Texas Teen Book Festival 2015

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This was my second tome going to the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin, Texas. We live in the Dallas area so it’s about a 4 hour drive to Austin and we lived down there for a few years during college. so we always jump at the opportunity to go back and visit.

This years festival was directed mostly towards teen who enjoy contemporary fiction. Which in the past I have not been the biggest fan of but I have been stepping out of my shell and dabbling a little in the contemporary world. SO far I have been pleasantly surprised by books like Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I bought a new contemporary novel, The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne and I am super excited to read it. It’s about a girl who moves in with her politician dad and has to adjust to her new life as a politicians daughter. It sounds like The Princess Diaries books I used to read when I was younger.

Last years Texas Teen Book Festival was all about Dystopian and fantasy novels. The books were much darker. Marie Lu was there, Garth Nix, Sarah J. Maas, etc. This year did not go without some fantasy/sci-fi writers though! I was most excited about Libba Bray and Rick Yancey. Libba Bray has been my favorite author since I was 15/16 years old. I feel in love with her writing when I read A Great and Terrible Beauty in high school and have been reading all of her books since then. I loved her even more when I found out she was born and raised in Texas. She lives in New York now but I can forgive her for that.

She took a picture with an old picture of me a long time ago. That may sound odd but it has a good story. My mom is a librarian and went to the TLA convention (Texas Library Association) in San Antonio when I was in high school. I couldn’t go so she took a picture of me to have Libba pose and take a picture with. I still have the picture, but it’s in a box somewhere in my closet right now because we moved not too long ago and I haven’t gotten to those boxes yet. Anyway, I told Libba the story and she signed my new copy of Lair of Dreams (The Diviners #2) like so:

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How freaking awesome right? And she touched my hand!

Meeting her and Rick Yancey was so awesome. I met an author I had grown up reading last year, and was so super excited, to learn the hard way that she’s not actually that nice. She wasn’t friendly and she was very snobby. It killed my inner teen. I’ll never enjoy her books as much as I did.

But Rick Yancey was really down to earth and friendly. He was very surprised I had an ARC of The 5th Wave. (Which my mom happened to snag for me also. Thanks again mom!) He told me to hold on to it. Which of course I will!

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After the signing and the book buying frenzy we listened to a few panels before the closing note. I was waiting around for the closing note because Libba Bray and David Levithan are hilarious.

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(That’s Rick on the far right, in the white shirt talking about The Infinite Sea and writers block.)

Overall the festival was every book nerd’s dream. We will definitely return for next years shenanigans. And to see more of Austin and San Marcos. Here are a few pictures from our weekend trip.

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I added my Skinny Vanilla Starbucks late because it was the first Fall cup I have gotten this year! I love the little campfires on them.

The roasted chicken was from the 24 Diner across from BookPeople in downtown Austin. It was the best chicken I have ever had in MY LIFE.

The breakfast picture was from when we went to brunch today before we left to head home. It’s from another place in downtown off 17th St in Austin called Arturo’s Underground Cafe. That was what I had. I love poached eggs. Ricardo had their Caribbean style French toast and it was awesome too. It had grilled bananas and pecans on it with dark caramel syrup. Yum!

We just really enjoy trying new places! And when we went to Texas State University to visit my old college we had to get some Lolita’s tacos. If you ever attended school there you know what I am talking about. It’s right next to a carwash and the line is about a mile long everyday.

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The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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“Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.”
Renee Ahdieh, The Wrath and the Dawn

Goodreads Blurb

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18798983-the-wrath-and-the-dawn

Review

This is the best story retelling I have ever read. No exaggeration. This books prose blew me away as much as Erin Morgenstern’s, The Night Circus, did. And my readers probably know how much I rant about that book. This novel just gave me so many feels. So many times while I was reading this I got the chills. I love the main character Shazi. She’s headstrong, if not a little bit arrogant. But she is also forgiving and loving.

