Review: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Title: Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson

Author: Louise Rennison

Publication: June, 1999

My Summary:  Georgia Nicolson is trying to navigate her world.  She has a 3-year-old sister who she loves, but who also embarrasses her regularly.  Her parents are unreasonable and inconsiderate according to her.  They don’t even let her do perfectly reasonable things like dye her hair blond.  Georgia’s mom won’t even let her borrow anything just because she says Georgia always loses things.  Then there are also the boy situations to think about.  She and her friends are stuck trying to figure out how to interpret the actions of the boys they like.  For instance, what does “See you later” mean?

My Thoughts:  This book is a hilarious book.  I enjoyed reading something so light.  I love that the author anticipated the fact that American readers might not understand British slang so she included a glossary.  The definitions in the glossary are really funny.  This book is like a mix of Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret and Bridget Jones’ Diary.  It reminds me of Margaret in the way that Georgia obsesses over her looks and talks frequently about how to make her breasts bigger.  It called to mind “we must, we must, we must increase our bust” from Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.  The obsessive worrying about whether a boy is noticing her and the hilarious blunders that Georgia makes are what remind me of Bridget Jones’ Diary.  Georgia is a very likable character and I am glad that I spent some time with her.

This book is a nice quick read and many students will enjoy the diary entry format of the book.  For the way I am sure teens relate to this book, I can understand its Printz honor as well.  I will certainly be looking for the sequel to be able to read more of the adventures of Georgia Nicolson.

I give this book 3 stars (actually it is more like 3.5 for me)

Slice of Life: Polishing Rocks and Finding a Passion for Learning

     Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

Rocks rock!  I remember when I was younger there was a time that I went through a super geology geek phase.  I believe it all started with a field trip to the local geological nirvana.

Cave of the Mounds is a National Natural Landmark and an awesome place to explore as a young nerd.  We spent a lot of time before the trip learning about stalactites (hold on tight to the ceiling) and stalagmites (might reach the top at some point) and other important cave information.  Then, we set off to the caves and took tours and stared in awe at the way nature creates these amazing spaces.

Although I enjoyed the tour and the awesome picnic lunch at Bluemound State Park (complete with the can of soda wrapped in tin foil to keep it cold–a rare treat), my favorite time of the day was the small amount of time we had to explore the gift shop.  This place was FULL of amazing rocks.  They were shiny, polished little pieces of heaven.  I remember buying some Pyrite (Fool’s Gold) because I thought it was hilarious that there was a rock that looked so much like gold but had no value.  I also bought an assortment of polished stones.  How could normal, everyday rocks look so beautiful?  How did they do that? Oh, and geodes were so COOL!  

I went home and probably annoyed the heck out of my parents geeking out about rocks and minerals.  I was so excited about how there were such gorgeous rocks out there.  I started watching everywhere I went and picking up rocks that I thought were pretty.  Of course, most rocks were not very different, but I was putting together quite a collection.

Then my parents got me this:

This was one of those presents that you immediately get out of the box to use it.  I think it came with a small bag of rocks to polish.  My parents were excited about the rock tumbler too.  Until we turned it on.  That machine was SOOO LOUD!!!  The rock tumbler was banished to the garage.  No matter, I still could polish the heck out of all the rocks I wanted to shine.  I was over the moon about it.

Once I ran out of my own rocks to polish, my mother took me to visit the coolest store on the planet.  It is a rock store in Madison that still exists today.

This place is the most amazing place.  There are crystals and geodes and agate slices for home decoration.  There are pebbles and stones that have been polished.  There are other rocks waiting to be polished.  And there is apparently a jewelry section.  This makes sense, but I did not notice that as a kid.  I was able to buy rough looking rocks there and take them home to polish in the tumbler.  
The best part of the whole thing was being able to take something that was rough and bring out its potential.  I delighted every time I opened up the tumbler to see a new set of shiny rocks to display.  
As I think back to this phase of my childhood, it is apparent to me how very lucky I was to have teachers who inspired this passion for geology with a field trip and parents who encouraged it.  How much did I learn about rocks and minerals during this time of my life?  Well, being the absolute nerd that I was, I read all about everything that I came across.  I learned about crystal formation and made rock candy, I learned about how different types of rocks form, I learned about fossils, and I learned about caves.  Sure I learned some of it in school, but the depth of my knowledge reached far beyond the scope of what was being taught to my classmates.  This was my very own passion.  The light was lit under me and I was motivated to know everything there was to know about rocks.  
This makes me pause and think about the opportunities I provide my students.  Do they have the opportunity to discover a passion for something and learn about it?  Do my students have families that would support this type of learning? Would they even know how?  
As I think about how to structure my classroom for the fall, I certainly will be thinking about rocks.  How I fell in love with them in elementary school.  How they surprised me with their beauty.  How my passion drove my learning.  If this is not a reason to try to ignite passion and encourage individual inquiry, I don’t know what is.  

