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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Marrow | Tarryn Fisher

“The loss of innocence is the most severe of growing pains.” 

Genre: Dark Thriller. 
Number of Pages: 296.
Perspective: First. 
Location: Washington.

Marrow is the story of Margo, a girl who is struggling to escape from her neglectful, prostitute mother. She also desperately wants to get out of The Bone, her town of misfits and drug addicts. The murder of a young girl in Margo's town sets her off to take the fate of this town — and the people who live there  into her own hands. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I finished this book several weeks ago and I have been having a hard time deciding how to properly review it. I expected it to be a dark and depressing book, but I don’t think there was any way to prepare myself for this book. It started out extremely strong and I was immediately drawn into the story. The first few chapters were some of the most interesting chapters I have ever read in any book. About half way through the book the story started to get too bizarre for me. 

There is a big twist near the end that turned everything upside down. I think that the twist would have been good if it was explained better. However, I ended feeling very confused, and I did not think that the book had any sort of resolution. I was left not knowing what actually happened and had to kind of use my imagination to piece together parts of the story. I don’t like feeling like the story is incomplete.

With all that said, I cannot stop thinking about this book, which is always a good sign. I have talked about this story with my book club and many other people because it was so different from any other book I have ever read. I am very glad that I read it. It paints a beautiful and haunting picture of this small, run-down town where no one ever gets out. 

I highly recommend this book to people who like dark stories. This is not a happy, feel-good story. It is not even a redemption story. This is the story that makes you feel uncomfortable in all the best ways. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“Life is all about allowing people choices to be who they want. But the majority of people choose to be worthless.” 

 4/5 Stars

Check out my reviews of Tarryn Fisher’s other books:

Friday, February 26, 2016

Never Never: Part Two | Colleen Hoover & Tarryn Fisher

This is the continuation of Never Never: Part One. See the review here

“I'd rather love you at the bottom than despise you at the top.”

Genre: Young Adult Romance. 
Number of Pages: 158.
Perspective: First Alternating. 
Location: New Orleans.

Never Never is the story of a couple that keeps simultaneously losing their memory. They have to solve the mystery of what happened before they lose their memories again. 

I really enjoyed Part One, but this was rather anti-climatic. I have to reiterate my frustration with this book. They took apart a normal sized novel and released it in three parts over the course of a year. I like to finish one book at a time, and I hate series. So reading this was torture. I realize it was an issue with their contracts, but it is still extremely frustrating as a reader. There’s no resolution at the end of each of the parts (except the third part, I am hoping). 

Because it is so short and the way that it is written, it is a pretty quick read. You can probably finish it off in one evening. I more so just wanted to power through this book so I can get to the final part. Not a lot happened in this part. We learned a few more clues to the mystery, but I did not feel satisfied with the new information. AND another cliffhanger to make you HAVE to buy the next book to have any idea what is going on. 

I would still recommend this book because obviously if you are reading it, you have already read Part One and are probably invested in the story. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“Until then, never lose hope. Never stop loving me. Never forget.”

 3/5 Stars

Check out my reviews of Colleen Hoover’s other books!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Book Chat: The Nightingale | Kristin Hannah

**WARNING: This is for people who have already read this book. There will be spoilers! If you do not want the book's wonderful surprises to be ruined, read my review of the book, read the book, then come back to read our chat. Thank you!**

Amber: So I want to start out by saying that I usually do not like historical fiction books. I have read a lot of World War 2 stories, and sometimes it can feel redundant, but this was different. I thought it was more about bravery and how that can be portrayed in different ways. Isabelle is originally known as being immature, but she is quickly seen as being very brave. Whereas Vianne does not think of herself is brave at all until the very end. What is your opinion of the two sisters and their transformation throughout the book? 

Jenny: I love historical fiction especially WW2 and I agree it can feel redundant. Most of the time the female characters are brave because they hid Jewish people from the Nazis. I had a hard time getting started on this book because it did feel the same as lots of other books. I agree that the sisters were really brave especially Isabelle crossing the mountains with the downed pilots. I didn't like the way the author forwarded to modern time. It seemed to come out of nowhere.