I loved many of the characters in this book. I loved Jalal because of his protectiveness of Khalid. I love Despina because she was a humorous match for Shahrzad but also a good friend. I loved Khalid because he really did seem like a lost little boy who had to grow up faster than he should have. The title “boy-king” was very fitting.

Throughout the book I struggled with hating and loving the Caliph. In the beginning you believe he is a monster, and he is in his in reality, but then you understand why. And you see behind the scenes how much he truly laments the deaths that happen at his command. It’s all so twisted. But I love any novel that makes me feel torn in such a way. I believe that is one of the hardest feats for a writer, is making  your audience hate AND love the villain of your story.

The only other authors I can think of who accomplished this are J.K. Rowling with Snape and Draco, and Marissa Meyer with Levana in Fairest. Sure it’s easy to give the villain a troubled past, that’s forgivable. What’s hard is to make the villains actions forgivable and to get your readers to actually root for them while they’re reading the story. I’m really not sure how Ahdieh did it. HE’S A MURDERER OF YOUNG WOMEN for crying out loud. It’s awful.

The setting of this book was amazing. I love the time period and the fact that Shazi is an archery master and that Tariq has Zoraya, the falcon. It makes the whole story feel enchanted. Not to mention all of Shazi’s beautiful clothing throughout the book. I love the inside cover of the book. It’s a picture of Shahrzad in her Calipha attire.

I usually try and add in something that I would like to see differently in a book or what I would like to see in the next installment to the book but this one was perfect. I have read some reviews of it where readers have stated that the plot was slow but I couldn’t disagree more. It was a beautiful build up to Shahrzad working through her feelings and discovering more about Khalid. I am astonished that this is Ahdieh’s debut novel. What was she doing before now? She needs to bless us with more books.

I gave this novel 5/5 stars on Goodreads, but I would give it 1,001 if I could 😉 It’s that great. From what I gather online, the next book is coming out May of 2016 and these are meant to be a duology. I have no idea what I am going to do until May. I will probably have a full-fledged book hangover until then.

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige

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“She had been both good and wicked and everything in between. She had been both at once, too, until it was hard for her to even tell the difference anymore.”
Danielle Paige, The Wicked Will Rise

Blurb

Amy Gumm struggles with figuring out who she is in this second book to Dorothy Must Die. She is stranded alone with Princess Ozma, who is still internally fighting her other persona Pete, after The Order’s fight against Dorothy and her minions. Amy must find all the items the Wizard told Amy she needs to defeat Dorothy while putting back together The Order…if she can find them all. They’ll have to depend on unlikely allies like the Monkeys and the Rainbow Princess Polychrome in order to make their way across Oz.

Review

Paige has done it again! I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was just as fast-paced as Dorothy Must Die. She’s constantly having to fight for her and Ozma to survive. I really liked how you could see all of the characters relationships strengthen in this novel. Amy feels a sense of Ozma and believes in her. She can see that she’s coming back to herself. She bonds with Pete, but there is also a little mistrust that blooms between them.

You also see a softer side to Knox. You find out somethings about his past. It’s almost as if he is suffering from PTSD after fighting his way through the Darkness or void that The Order was stuck in. You also see him get jealous when it comes to Amy and the ever-beautiful Bright. He even gets his feelings hurt a few times!

Amy is on a journey of finding herself in this book. She has to face a wise Magdril, the Fog of Doubt, Dorothy, the Monkeys, Mombi, Glinda, her past, and the Wizard. She struggles internally (and physically) the effects of her magic. She knows that she has some wickedness in her. The question is, will she accept it? Or will she pretend that it’s all for the better of everyone else? I think this is the theme of these books. Showing how accepting your true self is better than pretending to be someone else, and stepping on other peoples toes is not right.

