June 29, 2013

Expectations Vs. Reality: Tip My Hat to Donalyn Miller and Nancie Atwell

You know, as a first year teacher, I had high expectations.

I really wanted my students to fall in love with reading. Then of course reality kicked me in the gut. Teachers wondered what I was doing. The administration didn't believe in what I was doing. 

Standards of Learning was all I was taught. Standards of Learning was all I heard. Scores, scores, scores.

But where did this leave our students?

My students weren't stupid. They knew a lot more than I gave them credit for. They knew the push for scores. They knew that what I was doing int he classroom was completely out of their comfort zone. 

Out of their realm of expectations.

To read? With no tests tacked on? With no quizzes? With no boundaries?

You have to be kidding me?!

We're being forced to read for fifteen minutes everyday? Any book that we choose?

My answer: Absolutely.

They fought me tooth and nail. They talked during the reading, they laughed, they pulled me aside and tried to talk me out of it. Parents didn't understand. Other teachers gave me the eyebrow: Is she really trying to get these students to read? What is she trying to accomplish?

These students were low score readers. Most of them didn't pass the SOL tests last year FOR reading.

What was I trying to do?

The impossible.

Make my students CARE about reading.

But God gave me strength and the courage to see: All things are possible to those who believe.

To God be the glory for the great things he has done.

I kept hearing his words over and over again as people would see homework: Read for 15 minutes and laugh. This year is focused on writing for the state test.

Why have the students read?

Then the impossible happened: My students read.

After a full two months of struggle to get them to see what I see: That reading can be FUN! They actually start complaining when the time would end. I was actually smiling. It worked. The impossible worked! 

Until one day, the reading ended and they all groaned. One student raised their hands and asked, "Could we have a longer time to read?"

Then the popular jock student, Kevin, raised his hand, "Could we extend it to like twenty minutes?"
Everybody murmured their agreement. twenty minutes sounded good to them. They were asking me what they swore would never happen: More time to enjoy reading.

Of course I told them, "I'll think about it." Little did they know I expanded it to twenty minutes already, so they got their wish.

What does this all have to do with reading?

As a teacher, I was never given support to introduce reading as fun. I was told to stick to tradition. Open the large textbook, have students read a literature selection outloud, ask questions ad nasuem, and test then on their knowledge.

Expectation versus reality.

The reality that people didn't understand: Our students need both types of reading. They need to learn reading to access knowledge, and the other one to just have fun.

Where has tradition brought us, as far as reading literature only in the classroom?

Where has "Read then test" really brought us?


All I ever wanted to do was introduce my students to a new world: Reading can be fun.

And I get shut down, and told by a former reading specialist, "Reading like that doesn't belong in the classroom."

And then people wonder why students don't like to read. Because we as educators or parents fail to introduce our youth to fun reading. We need to introduce them to the library as a fun place to explore different voices, experiences in life.

Instead we stick to tradition. 

Where will this lead us as a nation?
Expectations versus reality.

We expect our youth to know how to read. Instead we push them as far away as possible by giving them literature that is far beyond their level. 

The more we do this, the more we take money out of education, the more we undervalue reading, the more we will have students who cannot read past the kindergarten reading level who will drop out in high school.

It's time for a change. And hopefully, next year, I will able to make this change.
Will you?

June 26, 2013

Free Book Tips With Some Dash of Advice

Don't know how to pick free books on Amazon?

You look at all of those free books and wonder: Gee how can I pick ONE that I like?

Well, don't worry: I'm here to help. 

As you probably noticed, I've been reviewing A LOT of free books lately. I love reading a book that is free and great, then support the author by buying more from them.

That's the great thing about a free book: It gives you insight into what the author is like without the money entering into.

So without further ado, here are my helpful hints as to how to pick a great free book:

1. Pick off the Top 100 Free List

This is practically guaranteed great books. You can pick any genre you want and literally pick a couple of them off this list and be certain that these books are great.

I literally check this list everyday for great new books from authors I haven't heard from and read. 