Top Ten Favorite Beginnings/Endings in Books

I am joining in on this weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week there is a different top ten list topic and a bunch of bloggers weighing in.  Head on over there to see more of the great blogs participating.

It was so much fun to think back over my favorite reads to see which ones I loved for their great beginnings and amazing endings.  While some of these books came right to mind, I had to search and revisit some of my favorite books to fill out the rest of the list.

Great Beginnings

 1. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Rain fell that night, a fine, whispering rain. Many years later, Meggie had only to close her eyes and she could still hear it, like tiny fingers tapping on the windowpane. A dog barked somewhere in the darkness, and however often she tossed and turned Meggie couldn’t get to sleep.

The book she had been reading was under her pillow, pressing its cover against her ear as if to lure her back into its printed pages. “I’m sure it must be very comfortable sleeping with a hard, rectangular thing like that under your head,” her father had teased the first time he found a book under her pillow. “Go on, admit it, the book whispers its story to you at night.”

“Sometimes, yes,” Meggie had said. “But it only works for children.” Which made Mo tweak her nose. Mo. Meggie had never called her father anything else.

That night — when so much began and so many things changed forever — Meggie had one of her favorite books under her pillow, and since the rain wouldn’t let her sleep she sat up, rubbed the drowsiness from her eyes, and took it out. Its pages rustled promisingly when she opened it. Meggie thought this first whisper sounded a little different from one book to another, depending on whether or not she already knew the story it was going to tell her. But she needed light. She had a box of matches hidden in the drawer of her bedside table. Mo had forbidden her to light candles at night. He didn’t like fire. “Fire devours books,” he always said, but she was twelve years old, she surely could be trusted to keep an eye on a couple of candle flames. Meggie loved to read by candlelight. She had five candlesticks on the windowsill, and she was just holding the lighted match to one of the black wicks when she heard footsteps outside. She blew out the match in alarm — oh, how well she remembered it, even many years later — and knelt to look out of the window, which was wet with rain. Then she saw him.

The rain cast a kind of pallor on the darkness, and the stranger was little more than a shadow. Only his face gleamed white as he looked up at Meggie. His hair clung to his wet forehead. The rain was falling on him, but he ignored it. He stood there motionless, arms crossed over his chest as if that might at least warm him a little. And he kept on staring at the house.

I love this beginning!  Don’t you just want to know who the man is?  I love how the love of reading and books is woven throughout this novel.  The first paragraphs already bring that theme out and that is why I think it is an amazing lead.

2. The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John

I don’t have a copy of this one at home to quote from, but I love the beginning.  In the first chapter Martine survives a fire that her parents do not survive.  This is a memorable beginning and I always tell my students that it is one of the best I have read.

3. A Wrinkle in Time

“It was a dark and stormy night.”  I guess I like rainy starts to books.  This one is used in a lot of examples of great leads in a lot of books about writing workshop.  I agree that this beginning really pulls me in even now when I have read the book multiple times.

4. The Book Thief

When I first started this book, I did not know anything about the style of the book or the narrator.  The beginning of this book is so stylistic and different.  The fact that the reader is being introduced to Death as the narrator is outstanding.  This book pulled me in immediately and kept me wrapped up in its story the whole time.

5. Shatter Me

   “I’ve been locked up for 264 days.
     I have nothing but a small notebook and a broken pen and the numbers in my head to keep me company. 1 window. 4 walls. 144 square feet of space. 26 letters in an alphabet I haven’t spoken in 264 days of isolation. 6,336 hours since I’ve touched another human being.”

Whoa.  What other numbers does she have in there?  Why hasn’t she touched anyone? Isolation for 264 days, what the heck did she do?  The best beginnings give the reader a ton of questions to investigate.  I want to know more immediately upon reading these first lines.  The book goes on to introduce us to a good-looking boy that is dumped in Julia’s cell to become her cellmate.  So curious questions and hot guy…great start!

Amazing Endings:

6. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Without giving away too much, I just love Ari’s parents.  This ending was amazing and I am glad the story went this way.

