April Wrap-Up

Happy May everyone!

On the one hand, April felt incredibly long. But on the other hand, I can’t believe it’s May already!

I started hybrid teaching this month, so over the last few weeks I’ve been incredibly busy and exhausted. While I’ve loved getting to see some of my students in-person, this structure of teaching in-person and virtually simultaneously is definitely not sustainable. I look forward to hopefully getting back to some sense of normalcy in the fall (and also making some changes to our school systems based on the many lessons and skills we’ve learned from this crazy year)!

Due to this huge change in my professional life this month, my reading and blogging were definitely affected. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been taking a small hiatus from blogging. I normally blog in the evenings, but starting hybrid was essentially like starting a new school year in April, which meant I was coming home physically and mentally exhausted each day. Therefore, I decided to take care of myself and let myself take a little break from blogging. And I’m so glad I did! It helped me reflect and come up with some new ideas for my blog (which I’ll discuss later). Now that I’m feeling more settled in to my job, I’m sure next month I won’t feel as physically and mentally drained each day, which will hopefully give me more time and energy to get back to blogging!

As for my reading, my audiobook “intake” definitely increased drastically this month due to the fact that I’m commuting to work again. I’ve really enjoyed getting to listen to more books (and having somewhere to go each day)! With the physical and mental exhaustion I’ve been experiencing this month, I haven’t always felt up to reading a physical book before going to bed (often opting for an early bedtime instead). Therefore I’ve really relied on audiobooks to keep me reading this month. Also, since I’ve been so tired, I’ve also been opting for shorter/easier books and audiobooks that I wouldn’t have to contrate too hard on. This isn’t normally how I choose what to read, but for this exhausting month it was necessary.

I only ended up getting to one of the books I had actually planned to read in April, but I’m hopeful for May! However, I do want to try to read more middle grade books again this month so that I can return them to my classroom before the end of the school year. If I can, I’d really like to read The Glass Castle and maybe The Help. But we’ll see!

Without further ado, here is my wrap-up of all the books I read in April:

Stats and Overall Thoughts:

Books read: 14
Physical books: 3
Audiobooks: 11

Fiction: 9
Nonfiction: 5

Average monthly rating: 3.6
Top Book of April: Animal Farm and The Mysterious Affair at Styles

5-star books:
Animal Farm by George Orwell (Classic, Audiobook)

4-star books:
The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas by Adrian Miller (Nonfiction, Audiobook)
Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres (Realistic Fiction, Middle Grade, Paperback) – Review coming soon!
Sleeping Dogs Lie by Samantha Downing (Mystery, Audiobook)
The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Mystery, Audiobook)

3.5-star books:
Persuasion by Jane Austen (Classic, Audiobook)
Our Harlem: Seven Days of Cooking, Music, and Soul at the Red Rooster by Marcus Samuelsson (Nonfiction, Audiobook)
My Dyslexia by Philip Schultz (Memoir, Audiobook)
Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm (Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Hardcover) – Review coming soon!
Mirror’s Edge by Scott Westerfeld (YA Science Fiction, Hardcover)
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (Classic, Audiobook)
My Life with the Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall (Memoir, Middle Grade, Audiobook) – Review coming soon!

2.5-star books:
Nerve by Jeanne Ryan (YA Fiction, Audiobook) – Review coming soon!
My Soul Looks Back by Jessica B. Harris (Memoir, Audiobook)

Overall Thoughts:
While I read significantly more books this month compared to previous months, I think it was my lowest average monthly rating. And quality is definitely more important than quantity! However, I stand by how I approached my reading this month. I picked books based primarily on length and how easy I thought they would be to follow. I did this because I’ve been exhausted this month, and knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on (or enjoy) longer, heavier books. It was just what I needed to do this month.

Overall, I did enjoy what I read this month! I just wasn’t really blown away by anything.

My only five-star read this month was Animal Farm. Which, embarrassingly, I went into thinking I was reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair? I don’t know why I was under that impression, but needless to say I was very confused when I first started and there were sentient, talking animals! Once I figured out what was going on, I really enjoyed it. It was powerful and very relevant still to the world we live in today with insightful commentary on power (among other things).

This year I’ve also discovered how much I love reading nonfiction related to food! I really enjoyed The President’s Kitchen Cabinet; it shared a part of history that is often overlooked and that I knew virtually nothing about. I also really enjoyed Our Harlem by Marcus Samuelsson! I’ve quickly become an even bigger fan of this talented chef throughout this year, and want to follow all of his work (culinary, literary, TV, or otherwise)! I do believe that Our Harlem would have been more impactful as a visual (rather than audio) project; I would have loved to actually see all of the food and cooking as well as the locations in Harlem that were talked about! However, the content of the audiobook was truly fantastic and I learned so much.

I’ve also discovered that I’m maybe not the biggest fan of Jane Austen… However, I’m not ready to give up on her yet. It’s possible that an audiobook just isn’t the best format for me when it comes to her work. I find them hard to follow and I can never keep track of the characters. I also struggle to understand the social and historical context (which is very much a “me problem” and not an issue with the book). That being said, I own a paperback copy of Pride and Prejudice, so I’m hoping that this will help me find more enjoyment in her work!

As for my lowest rated books this month, my experiences with them were very different! I actually was very entertained by Nerve, but felt that it was poorly written. As for My Soul Looks Back, I thought the writing was fine but did not enjoy it at all. It just wasn’t for me!

Changes to Come

In the couple weeks I took off from blogging this month, I made time to reflect on why I started this little project and why (and if) I wanted to continue it. I love reading, I love writing, and I love connecting with others about books! However, I realized that I was beginning to dread writing so many reviews (which, of course, is kind of the point of the book blog). The part that was off-putting for me is that it made reading feel like a chore; like I had to pay super close to attention to everything as I was reading rather than just reading for enjoyment!

However, reading with a critical eye is something I already do with middle grade books (and frequently YA books). As a teacher, I read middle grade books with a certain question in mind: How could I use this in my classroom? And: Which students would I recommend this for? I enjoy reviewing them because I already have so many thoughts about them. I also feel more qualified to give constructive criticism. Additionally, it would be really helpful for me (and hopefully for other educators) to have this record of my thoughts and recommendations for these books! For instance, last summer I read every book that I have a set of in my classroom. I had lots of thoughts about how to use them (and some that I wanted to get rid of), but because I didn’t document my thoughts I no longer remember exactly what I determined about each one.

Therefore, moving forward, I am going to focus my reviews on middle grade and occasionally YA books! And potentially an adult book every so often if I feel inclined to! I’m so excited for this new focus for my blog!

How did your reading go in April? Any stand-out books to recommend?

Let me know in the comments! And thanks for reading (my blog, but also just in general)!

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