2018 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Random Thoughts

New Year and Another Reading Challenge

So as many of you noticed, my blog began to get stagnate around September. I started back to work and, though I was still reading, I didn’t review my books or log the books I read for my reading challenge. Since the beginning of the year, my household has been through a couple changes and I’ve been settling in to that as well. Now that I have finished (finally!) my first book of the year, I’m hoping to settle in and renew my reading challenge for this year and to restart my reviews.

I am again doing the POPSUGAR challenge. I’ve uploaded the information to my 2018 Reading Challenge page and hope to finish a few challenges by the end of the month. I was able to finish over half last year, which was more than my 2016 year, but still not as good as my 2015 year. However, with life comes distractions, so any improvement is a great step.  I’m going to be marking books for multiple challenges if they fit, instead of just one. However, I plan not to have repeat books by the end of the year if I can manage it. This may be a pipe dream though since I found out that I’m pregnant (yes, planned and yes, good news 🙂 ). With a new baby arriving, my time will definitely be limited on how much I’ll be able to read.

Also, since I changed my theme back in September, I haven’t had a chance to ask you guys if you like the new image of the page. What do you all think?

Well here’s to a hopeful year! Feel free to let me know if you all are doing any reading challenges and, if you are, which ones. Talk to you soon!

Random Thoughts

National Poetry Month


It is National Poetry Month once again. Each year I try to read some form of poetry to honor the month. This year I’m either going to be reading Beowulf or Edgar Allan Poe. Even though I’m not a poetry fan, it is still a strong writing style and reading interest. Poetry helps  people connect with themselves, the world around them, and emotions. It is less intimidating to some people when they are asked to read something. Here are some popular poets and poems.

Some famous poets: 

  • Robert Frost
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Walt Whitman
  • Maya Angelou
  • Langston Hughes
  • D. H. Lawrence
  • E. E. Cummings
  • T. S. Eliot
  • Pablo Neruda

Famous Works of Epic Poetry

  • The Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer
  • The Aeneid by Virgil
  • Don Juan by Lord Byron
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
  • Beowulf
  • Metamorphosis by Ovid
  • Epic of Gilgamesh

Famous Poems

Random Thoughts


El Dorado Movie Poster

I found out yesterday that a poem in one of my favorite John Wayne movies, El Dorado, was actually written by Edgar Allan Poe. I hadn’t actually thought about it before. I thought it had been written for the movie. However, my husband and I bought a copy of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe for our home library yesterday. I flipped through the table of contents on the drive home and stumbled across Eldorado in the list of poems. When I flipped to it, imagine my surprise when I read the exact poem from the movie. It was a good day.


By Edgar Allan Poe

Gaily bedight,

a gallant knight,

in sunshine and in shadow,

had journeyed long,

singing a song,

in search of Eldorado.


But he grew old –

this knight so bold –

and o’er his heart a shadow –

fell as he found

no spot of ground

that looked like Eldorado.


And, as his strength

failed him at length,

he met a pilgrim Shadow –

‘Shadow’, said he,

‘Where can it be-

This land of Eldorado?’


‘Over the Mountains

of the Moon,

Down the Valley of the Shadow,

ride, boldly ride,’

the Shade replied,

‘in search of Eldorado!’

2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Random Thoughts

Books Set During War Time

Since one of my challenges for this year is to read a novel set during wartime, I put together a list of some of the most recommended books to read that are set during wartime.

Civil War

  • Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
  • North and South by John Jakes
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks
  • Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

World War I

  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
  • Regeneration by Pat Barker
  • Birdsong by Sebastian Faulk

World War II

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusack
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Sophie’s Choice by William Styron.
  • The Boy in the Stripped Pajamas by John Boyne
  • Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald
  • Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Last Train to Istanbul by Ayse Kulin
  • Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
  • Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Korean War & Vietnam

  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  • The Hunters by James Salter
  • MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker

Wars in the Middle East

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Housseini
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Housseini
  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Other Wars in Europe

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

Cold War

  • The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy

Articles about this:

2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Random Thoughts

Books with Unreliable Narrators

So one of the challenges for the 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge includes reading a book with an unreliable narrator. For some reason I couldn’t think of what that meant. The best definition I could find is: “a character whose telling of the story is not completely accurate or credible“.

