2016 Challenges: January Update

You might remember that I decided to participate in a few challenges this year: I want to read more debut authors, diverse books, and fantasy books.

In the month of January I read 15 books, and I think I’m off to a good start in terms of my challenge goals.


I read 6 debuts in January, and I really liked all of them!  I’m eagerly anticipating second books from these authors.  Here are the books I read:

The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin-I’ve heard mixed reviews of this one, but I really enjoyed it.  I think comps to Sarah Dessen are accurate, and I loved the cast of characters in this book.

The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt-I found one particular trait of the main character’s to be fairly off-putting, but in the end the story was so cute that I had to look past it.

Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira-I did a lot of yelling in my head at the characters in this book, who, had they just communicated with each other, could have gotten together a lot faster!  But I suppose that wasn’t really the point…it was still a fun story and an interesting concept, and I LOVED Dev.

Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch-I have a compulsive need to read all books set in Europe, and this one did not disappoint.  At times I found the teenagery behavior to be mildly irritating, and if anything I would have loved to see MORE travel in Italy, but it was still an interesting story, a cute love interest, etc.

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro-This one isn’t out until March, but I definitely recommend it.  Though I don’t know if I’ve ever read an actual Sherlock Holmes story, I love all the YA retellings that have been coming out lately, and this one was fantastic.  I’m eagerly anticipating the sequel.

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin-I was really happy to pick up a copy of this at ALA Midwinter; a student at my school has recently come out as gender fluid, and I was glad I could read this and quickly hand it off to them.  Such an important story, but also funny and interesting too.

Total: 6/24

diverse challenge1

I read 4 books with main characters who are part of diverse groups in January.  Here they are:

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler-I am a giant Sarah Ockler fan, but the idea of this book didn’t really sound interesting to me.  I finally decided to pick it up, and it did not disappoint.  The main character, a girl from Tobago who is now living in small town Oregon, is coming to terms with losing her voice and her dreams.  Also, there’s a pirate regatta.  I would definitely pick this one up, if you haven’t already.

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan-Persian-American lesbian trying to fit in at New England prep school and in her own very traditional family.  The love story is super cute, but the book is interspersed with serious themes as well.  I liked it, but wanted more.

Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz-Holy voice, Batman.  This is possibly my favorite read of January. Etta is bisexual, black, and has an eating disorder, and doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere in her Nebraska town.  She ends up making some great new friends along her journey to get out of Nebraska, and they make the story 100x better, but honestly, Etta’s voice is so amazingly authentic, funny, and perfect, there could be no other characters in the book and I’d still read it.

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin-See above.  Would definitely recommend.

Total: 4/50


I only read one fantasy book in January, but it was a big one:

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard-I liked, but didn’t love, Red Queen.  But after the ending, I was certainly curious about what would happen next.  Glass Sword was certainly action-packed, and went in directions I didn’t expect.  Again, though, we’re left hanging, and my heart hurts just thinking about it.

Total: 1/35

It’s clear that I’ve really been enjoying debut books so far in 2016, but I think I’m going to need to work a bit harder on the other challenge categories.  Still, I’m happy with my reading in January, and I feel like as long as I’m finding books that are enjoyable, I’m not going to worry so much about numbers.

What was your favorite read in January?  Are you participating in any challenges?


2015 End of Year Book Survey

This is the 3rd time I’ve participated in Jamie’s annual reading survey, and each year I feel like it gets more difficult to choose favorites-there are just so many good books!  But I will persevere.  Here goes:


Number Of Books You Read: 204
Number of Re-Reads: 31
Genre You Read The Most From: contemporary realistic fiction, as always



1. Best Book You Read In 2015?


There were so, so many books I loved this year that I think I need to make some top 10 list type posts to give them all the love they deserve.  But I would say the one book that I still think about ALL the time, really enjoyed, and am most eagerly anticipating the sequel to is QUEEN OF SHADOWS by Sarah J. Maas.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

AS YOU WISH by Cary Elwes.  I had heard a few raves of this book, and it wasn’t bad by any means, but I also didn’t find it as funny or interesting as I was hoping.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

THE SHADOW CABINET by Maureen Johnson.  This series is just…I honestly don’t know what goes on in MJ’s head when she is writing.  I had no idea this is where the story was going, and I’m still not sure I fully grasp everything…but I still can’t wait for book #4.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

All of the THRONE OF GLASS books, probably.