The one thing I wish for this book is that it had been a little longer. It was quite a bit shorter than the first one and I think there could have been more in the ending. It could have gone more in depth I guess. But I still give it 4.5/5 stars for being awesome. These books always surprise me with how dark they are. They’re based off The Wizard of Oz so you wouldn’t expect it. I know the titles foreshadow the darkness but it’s still based off the old story that everyone knows and loves! There’s no murdering in Judy Garland’s version! I don’t think the fact that these books are dark is necessarily a bad thing. I think it takes YA fiction to a whole new level that most authors are afraid to go.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Yes I had heard all the hype about Rainbow Rowell, but contemporary novels are not what I gravitate too normally.

But I love the cover of Fangirl. I have the pink collector’s edition. Not the light pink, but the super dark pink one that almost looks red. My best friend has the mint colored version. I think that one is the original one. The inside cover art in the collector’s edition is soooooo pretty. I really appreciate how above and beyond Rowell and her publishers went with it. I don’t even read that genre and it managed to catch my fancy.

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Blurb 

Cath is a quirky college freshman who also happens to be a twin. She’s the introvert twin who is the typical English major. She writes all the time, never leaves her room, and has a blog. She is also obsessed with a book series that is comparable to Harry Potter. Her blog is based on her fanfiction of these books. Her sister is the extrovert who wants to party it up in college. They grew up with their dad and have mommy problems.

Cath also has a quirky, opinionated, punk-rocker roommate who has a friend named Levi that hangs around their dorm room all the time. At first Cath thinks he is her roommates boyfriend, come to find out that he has a thing for nerdy English majors who hate anything social. Guess who that is!

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Review

I did not expect to like this book. I don’t really love the character but I like the way the story falls into place but isn’t cookie cutter. I like how you can see the big differences between Cath and Wren. They fight about real-life stuff. It doesn’t feel forced.

I LOVE Reagan and Levi. Reagan is strictly “no bullshit” and Levi is so loveable. Loveable Levi. Siiiiiigh. He’s perfect but also a college guy at the same time. I’m so glad he wasn’t over perfect. That crap is always hard to relate to. Rowell does an awesome job at bringing her characters to life. I love all of their unique flaws and quirks. It makes it relatable.

Everyone in this book is a hot mess. Everyone. And that’s better than trying to make everything seem like it’s always going to be okay. Levi has a strict mama, Reagan has a chip on her shoulder, Wren is going through her party phase, their dad is depressed and has coping issues, and Wren has trouble coming out of her shell.

I think if I get another wild hair and have the urge to read a contemporary novel then I think I am going to pick up Eleanor & Park. My best friend says I would probably like it better than all her other books because the characters are so different.

For a contemporary novel, I give this book 4/5 stars. It was super good but I don’t know if I would call it a favorite. Rainbow Rowell sure is talented though. If you are ever in the mood for some quirky characters you should give this one a go.

7 Things a Book Needs to Get a 5-Star Rating From Me

I began reviewing books online about 2 or 3 years ago. I have loved books since the 4th grade when I started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Writing is an outlet for me as is reading so I love being able to combine the two.

I’ve had a few people ask me what are the deciding factors for my book ratings. I have lots of factors but I thought I would share with you my top 7.