Gone With the Wind

I read this one while I was in middle school.  When I reached the end of the book, I sobbed and sobbed.  It was just the right amount of drama for a dramatic teenager.  The way it ends is so heartbreaking but true to real life and the way it might go for real people.  Plus, it made for one of the best cinematic moments in Hollywood.

8. Bridget Jones’ Diary

I love this story and the movie they made of the story.  It ends so well and the reader can imagine that Bridget and Mark Darcy will go on to have a good life together full of mishaps and funny misunderstandings.  I wish it would have stayed a standalone novel without the awful sequel that went way over the top with outrageous situations.  

9. The Giver

Not everyone will agree with this one, but I like how it is left open.  This book is so thought-provoking and one that begs for discussion.  If it had an ending that had tied everything up neatly, it would not create such a stir in reader’s heads.  As it is, the reader is left with a sense of hope that Jonas will find a better life somewhere away from this dystopian village.  

10. Harry Potter

The end of this series is really well done.  It would have been so awful to arrive at the end of a set of books as amazing as this only to be disappointed in the end.  I was so happy that J.K.Rowling gave us all a little glimpse into the world of Harry, Ron, and Hermione as adults.  I wouldn’t normally like that kind of epilogue, but in this case I was happy to be able to see into the future of these beloved characters.  
Which books do you think begin well or end well?   Do you agree with my list?  Let’s start a conversation below!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? July 29

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? –From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme startted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take.  Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole host of titles to add to your to-read lists.

I read some FABULOUS books this week!  In weeks like this it is really great to be a reader.  I cannot wait to share some of these books with my students.

Graphic Novels

My students and my husband are all crazy for this series of graphic novels.  I really enjoyed Bone: Out From Boneville and will be looking forward to reading the rest of the series.  I am glad I read this one so that I can better know what students enjoy about the books.  

Middle Grade/Young Adult

I loved Pivot Point by Kasie West.  It is such an interesting premise and I really loved reading about this world.  Addie’s ability to look into the future and explore two options leads her to find out about a deadly choice that she will have to make.  I loved the story and was so intrigued by the way the two alternate futures played out.  I can’t wait to read more from this author and I am really excited to share this one with my students.  I would highly recommend it.  
Jo Knowles is brilliant.  This story is such a touching story of Josh and how he deals with the guilt he feels.  I fell in love with his uncle Larry and the neighbor girl Stella.  Jo Knowles has a way of bringing her characters into your heart and creating a beautiful story.  I am very excited to bring this book into my classroom when it is available this fall.  
I heart you, You haunt me by Lisa Schroeder is a novel in verse that I read for YA Lit 101. It is a touching story of how Ava is dealing with the tragic death of her boyfriend.  I love novels in verse because they are such quick reads but many times they deal with such big issues.  I know that my students will love Ava’s story.  I was lucky enough to be a winner of the giveaway on YA Lit 101.  The author was so happy that we were reading and discussing her books that she gave out two copies.  I cannot wait to add this one to my library!

I cannot wait to discuss Ask the Passengers on YALit101 this week.  Although I don’t think I will add it to my middle school class library, I think it will be an important one for people to put in their high school classrooms.  The way that Astrid is trying to deal with her secret is so realistic.  I was deep into the empathy with this character.  I felt so strongly for her in these situations.  The only thing I didn’t like in this book was the mother.  I felt like I was not given enough clues to figure out why she acted the way she acted with Astrid and completely different with her sister Ellis.  I would have liked to have a little more in the backstory to help me figure out why the parents acted the way they did.  I definitely think many teens will completely identify with Astrid and this book will bring up many conversations about the way that people label others.  I liked how this book dealt with the issue of bigotry and prejudice in an honest way.  I would highly recommend it to high school students and adults.

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick.  I am sure it probably had to do with the fact that I knew the book dealt with Cancer.  I have a hard time picking up books that I think might break my heart, but I had heard so many great things about Sonnenblick that I knew I had to do this.  I LOVED this book.  I love how real it is, how it seems like a kid would absolutely have these thoughts and reactions.  I also love that while it is heart-wrenching, the book does not break your heart.  It is touching and funny at times and made me cry, but I didn’t get put into a depressive funk reading it.  In fact, I immediately wanted to share it with others.  I definitely am putting this one on the this-would-be-a-good-read-aloud list.  I highly recommend this one to grades 5 and up.

Wicked is book 5 in the Pretty Little Liars series.  I am continuing to enjoy reading these quick and entertaining books.  I like them more now that most of the things that happen are very different from the TV show.