Amber: What did you think of the love story with Gaetan? At first, was so mad at him when he left Isabelle. But later I realized that it was what helped her direct her rebelliousness into something impactful.

Renee: I was upset at first but when she draws on that poster I thought it was either him or that he would be in the room. Then when that didn't happen I just knew she would somehow reunite with him when she went to Paris. I will say too that I thought she was the one who was in the present (and had ended up with Gaetan) all the way up until the very end.

Amber: I was hoping that it was her in the present, but I think that would have made this story too perfect. The ending did seem to make everything come together a little too easy, but I thought it was a decent way to wrap everything up. I think Isabelle had to die in the story. I have read too many stories like this where the person about to die gets rescued from the concentration camp at the last second and ends up surviving. Plus, I think she was able to get some resolution before her death with her sister and Gaetan. I'm not sure that she could have lived a normal life after all that happened to her. I think she could have lived after the concentration camps, but I don't think she could have lived a life without adventure. She was so used to hiding and running. She would have craved that, even after the war.

Renee: Yes, that would have made the story perfect. I'm an eternal optimist and a hopeless romantic so I always root for the happy ending. I think you're right, though. She craved adventure even before the war and she would have never been content with a quiet life. But that doesn't mean if she had lived that she couldn't have found something adventurous or fulfilling to do afterward.

Amber: That's true. Her and Gaetan could have traveled the world together. How did you feel about the relationship between Isabelle and the first Nazi in her house? And why do you think she felt guilty about even thinking about him, but was able to sacrifice her body for the other Nazi? Was it because one act was selfish and the other was selfless?

Renee: That had me really conflicted. Not only was he the enemy but they were both married. He protected her as much as he could but part of me feels like it was an act because of how things ended. I don't think you can even call what happened with the second Nazi sacrifice of her body. It was rape. She had no choice. It was life or death and she was protecting her children.

Amber: Yeah, I appreciated him trying to protect her, but I think he was feeling pressured by his superiors to do things that he didn't really want to do.

Rebecca: This might be random, but one of my favorite parts (or, at least, one of the parts that moved me the most) of the book was the part when Vianne and Antoine agree to never talk about what happened while they were separated during the war. I guess when you experience something that traumatic, the only way to grasp what little opportunity you have left for a happy, carefree life is just to let go. What did you guys think of that part - when they decided what they needed to do was not "forget," but “remember”? It was really disheartening that when they were finally reunited, they felt like they were strangers.

Renee: As someone who has a husband in the military who deploys often and has been shot on a deployment before I actually didn't understand that part. The stranger part, yes I get. But not the not talking about things part. For us, reintegration involves talking about our time apart before we then move on and leave the bad parts behind.

Rebecca: Yeah...I did wonder how it was possible for them to do that. Even though the details were ugly and horrible, I'd feel weird not sharing them with the person I was married to.

Renee: For us sharing those things that were experienced while the other person was away, even if they're hard, is part of how we reconnect.

Amber: That's very interesting. I could understand why she wouldn't want to tell him about the rape and the baby not being his. But he seemed to kind of know anyway.

Renee: I think she felt shame and guilt like it was her fault, which is common for rape victims. So while I wanted her to tell him, I understood why she didn't. It was also a different time back then when things like that weren't as understood, so that's a factor as well.

Amber: Do you think that the father sacrificing himself for Isabelle at the end was enough to make up for his coldness towards his daughters throughout their lives?

Rebecca: That part broke my heart. I think it definitely made up for any coldness, but at the same time, I don't think Isabelle at all wanted her father to make that kind of sacrifice. If anything, now she'll have to live with the image of her father dying forever.

Renee: I think it definitely helped Isabelle find closure at the end. I'm not sure about Vianne since she had closed him off immediately and only saw him briefly at the end.

Rebecca: It felt so insane to me that at that moment people thought the idea of a woman being the nightingale was ridiculous. That they didn't believe her.

Renee: Yeah, but it was way different times back then.

