Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Book Review: Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful

Stronger, Faster, and More Beautiful by Arwen Elys Dayton
Publication date December 4, 2018
Read courtesy of


There was a tadd* of a thread throughout this book of consecutive stories. Amazingly well done and thoroughly enjoyable. I will definitely be getting this for my library! 

Each story could be a stand alone, but they are also smoothly interwoven... and thought provoking. The first vaccine, first heart transplant, and first clone (remember Dolly the Sheep?) perpetuated the human ability to dream of a stronger, faster and more beautiful human. Dayton has helped us imagine some of the future possibilities, and some we'd like, while others we'd find quite disturbing. And that's the point.... to consider what our tinkering could mean to our future. Butterfly effect, ripple effect, call it what you want, but Dayton masterfully creates realistic what-ifs (realistic what-ifs: is that an oxymoron?) 

I  enjoyed every story in here. None of it felt redundant, repetitive, or reused. The uniqueness of each possible inevitably (another oxymoron) kept me turning those pages. Bravo, Ms. Dayton. I accept the challenge to work through these oxymorons in the hopes that it keeps humans from simply becoming morons.

*intentional spelling 👍👌

Sunday, June 03, 2018

Book review: Nightingale

Nightingale by Amy Lucaviks
Publishing date: September 25, 2018
Courtesy of 

I couldn't figure out whether this was a Sci Fi or Fantasy novel. Turns out it was a horror novel. This confusion followed me throughout the whole story. I even made a note to myself, "Is this One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" or"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"? Apparently, it was neither, or both, or ...? In spite of all the eye gouging, face destroying, and bone crunching, I found the most disgusting (disturbing?) part of the book when "Both girls ignored Robert as he stood to pour the dirty water from his bucket in the sink, then immediately began to wash the dishes that were piled in the sink." EWWWW! 
The main character's parallel story to the one she's writing is summed up in the author's own text, "...just letting it flow out of her like vomit on a page." It might have been Lukavics' intention to write like the 1950's B movies; if so, she succeeded. Aliens, zombies, and monsters...Oh My! They're all in here. 

I'd recommend this to teens who like to read about alien abductions.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Infographics: The Professional Role of School Librarians

Thanks to Dr. Kira Berggren, I've added yet another infographic - more of a poster this time - to my repertoire of advocacy resources. 

Book review: Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens

by Marieke Nijkamp
Pub Date: 18 Sep 2018 
Thanks to for access to this book

This is a hot topic for our YA readers - diversity... finding oneself in society. "Unbroken" will surely fill this need. In addition to disabilities, subjects of race, sexuality, and nationality all play a part in these stories. I only gave it 3 instead of 5 stars, however, because there were some stories I found myself plodding through instead of absorbing. Suffice it to say that there is some really great storytelling in here, and some that are 'meh.' I do think the book should be given a chance because the disabilities are diverse - although sometimes difficult to decipher. I suppose that's purposeful in some ways, since we don't always blatantly know what's going on in others' lives.

The first two stories grabbed me right away, and I found myself looking forward to the whole book: "The Long Road" (good characters and believable ending) and "Britt and the Bike God" (multi-leveled story with a non-human character element -- I can't explain further without a spoiler). I also really enjoyed "The Day the Dragon Came," "Dear Nora James, You Know Nothing about Love," and "Ballad of Weary Daughters."  However, the fantasy-based stories didn't work for me; they're just not my genre of interest: "The Leap and the Fall," "Found Objects," and "Mother Nature's Youngest Daughter." Yet in spite of elements of fantasy - I'll call it wishful thinking instead - making it into my top 3 is "One, Two, Three" because of the deep thoughtfulness into which the author brought the characters. "Per Aspera Ad Astra" realistically portrayed school anxiety. I enjoyed the main character in "Captain, My Captain," but the story was one of my mehs, and I'm on the fence about "Plus One."

With 13 stories, one's bound to be a miss instead of a hit; I found this to be true for "A Play in Many Parts." For me, it was a DNR (a 'did not read'). I couldn't wrap my head around the format enough to understand the story, plot, or message. This is one story that maybe someone can help me to understand.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Book Review: The Prodigy

The Prodigy by John Feinstein
Publication Date: 28 Aug 2018
Read courtesy of

Can reviews have dedications? If so, I dedicate this review to my husband, whose passion for golf rubbed off on me enough to understand this story 😀

Since I'm not a sports enthusiast, I'm pleasantly surprised how much I liked this story. Feinstein provided this reader with a fun time: fictionalized famous golfers (McIlroy, Spieth, Mickelson, etc.), sportsmanship and cheating, the lure of money, and loyalties. I was especially pleased that I was tricked into thinking I knew who the bad guy was at the end. I was wrong, and it amused me to find out I was wrong.

Feinstein knows the game of golf well enough to explain to a non-golfer just enough to follow the main character's journey without being bogged down in the game instead of the action. Characters were well developed and provided a believable plot with realistic emotions.

I'm looking forward to having this book on my high school library's shelves this Fall.

p.s. My H.S.'s golf coach is an avid reader. I'm going to get his take on the story, and I'll then update this review...

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Book Review Badges Being Accumulated!

25 Book Reviews 85% Reviews Published Frequently Auto-Approved Professional Reader
Thank you, NetGalley, for giving me this amazing opportunity to preview and review the newest young adult literature
It's a librarian's privilege and honor.

Book Review: The Story of My Face

Book Review: The Story of My Face by Leanne Baugh
Read courtesy of Netgalley
Publication date: September 10, 2018


It had the potential to become preachy, and it WASN'T.