You will thank me later. :)

2. Check the bad reviews

I know this seems like a slap on the forehead, duh move but sometimes in the excitement of a free book, you might forget to check the reviews. 

And don't look at the great, glowing reviews. Look for the most horrible review. Why? Because they will honestly tell you why they don't like the book. And this will let you know if you want to read the book or not. 

And if you don't want to look at simply the bad reviews? Then check out the best detailed review. Look for the positive and negative reviews. At least two of each, that way before you read the book, you'll get a good feel of if you want to read the book or not.

And if the book doesn't have any reviews . . .

3. Read the first few pages

I will fully admit, I don't read the first few pages until after I get the book. But boy, would I have loved this hint BEFORE getting the book. I get so caught in, "Gee, this book is FREE! How can it possibly go wrong?"attitude.

But just spare yourself the heartache: Read the first few pages first. ESPECIALLY if the book doesn't have any reviews. This is a good indicator if the book suits your flavor or your expectations. 

This blog is especially helpful to people who are like, "I don't want to read what EVERYBODY else is reading!" But you still want an awesome book with reviews to back it up.

This blog has helped me find a tremendous number of free books that are just not that popular but are awesome all the same. It's like veering off the New York Bestsellers list but has the same quality book wise. 

Additionally, they give you the scoop on free apps. Bonus! *fist pump!*

5. Don't be cheap

If you love the first book by the author, please don't be cheap by NOT buying the second book. Buy it. It may be a little more expensive (but not crazy expensive like traditional publishing), but please don't be cheap. Buy it. Support that author for giving you a FREE book and buy the second book of the series.

Show that author some love for giving you a free book, which leaves us to my next tip . . .

6. Leave a Positive Review

If you LOVED the free book, please leave a positive review. Sure, that author may have 300 reviews, but be kind and leave your review too. It might help somebody decide if they want to get that book.

Especially leave a review if you bought the second book. Some people need reassurance that the second book is as good as the first book. That would include me in that group. 

And the author would appreciate it if you would reassure her/his readers that they continue their quality standards into the second book. So please, be so kind and leave a review.

7. Limit Yourself/Open Yourself Up

I know this is a conflicting title: How can I limit and open myself up?

All I'm saying is: Don't limit yourself as to broaching new topics in fiction. When you are looking at these free books, don't snub the indie authors. Don't harrumph at an author that doesn't have the publishing title behind them.

I know this might surprise you, but I'm glad they don't. Why? Because their books are A LOT cheaper.

Don't get me wrong. Love the author of Firelight series by Sophie Jordan. Love, love, LOVE that book. I might actually do a review on it.

But have you seen those prices for the ebooks?! Oh. My. God. I've been totally spoiled on indie author prices now. The highest I go, and this was for a really, really, really good book: $4.99

Anyway, back to my main point: Don't snub indie authors. Try them first (especially if they made it into the top 100 free), then say if you don't like or like indie authors.

Some indie authors you will fall madly in love with. Others you will ditch on the first date, a.k.a. on the first page. It's all based on opinion and taste. 

As Dr. Seuss states, "Try it, you may like it." Green Eggs and Ham.

Now, I will step back from my podium and stop preaching at you and give you another conflicting line of advice: Limit yourself.

Please don't go crazy and get all of the 100 free books and feel weighted down by reading them. If you're a book blogger like me, you'll feel obligated to read AND review each one. Do yourself a huge favor: Only get  books when you read a whole bunch.

Or let me translate that: Only get more books, when you read a couple of books. For example, I've probably read, about twenty books (yes, and they were ALL free), so I would go back and download ONLY twenty or less books when I go back to look at that list. 

Trust me, you will thank me later. I have about 164 books on my Kindle app, and I'm still trying to read them all (and some of them I bought!). So just saying, go easy. The list, the reviews, and lastly, the books aren't going anywhere.

Take it slow and easy. Get like 20 books and try them on for size. Read and enjoy!

Don't ever stop reading! :)

June 24, 2013

Brood of Fenrir by Coral Moore

Shapeshifter Brand Geirson was raised to rule the Broods of Fenrir, but he refused his birthright. Instead, he killed their brutal leader–his own father–and walked away.