Adult Books

Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H Watson by Lyndsay Faye is a murder mystery book.  The author has written it as if it were another Sherlock Holmes case.  I was intrigued by this concept.  Lyndsay Faye is one of the authors that will be present at Key West Literary Seminar when I attend in January.  This year’s topic for the seminar is mystery/thriller and I am excited to read books by the authors attending in preparation for the fabulous weekend with my mother and sister.  This book took me an enormously long time to get into it and I almost abandoned it, but then the mystery started to pick up and I was hooked.  The author did an excellent job of matching the tone and word choice to earlier Sherlock Holmes mysteries and I am glad I read this one.  

Professional Books

Jeff Anderson is a genius.  There, I said it.  I so much enjoyed hearing him speak at WSRA last february and I really loved his book 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know, but I was not sure how I would feel about an editing book.  I was so silly to wait so long to read this.  I love the idea of a daily sentence lesson which incorporates grammar rules.  This book is full of practical advice and lesson ideas.  He even provides an abundance of sentences to use in lessons.  This is a must-read for English teachers everywhere.

Books I am Currently Reading:

I am absolutely loving the audio of Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  I love the different voices for the different narrators.  This is a well-done audiobook and a great story.  I also started Teach Like a Pirate and have been inspired by the first chapter.  In professional books I am continuing with books by Jeff Anderson.  I am sure I will like Mechanically Inclined just as much as I liked Everyday Editing.  I also picked up the first Sandman graphic novel.  

What’s Next:

I will be reading The Dream Thieves this week.  I also have some books from the library–Judgement Calls by Alafair Burke (a murder mystery), Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2), and Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen.  I also have a box upstairs to dig into which I haven’t even touched once this summer.  After reviewing my progress on my 2013 challenges, I am motivated to pick up some books for one of these as well.  
How was your reading week?  Did you have any favorites this week?  Please share in the comments.  
Have a great reading week!


2013 Reading Challenges: Mid-Year Check-In

In January of this year, I started some reading challenges.  This is the first year that I have participated in any challenges and I have been steadfastly working through my piles and piles of books.  The presence of said challenges does help at times when I am unsure of what to read next.  I can always look at my shelf and say, “That book is one on my _________ list.”  As it happens, we are now halfway through 2013 and I felt that the time had come to check on my progress and evaluate my goals for the rest of the year.

First, this is a shorter challenge but the bookaday challenge for summer vacation is in full swing.  Today marks the 45th day of my summer and I have read 34 books.  Yikes!  Better get some more graphic novels and picture books out!  I have to say that it doesn’t really bug me that I am this far behind.  I have recently banished the self-criticizing voice that puts guilt-trips and pressure on me.  I have a summer vacation to recharge and prepare for the best year ever, not to stress myself out over completing some self-imposed super-human impossible goals.  I want to read, but I need to back off and enjoy the reading.  I want to write, but I need to back off and enjoy the writing.  I will most likely reach my bookaday goal by the end of the summer, but if not, I will still have read some amazing books and will still have some great new additions to my class library.

This year, on Goodreads, I gave myself the goal of reading 200 books.  According to Goodreads, I am 14 books ahead of schedule on that goal.  Awesome.

The challenge that I enjoy the most is the NerdPrintz challenge.  I am reading through all Printz award and honor books.  I try to read somewhat in order, but I end up reading the books that I happen across in whatever order they come.  In this challenge there are 68 titles, including the 2013 titles.  I have read 31 of these books so far.  I have at least 4 more of these books on my shelves, so I will be looking to them in the coming weeks so that I can continue to make progress with this list.  What is interesting is the way that I have read the entire list for some years, but none of the titles of other years.  It is not intentional (except for the first year since I started out trying to read them in order).  I will be also making a more concerted effort to publish a review of the books when I finish reading them.  You can see more about my progress on my Printz challenge page.

I also decided to try the Steampunk’d challenge.  This is a genre that I really don’t read that often so I signed up for the lowest level, geared.  I have five titles on my list for this challenge, and have only read 1 of those titles.  I did bring home Behemoth and Goliath to read this summer, and just acquired The Perdido Street Station, so I should be able to get caught up with this one soon.

The last challenge that I gave myself for 2013 is the Dystopian challenge.  I knew that many of the books that I had on the TBR list would fall into this category so I signed up for the Contagion level of 15 books.  So far, I have read 9 out of those 15 books so I am doing well with this one.

You can see the titles for both of these lists on my 2013 challenges page.

