New Poll: Should I Use Book Ratings?

When I first started blogging I “graded” books.  Since I was a teacher I thought I’d use letter grades, so I’d give a book an A, B, C etc.  I only did this a little while until I stopped.  I just didn’t like the system.  Lately tho, I’ve been thinking about using some sort of ratings – like the 5 Stars system.  Of course I’d like to link it to owls 🙂

The question is – do you like when reviewers rate the book?  Weirdly even though I don’t use them, I do look at them.  Sometimes that’s the first thing I’ll look for, and that decides if I’ll really read the review closely.  If their rating is different from what I would’ve given it, or from other reviews I’ve seen I really want to read and find out why.  I also like that it gives me a quick snap shot of their thoughts. 

One reason why I don’t use them – I review for my students and I don’t want them to not read a book because I gave it a 3 out 5 stars or something. But I’m open to using them if a lot of my followers would like to see them.

Please take the poll on the right and/or comment on this post.  Thanks!!!!!

Take a Quick Poll on My Blog Design

I changed to a plain yellow background.  Thoughts?????

Hey all!! I’ve been toying with getting a new blog design.  The owls would stay OF COURSE, but I’ve had this one for almost two years, so I’m thinking of an update.  I kinda want to simplify it a little.  Sometimes I feel it’s a bit much on the screen.

Could you help me out by taking the very quick poll on the right?
If you vote:
YUP: you think I should look into something completely new
NO!: You like the design just as it is!
KEEP MOST: you think I should keep most but maybe trim down some or just get like rating owls
Feel free to comment on this post if you have ideas or thoughts 🙂
Thanks!!!!!

Why I Love Audio Books

Lately I’ve really really gotten into audio books.  It started about a year ago with the book The Dead and the Gone.  I had read Life as We Knew It and wanted the second book.  For Christmas I had gotten an iPod dock for my car, so it played through the speakers.  I thought I’d try out an audio book, and The Dead and the Gone was available from the library (which BTW is an awesome way to get audio books!).  I down loaded it and started listening to and from school with my kids. It was great!

We didn’t really listen to another one until later.  Then the library in our town open in a new fantastic location.  My daughter wanted to check it out, so off we went.  While we were there I wandered over to the audio books and found Dandelion Fire.  It was a book I had been kind’ve wanting to read, so I convinced my daughter we should listen to it.  It worked great! You can read my review HERE

We then listened to The Red Pyramid on my daughter’s insistence.  Again we loved it! You can read my review HERE.  After that we listened to The Book of Elsewhere #1 The Shadows.  It was after that one that I really realized why I like audio books. 

Here is why:

1.  I get to “read” more books.  My life is busy. I work full time.  I have 3 kids.  I blog.  I write.  Sometimes reading doesn’t fit.  But hour to and from school with daycare drop off is perfect for listening.  Books I’ve wanted to get to are now more possible!

2.  It’s exposing my 9 year old to more books.  He reads, but not like me or his sister.  He LOVES Calvin and Hobbes, and I credit Calvin and Hobbes with helping building his vocabulary and reading skills.  But he’s not a novel reader.  If it has chapters, he doesn’t want it.  I’ve found that even though he doesn’t act like it, he’s listening and enjoying the story as well.  My hope is that eventually he’ll want to read them for himself.  Fingers crossed!!!

3.  It’s bringing my kids and I together.  Instead of being in our own worlds during the morning drive, we laugh over the story, discuss what happened and what we think will happen.  We have “inside jokes” because of the stories we have listened to. I honestly believe that when they get older they’ll really remember listening to these books.

4.  I stick with books I would give up on if I was reading it.  Dandelion Fire is the perfect example.  My daughter and I weren’t thrilled.  We say “let’s give it one more day”.  After that day we say “just one more”.  By the end we were completely into the story.  If I had been reading it traditionally, I would’ve given up half way through. 

5.  Lastly, it’s helping see how audio books can help my struggling and reluctant readers.  I tell all my kids now that aren’t really into reading that they should look into audio books.  I know some people would disagree with me, but if I can’t at least get them reading that way….. who knows.  It’s funny because I’ll tell them they can put them on their Ipod and listen.  AND that no one would have to know.  They can just dance around now and again, and people will think they are listening to music! Usually they laugh at me when I say that, but I do see that they give it a thought!  I’ll do just about anything to get a kid reading, and if selling them audio books is the way to do it – then that’s what I’ll do.

So anyways, those are my thoughts on audio books.  There are a few things I don’t like, but in they end the positives waaaaaaay out-weight the negatives.

How about you?  Do you like audio books? 

PS – If you haven’t check out Audible.com do it! I just joined, and it’s way more than I thought!

PPS!!!!
Books I’ve wanted to get to are now more possible! I read up on reviews about the best audiobook services at NextAdvisor.com to learn more about the options out there.