Amber: Didn't the author say at one point that men took all the credit for the war?

Renee: I think so, but I don't remember.

Rebecca: Ooo, I forgot about that Amber. Good point. I definitely think that was a reoccurring theme.

Amber: So, I guess I should ask: overall opinion of the book? Would you recommend it to someone else?

Rebecca: Really sad, but really captivating. I'd definitely recommend it. It took me a bit to get into it, but once I got about a quarter way through, I was hooked.

Renee: It was definitely one of those books that lingers after your done with it. I would recommend it.

Rebecca: I don't cry during books often, but I definitely cried a few times during this…

Amber: This book reminded me a lot of The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. But I thought The Storyteller was much more depressing, even though it didn't make me cry. I guess I just felt more invested in The Nightingale's characters, and I was rooting for them a lot more. I also feel like this book had a lot more hope. The Storyteller just left me feeling...icky (for lack of a better word).

Jenny: I enjoyed it although it took me a while to get into the story. Vianne did say something near the end about the men getting all the credit for the war or being the heroes. I think it was when she was talking to her son. The ending was a little bit of a surprise. I would recommend it to people who like historical fiction.

Amber: Thanks, ladies! I am looking forward to next month’s book chat!

Have something to say? Feel free to comment below to add to our discussion!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Q & A with Author Amy Koppelman

Hi, Amy. Thanks for joining me today! What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?
I know my writing is hard—isn’t a “good time” per se but I think it’s part of a larger dialogue women are having about what it means to be a good mother, a good partner, an honorable woman. I want my characters to have a chance to be part of that conversation. I can’t make people love them the way I love them or care about them or empathize with them the way I do. I understand that. So for me, my goal is to find a way to give my characters a voice, give them a chance to be heard.  Every time I’m able to do that feels like a victory because a lot of mainstream editors and critics seem to turn away. Sure, my characters aren’t always good people. Often they hurt the people they love.  But who hasn’t been hurt or been hurt by love? So thank you for giving me the chance to speak about them and about books and writing in general. I really appreciate it!
No problem! Which writers inspire you?
There are so many writers that inspire me. I guess the writers that inspire me the most are the honest writers, the ones who don’t/who aren’t scared to show the worst parts of themselves in their work. Anna, my teenage daughter, really inspires me. She writes with abandon – with a ferocity – a determination to seek and articulate her truth…When I catch a glimpse of her sitting on her bed, laptop on her lap, clinking away at the keys mining her thoughts and feelings I remember why it is I became a writer in the first place. The purity of her intention makes me feel like I’ve become calculating in my work –that I have started to think about what will resonate and that’s not what it’s about — certainly not what it should be about. The good news is every so often she will ask me what so and so will think of something she’s written or if this essay is as good as the last one and I think-well, see, she does care about other peoples’ opinions which makes me feel slightly less jaded!  
As far as professional writers/novelists go well some of my favorite are:  Carver, Yates, Bowles, Wharton, Petterson, Salinger, Roth, Karr, Canin, Paley, Percy, and Styron. I have been trying to learn a little about poetry. Right now I’m reading a book of poems by Zbigniew Herbert that are blowing my mind.
And of course, there are the playwrights: Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’neil -- doesn’t get better than that.
I saw on your website that you are an advocate for women’s mental health. Does that impact your writing?
Not consciously.  I don’t write with a message in mind.  After (sometimes many years after), I see that my subconscious knew what I wanted to say all along but I’m never aware of it as I’m writing. Certainly not as I’m writing a first draft.
Can you talk a little bit about the process of adapting a book to screen?
Sure. I think the challenge of adaptation, particularly in my writing, is figuring out how to show a character’s internal thought. Voice over is one way to do that, but I haven’t had much luck implementing voice over into my scripts (always reads a bit cheesy) so I try to create scenes (or flush out existing scenes) to show what my character is thinking, feeling. I adapted I Smile Back with my friend Paige Dylan and working with her was really helpful because I was able to talk through things with her. I think that’s vital when adapting your own work.
Give us an insight into how you create your main characters. 
I don’t really have an answer to this question. I just write and write (sometimes for over a year) without any clear idea as to what it is I’m writing about or who I’m writing about -- but with faith that the characters will reveal themselves to me. And they always do. The characters in Hesitation Wounds are the closest to my heart. I miss them. I know it sounds strange but I really do. And yet, like all memories, they are with me.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on a multi-generational novel but that’s how I always start. I’ll probably spend the next 7-9 years writing hundred’s of thousands or words about this family and end up with a novella about a woman going through menopause.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
It’s funny that you should ask this because just the other day I renewed my membership at the library.  It’s time, I thought, to buckle down and get back to work.  I’ve spent the last several months pimping Hesitation Wounds which feels really lousy and in addition I’m not very good at! (I think I would do a better job selling an adult porta-potty!) Anyway, as I walked into the library I thought geeze – you know the hardest thing about writing is actually having to sit down and write. There’s no intonation on the computer but if you could see me right now I’m smiling. Yes, with all the theories, talk of process, characters, plot, and so forth the hardest part about writing – at least for me – is actually having to write.
That's too funny! What book/s are you reading at present?
When I write I don’t read fiction because I don’t want to accidentally copy it so right now I’m reading a lot of twitter. I love this site called And I’m trying to learn about poetry. At its best it’s the most distilled and pure form of written emotion.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I have a website: I have some podcasts there and I think an essay or two. You can buy Hesitation Wounds here.