For hundreds of years he’s avoided brood society, until a werewolf kills an innocent human woman and Brand finds himself dragged back into the violent politics of the shapeshifters. When the two brood women who mean the most to him come under threat, he must take up the throne and risk becoming the kind of vicious bastard his father was, or let the broods descend further into chaos–taking the friend he swore to protect and his lover with them.

My Thoughts

I really, really, really wanted to love this book. The book cover looks awesome. The premise sounds cool. But then I started reading the book, and for some reason I couldn't get into it.

I wanted to get into it. It sounded good. But something for me didn't work out. I'll list the positives and negatives.


  1. Good character
The main character seemed interesting, at least partially.

    2. Great Cover

The cover is just lovely to look at. 

    3. The graphics and formatting are high quality

I can't argue the fact that whoever did the formatting did a great job. It looks professional and well done. No grammatical errors that I could see.


1. Chunky paragraphs

You guys know how I feel about chunky paragraphs. I can't stand it! It makes the book seem thick and would take forever to read. It's a real pet peeve of mine.

2. No draw in

Nothing about this book excited me. I wanted to be wowed. I wanted to be forced into the action. And trust me, there was some action. It just didn't force me to pay attention. It was more like, "Please pay attention, Larissa. We're about to get to the good part."

Um, no. I don't want to wait for the good part. I want to BE at the good part. And for me, the prologue just wasn't it.

Overall: Would I recommend this book to anyone?


If you're more patient to me, then yes. Feel free. However, I just want to be forced into the action. I don't want to wait. I want to be pulled in so far into the book that I don't even realize where I am in real life. 

I want to be submerged into the plot. I want to fall for the characters. I want to cheer for the bad guy.

What? I like bad guys. :)

Anyway, overall, I would give it a shot (this book ISN'T free) because it could have been just me. It could have been my expectations were sky high because of the lovely cover and the great blurb. So try it and see. 

It has great reviews. So it could have been me. I will fully admit that. But as for me, I won't be reading anything else by this author. This book was just not for me. 

June 22, 2013

Tempest (#1 Destroyers Series) by Holly Hook

Sixteen-year-old Janelle knows something's not right with her father when they move to their new home in Florida. He refuses to evacuate them from the coast when a hurricane bears down on them, despite the fact that all their neighbors have gone. Even worse, it seems like there's something he wants to tell her, something terrifying, but he's not quite opening up.

Then Janelle's life flips upside down when a teenage boy, Gary, materializes out of the storm right in front of her. He bears a strange marking on his arm, a gray spiral that matches the one she was born with. Perhaps her strange birthmark means something after all. But when she points out Gary's mark to her father, he refuses to speak more about it. 

It's up to Janelle to find the truth about the connection she and Gary share. When she tracks Gary down again and discovers it, it's far more terrifying than she could ever imagine: she and Gary share a powerful, deadly curse. Worse, learning the truth is only the start of Janelle's horrifying adventure into a world she had never imagined.

My Thoughts

First off, I love the idea of people being storms. It's just an awesome idea that I wish I would have come up with. It's just an interesting way to make the normal paranormal.

I like the characters, the plot, and the idea. It just all spins (pun intended) wonderfully. The only problem I really had was the romance. At times, it was just plain ol' awkward. 

And trust me, I get it. Been there, done that. However, it seemed like a Dia Reeves problem. Like the author was struggling with developing the romantic tension between them. And I wish she could have done a better job of it.

But you really can't beat the price: It's free! :) 

Anyway, let's dissect this book further.

Characters: I love all of the characters. I love the fact that Janelle is discovering the "ugly" side of her family and it helps to understand herself. It's like discovering layer after layer of what makes her . . . Well, her.

I liked Gary. I liked how they both met but I just didn't like the development of the romance. Like I said, it was awkward. I do like the fact that they were willing to go all out for each other.

Other then that, I liked them all. Even the bad guy. They were all believable, thought-out characters.

