Book Review: “Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli

I have conflicting feelings about this book, and it took me a while to decide how to rate and review it. Overall, I liked it! However, it wasn’t my favorite and I did have some issues with it. I will be keeping this one in my classroom library, but probably won’t be using it for any lessons or activities.

Spoiler-Free Review: “Maniac Magee” is a middle grade novel that explores themes of…

Book Review: “Dark Places” by Gillian Flynn

My first audiobook of 2021! I was a little nervous when I started this one because I didn’t realize how DARK it was. I was nervous that something dark and heavy maybe wasn’t the best way to start off a new year. However, it ended up being really gripping and I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t read mysteries/thrillers that often, but I really love books that keep me on the edge of my seat and are unpredictable.

Spoiler-Free Review: “Dark Places” is a dark thriller in which a young girl is the lone survivor of…

Book Review: “The Jumbies” by Tracey Baptiste

My first book of 2021! One of my goals is to read as many books from my classroom library as I can before our eventual return to in-person school. I managed to read many last year, especially during Spring, Summer, and Winter Break. While this one wasn’t my favorite that I’ve read, it was a creative and imaginative story, and a fun start to the new year!

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Jumbies” is a middle grade novel based on the Haitian folktale “The Magic Orange Tree”…

Top 5 Audiobooks of 2020

As rough as 2020 was, being stuck in quarantine sure did make more time for reading! Without my commute to work, I listened to fewer audiobooks but was also able to get to more books in my physical TBR pile! Even with the reading slump I hit this summer (amidst pandemic wedding planning), I still managed to read an astounding (for me, anyway) 100 books, with many of my favorites being from the very beginning and very end of the year.

I have my top books divided up among physical books and audiobooks (since this greatly impacts the reading experience). I considered dividing the lists by genre or by target audience (adult, young adult, children’s), but decided to go by format instead since a great book can be written for any audience and from any genre. I also didn’t commit to a specific number of books to acknowledge for each category, I just identified my standout reads from the year and ranked them within that range.

Without further ado, here are my top audiobooks of 2020!

Top 8 Physical Books of 2020

As rough as 2020 was, being stuck in quarantine sure did make more time for reading! Without my commute to work, I listened to fewer audiobooks but was also able to get to more books in my physical TBR pile! Even with the reading slump I hit this summer (amidst pandemic wedding planning), I still managed to read an astounding (for me, anyway) 100 books, with many of my favorites being from the very beginning and very end of the year.

I have my top books divided up among physical books and audiobooks (since this greatly impacts the reading experience). I considered dividing the lists by genre or by target audience (adult, young adult, children’s), but decided to go by format instead since a great book can be written for any audience and from any genre. I also didn’t commit to a specific number of books to acknowledge for each category, I just identified my standout reads from the year and ranked them within that range.

Without further ado, here are my top physical books of 2020!

Book Review: “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones

This was a children’s book I was really looking forward to reading. Earlier this year, I watched Hayao Miyazaki’s film adaption and enjoyed it! It wasn’t my favorite Miyazaki movie, but it was whimsical and fun and I’d heard the book was even better (as it usually is). I have to say, watching the movie and reading the book ended up being very similar experiences. If you loved the movie, you’ll love the book. If you were indifferent about it, the book might not quite be enough to change your opinion.

Spoiler-Free Review: “Howl’s Moving Castle” is a whimsical, joyful story with clever, funny, endearing characters.

Book Review: “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” by Claire North

One of my reading goals this year has been to read more science fiction because it’s not a genre I normally gravitate toward. The premise of “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” sounded really intriguing, so I was excited to finally be able to download this one on Audible. However, if anything, my experience reading this book only reinforced why I don’t normally read sci-fi… It wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t great either.

Spoiler-Free Review: “The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” tells the story of Harry, a man who never really dies, but continues to relive his life over and over again. It’s kind of like “Groundhog Day,” but

Book Review: “A Whole New Ballgame: A Rip and Red Book” by Phil Bildner

Over the summer, I made it my goal to read every book of which I have a novel set in my classroom. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use them this year (it’s looking like I won’t since I don’t currently teach students in-person), but I figured if I could read each one and document my thoughts on them then I would be better prepared to lead book clubs (sometimes called literature circles) when the opportunity arose. I managed to read through most of them early this summer, but I kept putting this one off. It seemed very sports-centric and I was initially put off by this. It didn’t seem like anything that would interest me, so I was a little apprehensive about starting it. However, I could not have been more wrong. This book ended up being one of my favorites of all of the novel sets I have in my classroom. It did feature sports, but in a way that tied in to all of the other storylines and themes and made it feel worthwhile. With a diverse cast of characters and so much heart, this is easily one of the best children’s books I’ve read this year.

Spoiler-Free Review: “A Whole New Ballgame: A Rip and Red Book” is a story about a fifth grade year full of changes, surprises, and growth…

Book Review: “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

Though the audiobook version of “Little Women” clocks in at a daunting 19 hours and 37 minutes, it didn’t feel long at all as I enjoyed living life through the March sisters’ eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed this classic novel, and am excited to finally be able watch the most recent movie adaptation! I wanted to wait to watch the movie until I had read the book, and I’m excited to see how they adapted such a classic (and long) novel. While there are certainly some themes and plot events that are a little outdated, I felt that overall it was largely ahead of its time and an important piece of work that paved the way for women in literature (both authors and the possibilities for female characters).

Spoiler-Free Review: “Little Women” is a classic novel about family, growing up, and friendship…

Book Review: “The Hypnotist’s Love Story” by Liane Moriarty

I was really excited to finally get to listen to this audiobook. The second audiobook I ever listened to was “What Alice Forgot,” also written by Liana Moriarty and narrated by Tamara Lovatt Smith! I loved “What Alice Forgot,” and Tamara Lovatt Smith was an incredible narrator (with a great Australian accent), so I couldn’t wait to experience this author-narrator team again. The summary describing a hypnotherapist, her new lover, and his stalker who is already stalking the main character without her realizing it was so intriguing. Unfortunately, this book didn’t live up to my expectations. Nothing really happened beyond the blurb on the back of the book; I kept waiting for more to happen but it never did. That being said, it was still entertaining enough and the hypnotherapy aspect was interesting and unique. Continue reading below to see my full thoughts on this book.

Spoiler-Free Review: “The Hypnotist’s Love Story” is a light novel with an interesting premise that doesn’t live up to its potential…