Friday, January 13, 2017

REVIEW: Lab Girl by Hope Jahren

Lab Girl 
Author: Hope Jahren
Published by: Knopf/PenguinRandomHouse
Release date: April 5, 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who knew science, plants, and scientists could be so interesting?
"Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited" ( 31).

This was an amazing memoir. Jahren's life as a scientist and her descriptions of plants are entrancing. The beautiful structure of this book unfolds with chapters about different plants or plant processes interspersed with chapters about her life--and, of course, the connection between the two seemingly disparate topics always becomes clear.

The first section of her memoir is called "Roots and Leaves" and that lovely quote above comes from a short two-page chapter where I learned how seeds work, followed by a chapter about her beginnings as a scientist. Here's another example of Jahren's writing style: "Working in the hospital teaches you that there are only two kinds of people in the world: the sick and the not sick. If you are not sick, shut up and help. Twenty-five years later, I still cannot reject this as an inaccurate worldview" (44). Her writing is both poetic and pragmatic, and certain lines or paragraphs fill my ears with delightful sounds or ring a bell in my head. Trust me, I have more notes tabbed in this book than you'd care to read! Or you could just read the whole book and enjoy it as much as I did.

I leave you with one final insightful line that delighted me: "Love and learning are similar in that they can never be wasted" (174). I tabbed it with a note called "good thinking line," enjoy!
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cheese Days 2016 is here!

Tomorrow is the start of the 2016 Green County Cheese Days in Monroe, WI. Rachel and I both teach in Monroe and the girls go to school there too. If you haven't heard of this festival before you are truly missing out! It is so darn fun. It is all about celebrating cheesemaking, dairy farming, brewing beer, and the Swiss heritage of the people who moved to this area many, many years ago. 

To learn more, go to this Travel Wisconsin page, OR go to 

If you are anywhere near Monroe, WI you should make the trip out for either Saturday or Sunday! (Sunday is the big parade.) It is well worth the drive. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

New school year overload = guilt...

I'm not really sure where to begin...but holy moly has this beginning of school year kicked my butt! I haven't been posting, I haven't been reading as much, and I have SO much guilt about it. Does that ever happen to you? I now I need to figure out a way to "get back on the horse" but certainly cannot make any promises at this point. 

In the mean time, here's a bit of a "Where I am in books right now..."

Just finished not too long ago: Sisters of Salt and Iron by Kady Cross - This was just as gripping as the first book filled with teen angst, creepy dead people and sisterly drama both good and bad. I had tons of other things I should have been dong and instead hid out and read this one weekend. :) Kady Cross remains one of my all-time favorite young adult authors ever.

The Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger (5 Books) - This is one I've had for quite a while on my TBR. I decided to swallow it whole just before school started here. I did pretty good trucking through them but did drag a bit after the first two. I do have to say that I had hoped that the characters I loved so much from the young adult Finishing School series were in the books more but they really aren't sadly. 

Now reading: The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey - I loved this first book, The Girl at Midnight, from the cover to the story and its incredible creatures and world. It is getting me to read even when I really need to be doing other things but that's ok in my opinion. It's just as good as the first one so far. 

What's up next? - I'm never truly sure where I'm headed next with reading, except that I have learned I cannot read books that have a similar theme in a row. So I cannot read a fantasy next for pleasure reading...maybe The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout will be next. It sounds SO darn good and would fit my requirements of not a fantasy next. 

The other option would be Girl Last Seen by Anne Greenwood Brown and Heather Anastasiu. I adore a good mystery, and it's co-written by one of my favorite people, Anne Greenwood Brown! She is such a truly real, smart and downright great person. 

What do you think? What would you choose next? 

I do HAVE to read a professional book next to begin more serious work on creating and completing my graduate capstone project involving building a formal makerspace in my middle school library, Invent to Learn: making, tinkering, and engineering in the classroom by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager.  

How have you been doing with your blog and reading lately? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #238 - Spontaneous, Rebel Genius & Bad Blood

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Be sure to post a link to your Waiting on Wednesday below!

This week's pre-publication "We can't wait to read it!" selections are...

Author: Aaron Starmer 
Release Date: August 3, 2016
Published by: Dutton Books for Young Readers 

"Katelyn Ogden was a lot of things, but she wasn't particularly explosive, in any sense of the word."

Mara Carlyle's senior year at Covington High suburban New Jersey is going on as normally as could be expected, until the day - wa-bam! - fellow senior Katelyn Ogden explodes during third period pre-calc. Katelyn is the first, but she won't be the last senior to spontaneously combust without warning or explanation. The body count grows and the search is on for a reason--Terrorism! Drugs! Homosexuality! Government conspiracy! -- while the seniors continue to pop like balloons.

Mara narrates the end of their world as she knows it with tell-it-like-it-is insight as she tries to make it to graduation in one piece through an explosive year punctuated by romance, quarantine, lifelong friendship, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bloggers, ice cream trucks, "Snooze Button", Bon Jovi, and the filthiest language you've ever heard the President of the United States use over Skype. (Summary from Goodreads)

OMG! Exploding teenagers and a girl just trying to make it to the end of her senior year. I hope this is as full of humor and insight as it sounds as Mara comes of age in a strange new world.

