11 March 2015

Snagged at the Library Challenge

I have decided to participate in the Snagged at the Library Reading Challenge hosted by The Geeky Blogger's Book Blog and The Book Nympho.

Geeky Bloggers Book Blog

The rules of the challenge are simple:
• Runs January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015. You can join any time.
• The goal is to read at least twelve (12) books from the library. Twelve should be easy, that’s one a month. While twelve is the minimum, there is no maximum limit. See the different levels below and pick the one that works best for you.
• Any format will work for this challenge (print, ebook or audio) as long as you checked it out from the library it counts.
• Books can be any genre (fiction, nonfiction, romance, fantasy, mystery, thriller, horror, etc.).
• Crossovers from other reading challenges are allowed, including re-reads. The goal is to support your local library and save money.
• To join this challenge, grab the 2015 Snagged @ The Library Reading Challenge button and post this reading challenge on your blog to track your progress. Please include a link back to this sign-up post so others can join the reading challenge too. You do not have to be a book blogger to participate; you can track your progress on Goodreads (so as long as you have a dedicated shelf and Felicia has created aGoodreads group), Shelfari (I’ve created a Shelfari group. You can join and post your progress within the group), or BookLikes, etc., for the 2015 Snagged @ The Library Reading Challenge. The point of linking up is to have a place where people can see what you’re reading.

And the challenge has the following levels:
  1. Dewey Decimal: read 12 books
  2. Thrifty Reader: read 24 books
  3. Overdrive Junkie: read 36 books
  4. Stalking the Bookstacks: read 50+ books
As of right now, I  think I'm going to commit to the Dewey Decimal level of 12 books, but I am hoping to read more than 12. Hope you all will join me (even though I'm joining the challenge a little late.)
Happy Reading!

10 March 2015

Guest Post: Natalie Bina, author of Never Trust a Happy Song

Today I am honored to host guest poster, author Natalie Bina. 


Natalie, a student at Wesleyan University who enjoys singing, dancing and baking, is the author of the upcoming ebook Never Trust a Happy Song, available for pre-order until March 14th.

Never Trust a Happy Song is about a teenage girl named Cassidy who is admitted to a very prestigious summer program at Stanford University. Cassidy is use to a mom who is very serious about her study habits and wants her daughter to have the best chances later in life-- education is priority number one. However, Cassidy's host family, the Harpers, seem to be the polar opposite to her mother. With the differences in attitudes and the distractions of Grace Harper, Cassidy has to learn how to balance fun with hard work and realize that she can have both a great education and a social life.

Lately, women vloggers on Youtube have been sharing letters to their younger-selves with the meme #dearme, well, Natalie Bina's guest post is a perfect  to tie the #dearme movement. Here are Natalie Bina's words to not only her 16 year old self, but to everyone who is still in those teen years.

"Being a teenager can be hard. That, I believe, is universally known. Being 16 is especially difficult, because the freedom of childhood slips away and other people’s expectations for The Rest of Your Life begin to rain down on you like anvils. People stop asking about soccer practice or the school play and start asking about summer jobs, GPAs, college plans, career goals, and many other things that make you ball your fists and bite your lip to swallow a scream as you hiss, “I don’t know.” 
Not knowing is okay. Three years later, I still don’t have all the answers, but I’ve written down 16 things that I know now and would love to tell my 16-year-old self. It’s useless to ask the what if question, but I do sometimes wonder if anything would have changed, had I known any of these things then.