 5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

The best series I start was ABSOLUTELY the GEEK GIRL series by Holly Smale.  I LOOOOVED those books so much that after I read the first one, I bought the next 3 during my visit to London over the summer because I was too impatient to wait for them to be published here.

As for the best sequel…HEIR OF FIRE by Sarah J. Maas.  Because ROWAN.

And the best series ender was definitely MANNERS AND MUTINY by Gail Carriger.  I adored the characters in this series so much and I will miss reading about their antics and adventures.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

Ellie Marney.  Can’t wait to read more from her.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

I’m not a fan of historical fiction, but Stacey Lee’s UNDER A PAINTED SKY was awesome.

 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

Have to go with QUEEN OF SHADOWS again.  With SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo as a close second.

 9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Always Harry Potter.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?


 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?


13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.  EVERYONE should read this book.

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read? 


 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?

“…love isn’t a choice. You fall for the person, not their chromosomes.”

from NONE OF THE ABOVE by IW Gregorio

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

Shortest: Lumberjanes Vol. 1 (128 pages)

Longest: Queen of Shadows (648 pages)

 17. Book That Shocked You The Most

SEE HOW THEY RUN by Ally Carter

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)

AELIN + ROWAN FOREVER (Queen of Shadows)

(honorable mention: Watts and Mycroft from EVERY BREATH)

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year


Cinder + Iko (Lunar Chronicles)

Cinder + Thorne (Lunar Chronicles)

Reagan + Victoria (JUST VISITING by Dahlia Adler)

Nicolette + Caro + Fin (MECHANICA by Betsy Cornwell)

Sydney + Layla (SAINT ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen)

Ok, I’ll stop.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

SAINT ANYTHING by Sarah Dessen.

21. Best Book You Read In 2015That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

All of the books in the Lunar Chronicles series.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

Rowan.  Always.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

There were so many good debuts this year, but I think my most favorite was WRITTEN IN THE STARS by Aisha Saeed.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

I know I sound like a broken record, but…QUEEN OF SHADOWS.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?


26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

INFINITE IN BETWEEN by Carolyn Mackler.  I feel like this book hasn’t gotten much attention, but I loved it so much.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Probably ALL AMERICAN BOYS by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.




1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2015 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2016?

WINTER by Marissa Meyer

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2016 (non-debut)?

Throne of Glass #5

3. 2016 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

Ugh, just one?!?! Probably A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE by Brittany Cavallaro

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2016?

THE WINNER’S KISS by Marie Rutkowski


THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater

5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2016?

  1. Write more.
  2. Read more widely.
  3. Meet more people from the bookish community.

6. A 2016 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:



There are SO, SO many other books I read in 2015 that weren’t even mentioned in this survey, so hopefully I’ll get around to gushing about them in some upcoming posts.  Hope you all had excellent reading years in 2015, and that 2016 is equally awesome.


Challenging Myself in 2016

Although I don’t really blog regularly, I’ve long been a follower of many bookish blogs, and have seen the variety of reading challenges that take place each year.  I’ve never really been tempted to jump in; the only challenge I’ve participated in is the one I set for number of books on Goodreads.

This year, I finally met my Goodreads challenge goal of 200 books after trying and failing for several years.  Looking back on the books I read (end of year survey soon to come), I definitely noticed some trends.  Although I would say this was probably my most diverse reading year, I still read mostly contemporary realistic fiction, and mostly white women.  I want to continue to branch out in my reading in regard to genres, authors, and representation in the books I read, so I am finally jumping into a few different reading challenges this year.  (As a side benefit, hopefully staying on top of these challenges will actually make me write more regularly.  But I make no promises.)

So here are the challenges I’m planning to participate in this year:

That Artsy Reader Girl
I love learning about new authors, and one of the things I look forward to each month is Kelly’s list of debut titles over at Stacked.  Although I didn’t participate in a challenge last year, I did read 25 books by debut authors in 2015; I’d love to keep better track of them, and spread the word about amazing new authors, so participating in Jana’s challenge seems like a great way to do that.  I set a goal of reading 24 debuts, but honestly, with all the great ones coming out this year, I’m hoping to exceed that number.