Thursday, February 18, 2016

25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom | Judith Dodge

“How else can we ensure we are addressing students’ needs instead of simply teaching them what we think they need?”

Genre: Education and Teaching. 
Number of Pages: 96.

This book is meant to provide quick and easy formative assessments [ongoing assessments, observations, summaries, and reviews that inform the teacher’s instruction and provides students with feedback on a daily basis] for students in grades 3-8, but a few of them can be applied to older grades, especially as exit tickets. It also includes a CD of all of the forms, data collection sheets, and assessments to download, which is very easy and nice to have! 
This is a pretty short book. The first part talks about what formative assessments are and how to use them to inform your instruction.  The second part is 25 examples of formative assessment. Each one contains a description of the strategy, step-by-step instructions, practical applications, tips for tiering, how to integrate technology, and samples of student work. 
This is a great “starter kit” for formative assessments. Some can be a quick part of any lesson and others would probably take up most of the lesson time. It is easy to just pull out the assessments that make sense for your course and students. Also, some are meant for individuals and some are meant for collaboration, so there is a good variety to choose from. This is great for instructors that just need some quick ideas and don’t want to read through a giant book to pick them out. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“Fair is not equal; fair is getting what you need.”


Amber Gregg ♥ 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Everyday Editing | Jeff Anderson

"Many writers say they learned a lot about writing from reading."

Genre: Education and Teaching. 
Number of Pages: 176.

Wow, this book was incredible! It is an amazing resource for any grade level English teacher (yes, even college) to teach students how to learn to refine and edit their own writing. I even learned a few new things about grammar. 
It starts off with pedagogy for a classroom where students learn to not hate grammar and editing. The point is to provide valuable learning experiences so that the students learn grammar through application, not drills and lectures. Most of the lessons in this book involve exploring mentor texts (quality writing) and dissecting why it is successful. That allows the students to understand why something works in a sentence, rather than only pointing out what is wrong. The mentor texts in this book are incredible and make this book invaluable. The author just saved every teacher a million hours in work searching for the perfect sentences to match each lesson! They all are easy for students to imitate, they model effective writing, and connect to the students’ schema. 
After the first few chapters, this book provides many lessons that follow a similar format, which got to be a bit repetitive after a while, but it is great if you are jumping around and only reading the chapters that pertain to your course. I think it is still beneficial to read the book all the way through to pick and choose which ideas will work for you and your class. There are ten sets of lessons based on a specific grammar topic: serial comma, colons, capitalization, apostrophes, simple sentences, verb choice, appositives, paragraphs, compound sentences, and dialogue. Each lesson contains seven parts to get the students engaged. They include invitations to: notice, imitate, celebrate, write, revise, combine, and edit. I think that these parts could easily be made into mini-lessons so that you are just spending a few minutes a day working on grammar. 
Each lesson contains many ideas for things to ask the students, sample activities, and a variety of mentor texts, but it is more of a framework for how to teach grammar rather than a scripted lesson. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

"Students need opportunities to test out theories. Correcting doesn't develop--it corrects. And what about the next mistake? How will they know how to fix that?"