  1.        Everyone in the room is not staring at you and thinking you look stupid. They are probably too busy worrying that everyone else thinks they look stupid.
  2.        It’s okay to fail or be lazy once in a while. Those off-moments do not define your entire character.
  3.        Considering getting a ‘B’ to be “practically failing” is not a healthy mindset.
  4.        Weekdays are not off limits for doing fun things. Go to a movie with your friends on Tuesday. Get ice cream after school on Wednesday.
  5.        There is no “normal” time to do anything. Everyone should move and develop at their own pace. This applies to everything from first kisses to getting your ears pierced. You are not a lesser person if you aren’t doing something that other people are doing.
  6.        Start edging yourself a little out of your comfort zone now; don’t wait a couple years to decide to be brave. It may be scary, but it can also be wildly rewarding and fun!
  7.        Sleep in on weekends.
  8.        Learn to enjoy being alone with yourself.
  9.       Learn to enjoy being out doing things with others.
  10.    Don’t get too sucked into thinking only about the future. Yes, you have to think about college, but you will only ever be 16 (or 17 or 18) once.
  11.   It’s okay to not have one single best friend. It can be really nice to have multiple close friends spread out over a series of groups. You might not be able to hang out with all of them at the same time, but you’ll always be aware of multiple opinions and viewpoints on a subject.
  12.    Take naps. Mastering the 20 minute powernap is a life skill.
  13.    If you feel too frustrated and frazzled to do your homework, then clean your room. You’ll undoubtedly feel better afterwards.
  14.    Go running. Take a walk. Go on a bike ride. Just go outside.
  15.    Trying to eliminate chocolate from your life is never a good idea.
  16.   There are many things that you might have to sacrifice to make room for other things in your life, but your writing is not one of them."

I   I want to thank Natalie Bina for being our guest post this week and I wish her the best of luck with her new book and if you are interested in more information about Natalie or her new book you can visit her website at Natalie Bina or her GoodReads account. Never Trust a Happy Song is currently available for pre-order through Bublish, Barnes and Noble and Apple Books for $1.99. (But hurry, the price will increase to $2.99 on March 14th)
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  *While reading Never Trust a Happy Song,  I found myself sad for Cassidy (especially in the beginning). The only thing Cassidy could think of was her school work and she didn't have much use for small talk or things that would not help improve her education, college applications and her resume. I can't even begin to tell you how many time I wanted to take Cassidy's mom and shake her, make her realize that the amount of pressure she was putting on her daughter wasn't helping. I did find Grace an interesting balance (at least on the outside) to Cassidy's very studious nature.

I will admit, I did have trouble getting into the story at the beginning of the book, but after a few chapters, I did begin to enjoy the book. I will give Never Trust a Happy Song  3.5 dragonflies.


Full disclosure: I was contacted by Natalie Bina to read her novel and host a spot on her blog tour. Natalie Bina was kind enough to send me a copy of her ebook. Supplying her book did not in anyway sway my review of her book.



08 March 2015

International Woman's Day

Today is International Woman's Day. Even though women have come so far compared to where we were just decades ago, there is still so far to go. More than ever, women are in roles of leadership around the world, but we can't seem to get something together. . . one thing women have a hardship with these days, we keep badmouthing each other.Instead of building one another up, we slut shame, we put each other down and we let others do the same to us.

For International Woman's Day, Youtube has brought together some of the most amazing women vloggers, like Hannah Hart, Superwomanvlogs (Lillie), Felicia Day, Lindsey Stirling and Trisha Hersberger (from Sourcefed) to give advice to their younger-selves. Advice that these amazing women wish they had known in middle and high school. I encourage you to check out these amazing and special videos. These videos are incredibly real and great for everyone. Here is a link to #dearme.


#DearMe

Dear Amber,
My dear, sweet younger Amber. I know right now, high school sucks. I know how difficult a time you are having trying to fit in with everyone else, to be who they want you to be. Amber, you are amazing. My advice to you, is find out who your real friends are and never let them go. Realize that those people who make fun of you for your weight, your clothing, your personality. Hun, you are just a different person. You've always marched to the beat of your own drummer, embrace it. In the words of Shrek the Musical, "Let your freak flag fly!" Who cares if your are a musical theater junkie who may be a little overweight? All of the things you are afraid to let show, the things other people make fun of you for are things that make you unique. Stand firm in your faith and love with all your heart, trust me, you are going to be just fine. I promise, the moments when you think things would be better off if you weren't around will start to vanish and don't be mad at the person who brings your issues to the attention of others. She's just doing what needs to be done to help you most.

I love you, younger Amber. Learn to love yourself, it will be AMAZING.
1999 Junior Year, 17 years old

06 March 2015

Review: Now Matter the Wreckage Poems by Sarah Kay

"In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Sarah Kay, navigates a decade's worth of writing to present us with a book that combines new poems and beloved favorites. Both fresh and wise, Sarah Kay's poetry invites us to join her on the journey of discovering herself and the world around her." (back cover of book)
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My faithful readers already know I'm not a big fan of books written in poetry form. However, I LOVED Sarah Kay's book. My favorite poem in the book is called B, a poem about advice she would give her daughter if she ever has one. While Sarah Kay's words are powerful on the page, they are even better when you hear her perform them. (Trust me, check her out on Youtube.)