How I Get Cheap Bookmarks for My Students

I have to share this because I know I have teachers and librarians that read the blog. So here goes – I’m a dork.  I completely admit that!  And here is just one example. 
My students are always asking for bookmarks.  I can’t afford to buy the official bookmarks they sell in packs of like 25.  Well one year I was standing in the Valentine’s aisle looking at the stuff on clearance.  I looked at the boxes of Valentines on 75% off and had a light bulb moment.  They would make perfect (and cheap) bookmarks.  I snatched up several boxes and put them out the next day.  My students loved them.  Now they could have a Spiderman or Harry Potter bookmark.  You should see them dig through the box they are in looking for one they like. 
So now every Valentine’s Day I snatch up several boxes.  This year I bought 15!  But I did the math and I got 500 book marks for like $6!  Here’s a pic of most of the ones I bought.
Call me crazy but it works 🙂

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Holiday Gift Suggestions

Since the offical start to the holiday shopping season is today I thought I’d share my suggestions for some great books to buy for people on your list. I’m not going to go crazy and give you a huge list, instead I’ll just give you my top choice(s) for a few catigories.

Best For MG Boys
The Scorch Trials – needed for all the boys who read The Maze Runner.  And if they haven’t read The Maze Runner give both!
Conspiracy 365 January – action packed book that has 12 books out in the series!

Best for MG Girls
It’s Raining Cupcakes – my daughter (age 11) read it, loved it and bakes tons of cupcakes now
Sister’s Grimm The Fairytale Detectives-fantastic series full of adventure and fun

Best for YA Girls
Shiver and Linger – so many of my girls love this series
Gallagher Girl Series – So many of my girls tear through this series.  Fun, action, some romance. 

Best of YA Boys
Thirteen Days to Midnight – what would you do if you knew you couldn’t be be hurt?
Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers – well anything by Walter Dean Myers

Best Series for Those Who Liked to be Spooked
The Devouring and Soustice! I found the second book better (scarier) than the first.  I need to read Fearscape yet.

Best for Zombie Lovers
The Forest of Hands Teeth along with The Dead Tossed Waves.  Love love love this series and again I liked the second book better.

Best for Readers Who Like to Laugh
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda – cute, funny but also a great message

Best YA for Adult Readers
Before I Fall.  I cannot say how much I loved this book!

Best MG for Adult Readers
When You Reach Me –  I adored it beyond reason 🙂

So those are just some suggestions I have.  Hope you maybe found something for the reader on your list.

Survey on Reviews

Hey all I’ve got 10 reviews to write (YIKES!), and I’d like a little feedback before I get the bulk of them done.  If you could help out and fill out this suvey I’d love it.  I’m not looking for feedback on MY reviews.  I’m looking for feedback on REVIEWS IN GENERAL.
Thanks!!!

Indie Bookstores Vs. Big Name Bookstores

When I first started blogging I saw a lot of references to Indie Bound and indie book sellers.  I had no clue what people were talking about! I had an idea, but I wasn’t sure I was right.  I decided it was time I learned.

I went to Indie Bound and learned. For those of you that don’t know what Indie Bound is, here is the description from their website:

What is IndieBound?



IndieBound is a community-oriented movement begun by the independent bookseller members of the American Booksellers Association. It brings together booksellers, readers, indie retailers, local business alliances, and anyone else with a passionate belief that healthy local economies help communities thrive. Supporting local, indie businesses means that dollars, jobs, diversity, choice, and taxes stay local, creating strong, unique communities and happy citizens.
 
Ok so maybe I’m lame, but it took me really looking at Indie Bound to really get what “indie” was.  It’s those fantastic bookstores that aren’t the size of a warehouse.  The ones that are owned by individual people not just a corperation.  The ones that struggle when a Barnes and Noble comes in.  The ones that can be hard to find. How could have I not gotten that right away?
 
Now I wanted to visit my local indie bookstore. On Indie Bound you can search for the nearest Indie bookstore near you.  Want to know how many I have close by?  One.  That’s it. And that one is over 20 minutes away.   There are others, but they would be a drive.  Now you need to know I live in a suburb of a large(er) city.  When I really thought about it, I couldn’t think of one bookstore near me that wasn’t a Borders or Barnes and Noble.  Not one! Isn’t that kinda sad? Are we losing these small bookstores?

Beyond just learning about indie bookstores, I also learned how shopping at local indie bookstores is a more green way to shop, and it helps my local economy.  Indie Bound has a great explanation of how shopping indie does this.  Go here to read it. 
 
Now don’t get me wrong, this post isn’t about the evils of big box bookstores.  I love my BN and Borders!  I’m there a lot. This post is more about my new awareness of the benifits of shopping indie and the lack of independent bookstores near me. I’d love to have a small bookstore nearby that might remember me when I come in.  One that, when I shopped at it, I would be helping my community grow. It makes me pretty sad that I don’t have that chance near me. If there is one near you, I encourage you to visit it.  I doubt you’ll regret it.
 
If you want to know more about Indie Bound and how indie bookstores help the community check out Indie Bound FAQ.  Then make sure to check out the rest of the site. They have a really cool Indie Next List that gives you some great books to look at.