After contemporary, fantasy is probably the genre I read most frequently, but there is still so much more within the genre to explore, and 2016 especially looks like it will be an excellent year for YA fantasy.  I read 29 fantasy books in 2015, so I’m going to set a goal of 35 books for the Flights of Fantasy challenge.

diverse challenge1
Finally, the last official challenge I’m planning to take part in is Mishma and Shelly’s challenge to read more diverse books.  I read 35 books by and/or about people of color and/or the LGBTQIA+ community, but as a percentage of the 200+ books I read, it’s…something I could improve upon.  I would like to read at least 50 books that can be considered diverse in 2016.

While these three are the only official challenges I’m planning to participate in, I’m also hoping to read more adult fiction and nonfiction (YA or adult) this year.  I don’t tend to read much of either, so I would like to read at least one adult book and one nonfiction book each month, for a total of 24 books.

And, of course, I’ll be trying to reach my Goodreads challenge goal of 200 books again this year.

What challenges are you participating in this year?  Do you set a yearly reading goal?  Do you plan out the books you’ll read each month, or are you a mood reader?  Let me know!

The Joys of Middle School

So this year I started a new job (I would like to write an entire post about recent life transitions, but given how sporadically I post to begin with, I can’t make any promises).  I’m working at a school spanning grades PreK-12, and, among other firsts, it is my first time teaching formal classes to middle school students.

There are both joys and growing pains that come with this experience.  There are certainly those students in these middle grades who test my patience, get on my last nerve, and are the source of my gray hair.  But there are also the amazing, insightful, kind, hardworking, and super-smart ones, who make me wish I ONLY had middle school students.

One of the challenges for me is teaching all of the important library skills (research, evaluating sources, citations, etc.), while also promoting a love of reading.  If it were up to me we would spend every library class talking about books, looking for books to check out, and reading.  But libraries are about more than books (don’t get me wrong-I love this aspect of my job as well!  I think it’s both important and interesting, and I love teaching those skills, and seeing students go through the whole process or completing a project, from initial brainstorming to final product).  As a result, it can be difficult to find a balance between the projects and the book promotion/checkout.

Initially, I was planning to allow 10-15 minutes for browsing and checkout for middle school, just as I do for my elementary school classes.  It quickly became apparent that this wasn’t going to work, though, as there were a number of students in each group that refused to check out books, and used that time to chat/fool around/cause chaos.  Then, I stopped doing any type of in-class checkout for middle school; middle school students can use the library during lunch and break, so I told myself that if they really wanted to check out books they could do it on their own time.

But this didn’t make me happy-I felt as if I wasn’t truly doing my job to the best of my ability, because I do still want to promote reading and give kids the opportunity to browse and find books they’ll love-there’s no point in having a library full of books if no one is reading them!  So I thought there had to be a better way to find a balance, and I decided to start small, though there are a couple of really great ideas that I’m working up to.

I see each middle school class twice during each cycle, so I decided that on one of these days, the last 10 minutes would be reserved for an activity called “What Are You Reading Now?”  I had a couple of goals for this short time period: quickly booktalk whatever I’m currently reading, to show students that I have a reading life too; highlight some library books we have from a particular category/genre/theme to make students more aware of what the library has to offer; and have students briefly share what they’re reading, so students can get recommendations, learn about new things, and see reading as somewhat social.

I decided to “pilot” this with my sixth graders, because they’re overall a really great group, and I thought they would be most receptive and responsive to it.  Even still, I thought they might take some coaxing, so I was planning to do my booktalk and then see if there were MAYBE a few kind souls who would volunteer.  Well, before the words were even completely out of my mouth, hands shot up in the air.  Students were incredibly enthusiastic about sharing what they were reading.  Almost every single student wanted to talk about their book choices, and they were reading an incredible variety of stuff, from Rick Riordan to the physics of roller coasters.  I had a similar reaction from my second group of sixth graders, to the point where we ran out of time before everyone who wanted a chance to share got to speak.  It was great to see them all so excited about reading, but I didn’t get very many checkouts.

I then expanded this to the fifth grade class.  Several of them shared what they were reading, and then I booktalked THE IRON TRIAL by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.  I left them with a cliffhanger, of course, and all of a sudden everyone was clamoring to check out books.  We only have one copy of the book, so there were a couple disappointed kids, but several put holds on it, and the boy who did check it out asked me to put a hold on THE COPPER GAUNTLET as soon as I get it (it’s on order right now).  But then.  My favorite thing happened.  A girl asked for other fantasy recommendations while she waited, and I got to introduce her to another great fantasy series, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE.  And then, after the class was dismissed, a boy CAME BACK IN AND ASKED IF I WOULD RECOMMEND A BOOK FOR HIM.  I was so excited!  He wanted a fantasy book with a lot of action, and he really likes THE YOUNG ELITES, so I hooked him up with GRACELING.  I definitely still had the boys who would rather sit off to the side and do nothing, but all but 3 students checked something out.