Author: Michael Dante DiMartino 
Release Date: October 4, 2016 
Published by: Roaring Brook Press 

In twelve-year-old Giacomo's Renaissance-inspired world, art is powerful, dangerous and outlawed. Every artist possesses a Genius, a birdlike creature that is the living embodiment of an artist's creative spirit. Those caught with one face a punishment akin to death, so when Giacomo discovers he has a Genius, he knows he's in serious trouble.

Luckily, he finds safety in a secret studio where young artists and their Geniuses train in sacred geometry to channel their creative energies as weapons. But when a murderous artist goes after the three Sacred Tools -- objects that would allow him to destroy the world and everyone in his path -- Giacomo and his friends must risk their lives to stop him. (Summary from Goodreads)

This sounds SO GOOD! I love the idea of music being dangerous and outlawed. Plus there are also a whole group of friends who artists and then drama too! I'm in!

Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes 
Release Date: November 1, 2016
Published by: Disney-Hyperion

When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI's Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother's murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful - and dangerous - than anything the Naturals have faced so far.

As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock.

New victims. New betrayals. New secrets. 

When the bodies begin piling up, it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren't just hunting serial killers. (Summary from Goodreads)

I love this series! It's very Bones and Rizzoli and Isles for me. Plus, it has all the dark drama of it being teenager crime fighters for the FBI. Love it! 

What are you waiting on this week?

Review: Nemesis

Author: Anna Banks
Series: Nemesis, Book 1
Release date: October 4, 2016
Published by: Feiwel&Friends
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sepora is both the only princess of Serubel and the only living Forger of spectorium anywhere in the world. These two things should mean that her life is magnificent, but instead it means that she lives a life of slavery to the King, her father, who demands more and more spectorium from her. When Sepora runs away from Serubel and straight into the hands of her enemy she has no idea she will fall for him.

My thoughts: This is such a great book! I love the idea of a Forger as a person's possible ability. This book had ALL the things I love in a book: people with fantastic abilities, a Romeo & Juliet-type romance, and drama, drama, drama between kingdoms and people.

Sepora is a great character who is extremely resilient even when she goes through ridiculous amounts of drama and trauma. She never stops caring about her people even when she's become part of Theoria in so many ways. I cannot wait to see what happens for Sepora. 

Tarik is a wonderful young leader who has just taken over as King in the wake of his father's tragic death by a terrible disease ravaging their people. The cure it seems is spectorium and they need more and more. Tarik's character was so dar great too because of his relationships with everyone else. He was easily the guy that everyone wants to be friends with. 

Together Sepora and Tarik easily begin to create a world that they can both happily fit into whether they realize that's what they're doing or not. This was one of the BEST ARCs I've read. I thought that the cover was perfect for the story of the book too. This world was so engaging. Loved it! It's a MUST BUY for both my home collection AND the school library! 

What did you think? 

View all my reviews

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday #237 - Been Here All Along, Empire of Storms & Nemesis

"Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Be sure to post a link to your Waiting on Wednesday below!

This week's pre-publication "We can't wait to read it!" selections are...

Author: Sandy Hall 
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Published by: Swoon Reads

Gideon always has a plan. His plans include running for class president, becoming head o the yearbook committee, and having his choice of colleges. They do NOT include falling head over heels for his best friend and next door neighbor, Kyle. It's a distraction. It's pointless, as Kyle is already dating the gorgeous and popular head cheerleader, Ruby. And Gideon doesn't know what to do.

Kyle finally feels like he has a handle on life. He has a wonderful girlfriend, a best friend willing to debate the finer points of Lord of the Rings, and social acceptance as captain of the basketball team. Then, both Ruby and Gideon start acting really weird, just as his spot on the team is threatened, and Kyle can't quite figure out what he did wrong... (Summary from Goodreads)

Aww, doesn't this sound sweet and fun? I love a best friends to more story and this one sounds like just the ticket.

(Nemesis, Book 1)
Author: Anna Banks 
Release Date: October 4, 2016 
Published by: Feiwel&Friends

The princess didn't expect to fall in love -- with her nemesis.

Princess Sepora of Serubel is the last Forger in all the five kingdoms. The spectorium she creates provides energy for all, but now her father has found a way to weaponize it, and his intentions to incite war force her to flee from his grasp. She escapes across enemy lines into the kingdom of Theoria, but her plans to hide are thwarted when she is captured and placed in the young king's servitude.

Tarik has just taken over rulership of Theoria, and must now face a new plague sweeping through his kingdom and killing his citizens. The last thing he needs is a troublesome servant vying for his attention. But mistress Sepora will not be ignored. When the two finally meet face-to-face, they form an unlikely bond that complicates life in ways neither of them could have imagined.

