Archive of ‘Erin’ category

Review: The Walls Around Us

From Goodreads: On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…

What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?

In prose that sings from line to line, Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

Erin’s Thoughts: Oh my goodness, oh my goodness! This book completely wowed me! I should start by saying that the unreliable narrator is easily my favorite literary trope. I love the mystery of trying to figure out who and what to believe…what’s reality and what’s not. The Walls Around Us sings with unreliability in the best way. Nova Ren Suma has done a wonderful job of creating dual storylines, linked together, each with a distinct air or unreliability, all while keeping the plot moving. It’s truly an impressive piece of writing, and I’m eager to read more from her.

This is part ghost story and part murder mystery with a cast of creepy, detached characters to guide you through the book. I think it’s important to go into this book realizing that you will likely be confused.  Things will be unclear. That’s part of the fun of reading this. I found myself constantly trying to suss out what was what, even while I wasn’t reading. I very much anticipate this being a top book of 2016 for me!

Review: Ivy and Bean

From Goodreads: The moment they saw each other, Bean and Ivy knew they wouldn’t be friends. But when Bean plays a joke on her sister, Nancy, and has to hide quickly, Ivy comes to the rescue, proving that sometimes the best of friends are people never meant to like each other. Vibrant characters and lots of humor make this a charming and addictive introduction to Ivy and Bean.

Erin’s (and Charlotte’s and Evelyn’s) Thoughts: Charlotte and Evelyn got a boxed set of the first three books in this series for Christmas. At five years old, these are beyond their current reading level, but we have been having a blast reading them out loud over the past few weeks.  In fact, we’ve loved them so much that we’ve read each of the first three books twice AND books four through six once.

Evelyn says, “I love Ivy and Bean because they’re silly. My favorite part is the squid costumes. Those are so crazy!”

Charlotte says, “I love Ivy and Bean because they are friends. I love when they are squids in book 6!”

Since the girls pulled Ivy and Bean off of the shelf a couple of weeks ago, we haven’t read anything else. I love their imaginations, adventures, and friendship. I have seen a lot of criticism about the level of name calling and naughtiness in the books, but honestly it hasn’t bothered me. There is definitely a fair amount of name-calling, but Ivy and Bean are in second grade. Second graders love to call each other names, and I use the name-calling as an opportunity to talk about why we shouldn’t call people “potato heads.” Bean and Ivy get into some shenanigans for sure, and Bean is often the instigator, but again I find this to be pretty true to second-grade behavior.  With all read alouds, you may want to preview the the text first to make sure it’s a good fit for your family.  I can safely say, though, that Ivy and Bean will be part of our family reading time for quite some time!

Review: Neurotribes

From Goodreads: What is autism? A lifelong disability, or a naturally occurring form of cognitive difference akin to certain forms of genius? In truth, it is all of these things and more—and the future of our society depends on our understanding it. WIRED reporter Steve Silberman unearths the secret history of autism, long suppressed by the same clinicians who became famous for discovering it, and finds surprising answers to the crucial question of why the number of diagnoses has soared in recent years.

Going back to the earliest days of autism research and chronicling the brave and lonely journey of autistic people and their families through the decades, Silberman provides long-sought solutions to the autism puzzle, while mapping out a path for our society toward a more humane world in which people with learning differences and those who love them have access to the resources they need to live happier, healthier, more secure, and more meaningful lives.

Along the way, he reveals the untold story of Hans Asperger, the father of Asperger’s syndrome, whose “little professors” were targeted by the darkest social-engineering experiment in human history; exposes the covert campaign by child psychiatrist Leo Kanner to suppress knowledge of the autism spectrum for fifty years; and casts light on the growing movement of “neurodiversity” activists seeking respect, support, technological innovation, accommodations in the workplace and in education, and the right to self-determination for those with cognitive differences.

Erin’s Thoughts: My earliest memories of autism are with my uncle who hardly spoke, lived with my grandparents, and was obsessed with organs (the musical kind). I spent time in high school volunteering in a day school for students with special needs, many of whom had autism. I grew up to be a special education teacher and welcomed a great number of children with autism and their families into my heart. Over the years, while loving many people on the autism spectrum, I’ve sought to learn as much about autism as I can. I have read a lot of books. A lot. I’ve read the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. All of this to say that when I tell you that Neurotribes is not only one of the best books on the subject that I’ve ever read, but destined to become critical reading on autism in the future…well, I’m speaking with a touch of experience.

Despite being pretty familiar with the names Kanner, Asperger, Rimland, Lovaas, and many others, I learned so much from Steve SIlberman’s detailed, well-researched, and engaging work. This book really is the legacy of autism.  Silberman deftly describes the existence of autism as a neurodiversity throughout history while also shining a light on the work of many professionals who have defined and redefined autism throughout the years. You do not have to be a psychologist or educator to understand this book.  Even if you’re only experience with autism is Rain Man (it isn’t, trust me), this book is highly accessible and completely enlightening.  Neurotribes joins the ranks of Unstrange Minds by Roy Richard Grinker and the works of Temple Grandin as my most highly recommended reading on autism.

