I’m Curious

How do you choose your next read?


I’m curious.  Do you…

read a ton of books on one subject or one genre until you have a taste for something else?

-read everything from one author and move on to another?

– amass all of the books in a series and plow through them one after another?

-move on to whatever is next up on your holds list at the library?

-strictly adhere to a certain blog/podcast/reading lists or challenge/book club 

-go with whatever feels like the right next book no matter the subject, author, etc?

Here’s my 2019 plan and some early thoughts on how it’s going:

curiousSo, I own more books that I can read in one year.  I even talked my husband into a library instead of a formal dining room in our new house! Over the Christmas holidays I created a document of all of the books I own, categorizing my genre (you can see the tabs at the bottom of the picture) and sorted by Goodreads rating.  I’m a fairly structured person, so I decided I would read one book from each genre, starting with the highest rated book and then start the rotation of genres again.  (I need a children’s tab but I don’t have any of those books in my home library!)  I have the first round of books on my nightstand waiting for me.  Everything is set up for some great reading but then…

Washington Black became available from my holds list at the library.

-I read today that Reese Witherspoon has chosen The Library Book by Susan Orlean as her last book club read and I really want to read it! Like, now!

-I just finished Homegoing (review coming soon) and now I want to read The Underground Railroad, which is on my shelf.

-Anne Bogel from the podcast What Should I Read Next mentioned another great book I’ve been meaning to read.

I’m not sure how long my finally made plans will last!  No matter which path I follow I’ll be reading!

Talk to me about your reading plans.




The Summer Before the War


4 stars.png

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson was my first finish of 2019.

FIRST LINE: The town of Rye rose from the flat marshes like an island, it’s tumbled pyramid of red-tilted roofs glowing in the slanting evening light.

SUMMARY:  The blurb of this book leads the reader to believe that Beatrice Nash, the new Latin teacher who has just arrived in the town of Rye, is the star of this book as she finds her place in a new life.  The story is so much more than that! The story weaves in and out of the lives of many of the residents of Rye- Beatrice, the newly arrived teacher, Agatha Kent and her two nephews who couldn’t be any more different, and many other characters who span the spectrum of positions in the small town society.  

The story touches on every aspect of life as it is affected by the impending war.  Every resident of Rye approaches the events of the summer differently depending on their past or their aspirations for the future.

THOUGHTS: Helen Simonson can build a scene and tell a story!  Simonson writes with such detail of place and atmosphere that you feel like you are right there in 1914 Rye.  She employs all of the senses as she builds a scene. 

In Sir Alex Ramsey’s red-brick house, the gilded wallpaper smelled of dry glue and the thick Turkey carpet gave off an odor of old wool.  No windows were open, and the still air seemed to have been already breathed by other people.

I thought Simonson balanced each person’s narrative nicely.  I never felt like I wanted to get back to someone else’s story or that I was being given too much of another’s story.  She is very gifted at knowing just what to include in each scene before moving on to the next.

My only complaint about this book would be the large chunks of dialogue.  Yes, some of the dialogue reveals historic information and character motivations, but many times it felt like too much and I found myself skimming and scanning.


Author Website

Interview with Brooklyn Daily Eagle (possible spoilers)

Interview with Barnes and Noble (Simonson discusses her writing process and research)


pettigrew.jpg    warlight.jpg

lilac     chilbury



home.jpg (I’ve actually already finished this.  I’m just slow at blogging!)


– Do you have a favorite WWI book?

-Have you read either Simonson book?

-What are you reading?



Coming in January

Here is a list of some books that are being published in January that have caught my eye.  Click on the title to go to the description from Goodreads.  Leave a comment- which books sound interesting to you?


hope for better
We Hope for Better Things


The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise



Joy Enough
Genesis Begins Again
When Death Becomes Life


The Parisians


The Wartime Sisters


2018 Reads

Here is a quick post of my 2018 reads categorized by how many stars I gave each book.  I hope to do a better job in 2019 of writing actual reviews of the books I read.


4millionsweepharrychilburysaltluckybirdpromiseflightwifeislandeducatednotebrassknew wellrefugeejackieconvenienceskyyou








The Librarian of Auschwitz


The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

historical fiction


(I am obsessed with first lines of books, so I have decided to share the first line of the books I review!)