Sepora's gift could save Tarik's kingdom from the Quiet Plague. But should she trust her growing feelings for her nemesis, or should she hide her gifts at all costs? (Summary from Goodreads)

This one I was lucky enough to get as an ARC and it was AMAZING!! I will put that review up soon now that we're closer to October now. But let me just say that it is a #MUSTBUY!

Author: Sarah Maas 
Release Date: September 6, 2016 
Published by: Bloomsbury USA

The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalties have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic finds themselves at odds with those who don't.

As the kingdom of Erilea fractures around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.

Aelin's journey from assassin to queen has entranced millions across the globe, and this fifth installment will leave fans breathless. Will Aelin succeed in keeping her world from splintering, or will it all come crashing down? (Summary from Goodreads)

OMG!! I don't think anyone still needs to know this but THESE BOOKS ARE IT! That's right, IT!!! 

What are you waiting on this week?

Movie & Book Series Review: Tarzan 1-3

Did you go see The Legend of Tarzan in the theaters? That was the one thing I was SO bummed I was missing out on when we went on vacation in July because it came out then. Well when we got back Zach, Mallory and I went and it was SO GOOD! I loved getting more of his story, and getting one that had historical value and depth to it. 
Great preview right!? 

So after loving that, having watched many of the past versions of his story (George of the Jungle, Disney's Tarzan, etc.), and knowing I had the first book in the original book series by Edgar Rice Burroughs at my middle school library I had to know how they compared to the book. I decided to grab it and give it a try! 
Tarzan of the Apes, Book 1 - 4 Stars
The Return of Tarzan, Book 2 - 4 Stars
Beasts of Tarzan, Book 3 - 3 Stars 
Series: Tarzan 
Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs 
Original Release dates: 1912, 1913, 1914 

These books begin with the story of John Clayton II, Lord Greystoke, and his new, young wife Alice Clayton, Lady Greystoke, in 1888 on their way to a new land and a new position for the young Lord to take on in Africa. Unfortunately there is a vicious mutiny on the ship they are on. The young couple is saved from death by a crew member who Lord Greystoke defended, but only so far as having their entire collection of belongings and much of the food brought to a random shoreline and left behind. The young couple does a decent job of surviving for a while, but Lady Alice never recovers from having a son and some large shocks from the encroaching clan of gorillas. After she passes and before she can be buried, the king of the apes, Kerchak, savagely kills John and wrecks havoc on their cabin. Fortunately, a female ape, Kala, who has just lost her babe to a terrible tantrum from a male ape finds the baby John Clayton III and takes him on naming him Tarzan, "white skin." And so begins the adventures of Tarzan among the violent world of the apes of the jungle living in mostly solitude on the outside of the ape clan until he finds his family's cabin and figures out how to get into it. After discovering this he begins to teach himself how to read with the books his mother loving brought with her for just such a time. Of course eventually explorers arrive and it begins to get even more interesting then I thought it could. 

My thoughts on the books: These were FANTASTIC! After reading the first book I immediately went on Goodreads to see which book was next and exactly how many books were in the series. Boy was I surprised! There are 24 books in this series! I quick went to the public library and grabbed book 2 & 3 which they happened to have on the shelf and started reading. Again...FANTASTIC! These were full of action and adventure from beginning to end. They were filled with great detail, but not too much and seemed so knowledgeable for someone who was an American writer from Chicago! When I read about him it never said he even traveled abroad = wow!

I really liked how believable these were. I could really jump into them and be carried away into the jungle with the characters. The stories were full of such a wide adventure too which if I told one to you would seem bizarre because it's so vast but when you read it everything just fits and works. One of the things that makes everything so believable is that the life in the jungle is very brutal, and Burroughs never strays from how brutal it is for Tarzan and his "people". 

I did begin to notice that the books began to take on a template of far too much similarity in their plots. I decided to not continue with the series at this point, but may in the future. I will definitely be buying books 2 & 3 for the library as well as a newly updated one over the 70's version we currently have of book 1 hoping to get some kids into them now that I know how great they are.

My thoughts on the Movie v. Books: This most recent movie, The Legend of Tarzan, is the closest to the books stories then any other. The origin story isn't right but it's not entirely wrong either. The natives and Jane's back story are a bit closer, except that Jane's father is actually a bit like the one in the Disney film. The thing that really compares is the brutality of the jungle, its inhabitants and the people he interacts with. There are some very scary moments in this movie, as well as some terrible violence which is very hard to watch. I knew that much of it was CGI but it was so well done and incredibly beautiful making me just not care. Plus, Jane in the books may not be quite as kick ass as the one in the film, but she IS extremely resilient and quite incredible in a time when women were expected to look good, marry and have babies. Disney on the other hand, seems to have taken random people from Burroughs's books, and the very general story and then done whatever they wanted with it. Ridiculous as usual when compared to this classic, but on its own its still pretty adorable and fun. Plus, the music is fantastic. 

We will certainly be buying this recent movie for our collection and enjoying it over and over again. 

p.s. I was SO darn thrilled that there is a part of Book 1 that takes place in Wisconsin! Too fun! 
What did you think?