Amber Gregg ♥ 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Nonfiction Craft Lessons | Joann Portalupi and Ralph Fletcher

"The best nonfiction writing begins with a writer's passionate curiosity about a subject."
Genre: Education and Teaching. 
Number of Pages: 148.

This book is meant to teach information writing in elementary and middle school, but I think that it can also be useful for high school and college English courses. I think that the instructor would just have to take some of the ideas and alter it to fit the age of the student. However, there are many older students that still struggle with the foundations of writing nonfiction, so these lessons are very helpful. They do not feel intimidating. 
This book is amazing for detailed writing lessons. They break it down by each specific writing skill, and include a discussion of the lesson, how to teach it, and a list of resources to use in the lesson. It contains ways to set up your classroom’s framework to be prepared for nonfiction writing to be seen positively. Then it splits into sections of lessons (K-2, 3-4, and 5-8). But, like I said before, a lot of these lessons can still be made applicable to older learners who struggle with the basics. The best part of this book is that it offers many examples of texts to use with lessons. I think that can be the hardest part about making lessons since it can be very time-consuming to search for a book that matches the lesson. 
I think it is helpful to give this book a full read through, and then bookmark each lesson that can be used for your particular course. Then you can go back to specific sections as you need it. In the appendix, there are coordinating organizers, booklets, and short texts for some of the lessons. 
This book does not contain a detailed script for how to run each lesson, but it does provide some great suggestions and a brief overview of each lesson. This is a very informative and practical book for clear-cut lessons to teach English concepts and should be a valuable resource in any English classroom. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 
"How do you know when you're ready to write? Simple: when you feel ready to teach."


Amber Gregg ♥ 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Exploring Writing in the Content Areas | Maria Carty

“Every writer approaches the task of writing in a different way. It is unrealistic to expect that every student’s writing will progress through the same steps in common sequence.”

Genre: Education and Teaching. 
Number of Pages: 128.

This book is meant to help teachers other than English teachers (i.e. math, science, social studies) incorporate writing into their classes. It could also be used to integrate other subject areas into an English course. I think this is meant for elementary and middle school, but I think some of the strategies are good for high school, or even college. 
This book contained a ton of super helpful graphic organizers and charts that could be used to aid in a student’s research or writing process. I just wish that they had come on some sort of disc. It is easy to scan in the pages, but a disc would have been even easier. 
This book is broken down by: the processes in writing, the purposes of writing, and how to provide feedback. I think that feedback is a crucial part of the writing process that tends to be overlooked, so I really enjoyed that section. I like that it also contains specific information and organizers depending on what paper the students are trying to write: informational, persuasive, descriptive, procedural, comparative, reflective, and creative. 
This book offers many ideas and activities, but does not go into much depth about any one area. You could use this as a starting point for lessons, but it does not contain a detailed script. For me, the most valuable thing about this book was the appendix of graphic organizers. There was also some really great example mentor texts, and those are always invaluable. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 
“How can we help students without doing the work for them?”


Amber Gregg ♥ 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Q & A With Author Camilla Isley

Hi, Camilla, thanks for joining me today! What are your ambitions for your writing career? What would your career look like in an ideal world?

My main ambition is to write books that people will love. You know those books that when the last page arrives you’re sad the story’s over and you miss the characters a bit already. Books that you can’t put down because you have to know what happens. In short, I would love to write the kind of novels that have readers read past their bed times.

In an ideal career world… I would love to hit the bestseller list maybe just that once.

What’s your guilty pleasure TV show?