First Line:  The Nazi officers are dressed in black.

Dita Krause and her family have been transported from Prague to Auschwitz.  The Nazis have established a family unit, where children attend “school” and sing songs and play.  It is for looks, in case the unit is inspected by outsiders.  The Nazis want to be able to show that they are only holding Jewish people and families are staying together.  Dita finds herself involved with the school, caring for the few books that have made their way into the camp.  Daily she takes the books out of their nightly hiding place.  The teachers in the camp check out the books to use in their lessons.

Dita is a real person.  You can see her speak in the video.  If you plan on reading the book you may want to watch the video afterwards.

I’ve read many books about the holocaust and WWII and even visited the concentration camp at Auschwitz when I studies abroad as an architecture student.  Although this book touched on the idea of books in the camp and how some children were treated, this book will not stand out for me in the books that I have read.  I don’t know if it’s because the book is translated, but it just fell flat.  All of the events seemed to get the same emphasis.  The story often meandered away from the title story- the librarian.

I have many more books on my shelf about WWII that I am looking forward to reading- All the Things We Cannot See (I’m intimidated by this one!), Salt to the Sea, The Orphan’s Tale, etc.  I will use The Library of Auschwitz as another puzzle piece in my knowledge, but it won’t be a stand out.


Just Like Jackie

jackieJust Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard

Realistic Fiction- MG chapter book


Robinson Hart, named after Jackie Robinson, is mad at the world.  Her mother is dead, her Grandpa that she lives with is having trouble with his memory, and Alex, the bully at school, won’t leave her alone,  Her anger and fists have lead to lots of problems at school.  She hopes to be suspended so she can help Grandpa at his mechanic shop.  Instead, Robinson is placed in a counseling group with a few other kids, including Alex.  The topic of conversation in the counseling group turn to the family tree project that their teacher has assigned.  Robinson doesn’t want to do the project because she knows nothing about her mother and her Grandpa is her only family.  As the group opens up to each other Robinson realizes everyone’s family isn’t picture perfect.  As a result of the project, Robinson is able to ask the questions she’s always carried about her mother before her Grandpa loses those memories forever.

Lindsey Stoddard has written a beautiful book that many readers will connect to- anger, family issues, adolescence.  Robinson knows a lot about baseball and fixing cars.  Stoddard carries these two ideas throughout the text.  For example:

My stomach is full of bases-loaded nerves.

And I wish there were some wire brush to clean out Grandpa’s corroded cables and reconnect them to his starter so he could ride out good as new too.

It feels like a fastball in the gut.

I did feel like there were some threads in the book that weren’t explored to the depth that they could have been- Grandpa’s relationship with his wife and daughter.  But, the book was very well written.

I originally bought this book as a potential lunch time read aloud for my third graders.  As beautiful as this book is it might not be my choice.  I feel like it is a little too mature for my third graders.  I will probably hand this book over to my book loving nephews who also love baseball!

Happy Reading!

Reading Goals and Challenges

It’s a new year.  Time to think about my reading goals for the year.  I usually set a Goodreads goal, which I will eventually do.  There are a ton of reading challenges out there, set up to push people to read differently, read more, read less, etc.  I found this compilation of reading challenges.  They are all interesting.

I’m not really looking to read different genres.  I know what I like and I know what I don’t like.  I don’t need fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery in my reading life.  Give me all the realistic fiction, nonfiction, and historical fiction.

I do enjoy looking at the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge.  And if you don’t listen to her weekly podcast, What Should I Read Next, you are missing out!  I learn about a lot of titles, new and old, from her and her listeners.

I did find the challenge for me!

undreadYou can find lots of people joining in on Instagram with the hashtag #theunreadshelfproject2018.  Seeing everyone else’s shelves has made me feel less terrible about my unread books!  I found my tribe! The challenge is to read the books you own!  Crazy idea, right?!?

