Monday, January 26, 2015

I Mustache You Some Questions

I was tagged for this post by Lori @ Palmer's Page Turners! Looks like fun and I need a break from review writing while I enjoy a few books this week. Feel free to take it for your own blog as well! (I did tag four bloggers I enjoy - but by no means all of my favorites - at the end.)

Four names people call me other than my real name:
Pooh or Dear (by my husband)
Jen (by most family)
Sis (by my siblings)
Mom, mom, mom, mom, mommy, mommy, mommy, ma, ma, ma...  (by my kids...think Family Guy, it's that bad)

Four jobs I’ve had:
McDonald's (high school)
Giant Eagle (college - where I met my hubby)
Parking Services on my college campus (college)
English Teacher (since 2005)

Four movies I would/have watched more than once:
Back to the Future (all three)
Shawshank Redemption
The Proposal
The Dark Knight

Four books I’d recommend:
(This is a horrible question to ask a reader, so I tried to mix it up)
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Storyteller, by Jodi Picoult
One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp
11/22/63, by Stephen King

Four places I have lived:
New Middletown, Ohio (born and growing up)
Bristolville, Ohio (only one year as a toddler)
New Middletown, Ohio (apartment when I married)
New Middletown, Ohio (our house)
(Yes, I love where I live!)

Four places I have been:
Ontario, Canada
Hilton Head and Charleston, South Carolina
Ocean City, Maryland
Hershey, PA
Orlando and Destin, Florida
OBX, North Carolina
(Yea, more than four, but I don't travel a lot, so this is about it!)

Four places I'd rather be:
Snuggled in bed with a book
Sitting by my pool in the sun
In any place/type of vacation - but preferably the three month kind I get June - August.
Hanging out with good friends

Four things I don’t eat:
Very spicy food
Most seafood (breaded shrimp is okay)
Vegetable soup

Four of my favorite foods:
Just about anything Potato!
Broccoli cheese soup
Caesar salad/wraps

Four TV shows that I watch:
Big Bang Theory
The Tonight Show

Four things I am looking forward to this year (2015):
Reaching new reading goals
Forming closer friendships
Spending quality time with family
Learning, changing, growing as a person

Four things I’m always saying:
"I'm gonna punch you in the face..." kidding threat to my kids and students
"She's the baby!" about our mini dachshund when she gives the sad face
"Is your homework done?" my kids and students again
"Did you brush your teeth?" three kids with braces at the same time makes this oft repeated

Four People I Tag:
Katie @ Words for Worms
Tanya @ Mom's Small Victories
Eva @ The Paperback Princess
Wendy @ Wensend

Have fun!!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

True Sunday Sentence context.

"The appearance of perfection does not interest me. It is the illumination of near-disaster beside which we all teeter, at all times, that interests me. It is laughing in the face of what might have been, and what is not." Girl Runner, by Carrie Snyder

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Miss Peregrine's World of Peculiar!

Big classroom hits!
Ugh! I have to start with the fact that I read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and its sequel, Hollow City, quickly and with great interest...only to find out there's another book coming. Ahhhhhh! It's a series, which I totally didn't know going into it. I hate starting series before they all come out. The third book will be out late 2015. And apparently, Tim Burton is making a movie of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, for which Wikipedia mentions a release date of March 4, 2016.

An example of "weird" pictures within.
We see stuff like this cause of the Internet,
but before the Internet, such strange things
were few and far between.

Okay, now that I have that out of my system, I truly enjoyed these books. Fantasy is the name of the game with these YA novels, which usually places a book at a disadvantage with me. However, Riggs formed the story around groups of actual old photographs. Strange and spooky black and white or sepia photos that actually exist adorn the covers and pages of these stories. The narration pulls the random photos together, forming a fictional, but cool story about the why's and what if's of the weird photographs. At any point where Riggs describes a strange person or weird set up, you'd better believe a new picture will appear on the following page.

That small connection to reality (the photos) drew me in, along with the wonderful reviews from all sorts of readers - especially from those who don't care for YA and make sure you know it! As Miss Peregrine's gained popularity, I started recommending it to students, who are forever my guinea pigs when I have too much to read and not enough time (like, always). Every single one loved it. Anyway, I wanted to see the cool pictures and while I was at it I might as read the book, right?

Some photos are obviously photoshopped,
but back in the day, with such limited
technology, people wouldn't realize this, or
at least wonder how it was done.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children finds teenage Jacob bored and out of place with life. However, a chain of events sets in motion discoveries that no one can imagine and no one will believe. Fighting for his life and the lives of new friends, Jacob time travels, fights monsters, and ultimately finds a place where he belongs. Hollow City picks up right where Miss Peregrine's leaves off, continuing the story you so want to hear the end of...until you hit the last five pages and realize there aren't enough pages left for this to wrap up and then see that there is a whole other book that won't be out for a year...then you're just cursing under your breath.