Ha! I have so many. From The Vampire Diaries to The Bachelor to Project Runway to Master Chef. I can never pass up a rerun of Beverly Hills 90210, Sex and the City, or Friends. Oh, and I've watched The Bold and the Beautiful since the eighties—this one is my dad’s fault for getting me addicted. 

Oh, the Bachelor and Project Runway are on my list too! Do you believe in fate or love at first sight?

Uh, considering that the first time I saw my husband we sort of disliked each other…I have to say no. I'm a big fan of love/hate relationships, though.

Sounds like there's a good story in there. Which writers inspire you?

I love romantic writers who can push the humor almost as much as the romance. Meg Cabot, Sophie Kinsella, Lindsey Kelk… and many others.

I'm a big Meg Cabot fan too. Give us an insight into how you create your main characters.

I’m more story driven rather than character driven. My stories shape my characters and not the other way around. I don’t do personality sheets or stuff like that.

What are you working on right now?

I have this idea for a Sliding Doors type of novel. I hope it will be new and exciting. I will develop two story lines, seeing what happens when one of the characters catches or misses a plane. I’m just two chapters in (the first one of each story line) so the final plot is still a total work in progress.

That sounds interesting! What draws you to writing romance books?

As simple as the fact that I enjoyed reading them in the first place. Especially the humorous one. I’m not one for romances with loss, traumas, and other sad things of life. There are too many already in the real world; I strive to write books that will leave the reader with a dreamy smile.

Is that also your favorite genre to read?

One of my favorites. I also enjoy classics (Dumas, Austen, Twain and many others), historical fiction on the adventurous side with a soft spot for the middle ages, and a bit of fantasy/paranormal.

Why do you write?

I have all these stories buzzing inside my head; if I don’t pour them out they get offended and misbehave, depriving me of sleep. 

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to publish their own book?

Before you start worrying about how or when to publish, write the book first. Don’t obsess over word count, tell the story you have to tell in how many words you need/don’t need. When you edit cut everything that could bore your reader. I know, it’s painful to say bye to those words, but if you can synthesize, do it! 

When your book is nice and ready. If you’re patient, try querying different agents. If you’re like me go ahead and self-publish it. But keep your expectations in check. It’s hard to get noticed and you must be ready to do all your marketing yourself.

That's some really great advice! What is the easiest thing about writing?

Honestly, for me, it’s the editing. Many disagree, but I feel more pressure when I don’t know where the story is going. I usually start writing knowing the beginning and roughly the end, but those middle twist and turns can be hard to achieve. When I’m editing, it means I already have a story I love. It just needs to be polished.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Keep every page meaningful. When I think that every chapter, every page I write has to keep the reader engaged, it can be overwhelming. And it involves plenty of second-guessing on my part.

What book/s are you reading at present?

Historical fiction adventure The Golden Lion by Wilbur Smith and romantic Summer by the Sea by Jenny Hale

What is your favorite quote?

I don’t have one. Before the age of e-readers I used to copy down bits of books, and who knows where those snippets went. Now I highlight, but there are too many to choose from. But I can open my e-reader and tell you the last thing I highlighted:

“Pett categorized the African as a potential impediment, to be considered and accounted for should the captain ever need killing.”

From The Golden Lion by Wilbur Smith… it’s probably not the next great literary quote, but it had a noir sense of humor I enjoy when I read.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

Thank you for hosting me and thanks to all the bloggers out there too. One of the best parts of publishing my books has been being welcomed in your community. I have only found people willing to help me without getting anything (except for a free book maybe) in return. The amount of support and kindness I’ve received it’s been overwhelming. So a huge, huge thank you.

You're welcome! How can readers discover more about you and you work?

My website and social media would be the best options. To keep up-to-date with all my latest news, my newsletter sign up link is here. Or if they have any specific questions/curiosities in mind, my email address is camilla.isley@gmail.comI always reply to messages on Facebook, Twitter, or Email.

Twitter: @camillaisley

Check out my review of Camilla's book, A Sudden Crush!

Amber Gregg