  1. World Building This is the one thing I am a complete snob about. The reason for this is because the majority of the books I read are fantasy. And if you know anything about the fantasy or sci-fi genre, then you know the world building makes the book. Narnia would not be Narnia without the setting. Harry Potter would not be the same without cresting a sense of urgency to attend Hogwarts Schools of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Night Circus would be far less magical without all of the enchantment of the circus. World building is crucial. But I think it is the most crucial in fantasy and sci-fi stories.
  2. Character Development and Reader Attachment  I go back to Harry Potter on this one. No book, I repeat, NO BOOK has ever made me fall in love with the characters like J. K. Rowling did with the Harry Potter series. And what I love most about them is that you can see their growth. You can see how Harry evolves over time going from the boy who lived in the cupboard under the stairs to The Boy Who Lived. You can see that confidence. With Draco you can see how he is a brainwashed little boy and grows into his own man. With Hermoine you see how she changes from the outcast to embracing her muggle side and witch side. And with Ron I really love seeing how he realizes when and why he loves Hermoine. He’s always kind of a goofball, and that makes him more loveable. I can’t get into a story if I don’t love the characters. Especially in a series. If that attachment isn’t there I will stop reading them.
  3. Consistency If a story line is not consistent I feel less devoted. I need to know what the black and white is of a story. I don’t like being left confused or making excuses for an author. I’m not sure about The Vampire Diaries books but the show has a lot of inconsistencies that drive me crazy. I hate how it’s unbalanced. Why is there a cure but vampirism is a tragedy that cannot be undone? Obviously someone made a cure at one point in time. Why can’t another powerful somebody do it again?  Things like that get to me. I feel like it’s bad planning. Readers like answers. At least I do. Even if there is a cliff hanger, I like things to be cleared up eventually.
  4. Interesting Hook This is the case for most readers. I usually give a book about 50 pages to get me interested. However, I know lots of people who do not have that attention span or who are a lot less inclined to keep reading if the first 3 chapters do not have an interesting hook. Be it a problem, a question, setting, or character. Readers read to be entertained. Make it interesting!
  5. Feelings I’m not a mushy person but I do appreciate writing that evokes feelings. Maybe not sobbing tears of sadness but I like when a book keeps me on the edge of my seat or makes me feel empathy for a character. This criteria almost goes with character attachment because you have to be attached to a character to feel something for them but I think the tone of a book can fall into this category too. Does this book make me feel happy? Is there a sense of adventure or of the unknown? Does it make me laugh because the writing is funny?
  6. Author’s Voice I don’t think this is a must but I appreciate a good author’s voice in writing. If there is a clear voice then I am more likely to go research the author to learn about them or to check out their other work. I’m more interested in THEM. Libba Bray cracks me up. She’s witty and that’s why she’s one of my favorite authors. It’s why I always go purchase her books. Erin Morgenstern has an enchanting writing style and that hooked me from the first page of The Night Circus. I love Ellen Hopkins nostalgic voice in her writing. Especially in the Crank books because you can feel that she has a close relationship with those particular books. You can hear her experiences in it.
  7. A Pretty Cover I put this last for a reason. Because I know many of you are shaking your head at me. “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover!” or “I’ve read so many great books with boring covers!” Yeah, I know… but I’m more likely to pick up a pretty one. Or to display it in my classroom or home if it’s pretty. I also feel like someone somewhere worked really hard on those covers and that they deserve credit for it. I love how people are taking pride in covers these days, and even under the dust jacket! Author’s are utilizing that space for extra maps and drawings for their readers. I like that. I like that the author and publisher are taking pride in that and helping to further create the world in their books.

These are the main criteria for me to rate a book. However, if a book is lacking in one area sometimes it can be made up for in another. So I wouldn’t say these are set in stone, but they are my guidelines. If you have any major rules for book ratings I would love to hear them.

Would You Rather…?

I found this on a fellow book bloggers site and thought it looked fun! I love questionnaires with interesting questions 🙂

Would you rather read trilogies or stand-alones?    I’ve never been the biggest fan of stand-alone novels. I want MORE when I read a book. I guess because I read to be invested. I want to escape to somewhere different when I read. And I’m a huge fan of world building. I really appreciate the authors who can pull it off like Rowling, George R. R. Martin, Cassandra Clare, and Tolkien.

Sure stand-alones are good sometimes. I like them if I’m getting over a book hangover and need a book for entertainment and not an investment like The Duff or The Night Circus.

Would you rather read only male or female authors?     I’m not sure. I think male authors are great at getting to the point. Like Martin with Game of Thrones. It’s so gritty and I love the action and the no bullshit. Male authors also seem better at killing off characters which can be heartbreaking but can also be interesting. I.e. Martin, Kevin Brooks, Ken Follett, Gregory Maguire.