Everyone on Instagram is posting pictures of their unread shelves.  So here you go:

fullshelfThe lighting is horrible in our tiny little rental house.  When we moved into this rental (while we build this year) I originally boxed up all of my books and put them in storage.  But I could not have a house without books, so we retrieved one of our shelves and I got some of my books out.  This doesn’t represent what is still in storage!  Yesterday I organized my shelves by genre!  My mother and sister are librarians and one day I aspire to be a librarian, so it totally makes sense!

fictionMy top shelf I will refer to as the “I’ll Take All the Help I Can Get” shelf!  I am always reflecting and improving, so I enjoy reading “self-help” books.  I recently saw Brene Brown speak.  I would love to read all of her books this year.

The next shelf is my realistic fiction shelf.  I LOVE realistic fiction.  Keep your fantasy silliness away from me!  I am looking forward to Sing, Unburied, Sing.

HFMy next shelf is historical fiction.  I have been on a WWII kick lately.  I don’t expect that to end any time soon!  I used to keep a timeline in my reader’s notebook so that I could see where books fall in relation to each other.  I think I would like to draw that up again.

NFThe next shelf is nonfiction and kid’s books.  Since I’m a teacher I like to read a lot of kid’s books.  I don’t own many.  I usually check them out from the library.  My nonfiction section is all over the place in terms of topics!  I bought Radium Girls and Code Girls on the same day and can’t wait to read about women who played an important part in history but are not mentioned in history books.

libraryMy bottom shelf holds the books I have checked out from the library and books about writing.  One day maybe my own book will grace someone’s bookshelf!  I have many books about writing.  Most of them are in storage.  I love using my local library as a resource.  I am very intrigued by The 57 Bus.

My other goal this year is to slow down enough to review books here on the blog!  That’s what I started the blog in the first place!  I usually finish one book and jump right into another.  I would like to take time to think more deeply about a book and write a review that could be useful to others.

What are your reading goals for 2018?  What books are you most looking forward to this year?

Happy Reading!

Mighty Jack


If you are visiting this blog and don’t know me personally, let me introduce myself.  I’m Malissa and I don’t generally like fantasy (I’m a realistic girl!) and I don’t normally read graphic novels/comic books.  So, it’s super ironic that I’m kicking off this blog with a review of a fantasy graphic novel.  AND I really enjoyed them!

Ben Hatke, author of Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels, has a new hit on his hands with Jack and his adventures.  So far there are two titles in this series- Mighty Jack and Mighty Jack and the Goblin King.  Let’s cross our fingers that Ben Hatke is at his writing desk working on more!


MIGHTY JACKJack’s mother works two jobs so he is expected to keep an eye on his nonverbal sister Maddy.  One day Jack, Maddy, and their mom are at a flea market.  Jack is convinced, with Maddy’s help, to trade their car for some strange seeds.  Jack and Maddy plant the seeds in the backyard and soon the seeds take root and the adventures grow and grow.  Soon, the siblings and Lily, their lonely neighbor, are fighting strange plants, taste-testing seeds, and conversing with a dragon!

MIGHTY JACK AND THE GOBLIN KING– At the end of the first book Maddy is taken and Jack and Lily go after her.  Once they enter the strange new place Jack and Lily get separated.  The story alternates between their separate adventures until they are reunited.  This story has everything- magic beans, dragons, goblins, sword fights and even an old Shelby Mustang.  This is a fast paced story of good vs evil where each character plays an important role in the events of the story.


RATING/REVIEW:   5 stars   These stories are very fast-paced with great illustrations and relatable characters.  Readers from upper elemenary through early middle school would enjoy these books.  For readers just stepping into longer books these texts are long enough for a reader to feel accomplished but not so long that they will be intimidated.  In the second book there is a curse word and a touch of romance, but I don’t think it’s anything an upper elementary reader cant handle!


* As a reader I found myself reading too fast, not taking in all of the details.  I would miss something important and have to reread.  I don’t know if this is because I’m new to the genre or not, but it would be worth talking to graphic novel readers about this and help them be aware of their own behaviors.  

* Graphic novels require the reader to pay attention to what happens between pictures (in the gutter).  This would be something to teach directly to and help students monitor.

* These books have numerous examples of onomatopoeia.

* This series needs to be read in order.


Ben Hatke website

graphic novel terms

teacher resources