Baugh let the full story of the lead character's encounter with a bear build throughout the story without hiding the reader from the fact that the bear attack is what caused Abby's disfigurement. This paralleled the early shock of the attack and the physical affects with the more slowly evolving emotional healing.

Baugh included many characters and skillfully gave them depth and purpose. The author used the different storylines of the different characters' lives to ebb and flow with the pieces of knowing that we all have similar experiences and reactions in spite of our differences. Empathy came through without lecturing the reader. Real life sympathy showed through the varied characters' actions and reactions to Abby's new reality.

One of the greatest achievements an author might accomplish, Baugh did. She made me thoughtful and introspective rather than just being an observer. I related to the experiences about which I read rather than simply reading a story. I've never done, nor will probably ever do, the things that put Abby and her friends in their situations, but Baugh craftily made that irrelevant to my enjoyment. She created a universal experience through her characters' thoughts and actions, regardless of setting. Bravo!

I cannot wait to get this for my high school library!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Book Review: Things I'd Rather Do Than Die

Things I'd Rather Do Than Die

Pub Date:   

Read courtesy of

I recently reviewed Christine Hurley Deriso's All the Wrong Chords, which I loved. I really wanted to like Things I'd Rather Do Than Die as much, but alas, I give it 4 instead of 5 ⭐.  I also read Deriso's Acknowledgment section of this novel, and I'm glad she took the advice of her editor; having the main characters tell their tale in alternating scenarios made this story more thoughtful than if it had been a one-sided story. Stereotypes of jocks, brains, Jesus freaks, popularity, race and ethnicity,  financial status, family structures, and illnesses became something about which I wanted to contemplate rather than be swayed. I can picture my teen readers discussing this story.

However, it was those amount of topics Deriso tried to squeeze into this one novel that caused my rating to lose a potential star. Maybe teens with slightly shorter attention spans won't mind the topic hopping, but I found it a bit distracting. I think it will affect my ability to discuss and recommend the book to my students. Other than being able to remember the basic plot, it's the nuances that might be lost to what I usually try to relate with enthusiasm.

On the other hand, Deriso handled all of the sensitive topics well. She allowed the characters to present their different points-of-view just like 'real' teens would. Kudos to that!!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

National Board Certification - almost 10 years later...

In November 2009 I posted that I was waiting for my National Board Certification test results. Obviously, I passed, since I'm writing about my renewal submission 😃

Last week I submitted my renewal portfolio to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. My initial certification expires in 2019 (10 years), but we're given two years to renew our certifications in the last two years of our current certification. 

Now I wait --again-- until November 2018 to see if I've achieved renewal of my certification from 2019-2029. I got lucky, too, by mere timing ... 

Beginning in 2021, NBCTs will be required to demonstrate their knowledge and skills every five years

... I'll have 10 more years of being a NBCT instead of only five. And I'm certainly glad about that!

Previous renewal candidates report the PPG process takes 30-40 hours

While that doesn't sound like a lot it is! And I know I took way more than 40 hours, since I worked on my submission at least 8 hours every weekend from December 2017 to April 2018 in addition to the weekday hours I spent filming, writing, editing, researching, and amassing for my submission.

NOTE: I am one of eight Library Media/Early Childhood Through Young Adulthood NBCT in New Jersey. There's no monetary or status benefit in NJ to being an NBCT other than my own continuing education. (Compare, for example, that there are 696 Library Media/Early Childhood Through Young Adulthood NBCT listed in North Carolina because that state compensates the achievement.)

Book Review: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

Book Review: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
courtesy of
publish date: May 8, 2018

Sarah Crossan brought me into a world I don't think I'll ever encounter in my own life, but she brought me into it nonetheless. Great job helping me to be a part of someone else's life, especially when I'd have no understanding otherwise.

What it is like having your older brother on death row, having a family that can barely take care of itself, having the seesaw conviction of unconditional love with others telling you to forget about your brother... mix in a great [unexpected] plot twist... creates a story full of sympathy, doubt, and life.

I really enjoyed Crossan's writing style; it helped with the rhythm of the story and with the personalities of the characters. Not quite prose paragraphs and not quite verse novel, the format added motion and emotion to the narrative.

I read this right before I read, The Hate U Give, and Moonrise is it's own unique tale, not derivative or redundant, and it provides a great addition to the repertoire of life stories I never would encounter without the aide of Angie Thomas or Sarah Crossan.

I can see this book working for a YA book club, especially because of the moral issues tackled: death sentence, race, poverty, family, and addiction.

I'm looking forward to having this book in my high school library.

Book Review: What You Left Me

What You Left Me
by Bridget Morrissey
publication date June 5, 2018
courtesy of

Magical realism.  As a result of a drunk driving accident during their high school graduation, friends get connected through dreams to the friend who "is stuck" in limbo from his injuries. I might have liked this better if the characters beyond the three main characters were more developed. The other 'friends' are not stereotypical; it's just that they're not described enough for me to empathize or connect with any of them. They are more like plot devices than participants.

My suspension of disbelief isn't working when someone with a class rank of 11 gets over a year to make up one exam in order to keep her class rank. The real pressures of high school report cards, class rank, and accountability required magical realism to make this work.

I'd like to think teens are smarter than to ditch in the middle of their high school graduation ceremony in order to go on a drunk joy ride all while expecting to return to the ceremony and have no one notice they'd been gone. The ditch, the drinking... as well as magically connecting to one's alphabetical neighbor for the first time at graduation?

I did appreciate the humorous lightness Morrissey offered throughout the story, but it wasn't enough to undo the falseness of the ending, "Do you really think you had control over what was going to happen to you?" Yes, don't get into a car with your impetuous, impulsive drunk friend.