But it's good up until then. And I'll be a happy person come end of this year and I get to continue us the journey with Miss Peregrine and her peculiar children.

Have I piqued your interest enough?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Against Football: A Fan's Manifesto

I've always had a love/hate relationship with football. Growing up I didn't pay too much attention, besides the fact that I was in the marching band (and I wasn't there for the football). And I always "liked" the team my current crush liked, cause we needed something in common, duh. Otherwise, whatever.

And then I married a football fanatic. To be fair, I knew he was a fanatic when I married him. And also, he's become less fanatical in behavior over the past fifteen years, although not less in his love of the sport. I'm a good, supportive wife. He supports my book love and I return in kind. I own Denver Broncos gear, he gets all kinds of Broncos trinkets, I (attempt to) watch games, I can talk football when I need to, etc, etc...but I can't say I'd be sorry if the apocalypse was the collapse of the NFL and football in general.

So, I couldn't pass up a book called Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto, by Steve Almond, which I found through Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness. Almond states that, "This little book is a manifesto. Its job is to be full of obnoxious opinions. For example, I happen to believe that our allegiance to football legitimizes and even fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia" (6). He takes football down through each of these points and while I thought some were a little stretch or not confined to football only, for the most part Almond's points are undoubtedly spot on. NOTE: If you are a footbal fanatic, keep reading...the point of the book is not to change your mind, but to make football better than what it currently is.

To highlight a few points (direct quotes in italics):

- "Medical research has confirmed that football can cause traumatic injury to the brain, not as a rare and unintended consequence, but as a routine byproduct of how the game is played. The central concern among doctors is no longer catastrophic injuries— concussions that result from big collisions— but the incremental (and therefore largely invisible) damage done by numerous sub concussive hits" (38).

- The NFL is a non profit organization, which means they don't pay taxes.

- "The traditional line put forward by boosters is that a sports franchise generates prestige and jobs and economic growth for a particular city. It would be more accurate to characterize teams as parasites on the local economy. They suck money from local tax bases then send the gigantic profits generated by these expenditures back to the league office for disbursement to the owners. Think about how insane our cultural priorities are that we’re allowing so much money to be siphoned from he public till and funneled directly into the...nation’s wealthiest families" (76). For example, taxpayer money pays for a hefty percentage of stadium building.

- "Fun fact: 45 percent of Division I football players never graduate....It’s a fraud that degrades the essential educational mission. It suggests that what really matters, what makes a college worth attending and supporting, isn’t scholarship or research or intellectual transmission, but athletics (125).

These facts, and the numerous others within this book, speak for themselves. When you stop hiding behind the entertainment factor, you can't deny the absolute BS on which the NFL, and like football leagues, run. The cool thing is that Almond admits to having loved football and still loving it, even as he writes his "manifesto." Also, he doesn't expect everyone to up and change their minds or quit football: "I have no right to tell anyone what to do, especially when it comes to football. I’ve supported the game for four decades. No overnight conversion is going to undo that. But I do have a right, like all Americans, to speak about what I see" (156). Especially when what you see is more harmful than needed. Corruption is found everywhere and people are always going to take interest in dangerous or exciting activities, so Almond ends his book with a list of ways to make the game better  and more respectable in the aspects he has discussed:

- Revoke the NFL’s non- profit status.
- Require that allocation of public funds for sports facilities be approved by public referendum.
- Institute a parental discretion warning before football games
- Enforce a weight limit on players and/or teams
- Create a helmet that records every sub-concussive hit
- Include graduation rates in a college team’s national ranking
- Prohibit tackle football for high schoolers younger than sixteen
- Require a 3.0 GPA to play varsity football

One last word from Steve Almond: "The point of this book isn’t to shit on your happiness. It isn’t to win some cultural argument. Let’s make it larger than that. Let’s make it an honest conversation between ourselves, and within ourselves, about why we come to football, about why we need a beautiful savage game to feel fully alive, to feel united, and to love the people we love" (172).

What is football to you? Both sides of the football stance will benefit from this book. At 177 pages, it is completely readable for anyone.

And what do I do when I get bored during games? I interpret my hubby's feelings of important plays via selfies. See below, taken during a Denver Broncos game in 2014, which they lost. He didn't know I was taking them at the time! Haha! (Sorry Steelers fans. No hard feelings, you're just the most fun to harass since I live so close to Pittsburgh!)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

My last good quote pulled from Memoirs of a Geisha:

"Adversity is like a strong wind. I don't mean just that it holds us back from places we might otherwise go. It also tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that afterward we see ourselves as we really are, and not merely as we might like to be." Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Teenage Brain - What is Up With Them?

