lessing spent the years in Holland, most of the time hidden by a large Christian family.

The second and third parts of the book discuss the aftermath of all "hidden children's" lives. Even children who never saw any Jews beaten or harmed because of their hiding, suffered psychologically from the knowledge and fear of it and suffered physically, mentally, and emotionally at the hands of relatives and parents who survived and returned to reclaim them from the hiders. Amazingly, hidden children were not known as an existing population of survivors to the world and were not acknowledged among other Holocaust survivors. It is only since 1991 that the hidden children of WWII were given a voice as they began to gather in conferences in NY City. Rosen documents here the long, rocky path some hidden children traveled to begin and further the healing process.

Since reading this book, I've seen reviews of others saying the author's telling is cold or emotionless. I don't think this is really the case. No, it is not absolutely gripping as other Holocaust stories have been, but Rosen does a good job of detailing the hidden children's experiences and bringing this overlooked group of survivors' stories to light. Two-thirds of the book is more of a presentation of how the hidden children's lives carried on and how their stories were brought into the history of the Holocaust as we know it. I would say this would need as much an informational approach than anything.

Have you heard of the Holocaust survivors who were "hidden children"?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Begin the Week with Words

One of my favorite quotes about education because it speaks to what education should really be about...inspiring life long learners.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bookish Shirts I Love

The weather here in Ohio is playing back and forth between summer and fall, which means I end up in nice cotton T-shirts most of the time. Like any other type of clothing, I have my favorites, worn repeatedly before I'll even touch the rest of the stack. Of course, they are book related shirts! Why else would I be telling you all of this? And of course I have pictures!

My oldest and most favorite bookish shirt, which is also my favorite color, blue. It reads "Life is simple. Eat. Sleep. Read." That says it all!

PJs my sister bought me Christmas a couple years ago. The shirt begs of others what any book lover wants to discuss - his/her current read! "Ask me about my book" shirt comes with lightweight pants adorned in mugs, stacks of books, and words like "travel" and "literature."

A special, one-of-a-kind shirt custom designed specially for a group of blogger friends and myself. The picture is half book, half laptop. It reads "Rocking the Book Blogosphere" and I can tell you that is exactly what the bloggers I follow do! Love you all! (Oh, and I also have this shirt in a dark gray long sleeve, so I can wear its awesomeness year round!)

This is my newest! I chose red because it's my school's color. The front reads "English Teacher" and the back reads "Only Because Freakin' Awesome Is Not An a Official Job Title." You better believe it! This was one of those specialty shirts that shows up as an ad/post on FB. After seeing it numerous times, I just had to have it.

We have dress down day every Friday at school. Teachers pay $2 to wear jeans and a comfy shirt. The money goes toward many good causes within the school, usually helping students in need. And who doesn't want to wear comfy clothes to work AND proclaim truth at the same time?! You know I'll be sporting these the next few weeks before the cold settles in and the snow flies!

Monday, September 1, 2014

How We Learn

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens, by Benedict Carey
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Category: Parenting & Families, Science
Source: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Being in the "learning business," I couldn't pass up a book about how people learn. So, because of the title alone, How We Learn, I requested it. It turned out to be one of those books where you pick through the table of contents to read the portions that are most relevant to you. After reading the first two parts, I realized I was waiting to read the parts that sounded more interesting to me and I skipped to the following sections:

"The Hidden Value of Ignorance," which was about testing.

"The Upside of Distraction," which discusses how ideas and solutions appear when we are not thinking on the exact topic.

"Learning Without Thinking," about learning through associations.

"You Snooze, You Win," discusses the role of sleep in the learning process.

Overall, about half the book was relevant to me as an educator, although I feel it was dense, factual/scientific reading (for me anyway), so I didn't read it straight through. Once I began picking and choosing parts I wanted to read, I liked the book better. People with science/biology interests will like this book.

Have you read any books with topics that would interest a random audience?