Plot: Well developed plot as well. I loved how piece by piece was discovered and the more you discovered, the more confusing it was. 

I also would love to add: I HEART the beginning. Sucks you right into the story and gets right to the point. I love how we see the problem from the word go.

I loved how much the author created just enough pressure, just enough acceptance to make us see the real Janelle. It was just nice to see.

Setting: I like the setting in Florida. She didn't wow me with the description of the setting, but there was a good reason why the setting was in Florida. I'll leave it at that. 

Ending: Perfect ending with a bow on top. And it leaves you wanting more. So no complaints here.

Overall: Would I read the second book in this series?


I still love the idea, care about the characters, and love the plot development.  Additionally, this whole series has major potential. I would just read it to see where she takes this whole storm people thing. How deep does the rabbit hole go.

I would definitely recommend this book to someone who loves paranormal romance but is tired with vampires and werewolves. It's a wonderfully refreshing type of paranormal romance.

Actually, I would recommend this book to people who haven't read YA paranormal romance. This would be a wonderful introduction to the genre. Of course, if my complaint about the romance really bothers some people, then fine. Don't try it.

But I would still give this book a shot. The romance didn't bother me so much that I wouldn't continue the series. It's still solid on characters, plot and setting. What more can you want? :)

June 19, 2013

The Accidental Demon Slayer by Angie Fox

It's never a good day when an ancient demon shows up on your toilet bowl. For Lizzie Brown that's just the beginning. Soon her hyperactive terrier starts talking and her long-lost biker witch Grandma is hurling Smuckers jars filled with magic. Just when she thinks she's seen it all Lizzie learns she's a demon slayer-and all hell is after her.

Of course that's not the only thing after her. Dimitri Kallinikos a devastatingly handsome shape-shifting griffin needs Lizzie to slay a demon of his own. But how do you talk a girl you've never met into going straight to the underworld? Lie. And if that doesn't work how dangerous could a little seduction be...?

My Thoughts

This free book definitely grabbed my attention from the first page. I love the main character, Lizzie, who actually reminds me of my very own Lindsey character in my book. Smart, funny, and just a normal woman who lands herself int he paranormal world. Love her to pieces! :) And to top it all off, blonde!

I also love, love, love the grandma witch character who completes the protagonist tough female character perfectly. I love how she toughens Lizzie up! 

Anyway, there are so many reasons why I love this book, I have to list them in my typical analytical format. :)

Have I mentioned that this book is one hundred percent FREE?!

Characters: I don't think there is a character I don't love. I even love the bad guy. He has a razor sharp humor that caught me off guard. 

I have to say, every character plays their part and I even remember all of their names (even though it has been a week since I read the book). 

I also love the romantic tension between Dimitri and Lizzie. It plays out perfectly. 

Dialogue: Full of wit and awkward moments. I heart it. It's also realistic and deep when needed. 

Plot: I have to say, I love the twists and turns that were unexpected in this novel. There were some predicable parts, but for the most part, she held my attention and kept me on the edge of my seat with some unexpected turns.

Setting: I love the setting. I love how we have the rough and tumble part of grandma's setting versus Lizzie's suburban type of home. It's a great contrast.

Ending: Everything I wanted it to be and more. The romantic tension is resolved. Her ultimate question is resolved. And the whole quest is resolved. I don't think she left much for the second one, except to make up another problem, but I look forward to finding it out.

Overall: I love the book and I couldn't think of anything to complain about. All the characters have plenty of layers to delve into. The plot wasn't too predicable. And there was a great dose of humor used.

I would recommend this to people who love to read paranormal romance novels. Especially to people who are total Buffy fans. Who are lovers of Spike versus Angel. 

And did I mention it was free? :D

June 17, 2013

The Faerie Guardian: Volume One by Rachel Morgan

Enter a hidden world...