This one is going to my
classroom for future reference.
The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and a Young Adults, by Frances E. Jensen, M.D. with Amy Ellis Nutt
Publisher: Harper
Publication date: January 6, 2015
Category: Nonfiction/Informational/Science
Source: I received this free ARC from Harper Collins Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

As an educator, one of the most time consuming activities is planning effective lessons. How do teenagers learn best and how can I work that into my classroom? The most energy consuming activity is classroom management. Keeping a class of 25-30 teenagers in place to complete the task at hand is nearly impossible some days. What is up with their behavior issues and (lack of) thought processes???

So, when Harper offered a book about the brain development of teenagers, there was no question I needed to read it. The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, by neuroscientist Frances E. Jensen, M.D. with Amy Ellis Nutt, is thorough in its approach. The opening chapters are dense with information concerning the development of the human brain from infancy to adulthood. I suppose one could skip these first three chapters, however the information does apply numerous times throughout the book, making it worthwhile. And I learned neurons were connecting and firming up as I sat there! (See, I learned that...learning new things creates neuron pathways, expanding your brain power.)

The remaining chapters discuss issues teenagers face, from everyday considerations to dangers, such as sleep, risky behaviors, drugs and alcohol, stress, technology, gender, sports and concussions (one of my favorite anti-football topics), and consequences. And what did I learn? There is so much, this may be best written as a list of "fun facts," my new favorite way to sum up nonfiction reads!
(Direct quotes are in italics.)

-- Excessive sleep is normal for teens. However, their bodies are hardwired to a pattern, so early rising doesn't always equal early bedtime. Which means they lose sleep when forced to get up early. Science backing the case for later starting hours at schools is what we have here.

-- By age 15, teens have fully capable reasoning abilities. However, unlike adults, teen brains have a higher gauge for reward, which is gained by taking bigger risks. Combine with this the fact that the parts of the teen brain responsible for learning from mistakes are not developed, and you have teens who will repeat reckless behavior for the gratification. Especially if they have "never, or rarely, experienced negative consequences" (107-108).

-- Biologically, drugs and alcohol are more irresistible and more easily addictive to teenagers than to adults. It takes very little to make an addict of a teenager and a longer and harder recovery process as well.

-- Teens are stress factories. Even without internal and external stress factors triggering stress hormones adrenaline and cortisone, teens are naturally stressed due to the presence of the hormone THP in their brains.

-- Studies of obsessive gamers show that their brains' reactions and physical appearance are reminiscent to that of alcohol or drug addiction.

-- Reminiscent of another recent read, Against Football, the section on concussions and teenage brains states: "Over the past few years, scientists have slowly begun to realize that brain damage can result even from non-concussive blows to the head. All it takes is repetitive strikes of moderate intensity. In other words, thousands of kids playing contact sports who have never had...a concussion could be at risk for brain damage...going undetected and undiagnosed and will be likely to cause cognitive impairment later in life" (244). It is believed that there are tens of thousands more kids with concussions than are diagnosed each year, they just don't speak up or don't have the typical symptoms we associate with a concussion. Also, keep in mind, this is speaking of sports in general, not just football. The chapter ends with, "Teenagers are damaging more than just their brains with concussions. They're damaging their futures" (252).

These are just tidbits of most of the topics discussed. From my twelve years in high school classrooms and my own two teenagers, I'd say The Teenage Brain was extremely insightful and helpful in understanding the how's and why's of the situations in which teens find themselves. Not to mention the ways I can be proactive and positively reactive as needed.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

Ah, quotes are grand, but quotes that use juxtaposition are the best! One of my favorite pieces of rhetoric.

"Never doubt that there are two kinds of doubt: one that fully lives into the questions, and one that uses the questions as weapons against fully living." The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Orphan Train

Orphan Train has been on my radar since January 2014, when I made plans to attend ALA in Philly, where I would meet author Christina Baker Kline. Due to crazy snow, I missed the trip, and Orphan Train didn't make it to my reading pile for another eleven months. I picked it up Christmas Eve 2014 as I waited for my kids to settle into bed so the hubby and I could wrap and set out presents. Honestly, I picked it up because I was two books shy of my Goodreads goal for 2014 and at 273 pages, Orphan Train was completely doable. Of course, I'd also heard it was good, which helps!

It was good. I started it Christmas Eve night and finished it Christmas night. As an easy to read book with an easy to follow narrative, Orphan Train follows a little discussed piece of history. From 1854 - 1929, orphans from East Coast cities were sent to the Midwest by train, in search of families. Some found families who raised them as their own, while others were taken in as free labor, sometimes neglected and abused.


