Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Reflective Last ‘Latest Reads’ of 2014

Hard to believe another year has come to an end. As I sit here, writing for the first time in ages, I find myself staring out the window, watching a rare blustery winter storm wage war on my normally sunny desert. Thankfully, I am snug and cozy in my own little rabbit hole, pecking away on the keyboard, while tunes pump through the speaker and a cup of tea steams next to me. Woodland blossoms waft through the air, and it’s pure bliss. After all, sometimes it doesn’t matter what I write…I just have to write…a cleansing of the soul, if you will. Other times, there is more intent and purpose. Today, I find myself in a deep reflective state, but this year is very different from previous years. Usually, it’s all about what goals did I accomplish? Which ones did I not accomplish? Why? Do I still need/want to? What new goals do I want to set for next year? But, like I said, this year is…different…

I find myself insanely thankful for all those meaningful moments, large and small. And some of mine at the end of this year have been amazing. From quality time with my brother and my best friend to a memorable 4th birthday celebration for my niece filled with friends, family, laughs and love. Only to be followed by a special Christmas with my in-laws, and much needed free time enjoying Disney with the husband. To wrap it all up, I get some serious warm snuggly time my two, favorite, four-legged dudes, and downtime before the rest of the school year kicks into high gear. All in all, one hell of a way to say good-bye to a lovely and wonderful year!

To be fair, I also reflect on the bad, but I find this bubbly feeling from my recent slew of meaningful moments has clouded my normal realism (some call it cynicism), because I can’t even find fault in rough times, both successes and failures. Of course, there are the tragedies that left holes in the heart, but most of the tough times feel like valuable lessons, some harsher than others, but each one meaningful and necessary, in its own way. I don’t know what it all means,  and I'm not going to spend too much time dwelling on it. I do know that I’m going to continue to follow my dreams and shoot for the stars, making sure to stop and take time to enjoy the journey, wherever it may take me. Truth be told, I’m very interested to see where it leads.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, prosperous, harmonious, delightful 2015!

Now, a few things before I get to the original intent of this blog…

First, there are a ton of them. Some, I think, I read over the summer and parts are fuzzy. A lot has happened since summer to cloud bits and pieces, so you will find my thoughts short and sweet.

Second, let me explain my method of evaluations…
*** Pick up at your own risk, even if it’s your preferred genre
****It’s doable. You can probably get through it, if it’s your preferred genre
***** PICK IT UP, especially if it’s your preferred genre
I don’t give one or two stars. Congrats, you wrote a book! You jump immediately to THREE. I know what it takes to write a book. And I am certainly not the last, only or final say on any book.

Finally, the books and my thoughts…

Looking for Alaska by John Green
I have mad respect for Green. He has an intense way of writing within the parameters of very sensitive and heavy topics. In this story, he leads the reader on a journey into the life kids in a private school, filled with teenage angst and agony. Along the way the characters have some very meaningful moments, and learn some intense life lessons about friendship and immortality. It was a great read, but I cried opening…Green does that to me. I also chuckled every now and again. The characters are believable and intriguing.
Final thought: I’ll read just about anything Green writes.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
OK, I read this because it was recommended by an agent I was trying to solicit at one time (at the very beginning of this adventure). It was okay. Tough to follow at the beginning, and I hate being confused at the beginning. I like to be intrigued, not confused. It was tough to identify with the characters, although I liked Evie, so I pushed through it. It ended up being an interesting storyline.
Final thought: Yes, I would check out the next one, if I can catch it on sale.

Dark Water Rising by Mariah Hale
I read this as a possible book to use with my 5th graders. It’s a good story about a family and people responding to the crisis of a devastating hurricane. The author created a realistic and frightening picture of the destruction a hurricane would leave in its wake. The characters were believable and heroic.
Final thought: A good read for grades 6+

Manaic Magee by Jerry Spinelli
One of my all time favorite books to read and teach! Spinelli is a god in my eyes. It is the outlandish tale of the legend, Jeffery ‘Maniac’ Magee, and his quest to find a forever home. No matter what life throws at him, he preserves and remains a kind decent human being. He sees people for who they are, based on their character and actions, not by the color of their skin or where they live.
Final thought: Read this with your kids. Use it to teach respect and acceptance of people that are different. Make the future a better place than we have now!

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
It started off very confusing (again…intrigue, yes…confusion, no). Darkness kept coming, but I didn’t understand what it meant. The more I read the more I loved it! Until the halfway point, then it lost in interest for me. Once I figured out what the darkness meant, I couldn’t get enough, especially when Ursula was mingling in the same circles as Hitler prior to World War II, but the older Ursula got the less and less I liked it, not because she grew older, but once I realized she was destined to continue to make poor choices, again and again. There was a chance for redemption at the end, but the author never pulled it off for me. I can only stomach a terrible ending if the book is amazing. This one lacked a lot for me.
Final thought: This rollercoaster ride was tough to enjoy.

Spellbound by Sylvia Day (18+)
Three has three paranormal short stories wrapped up in one book. These erotic tales intertwine the many highs and lows of Max, a Hunter, and Victoria, his feisty Familiar. Victoria is a fun, strong, female character to read. The intense relationship these two share is enough to keep the pages turning. I would have preferred a little more depth to the storyline at points.
Final thought: The author can create an intense picture and I’m reading another one of her books now.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz
I love this book. I’d read it before and enjoyed it years ago, when I was becoming a teacher. Now, as a veteran teacher and a new author, I love it even more. Munoz constructs the heartfelt realistic fictional tale of Esperanza with grace. She plagues a spoiled young woman with sudden challenges and ill fortune, but the character digs deep and finds unimaginable strength. The scenic setting the author describes is intense and beautiful. The lessons learned are poignant and meaningful.
Final thought: Read it with your kids. Use it to teach them about persevering when life is tough, because life can be very mean.

Current Reading List:

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Thirty percent in and very intrigued to see where this goes.

Bared to You by Sylvia Day
Sixty percent in and there are times when I can’t put the sucker down, then there are times I roll my eyes and get up to do just about anything else.

Dances with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
This will be done soon…the next season on HBO starts in March!

Thanks so much for stopping by! See you in 2015!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the awesome reading list Stephanie, and all your support this past year. May 2015 be a wonderful one.... <3