Overall, I am quite pleased with my progress at this point.  As the year continues, I am going to try to be more consistent with choosing titles from my challenges at least once every two weeks.  Even though I have always had piles of books in my house, the idea of making reading goals was a relatively new one to me.  I always just read whatever I felt like reading.  Participating in blogging has made me think about these types of goals and the role they can play in my classroom.  If nothing else, it helps me to feel as if I am accomplishing important work, even as I sit in my reading chair and avoid housework. After all, it is important to work towards your goals, right?

Did you participate in any challenges this year?  How well are you doing with those challenges?  I hope you will share with me in the comments.


Top Ten Words/Topics that will make you NOT pick up a book

I am joining in on this weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week there is a different top ten list topic and a bunch of bloggers weighing in.  Head on over there to see more of the great blogs participating.

Each week is such a different topic.  I am really enjoying this meme because it really makes me think about reading habits.  This one really made me stretch my thinking.  My first reaction to this is that there isn’t anything that I would not pick up…but that isn’t true.  I just had to think about it.  For all of these words/topics I could come up with a counter-example, but these words generally have me saying no thanks.

Vampires: I am just sick of this topic.  I enjoyed the Twilight saga and the Sookie Stackhouse books were entertaining, but the whole vampire romance thing is overdone and I am sick of it.

Heavy Emotional Topics: I will avoid a book or a movie if I know it packs a big emotional punch.  I still want to read it or watch it, but I find myself passing it over for other things.  I don’t want my escape from reality to bring me more emotional turmoil.

Dragons: This is another topic that I am a little sick of.  There are some brilliant young adult books out there with dragons in them, but I really have a hard time suspending disbelief for these.  Unless someone I trust really loved the book, I will not pick it up if it is about dragons.

Faeries: I have to admit that this one is a little bit less of a turn-off lately.  However, it is a word that will definitely make me pause.  If I have never heard of the book, and it did not come highly recommended by a friend, I will probably pass it up if it says faeries are characters.

Business/Economics: I am just not interested in this.

Erotica: Just not my cup of tea.  Enough said.

High Fantasy: This is more specifically referring to books for adults.  In middle grades and young adult books, I find this genre to be one I enjoy.  However, when it comes to adult books there are so many things to keep track of and maps and such.  I just don’t want to do the work of keeping up with that stuff.  I am sure there would be some that I would like, but I haven’t found one yet.

Abuse: This goes along with the heavy emotional topics.  I have read some books that dealt with this issue and liked those books.  However, I am hesitant to pick up a book if I know that it deals with any kind of abuse.  I just don’t really want to suffer with a character.  I want to be uplifted by the stories I enter, not brought down.  (Even if the end message is uplifting)

Sports: I try to read some young adult books with this topic because I need to be able to recommend books to all students.  The sports books appeal especially to boys and I want to be able to share these titles with them.  But I don’t really like many books with sports themes.  I certainly would not pick up a book on the topic if it wasn’t a book I had heard of for young adults.

Horror/Ghost: I am a scaredy cat and I don’t need to read more things to spook myself.  I love reading murder mysteries, but when it starts getting into the creepy/supernatural, I cannot deal.  If it is going to scare me silly, I will not enjoy the book.

What topics or words make you cringe and shy away from a book?  Please share in the comments.

Slice of Life: Living in Wisconsin

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

Last Thursday, my husband and I dropped the dog off at a doggy spa and took off to Madison.  My mother and stepfather live in Madison, so we go quite often.  Thursday seemed like the perfect day for a little spontaneity and so I suggested that we take a different route to get to Madison.  We enjoy craft beer and there are a number of small breweries in Wisconsin.  This seemed like a fun time to try one out.  So we took off with the idea of going to visit the New Glarus brewery.

Thursday was a spectacularly sunny day and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous.  Since we were taking a highway that was south of the one we usually take, we were treated to different landscapes.  Wisconsin is beautiful in the summertime and we enjoyed seeing the farm animals.  As we drove, it made me think back to the book I was reading at the time American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld.  There is a passage in the beginning of that book that perfectly described how I was feeling at the time:

Then we were back in Wisconsin, a place that in late summer is thrillingly beautiful…to think of Wisconsin specifically or the Midwest as a whole as anything other than beautiful is to ignore the extraordinary power of the land.  The lushness of the grass and trees in August, the roll of the hills (far less of the Midwest is flat than outsiders seem to imagine), that rich smell of soil, the evening sunlight over a field of wheat, or the crickets chirping at dusk on a residential street: All of it, it has always made me feel at peace.  There is room to breathe, there is a realness to the place.  The seasons are extreme, but they pass and return, pass and return, and the world seems far steadier than it does from the vantage of a coastal city…But the Midwest: It is quietly lovely, not preening with the need to have its attributes remarked on.  It is the place I am calmest and most myself.