Back to School

So in two days I head back to school – well teacher workhops.  I thought you all might like to see the number of bags I have to take back to school.  Most of the bags are, yes, books for my classroom library.  Now I didn’t buy ALL those books.  I came about them in several ways.  Some I brought home from my classroom library to read, some are ones from my daughters bedroom library that she didn’t want, some people gave to me, some I won and of course some I bought. 

Here’s all the bags!

Here’s all the NEW books I’ll be adding to my library.
And I wasn’t just getting books this summer, I was getting owls too.  Here is all the new owl stuff I’ll be adding to my room! My family just shakes their head!

Meme of Reading Questions

I thought I’d do something a little different this Friday and let you all learn a bit more about it.  I found this fun meme on reading questions over at Book Through Thursday. 

Here we go!
1. Favorite childhood book?
    Little House on the Prairie

2. What are you reading right now?
     Soulstice (The Devouring #2)

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
     None.  I don’t use the library 😦

4. Bad book habit?
    Judging a book by its cover

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
     None

6. Do you have an e-reader?
    A Nook

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
    One or I get confused

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
    Yes – I don’t base my next pick on what really interests me as much but I am trying to change that back!

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
    I really don’t know! None are jumping out at me!  Maybe This World We Live In. I was disappointed by it.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
       Before I Fall – LOVED IT!

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
      Hardly ever.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
       YA urban fantasy.  MG realistic fiction

13. Can you read on the bus?
      Yes.  I use to read on the subway all the time when I lived in Boston.

14. Favorite place to read?
      My couch 🙂

15. What is your policy on book lending?
      I have a huge classroom library, so I’ve really had to let go of worry about books I lend.  If they are very special to me tho – I won’t lend them. 

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
      NEVER!

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
      Only if it’s a book I’m teaching.

18. Not even with text books?
      Of course then.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
       Since I only know English it would have to be that one.

20. What makes you love a book?
      When it makes me think and when it moves me emotionally some way – even if that through laughter

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
       Just the simple fact of getting someone reading! I got my sister, the nonreader, to read by talking about books to her a lot.  Finally she took my recommendations and read 🙂  This is why I recommend books – as a 7th grade English teacher I really feel I need to keep these kids reading.  If they stop now I’ve probably lost them.  If I’ve lost them as readers they’ve put themselves a step behind.  I can’t let that happen!

22. Favorite genre?
      Urban fantasy mostly.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
      Historical fiction.

24. Favorite biography?
      I honestly don’t read them.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
      Yes I’ve read several.  They all helped to some degree.

26. Favorite cookbook?
      I like cookbooks that churches put out because you know they are recipes REAL people use!

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
      Before I Fall

28. Favorite reading snack?
      I eat a lot of saltines.  I always have even as a kid.  But I also like to have coffee.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
      Twilight.  I loved loved loved the book when I first read it.  Now I can’t even stand to see the movies.  It’s sad because I did so love it and then all the hype took it away.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
      Really about 50/50.  But in a weird way.  Negative reviews don’t affect me that much, but when a book gets tons of great reviews I’m usually let thrilled with them.  I think this is because I’ve set the bar so high for the book that anything would be a let down.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
      I may say what I didn’t really like, but I won’t give out and out bad reviews.  Mainly because I share my reviews with my students.  I know that if I don’t like a book it will turn a lot of kids off.  Now I won’t lie and say it’s fantastic if it’s not! But I always try to focus on what type of reader may like the book. 

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
      French.  I just love the sound of it.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
      Canterbury Tales.  I had to read it in college.  The professor was really tough and it scared me!!!!

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
      The Bible.  I don’t think I could read it cover to cover

35. Favorite Poet?
       Walt Whitman and Robert Frost.  I named my old dog after Walt Whitman.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
      zero

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
      none since I don’t check them out

38. Favorite fictional character?
      Ponyboy from The Outsiders – Johnny too

39. Favorite fictional villain?
      I’m like Quiten in Soulstice

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
      Quick simple “nonthinking” books.  I read Once Dead Twice Shy on my last vacation and that was perfect for vacation.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
       After my daughter (now 11) was born then my son I stopped reading for a while.  I didn’t have time or energy.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
      Artemis Fowl  I’ve tried it three times!

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
      My 3 year old 🙂

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
      Because of Winn Dixie.  Loved the book.  Loved the movie.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
     City of Ember! Yuck yuck yuck

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
      $100

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
     A lot.  I’ll start reading a book and then skim it, reading the last page (ok that should be my bad book habit!).  Then I read.  It keeps me reading.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
      It goes nowhere.  The action stops.  The characters don’t change.  It just stops.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
      In my classroom they are alphabetically by title.  At home the only arrangement is that all my signed copies are together.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
      Most of the books I read go on my classroom library.  If I can’t put them there, then I Bookmooch them or give them away.  A few I will keep.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
      I had been avoiding Catching Fire just because I knew it would be quite a ride, but I finally read and loved it.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
      A Child Called It.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
      I didn’t think I’d hate it by any means, but I liked it way more than I thought I would – The Pack by L.M. Preston.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
      This World We Live In.  I was so disappointed in it.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
      The House of the Night Series.  My very guilty pleasure 🙂