Cluster Review (December Wrap-Up): My Final Reads of 2020

Hello again! It’s been a while since I’ve written a review. Teaching in December is always a whirlwind (and teaching virtually is no exception). In order to get through these last few weeks of the year, I have been reading ravenously. It’s to the point that I’ve done little else in my free time. I decided to just embrace it and take a break from my blogging and reviewing, but now I’m back!

In this post, I will write very brief reviews of some of the stand-out books I managed to read in December. I finished my last two books of the year yesterday, which brings me to 100 total books read this year! I can’t believe it.

Many of the books I read this month were…

Cluster Review: Flowers for Algernon & Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Of the four books I finished last weekend, two of them were YA Fiction and two were sci-fi. I just published my young adult cluster review, so now I’ll be publishing my cluster review of the two sci-fi books I read.

Of these two books, I finished Flowers for Algernon first and it was…

Cluster Review: Midnight Sun & You Should See Me in a Crown

Since I last posted, I’ve finished four books! Two of them were young adult fiction and the other two were sci-fi, so I will be breaking my reviews up into two posts based on genre. Since Midnight Sun was the first of the four books I finished, I’ll publish my YA cluster review first.

What can I say about Midnight Sun? I knew perfectly well what I was getting myself into when I started reading it…

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.

Cluster Review (October Wrap-Up): Dracula, Planet of the Apes, & Cloud Atlas

Yesterday, October 31st, I finished reading Cloud Atlas, which is a cause for celebration for several reasons. For one, it was my 72nd book of the year which means I have OFFICIALLY met my reading goal for this year! And two, I’ve been struggling to get through this book since July, so I’m also celebrating the fact that I’m finally able to read something new.

I’m doing three books at once in this review also for two reasons: One, I was unable to post a review last week and so I’m a week behind in my reviews. Two, I was voraciously reading at the end of October in order to meet my annual goal and to power through as many sci-fi novels as I can (also part of my annual goal). There are only a couple months left in the year, so I’m trying to commit as fully as I can to the goals I set to get out of my reading comfort zone this year.

My feelings about these three books are… complex…

Top 5 Saturday: Books with an Animal on the Cover

Welcome to my first Top 5 Saturday! This is a weekly challenge hosted by Devouring Books, and this week’s challenge is about books with an animal on the cover.

In order to make my list, I first made a different list of all the books I’ve read and liked that have animals on the cover. And then I narrowed it down to my top five based on how much I like the story as well as the cover. Here’s my list…

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…

Beginning of the Year Read-Alouds

As a teacher, the first week of school is an exciting, insane, and busy time (especially when beginning the year virtually!). It’s a time for getting to know new students, building classroom community, practicing routines, and establishing expectations. One of my favorite ways to accomplish all of these things is through picture books…