It hasn’t been perfect, of course.  I tried it in seventh grade and only had two students willing to share, and I haven’t been able to try it with the eighth graders yet.  I’m hopeful that once it starts happening consistently, I’ll see students more excited about reading for pleasure, along with the added bonus of increased circulation.

This is just laying the groundwork for some of my other ideas, including book speed dating, genre of the month displays, and free reading Fridays.  Unfortunately, the YA section of the library is a bit underdeveloped (probably because middle and upper school students don’t check out a ton), so I’m waiting for some book orders to come in so I have the books necessary to support these endeavors.

Anyway, to make a VERY long story short, I have loved getting to know the middle schoolers, as students and as readers, and seeing them enthusiastic about reading and eager to check out books is one of the many joys of my job.  (I bet you were expecting a sarcastic post after reading that title, weren’t you?  FOOLED YOU!)

I hope that I’ll be able to provide more updates on life in the library soon.  Until then, happy reading!

#bookaday: this year I’m finally jumping in!


So, for a few years now, I’ve wanted to participate in #bookaday, a summer reading challenge devised by the great Donalyn Miller.  #bookaday is, essentially, a way for adults, generally in the field of education, to catch up on reading, celebrate books, and support each other as a community of readers.

Miller commits to reading a book each day of her summer break, and invites others to do something similar, but everyone is responsible for setting their own goals and parameters (guidelines can be found here, at the end of the post).  Since I learned of #bookaday a few summers ago, I’ve always had an excuse not to participate-a big move, summer classes and an intense graduate assistantship, job searching, etc.  This summer is shaping up to be equally busy-our school year isn’t over until June 19th, after which I’m heading out west for the ALA Annual Conference and a bit of vacation, and, at some point, I’m going to be moving AGAIN…but I decided that this year, I’m not going to let those things stop me.  Every summer is likely to be busy, but reading is a priority for me, and I’m going to make #bookaday happen this summer.

Even though summer break doesn’t start for a few more weeks, I’m going to challenge myself to read a book a day for the months of June, July, and August.  While I tend to focus on young adult books in my personal reading life, I imagine I’ll be reading a lot of picture books, early chapter books, and middle grade fiction for at least the first few weeks, while I’m still working.  I’m excited for this, because I love picture books, but don’t tend to spend a lot of time on them just for enjoyment’s sake-it’s more about finding the right one for a lesson, or deciding what to order for the library.

So from today, June 1st, until August 31st, look out for my #bookaday updates on Twitter.  I think I’ll probably try to post weekly (or maybe monthly) updates here as well, just to keep a record of all the great books I’ve read.

Let me know if you’re going to be participating in #bookaday as well, and happy reading!

Weekly Reading Recap

As I frequently find myself saying when returning to this space on the internet, it’s been quite a while since I’ve shared anything here.  It’s long been a goal of mine to be more consistent, but life tends to get in the way.  So, in an effort to be better about writing more regularly, I’m going to start doing, at minimum, a weekly recap talking about books I’ve received, books I’ve read, and other book/reading/library-related things.

STSmall[4]Stacking the Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga’s Reviews, in which we can share books added to our shelves.

Books I Received:

photo 1So, if you follow anything book-related on Twitter, you might have noticed the flurry of activity surrounding #booksfortrade over the past week or so.  I have a ton of old ARCs I’m looking to get rid of, so when I discovered the conversation going on, I jumped on the opportunity.  These are the books I’ve received via my trades:

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Prized by Caragh O’Brien

Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau

Waiting for You by Susane Colasanti

I’m still waiting on a few books to arrive, and I still have a number of ARCs to trade, so I’m hoping there will be more book mail in my future! (And, as a side note, if you might be interested in some of these old ARCs, definitely let me know.)

photo 2Also, for School Library Month, Candlewick Press held a contest for a collection of library-related books, and I was one of the winners!  This is what I received from them:

A Library Book for Bear by Bonny Becker

Homer the Library Cat by Reeve Lindbergh

Maisy Goes to the Library by Lucy Cousins

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

I haven’t been using the library much for personal books lately, because I have plenty to read here and I’ve been working on a research project with 2nd graders and have maxed out my library card with books for that project.  Luckily, school will be over in a few short weeks, and then I’m sure I’ll revert to my regular habits of checking out way too many library books at once.