The drive was peaceful and relaxing and I loved seeing the amazing countryside and the farms.  My husband and I rode in companionable silence, listening to the music he enjoys, and commenting once in awhile on something we saw out the window.

Then, after about the third time the GPS told us “drive 15 miles…” to the next turn, I started to feel a shift in mood in the car.  My husband started looking at the clock and muttering and the enjoyment started to falter.  You see, my husband is not cut out for road trips.  For him, the idea of being stuck in a car driving for hours is a form of torture.  My assurances that this trip would not be longer than the trip to Madison had been adamant and now I was being proven wrong.  Whoops!

About thirty minutes after I thought we would arrive, we had reached our destination.  New Glarus brewery makes a number of beers that are distributed around the Midwest, among them is the most popular of their brews, Spotted Cow.

They are also known for making fruit beers, such as Raspberry Tart, which is a lambic-style beer.  The brewery is really pretty and built into a hillside in a very rural part of Wisconsin.  It is south of Madison and has a nice setting.

The place was really beautiful and it was kind of nice to be able to go on a self-guided tour.  They offered 3 beer samples for $3.50 and you then keep the tasting glass.  We enjoyed a cold beer on a super hot day and had a good time stretching our legs and walking through the brewery.  I wish they would have had some small museum-like plaques at certain points along the way to explain what we were seeing.  Having been on multiple tours of breweries, we were pretty knowledgable but it would have been nice to have some unique information from this one.  
After having our samples, we were ready to set out on the road again.  There were a few grumbles from my husband about the fact that it was later than he had anticipated, but nothing too difficult to deal with. After all, I was having a lovely road trip.  
When we got to Madison, we met my mother and stepfather at their condo and then went to have dinner.  After eating, we headed to the Memorial Union terrace.  The terrace is one of the things I miss most now that we don’t live in Madison.  Ask any Badger and you will know, this is one special place. There is even a construction sign that agrees with me!
My husband Ramon and my stepfather Jim decided to jump into my photo.  
Putting our heads together to plan.  

After enjoying some beer together on the terrace, it was time to head back.  Before leaving the union, I had to make one last pit stop: the ice cream counter.  If you have never tried Babcock hall ice cream, you are missing out.  The dairy is actually part of the School of Agriculture at UW-Madison, and they make phenomenal stuff!

The best flavor ever! Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream.  It is never the same anywhere else.

On Friday, we got to the real reason we had come to Madison.  Maxwell Street Days on State Street.

This is an annual sidewalk sale event on the best shopping street in Madison.  This is a pedestrian street in Madison which is lined with shops and restaurants.  For the last few years, my mother and I have gone to this massive sidewalk sale each year.  We have it down to a science.  There are a few stores that we know will have good deals on things that we want to buy.  We always get really good deals on things that we might not usually buy.  There is one particular boutique that carries things like Lug bags and Espe wallets in which we always spend some money.  We had a blast this time as well and got some great deals.

The crowded street leading up to the Capital square.  

After shopping in the morning, we decided to do something different in the afternoon.  We found ourselves heading to the Capital brewery…might as well make it a beer weekend, right?  So we went out to Middleton.  They have a great biergarten and a fun little tour.  So much fun!  
We ended our stay in Madison with a trip to the Madison Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning.  This is an amazing market and so much fun to go to, if you get there early.  Later in the morning it can get quite crowded.  
Lately, my husband and I have been going back and forth with the idea of possibly moving somewhere.  After returning home from visiting my sister, I kind of had an epiphany about choosing to be happy wherever I am.  This trip to Madison certainly had me remembering many good times in my life as well as enjoying new fun times.  
Wisconsin is not too shabby and I am glad I had a chance to remind myself of that. 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? July 22, 2013

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? –From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme startted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take.  Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole host of titles to add to your to-read lists.

It was nice to be in my own house and my own rhythms and routines this week.  I found a lot more time for reading and had fun getting on my library website to request titles (like I don’t have hundreds of books at home to read or anything).

