Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April In Review

image obtained from here

That's my month in a nutshell.  Plus a birthday party.  I'm publishing this a few days early because I realized this will be my 200th post, and I'd rather give the honors to a wrap-up than to the mini-review I also want to publish this week.

My Reading

Books read: 31 as of Tuesday.  Over a book a day, due partly to reading a bunch of graphic novels and partly due to participating in the read-a-thon.  


I read 3/4 of Girl, Stolen aloud to two classes, and then had to pause because of end-of-grading period stuff, so I went ahead and read the end on my own.  In general, I like my mysteries and thrillers to be for an adult audience; when you know it's for younger readers it kind of eliminates certain storylines and possibilities.  Still, there was one point towards the end when my heart was racing with anxiety for the protagonists.   Otherwise we were stalling out on read-alouds this month.

Raina Telgemeier's adaptation of Ann M. Martin's first Babysitters Club book is another one I started reading aloud, to my daughter, then went ahead and finished on my own.  It was during Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon (more on that later), so I wanted to cruise through an easy book rather than leave it unfinished after reading to her.  I've been slacking on reading to my kids too, although we did read picture books.

Fully Disappointing:

No One Knows by J. T. Ellison

Mildly Disappointing:


Wow, wow, wow!

  • The Unlikely Hero of Room 13 B by Teresa Toten was the highlight of my Read-a-Thon books.  I totally thought it was going to be dumb, since on page one, literally, we get insta-love of a manic pixie dreamgirl, and love looks set to cure mental illness.  But no.  
  • All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg also messed with my preconceptions.  I saw the cover and thought "Baseball book."  Try "historical fiction/coming of age novel in verse" book.  
  • UnBound by Neal Shusterman was amazing.  It's hard, I think, to put out "companion stories" to a beloved series without a) just doing it to cash in, and b) having a mix of quality and interest level.  Shusterman knocks it out of the park.
  • Antsy Does Time, also by Shusterman, was another book I didn't have high expectations of, since I was mentally categorizing it as "earlier, lighter work."  But it was awesome.  Funny, for sure.  Light?  Not so much.
  • Roz Chast's graphic memoir Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? broke my little orphaned heart.  I don't know what it would be like to read this if one's parents were hale and hearty, but as someone who has gone through the old age and death of both parents, this hit me so hard.  Not that it's depressing--her wry humor is part of why it's so great.  Five stars.
  • Through the Woods is not my cup of tea.  Emily Carroll's graphic short stories are billed as being of a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark level of creepiness.  Maybe it's just the illustrated aspect of them, but I found them FAR creepier.  So even though I don't enjoy that kind of thing, I was still really impressed by how gorgeous and creepy the book is.  Yes, I just used "creepy" three times to describe it.  There is no word that fits better.
  • Boy21 by Matthew Quick is a book I didn't really know anything about, but I liked the lists I'd seen it on.  I bought it for my classroom as soon as I finished reading it.  Is it overly dramatic?  Maybe.  Who cares!  It's terrific.  Five Stars.




    Assorted Stats

    So far this year my authors are 40% male to 60% female, and 82% white to 18% non-white.  I'm going to make a conscious effort to read authors of color in May, so we'll see how much I can change that by next month.  I'm reading 80% American authors, with Canadians surprising me by being second.  Half of what I read is YA, a quarter is adult, and the rest, I guess, is children's and MG.  42% of what I read is realistic fiction, and my attack on Louise Penny's series means the next genre in line, at 18%, is mystery.

    My Writing

    After writing and posting daily in March for the Slice of Life challenge, I was all fired up to take part in this month's A-Z challenge.  I'd pre-written several posts (A-F) and planned out the rest of my topics.

    But when it came down to it, I stalled out after the pre-written posts.  I put a few more together that I was particularly excited about, and a few I wasn't, and then I gave myself permission to quit.  Unlike the SOL challenge, I wasn't getting a sense of community--many comments were perfunctory, and it took a lot of digging to find blogs of interest.  That being said, I did come across some interesting non-book blogs and connected with some bloggers who continued to visit Falconer's Library even after I disappeared from the A-Z challenge.