What I Read This Week:

A Sense of the Infinite by Hillary T. Smith

Making Pretty by Corey Ann Haydu

Currently Reading:

Proof of Forever by Lexa Hillyer

Other Bookish Things:

-One of the other reasons I wanted to start doing a weekly recap is because I’m going to participate in the #bookaday challenge this year.  I’ve wanted to join in for a few summers now, and I’ve decided that I’m always going to be busy and have stuff going on-I might as well just jump in.  So hopefully these posts will help me stay on top of that.

-It’s almost time for one of my favorite events of the year, BEA.  This year will be my fourth time attending, and I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to be able to go this year, but I managed to make it work, so I will be there on Thursday and Friday.  I will also, possibly against my better judgment, be braving another year of BookCon-I’ll be there Saturday.  Stay tuned for more on this soon.

Well, that’s it for me.  Will you be at BEA/BookCon?  Have you been sucked in to #booksfortrade?  What have you been reading?  Let me know!

ALA Midwinter-Where to Find Me and What I’m Looking Forward To


So, in a few days I’ll be heading to Chicago for the American Library Association’s (ALA) Midwinter Meeting (sidenote to conference coordinators: why can’t the midwinter events be in WARM places?!?)  Although I’m not really looking forward to the cold (at least it won’t be snowing, right?), I am looking forward to connecting with librarian friends, attending some interesting sessions, and, of course, getting my hands on some ARCS of upcoming titles (lucky for me, this is both a professional AND personal benefit).

If you are also going to be in Chicago this weekend, here are some places you might find me:

ERT/Booklist Author Forum-I know graphic novels are super popular and a great way to get kids reading, but I still don’t feel that confident about developing a great graphic novel collection, so I’m looking forward to learning even more about them during this session.

ALA Masters Series-Start a Revolution: Stop Acting Like a Library-While I’m still a firm believer in libraries as places to find books, I also see libraries as community centers, and as such they need to meet their communities’ needs, which include more than just books.  So it will be interesting to hear what other libraries have done/are doing to innovate and provide good services for their patrons.

Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session-This is my first Midwinter meeting, so it’s my first opportunity to attend one of these feedback sessions, but I’ve heard in years past that it’s great to hear what teens have to say about books, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Women In Geekdom: How to Reach Out to the Nerds in Your Community-This sounds like a fun exploration of pop culture as well as a way to steal some cool programming ideas from great librarians.  Plus I love the focus on women-there are plenty of female nerds who can see the library as a place for them.

YA Smackdown-Although I don’t work in a public library, I do work with teens, and I think this will be a great opportunity to learn from and share with some great librarians.

ALA Youth Media Awards-So excited to get to go to the YMAs in person instead of watching the webcast this year!

These are just a few of the sessions I’m hoping to attend, in addition to a couple of the Book Buzz Theater events.  I’ll also be spending a fair amount of time in the exhibit hall, checking out what upcoming titles publishers are promoting. Here are a few of the books I’m really hoping to find at the conference:

PicMonkey Collage

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen-Sarah Dessen is an auto-read for me; her characters are always so interesting and compelling, and this book sounds like it’s going to be as good as the rest.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas-While I would prefer the next installment of the Throne of Glass series, because I NEED TO KNOW what happens, this new series sounds equally intriguing (and swoony).

Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway-This book has an interesting concept, and I LOVED the Also Known As books, so I’m excited to read more from Robin Benway.

Tonight the Streets are Ours by Leila Sales-Frankly, the concept of this one is a tiny bit creepy to me, but I’ve loved the author’s previous books, so I want to give it a shot.

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller– Trish Doller is SO great.  Plus I love road trip books, and this one has a very interesting twist to it.

Plus my super long shot because from the sounds of Twitter she’s still editing but I really, really, really want it book: P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han- I’ve read all of Jenny Han’s books, and enjoyed them all, but To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was, far and away, her best work.  and I need to know what happens next.

Are you going to be at ALA Midwinter?  What are you looking forward to?  What books are you excited to get your hands on?