What makes Sarah Kay even cooler is that she and a friend named Phil Kaye teamed up to create Project Voice to help teach others the joy of Spoken Word poetry. (For more information about Project Voice, click here and for more information about Sarah, click here.)

I absolutely love Sarah Kay's poetry and I think you will also.

25 February 2015

Review: How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

"WHEN SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD TARIQ JOHNSON dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown in an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.
In the aftermath of Tariq's death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.
Tariq's friends, family and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down." (jacket summary)
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So. Many.Thoughts. There seems to have been an increase in gun deaths among teenagers. However, I am not entirely sure if there has been in increase in deaths or just an increase in media attention. We live in a world where moments after something happens, EVERYONE knows. A world where journalist begin to sensationalize a story before all the facts are known. We make judgments based on what we are shown, never knowing the whole story. Even the people who witness these awful events don not know the entire story.

What I love about Kekla Magoon's novel is how she shows various witness point of views. How it Went Down demonstrates how people who witnessed Tariq's death saw different things and have conflicting stories. Did Tariq have a gun or was it a candy bar? Was Tariq in a gang or not? Why? Why? Why? So many questions, so many answers and still an incomplete conclusion.

Reading How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon,made me think about Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown and so many other who were gunned down. A time when conflicting news sources led us to such horrid opposition with one another that it lead to civil unrest, rioting and violence. This novel is amazing. So many passages made me stop and think, not only of teenagers being killed by gun and the stories that are never fully told, but how we consume our news. Do we wait to pass a judgement until all sides of the story are presented, or do we rush to make judgement and make everything much worse.

If you are ready to take a moment and really think, How it Went Down is the perfect book to help you think and a great way to start a global conversation.


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Bonus: Song that went through my head as  I read How it Went Down: Glory from the movie Selma sung by John Legend and Common.


03 January 2015

Stronger than You Know by Jolene Perry

" 'I'M JOY, THE GIRL WHO'S BEEN BROKEN. I'LL PROBABLY ALWAYS BE BROKEN.
Joy's fifteen. Her normal life just began three months ago. Before that was another life that she doesn' like to remember. When the police came, it was supposed to be all over.
But now, living with her aunt and uncle in this new family where everyone tries to understand, it's not over. Joy's got a whole list of reasons why she's crazy-- the panic attacks, the meds she's on, and the hard-to-breathe feeling she gets when she has to talk to someone new. Somehow it's even harder when the person is nice.
Yet hope has a way of taking hold, and Joy just might find a way to hold on . . ." (book jacket summary)

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Wow. When I picked Stronger than You Know off the shelf I could not have imagined how amazing the book would be. The first few pages of Jolene Perry's book drew me in and I could not put it down. I believe that Joy's hidden inner strength is present from the first pages of the book. For 15 years, Joy lived with her abusive mother and endless parade of other adults who did NOTHING to help the young girl, Joy had the strength to survive and open up when finally questioned.

I'm going to give this book 4 fireflies for the following reasons:

  • Stronger the You Know is the kind of book that will stick with your for awhile. I finished reading this book on New Year's Eve and I couldn't help but think about it the next couple of days. 
  • Joy's struggle to acclimate to her new reality is exactly what it should be -- a struggle. Fifteen years of abuse and neglect won't go away in the blink of an eye.
  • The struggle of Joy's extended family is beautifully portrayed with each member of the family trying to find ways to interact with Joy and not cause her to panic.
  • The relationship between Joy and her Uncle Rob is probably my favorite relationship of the entire book. From Joy's wariness and Uncle Rob's protective instincts it's a beautiful relationship.



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06 May 2014

Florida Teens Read Finalist for 2014-2015

The Florida Association for Media in Education has finally released the titles for the next school year.

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi
The Naturals by Jennifrer Lynn Barnes
Thin Space by Jody Casella
Pinned by Sharon Flake
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden
Second Impact by David and Perri Klass
Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott
The Living by Matt de la Pena
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters
Beneath a Meth Moon: an Elegy by Jacqueline Woodson
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

This is an interesting mix of books and I can't wait to start reading.

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