This fictional account follows an Irish girl, Niamh, who finds herself an orphan on a train headed from New York City to Minnesota. Without giving away any details, let's suffice it to say that Niamh endures hardships akin to children in today's foster care system. Cheering for her all the way, it's sad to think life could seem to really work against a person so much.

I would not rate the book as absolutely amazing, but a good read and perfect addition to my end-of-the-year reading. I hope to find other books on this topic as well.

Anyone find other works, fiction or nonfiction, on this topic?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christmas Book Haul

Top: Me, Rachel
Bottom: THEE Books
Mid-December I thought through a list of books I'd like to spend my B&N Christmas gift cards on and guest posted it to get everyone's opinion. First weekend of January, I met up with my equally book crazy friend Rachel and headed out to celebrate the New Year buying books. We spent no less than four hours going through shelves, drinking coffee, and talking! And, for the most part, I stuck to my list - may be a first really and probably renders this post redundant, but, who doesn't want to talk about a book haul trip and awesome friends? (Is that sentence grammatically and punctuationally correct?! Is punctuationally a word? Who cares...I'm not back to work yet!) Plus, I have a couple other bookish Christmas gifts to show off, so stick with me here people.

I used my gift cards for:

1. Every Day, by David Levithan. This was unplanned, but Rachel randomly picked it off the shelf and read the front blurb to me, which I couldn't resist. It reads, "Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl." The extended summary on the back gives a bit more detail and makes it even more interesting. Rachel put it on her ebook list, so I bought the copy we'd found.

2. Where'd You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple. I've been told repeatedly to read this, planned on it, and just went for it. At the register the cashier said, "Oh this is a good one!" So, I'm extra confident in it now!

3. Lookaway, Lookaway, by Wilton Barnhardt. Another that's been repeatedly recommended.

4, 5, 6. Outlander (not pictured), Dragonfly in Amber, and Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon. I had debated on the previous post whether or not I wanted to buy the whole series with my gift cards or just the first one to see if I liked it. Rachel made it simple by asking, "Well, are you one of those people who's going to read the whole series just because you read the first one and it's a series?" Sometimes you just need that bookish twin who knows the right questions to ask. She's right, I am that person, so I figured I'd buy the first few at least. And now I have another reason to go back! I had to ask B&N to order the trade paper copy of Outlanders WITHOUT the movie cover. So, it is on its way. But they had in stock books number 2&3! Now, when to read them? I'm thinking June will be perfect timing, but don't know if I can wait until then.

Besides my gift cards, other bookish gifts I received were a new book light from my parents, a bookmark from Allison at The Book Wheel , and a literary memory game from my sister. The bookmark is a Bookjig, which I've never seen before. It clips to the front of the book and has a ribbon hanging down. So when you're not reading, your bookmark doesn't get lost! The book light is extra small, sturdy for clipping to the front of the book, and doesn't get in the way. And the memory game is the Book Lovers Classics Edition! No one has played with me's like they think the pictures will give me extra memory power! Love them all.

Anyone else get great books/bookish gifts over the holidays?

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Begin the Week with Words

I finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden, the week before Christmas and came across a quote that struck me immediately. I think it did so because I could immediately see how it is applicable to the every day life of anyone.

The sentences leading up to the quote below speak of defeating another person. The character speaking (a minor, side character) says he does not try to defeat a man, but to defeat the man's confidence, in order to win any competition. I don't so much like the idea of defeating people, it goes against my nature, unless the game is in good fun. However the sentence that follows these statements I find valuable:

"Two men are equals - true equals - only when they both have equal confidence."

Is it as simple as that? Sounds simple, but sometimes it is really hard to have or show confidence.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Bout of Books 12

Bout of Books

One of my favorite reading/blogging events is coming up and this post establishes my intent to participate. Bout of Books 12 begins January 5th - January 11th and I will be ready! What better way to start the new year? Before I go any further, official sign ups and extra information for Bout of Books can be found at the site listed here:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

This is my favorite time of year that they run Bout of Books because I am usually able to best participate. I will just be going back to work from Christmas break, so everything will still be settling in. Even now, I have my lesson plans written out and copies made for that week. By then, I will have nothing left to grade either.

I'm extra excited because I've also challenged myself to read nothing but TBRs that I own for as long as possible in the New Year (read about it here). The Bout of Books week will give me a great jump on it. I also enjoy hearing what everyone is reading and gleaning the best titles from reviews and chats. Plus the Twitter chats and giveaways are so much fun.The week is free and clear and I see lots of good books in my near future (such as my guest post of Christmas picks).

Hope to see you around the book blogosphere next week!