    This is my 26th post this month, which is still pretty good.  I did post frequently during the read-a-thon.  People were so supportive about that; thank you!  My read-a-thon wrap up post garnered the most views, and B is for Bookstore got the most comments.  I enjoyed doing a little research for L is for Louisa, Laura, and Lucy and I got to share some of my favorite books in M is for Multiple Points of View.  The most recent TTT topic, things that delight a bookworm's heart, was also a lot of fun.

    I'm trying to decide if I want to shell out $400 for a writer's retreat in June.  Well, no, I KNOW I want to, I'm just trying to figure out if I can.   NO WAIT, I'm going to.  If I can convince my principal that I don't need to be there the two days after school gets out.  They're on our contract, but I can go into the building and put my time in when I get back.  Right?  Right.  I have many conflicting thoughts about signing up, such as "But I'm not actually a writer," and "There's a hot tub?  Cool!" and "Ack, dealing with people I don't know."  But mostly, "Wheeee!"


    Besides Dewey's Read-a-Thon, which was so much fun I'm still giddy about it, the highlight of my month was my daughter's tenth birthday.  

    First, we cleaned our house, which hasn't happened in an embarrassingly long time.  I was raised in a house in which every Friday we vacuumed, changed sheets, dusted, cleaned bathrooms, mopped floors, washed windows, etc.  We also made our beds every single day and only got fast food if we were on a road trip.  This is not my family's reality, so it was high time we were forced to make the place not-disgusting.  I was able to get decent, non-whiney help for this project from my daughter, because she was excited for her party, and I gave my son all the somewhat fun outdoor jobs.  

    Then we dropped the boy off at my sister's for an overnight, and five little girls came over to our house.  The weather was lovely, so they played outside.  We did an art project (paint pens on mugs), had pizza and an ice cream cake, and let them play with her presents until bedtime.  Well, after bedtime.  But they didn't stay up crazy late.  I was really happy in that they didn't do any mean girl crap to each other.  It was a bit of a motley crew; my daughter was the only one who knew everyone, and two girls didn't know anyone except their hostess.  But they interacted well and were able to pull apart and come together without hurting each others' feelings.  

    Oh, and the ice cream cake was amazing.  

    At school I was asked to put together some reading electives to offer for next year.  I came up with four and will teach the one or two that get the most sign-ups.  I need to start working on paperwork for our early May visit to Powells to hear April Henry talk.  And for the first time in 17 years, I'm not responsible for any state testing.  Woo-hoo!  The students, on the other hand, are spending a solid month on it, but I'll try to stop myself from climbing on that soapbox.


    • I'm going to separate that out into a different post since this is already miles long.

    I hope you had an excellent April.  My husband and I both had English with the same teacher when we were seniors in high school--two years apart (and completely unaware of each other).  We both like to trot out our Old English this time of year.  "Whan that Aprilel with his shoures soote the droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote..."  We're getting into my favorite time of year now, as the days get longer and the school year winds down.  


  1. I like the reading summary.

    All my comments are perfunctory. Even on my own blog. Ha.

    The $400 seems like a tax write-off.

    1. No, actually you are one of the people from the A-Z that seems to read before commenting, and who writes an interesting blog I wouldn't have come across otherwise.

      I don't know that I could justify a tax write-off. I'm a reading teacher who thinks writing is fun, so I'd like to get better at it.

  2. Wow. Thirty-one books is insane. I’m glad you liked UnBound. I’m hopefully going to read that one next month. I’ve never been to a writer’s retreat, but some of my friends have, and they say that retreats are a lot of fun.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  3. What a nice summary for the month. Even if you didn't finish the A to Z, you still had a lot going on and you did a LOT of reading! :)
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straightforward Fiction Book Reviews

  4. You had an amazing reading month!! I'm now so excited to read UnBound - Shusterman is pretty much a genius as far as I'm concerned. I don't know why I haven't read this yet!

    Where's the writing retreat you're thinking of going to? I'd love to do something like that sometime!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. It's at the Oregon coast, organized by a blogger I love.

  5. I did not like a Jane Austen Education either. So self-absorbed. But I'm glad you read so many great books this month, and especially that you liked Is That a Fish in Your Ear? I'm somewhat worried when I enthusiastically recommend anything that the reader will end up saying "meh." And I hope you do the writing retreat and have a fabulous time.

  6. I'm amazed at how many books you got to read this month, and it's awesome that you enjoyed a lot of them! I hope you can work things out about the writing retreat - that sounds like it would be a great experience.


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