BUT, I love female authors too. Marie Lu is daring and great with action. Rowling hooked me in with the characters and Hogwarts. Libba Bray is witty and daring with her writing and she also doesn’t get too attached to her characters. Juliet Marillier is amazing at building relationships in her stories and Erin Morgenstern blew me away with her philology in The Night Circus.

So I think I would have to say I don’t discriminate when it comes to picking authors.

Would you rather shop at Barnes & Noble or Amazon?    Barnes & Noble errrrrrrday. I like book browsing in person. There’s something satisfying about perusing the aisles and picking up the different novels.

Would you rather books were made into TV shows or movies?    Movies. I take movies more seriously. The only show I really enjoy that’s based off a novel was Pillars of the Earth.

Would you rather read only 5 pages per day or 5 books per week?    5 books per week. Books are my main source of entertainment. Sure, I like tv but books=life. I love stories. I could never tire of books. 5 pages a day is not enough. I would totally make a career of reading books if I could.

Would you rather be a professional author or reviewer?   A published author. I admire them so much and I love the events they get to attend and talk about their books. I wish I had a talent for writing. I mostly keep a blog and a journal because I enjoy it. But if I could commit to writing a novel I would do it in a heartbeat. It’s hard to commit to that, maybe I will start one when I’m off in the summers at some point.

Would you rather be a librarian or a book seller?  A book seller. I think it woud be awesome to own a Barnes & Noble franchise. I would be so proud. Some of you may gasp in shock at that but I think it would be fun.

Would you rather read only e-books or physical books?  Physical books. I will read ebooks for NetGalley, but I love physical books. I want to have a huge library eventually. They’re special.

Feel free to answer some or all of the questions above in the comments!

The post Would You Rather Tag: Book Edition appeared first on Words Read and Written.

Middle School vs Elementary

I have completed 2 weeks of being a 7th grade reading teacher.

And I conquered my first Open House last week. (Which by the way was super exhausting.)

I feel like I have enough knowledge to break apart working in a secondary school and working in an elementary school. We’ll start with elementary.

The Pros

  • The kids are adorable.
  • Everything is cuter! The rooms, the work, all of it!
  • Everything is more structured, which I like because that is my personality.
  • It’s more fun! They have a Field Day, there’s always cool things going on at the assemblies, the Scholastic Book Fair, they let the kids come to school in their Halloween costumes (usually), they do cute little programs, etc.
  • The kids put me in a good mood every day because they’re still so sweet and eager to please.
  • You get done earlier because the day starts earlier.

The Cons

  • You usually have to stay late to get things ready for lesson plans for the next day BECAUSE everything has to be more regimented and cute at the same time.
  • The kiddos aren’t responsible yet because they’re so young.
  • Less planning time.
  • Planning for more subjects if you are self-contained.
  • The school day usually starts earlier so you have to be there at the crack of dawn.
  • Duties. Whomp.

Now middle school…

The Pros

  • The kids are WAAAAAAAY more independent because the expectations are higher.
  • There are advanced classes and it makes it easier to teach (some of the time) because the G&T kids are usually in there so it’s easier to reach all the students and no one seems like they’re left behind in advanced and in the general education classes.
  • The day begins a little later so you can sleep in a little bit.
  • You don’t waste as much time making everything “cutsie”. We just stick to the facts!
  • The day goes by quickly because the periods are shorter.
  • We get to read really awesome novels like Wonder by R. J. Palacio.
  • No one stays late, you can get your stuff done at home. (Unlike elementary)
  • You can kid around with the kids more.
  • You have more planning time with your conference and PLC/CLC planning times.
  • Less duties.

The Cons

  • I seem to have had more parents contacting me constantly. In some ways that can be good, in other ways it’s stressful and tedious.
  • You have to stay later (kinda but not really)
  • Grades :/ I was teaching 2nd grade before and they didn’t have grades.
  • Most of the kids are way taller than me and it makes me feel little.

These are my observations from teaching at both elementary and secondary levels. I can’t decide which I enjoy more. I love them both for such different reasons.