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day's work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone--she's about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until a cute human boy who can somehow see through her faerie glamour follows her into the fae realm. Now she's broken Guild Law, a crime that could lead to her expulsion. The last thing Vi wants to do is spend any more time with the boy who got her into this mess, but the Guild requires that she return Nate to his home and make him forget everything he's discovered of the fae realm. Easy, right? Not when you factor in evil faeries, long-lost family members, and inconvenient feelings of the romantic kind. Vi is about to find herself tangled up in a dangerous plot--and it'll take all her training to get out alive.

My Thoughts

Okay, let me come clean: I read the first part of this book for free on Amazon (but I learned afterwards that it is free on Smashwords too). And from then on, I was hooked. 

If I could summarize this book into two words it would be: Refreshingly original. I love the world that Rachel Morgan created. I love the fact that I could identify with each character in their different stages of life. I love the romantic tension building between the two main characters Violet and Nate.

What didn't I like about the novel . . . That it was so short! Okay, another confession: The book wasn't that short, I just read it in a day. It got me so hooked that i was reading it at the table with my family surrounding me talking about stuff.

Yep, I'm addicted to the series! Completely and whole-heartedly.

Now onto the dissection!

Characters: I love all the different characters, especially Violet. She is the strong female protagonist with a history that it slowly unfolds itself. I just love all of the layers this protagonist have and how she carefully unveils it throughout the book. It's kinda like what Shrek said about the onions. 

I also like Nate and Ryn. They are both loveable in their own way. Even though Violet has her reasons to hate both of them, I like them equally.

The only thing that I didn't like was that there seemed to be too many side characters. I kept confusing like Scarlett and some of the other characters. I know what the author was trying to do (give everybody their own identity and purpose) but it got a bit confusing near the end to remember all of those names.

Additionally, I love the bonus material that gave us readers a chance to see what really happened from Nate and Ryn's point of view. It also verified what I thought what happened with Nate. So yeah. Liked that little treat she gave us. 

Dialogue: Realistic and funny to watch the culture references Violet didn't get but I did (I'll let the author explain it in her novel what I meant). I kept laughing at her awkwardness with Nate and her lack of American culture. It was great and witty at times too. 

Overall, I enjoyed it.

Plot: Okay, I have another confession: I kinda knew what was going to happen with Nate and Violet. The author gave me a helpful foreshadow with them, and I knew what was going to happen. I won't let y'all know and ruin it but to me, it was a bit obvious after the conversation they had, what Nate was going to do.

You'll have to read the book to see what I'm talking about. :)

Other then that, I was hanging on the edge of my seat to find out what was going on with the characters.

Setting: I love the fae setting, I think it's called Creepy Hollow. I like how she built her fae world and her human world. Actually, I'm a bit jealous of how well developed it is since I'm currently building my own world. She makes it look so easy and effortlessly, when I know the opposite is true.

Definitely believe I'm taking notes on how thoroughly she built her world, and what I need to think about in developing my own.

Ending: It was bittersweet. I loved how she resolved all the character conflicts except one which I think will be resolved in the next book. I just wish there was more of it. And I wish a certain romantic conflict would be resolved before the next book, but overall, no lose ends to be wary of. 

She tied the major plot conflicts with a nice bow, and left some undone for the next novel. 

Overall: I would recommend the first part of the book (which is 100 hundred percent FREE) to anyone who wants to read an adventurous paranormal romance/paranormal fantasy. I'll leave the link on the bottom along with the cover (which I think outshines the original cover by a long shot). 

I bought the full book after reading the first part, and probably tomorrow, I'll buy and read the second book. I look forward to it! 

Anyway, I would definitely recommend this book to family and friends who love the fae world and couldn't get enough of it from Aprilynne Pike!

[This is Part I of THE FAERIE GUARDIAN] 

Protecting humans from dangerous magical creatures is all in a day’s work for a faerie training to be a guardian. Seventeen-year-old Violet Fairdale knows this better than anyone—she’s about to become the best guardian the Guild has seen in years. That is, until a cute human boy who can see through her faerie glamour shows up and ruins it all... 

Isn't this cover gorgeous!? I literally couldn't help myself from clicking the HECK YES button, a.k.a. get it and read it button.