Review: Ana of California

From Goodreads: A modern take on the classic coming-of-age novel, inspired by Anne of Green Gables

In the grand tradition of Anne of Green Gables, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Andi Teran’s captivating debut novel offers a contemporary twist on a beloved classic. Fifteen-year-old orphan Ana Cortez has just blown her last chance with a foster family. It’s a group home next—unless she agrees to leave East Los Angeles for a farm trainee program in Northern California.

When she first arrives, Ana can’t tell a tomato plant from a blackberry bush, and Emmett Garber is skeptical that this slight city girl can be any help on his farm. His sister Abbie, however, thinks Ana might be just what they need. Ana comes to love Garber Farm, and even Emmett has to admit that her hard work is an asset. But when she inadvertently stirs up trouble in town, Ana is afraid she might have ruined her last chance at finding a place to belong.

Erin’s Thoughts: I received this book in my most recent Book Riot YA Quarterly Box – super fun bookish mail that is always more than worth the cost – and was immediately drawn in by the cover. I was also super intrigued by the idea of Ana in California being a modern take on one of my most beloved books, Anne of Green Gables. While there are certainly elements of Anne’s story in Ana’s, this is not a basic retelling of a classic.  Ana’s story is her own, and this book stands strongly on it’s own two feet.

I loved this book.  Loved it. I will be passing around my copy immediately. While this book came in my YA box and the main character is a young adult, it’s actually shelved as fiction – definitely a wonderful choice for adults and young adult fans alike. I completely fell in love with Ana. Her spunk, her art, her desperation to make a better life for herself. Ana isn’t the only vividly painted character either. The entire cast is diverse, lovable, engaging, and real. Plus, the small town of Hadley is a character in it’s own right. I truly cannot say enough great things about this book. Read it!

Review: Carry On

From GoodreadsSimon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up. Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

Erin’s Thoughts: I’m not going to lie and say that I wasn’t just dying to get my hands on this book.  I mean, I adore Rainbow Rowell, and I ADORE Fangirl.  So a book, THE BOOK, that the fanfic in Fangirl is based on? Sign me up!

The first fifty pages or so had me nervous.  Really nervous.  My brain was shouting, “THIS IS HARRY POTTER” the whole time I was reading.  Then, suddenly, I was sucked in to this delightfully quirky world that Rowell created. While Carry On certainly is a well-crafted “Chosen One” tale, it’s the strength of Rowell’s characters, her sense of humor, and her witty storytelling that make this book the gem it is.  Also…the Baz/Simon romantic scenes? Um…steamy.

Like many of Rowell’s works, I don’t think this will wow everyone.  There always seems to be debate around her titles.  For me, this was such a winner.  If you loved Fangirl, I would definitely pick this one up.  Such a fun way to connect two books together.  And really, if you’ve ever enjoyed any of Rowell’s writing, pick this up.  It’s fun, quirky, and basically everything you could expect from a Rainbow Rowell Chosen One motif!

On Audio Reading

I’ve reviewed several audio books here at We Still Read, so it might surprise you to know that I’ve only recently become an audio book reader. Other than a few books on tape we listened to on long car rides and my beloved Harry Potter audio, I haven’t done much reading via audio.  I have a great love for paper books, and I wasn’t sure I had the attention span to listen to audio.  My mind tends to wander, so I figured I’d struggle to pay attention.

Then, this past spring I decided to listen to As You Wish by Cary Elwes.  His excellent storytelling and narration made paying attention a breeze, and I quickly became hooked on audio reading. My worry about audio keeping my attention was unfounded.  In fact, I have found that listening to audio books helps me zone out in exactly the right way.  A huge component of my job is having conversations with people.  I spend a lot of time carefully considering what I will say and how I will say it.  After coaching sessions, I reflect on how those conversations have gone and plan for the next conversation.  But…sometimes (ok, pretty much all the time), I start to over analyze the conversation and I cannot turn my brain off.  Audio books draw enough of my attention so that I can focus on the story and not on replaying conversations over in my head.

I’ve also found audio books to be a great way to enjoy genres I may not normally choose.  Celebrity biographies, for example.  Not my usual cup of tea when it comes to reading, but they make for fantastic listening!  I’ve also discovered the joy of rereading via audio.  Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy stole my heart when I read it, and getting to enjoy it again on audio was amazing. I’m so glad that I finally gave audio a chance!

Are you an audio book reader? What are some of your favorite books to listen to?

Audio Review: Etiquette and Espionage


From Goodreads: Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education

Erin’s Thoughts: Absolutely enchanting, completely delightful, funny, and just plain fun.  I’ve now listened to the first three books in this series and I am desperate for the fourth to come out because they make my car rides and workouts amazing. I have to admit that I didn’t think that steampunk was really “my thing”, but these books have proven me wrong.  Carriger’s writing is full of humor and those great tongue in cheek moments that I always love so much.  The narration by Moira Quick is so well done!  Her voices make the characters completely come to life.  Plus, how could you not love a finishing school for intelligentsias, mechanical pups name Bumbersnoot, and ridiculous characters with names like Lord Dingleproops.  These books are such a treat! While the Finishing School series is Young Adult, I’m excited to check out Carriger’s adult series, The Parasol Protectorate and The Custard Protocol.

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