Therefore, I have searched and come up with list of the most frequently mentioned books with unreliable narrators.

Here are some articles on the subject:

2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · 2017 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge · Book Reviews · Random Thoughts

Hit the Restart Button

So I fell a little behind on my reading, blogging, and reading challenges last year. For my followers I apologize. I have been getting back into things over the holiday season and uploaded my 2017 reading challenge. I will be using the PopSugar Challenge. My last year results were poor for me and I hope to do better this year. I read a lot last year that I didn’t log, most I didn’t review unfortunately, and some I didn’t even finish. Hopefully this year I find the time to put into my blog and am able to help you guys find a few books to try. This year’s reading challenge looks interesting and I’m looking forward to stretching my book horizons some. See you in the shelves!

Book News · Random Thoughts

Creating your own summer reading list

I came across this article on the Book Riot website and thought it was wonderful! Like the author, I am also a teacher, and I particularly like how simple her guidelines were. Here’s the link: http://bookriot.com/2016/06/07/how-to-create-your-own-summer-syllabus/


I’ll put this out there first: I am a public school teacher, and damn lucky to have an extended vacation of at least seven weeks every summer. I’ve been teaching since I left college at 21, so for my entire life, the months of July and August have been a change from the norm, and even throughout summer jobs and family obligations, I’ve never lost touch with the summer freedom feeling. A few years ago I secured my master’s degree and was finally ready to be done with required reading…except I missed it. I like rules and structure, and I missed having a list to at least taunt me about what I was SUPPOSED to be reading. That lead to my first self-created summer syllabus, a habit I’ve continued each summer with varying success.

Despite the academic connotations, I never stock my syllabus with titles I find intimidating. Instead, I evaluate where I am in various reading challenges, what I want to learn more about during the summer, and what my family will be doing at different times. Here are some steps to building a summer syllabus:

  1. Pick 1-2 books that help you meet your personal reading goals for the year.  I’m attending Book Riot Live in November, so I’m going to be adding titles by the amazing authors who will be speaking (you can see a full list here). I’m also loosely participating in the Read Harder challenge, so I’ll shoot for at least one book that will satisfy a line item there.
  2. Pick 1-2 books that address personal challenges and/or personal growth. My family is in the middle of a big move that will execute right at the halfway point of summer, so I’m thinking about a book that will make me feel guilty about all the stuff I own. My young kids are a little late starting preschool, so if I can find a homeschool-style book that doesn’t ick me out (lots of them have assumed that I am also interested in a gluten-free diet or strict Christian lifestyle, which is fine, but not what I’m looking for), then I will add that to the list.
  3. Pick 2-3 books that are in a favorite genre. I always add graphic novels, my favorite to read at the splash park. The summer is also the perfect time to start a new YA series, because they make me happy, and I like being happy in the summer.
  4. Pick 1-2 books that you’ve been meaning to reread. I reread a ton in the summer, maybe because I am home and sitting near my bookshelves more often than not. I have rereadFortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve every summer for a buncha years, and any Harry Potter revisiting usually happens in the summer months.
  5. Pick 1-2 books that support your career goals. Anyone you know who works in a school is spending a big part of their summer planning and preparing for the upcoming year. Aside from any suggested reading from my administration, I always have at least one topic that I’m researching (last summer I read a lot about Responsive Classroom, this summer I’m alllll book clubs and classroom libraries) and I usually try to hit at least two books in that vein.

And  there you have it. The bare-bones formula for a decent summer reading list. Adjust the number of titles based on how quickly you fly through books. Adjust the time period to address how long you want to be working on your list. With tiny tweaks, this could be a great way to plan your reading year. Or, if you’re a blessed vacationer like myself, give yourself a summer syllabus that eliminates head scratching the next time you find yourself in the bookstore or library. The best part? Come September, no one will know if you’ve stuck to the plan.
Do you plan your yearly or summer reading?  Do you find yourself saddled with syllabi from higher ups, or are you in total control of your book choices? Do you have any suggestions to help me flesh out the categories above?  I’d love to hear your summer reading thoughts.