Books I Finished This Week:

Adult Titles–

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld is a book that my sister has been recommending to me for a few years.  It has been on the TBR shelf for way too long.  I really enjoyed the book and felt drawn in by the story and by the language in the book.  The book is set in Wisconsin and I enjoyed the wonderful celebration of the places that I know and love.  This is the first book in a long time that really inspired me to go find the post-it tabs so I could mark some passages to share later.  The story has me thinking a lot about the things I did as a child in Wisconsin and I love that it really inspired a trip through my own childhood in my mind.  I loved the story of how this woman from a small town found herself to be the first lady of the United States.  I was moved by the story and by the lyrical writing and I would highly recommend this book. 

Graphic Novels–

I read this book in order to join the conversation over at YA lit 101.  
I love how Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge really reflects the anxiety of an artist when she sits down to create something.  I enjoyed the story, but really thought a lot about the way the creative process is presented in this book.  I think that this is one that I would especially recommend to the students in my class that are avid in their writing and/or art.  I really identified with Paige in the nervous feelings she had about sharing her sketchbook with the world.  I think it is a story that a lot of young people would be able to identify with and I am excited to introduce this book to my students.  
I was on my library website searching for other books by Neil Gaiman when I came across this graphic novel.  I love the novel and the movie of Coraline, so I was immediately curious about this one.  This adaptation is well done and would be a great read for any student who is a fan of the story.  I found myself thinking about how this could be a great book to use to work on Integrating Knowledge and Ideas.  Students could look at both the graphic novel and the animated movie after reading the novel and analyze the decisions made in each adaptation.  The drawings and tone in each adaptation are very different and it would be really interesting to discuss.  

Picture Books–

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a fabulous picture book about the love of books and reading.  I can’t wait to watch the short film and decide how to use this one in my classroom this fall.  I think it might go well with the discussion of seeing ourselves as readers and the reasons people read.  
Creepy Carrots was so much fun!  This would be a great book to read and discuss manipulation and the power of persuasion.  I had a lot of fun reading this one and I know my students would get a kick out of it.  

Middle Grade/Young Adult–

The Man Who Was Poe by Avi caught my eye on NetGalley.  I love Poe’s work and was intrigued by the title and description.  This is a fictionalized story set in a fictional world but referring to some of the events in the life of Poe.  I really enjoyed the story and it would be a good book to recommend to early fans of Poe’s work.  There is a mystery involved and Poe actually poses as Dupin to help the young boy figure out what happened to his sister.  I loved that the mood of this detective story really reminded me of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” I recommend this title to grades 6 and up.

This is another fun read from Ally Carter.  I am thoroughly enjoying the Gallagher Girls series so far (as I knew I would).  I am hoping to read the entire series this summer as well as the Heist Society series so that I can read the crossover novel she published last year.

I FINALLY finished listening to Through the Ever Night.  So many feels with this one!  I continue to have a book crush on Perry.  He is ever so dreamy.  I cannot wait for the conclusion of this trilogy.  I am so curious about how the story will work out for everyone.  I highly recommend this one to teens and adults alike.

What I am currently reading:

I started listening to Will Grayson, Will Grayson this week.  I am loving it so far and have laughed out loud multiple times during the first two hours.  I am looking forward to listening to more during my workouts this week.  I started reading Everyday Editing this weekend as well.

What’s Next?

I have a big stack of books from the library to read as well as a bunch of NetGalley titles and a huge bookshelf full of books.  There are too many books and way too little time and I will have to play it by ear.  

What are you reading this week?  Read anything amazing lately?  Please comment below.

Have a wonderful reading week!

Slice of Life: That is NOT a Reuben

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

I love Reuben sandwiches.  I always have loved this perfect creation ever since I was a little kid.  Now, as an adult, I have become quite picky about my Reuben sandwiches.  A Reuben must be on toast that is not too dry, with just the right combination of dressing, sauerkraut, cheese and corned beef.  The corned beef must be tender and melt in your mouth.

I have learned to keep a careful record (at least mentally and to my husband’s credit, mostly in his mind) of whether I enjoy this sandwich at each establishment I have tried it in.  There is nothing worse to me than ordering and anticipating a good Reuben sandwich and ending up with a soggy, ridiculous mess.

According to Wikipedia, which is most definitely a dubious source but one that most people turn to for everyday things,  “The Reuben sandwich is a hot sandwich of corned beef, Swiss cheese, with Russian or Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut. These are grilled between slices of rye bread.”

A Reuben sandwich on Marble Rye. YUM!

So, last week when my brother-in-law took me to a restaurant in the LA area to try their burger, I found myself swayed by the pull of my love for Reubens.  This restaurant, according to my brother-in-law and UrbanSpoon, was quite famous for their pastrami.  Any restaurant that makes good pastrami is sure to also make good corned beef, so I was eager to try a Reuben sandwich there.

I should have had the burger.

Um, people of LA, if it is made with pastrami, IT ISN’T A REUBEN SANDWICH!!!  After I already had my order, my brother-in-law proceeded to tell me that this is common in LA.  He has actually had arguments with other people about it.  WHAT?  Why didn’t he tell me?!
Now, to the credit of the establishment we were in, it was a very good pastrami sandwich.  But it was not a Reuben sandwich.  It wasn’t even toasted.  It was cold.  I know I should have read the menu better, but really they should not call it what it isn’t.  
This was a small lesson about a few things.  
First, it made me think about all of the little regional things that we all take for granted every day.  Would someone from LA come here to Wisconsin and be disappointed that their Reuben sandwich was not made with pastrami?  This reminds me of having a Bloody Mary at brunch last year in LA.  Another regional expectation in Milwaukee? A beer chaser for the Bloody Mary. Out in LA there was not a chaser in sight.  These little things that are so dependent on your region amaze me.   I remember talking to my college roommate about having frozen custard and seeing the absolute look of disgust on her face.  No, I didn’t take custard and put it in the freezer…it is a kind of ice cream that we thoroughly enjoy in Wisconsin.  Our country is such a vast place with all kinds of little idiosyncrasies.  So cool.  
Mmm…frozen custard.
Second, it made me think about the power of expectations.  I was vastly disappointed in a very good sandwich because I was expecting something else.  How often does that happen to us?  Think of the last time you went to a movie that people were raving about only to be let down when it didn’t meet your expectations.  How often do we expect something different from what we get? And how often does that negatively affect our experience?  I am going to try to be less worried about what I expected and more focused on the good experience.  
So, thank you to that restaurant in LA for the outstanding pastrami sandwich.  It was delicious and the pastrami is certainly something for you to brag about.  But it was NOT a Reuben sandwich.

Top Ten Authors Who Deserve More Recognition

I am joining in on this weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week there is a different top ten list topic and a bunch of bloggers weighing in.  Head on over there to see more of the great blogs participating.

Authors are rock stars.  This week’s topic was a fun one to think about, but really difficult for me to figure out.  There are so many great authors out there and I am sure there are a lot that deserve more recognition, but I couldn’t come up with more so you are stuck with my top six.  The authors I listed are ones that might have some recognition already, but I felt like they could use some extra love and recognition.  These authors are in no particular order.


Diana Abu-Jaber is an Iraqi-American author.  She writes beautiful and lyrical prose.  I first heard of her while attending the Key West Literary Seminar a few years ago.  She was part of the panel of authors there to talk about food writing. Her memoir The Language of Baklava tells of a childhood growing up in America with a dad who dreamed of someday moving back to Iraq.  Her novels are must-reads.


Elizabeth Kostova is the author of The Historian which is one of my all-time favorite books.  She also writes beautiful prose and the subject matter of her books is so intriguing.  I loved The Swan Thieves as well and cannot wait for more from this amazing author.


Camilla Läckberg is a mystery writer from Sweden. I absolutely love the Fjällbacka series.  This is a series of books set in the very north of Sweden. Her characters are interesting and likable people and I am thrilled when I find out there is another book to read.  I first discovered this author in one of my trips to Spain.  She was a bestseller there with her first book The Ice Princess.  In the US, her books have not been available for long.  I believe that only the first two books in the series have come out here, but not to worry, there are UK editions of all 8 books so they will be here soon.


Kristin Cashore is the author of the Graceling trilogy.  Maybe I am stretching it a bit here.  All three of the books in the trilogy received a ton of recognition and praise.  However, I think she deserves more.  These books are AMAZING!!!!


Carolina Garcia-Aguilera is a Cuban-born American writer.  I love her mystery series starring the protagonist Lupe Solano.  I devoured this series when I found it and was really disappointed that there weren’t more books.  I hope there are more to come in the future.


Matthew Quick recently received some much-deserved recognition when his book The Silver-Lining Playbook was made into a movie.  However, I think this author deserves even more.  His young adult books are amazing.  I recently read Sorta Like a Rock Star and was very impressed with the ability he had to get inside a teenage girl’s mind and deliver such a realistic voice.
Boy21 is one of my favorite books that I read last year.

What authors do you think deserve more recognition?  Did I forget someone obvious?  Please comment below and share your thoughts.