book review

Red Queen Review and Design Reveal

I have to tell you guys that I have some of the best friends out there. This summer I told my girlfriends that I wanted to start a book club and they instantly all agreed to join the club. If you are a lover of books and aren’t a member of a book club, I highly recommend you go out and join one as soon as possible. Trust me, you’ll love it!

For the month of August we read and discussed Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. What a great first book to select!  It’s a real winner!

Here’s a quick synopsis of the book

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood--those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard--a growing Red rebellion--even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal (source).

My Top 4 Reason Why I Choose to Recommend this Book as Our First Read

  1. I’m a sucker for young adult books, especially sci-fi dystopian books.
  2. Every book blog I read was recommending I read this book. I trust the opinions of the bloggers I read so I had to give it a shot.
  3. I locked myself out of the house one day this summer and, instead of waiting for my husband to get home and let me in, I walked down to the library to check out Red Queen. I spent the next several hours sitting under the tree on our front lawn waiting for Justin to get home. The tree trunk provided a great back support and the gentle breeze made for a relaxing summer afternoon. I was instantly drawn into Mare Barrow’s world and knew I wanted to share it with others.
  4. The book left me wanting to know more. What will be the fate of the Silvers? What will be the fate of the Reds? What will be the fate of Mare? I wanted to discuss possible outcomes and theories about what would happen next.

We had such a fun time discussing this book together. We literally talked about books for three hours that night. While enjoyed for delicious snacks and drinks, but mostly it was all about books. I think book club nights are quickly becoming my favorite night of the month.

After all the girls left, I searched the Internet to see if there was any information about an official Scarlet Guard logo. My efforts left me emptied handed, so last week I sent out a call to all you Red Queen fans to choose a design for the Scarlet Guard. I was elated and surprised to get a comment from Victoria Aveyard informing me that there is an official logo in the book! It turns out that the canon on the torn flag in the end papers of the book is actually the SG logo.

But you probably want to know which logo won, right? It was an extremely close race between Design 1 and Design 2, but Design 2 turned out to be the winner! Thank you to all that voted and shared the post with your friends.


I just listed a new Red Queen inspired design in the shop today. Right now you can get Free Worldwide Shipping till September 13. Don’t miss out!

Don't forget to follow along with Whispering Words and be the first to hear all about new bookish designs and book reviews. 

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5 Important Lessons I Learned from To Kill a Mockingbird

There are events in history that develop into defining moments. July 4, 1776 for the United States. July 20, 1969 for all mankind. November 9, 1989 for Berlin. I didn’t know it at the time but the autumn of 2004 would become a defining moment in the history of my life.

Mrs. Hamil-Cole, my ninth grade English teacher, stood in the front of the brightly lit classroom. The whole left side of the room was cased with large windows. It was nice. You never felt like you were trapped inside a prison when you had class in a room that lined the perimeter of the school. Her elbows rested at a forty-five degree angle on her wooden podium as she leaned forward to read from the open book in her hand.

“‘First of all,’ he said, ‘if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…’

‘Sir?’

‘Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.’’

I found myself lost in these words the same way I was the night before as I read them over and over again. I’d read a lot of books in my short fourteen years of existence, and I really do mean A LOT OF BOOKS, but never had one reached out and tugged at my heart the way that To Kill a Mockingbird just did.

For three whole weeks we dissected, devoured, and ingested Harper Lee’s words. I was so deeply moved by this literary masterpiece and the way it connected to each and every one of us in the room that I made the decision to become an English teacher. Since early childhood I wavered between the idea of being a librarian or being a teacher. One day I’d say I want to be a librarian, then the next day I’d say I want to be a teacher. A complete back and forth, up and down, never making up my mind routine. Being a librarian would have been great. I could recommend books to kids, create reading challenges, and decorate the library with extravagant displays. Being an English teacher, though, I could help kids understand the beauty of the words they read and help shape the way they looked at the world and the people within it.

***

I picked this book up to reread again because Go Set a Watchman is scheduled to release on July 14. The story unfolds 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird and features my favorite characters: Scout and Atticus Finch. I have mix feelings about this book release. A part of me is eager to travel back to Maycomb County and experience another journey with these characters, but the other parts of me are leery of this new book. At nearly 90 year olds, Harper Lee, who is hard of hearing and has poor eyesight, will release her second novel. The manuscript of Go Set a Watchman was actually finished in the mid-1950s —before Mockingbird was published in 1960— but Lee set it aside when her editor suggested she write about Scout's flashbacks. The manuscript was only recently found among some papers her publicist and attorney were looking through. Many feel that Lee’s been taken advantage of in her old age. Aside from the controversy and the mystery of how the manuscript was located, a larger part of me fears this book will not be as magnificent as Mockingbird and I’ll be left sad and disappointed.   

Because Mockingbird means so much to me, I wanted to share with you, my readers,  five important lessons I learned from it.

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Lesson 1:  Don’t let ‘em get your goat.

There are people in life that want nothing more than to belittle, poke-fun, shame, and ridicule others. They seek to steal people’s goats, their inner peace. Having spent most of my life as an oversensitive individual, I know how easy it is for the “goat stealers” to leave an impact. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is the biggest lie ever recited. Words have a way to fester into the deepest corners of your brain and linger there long after physical wounds have disappeared. It’s hard to shake them away, to erase them from your consciousness. You want to get angry, to lose your temper, to fight back the pain, but when you give the goat stealers the power to really upset you, to change how you see yourself, they win. So hold your head high, stay true to yourself, and don’t let others rob you of your joy.

Lesson 2: Hatred of any kind-not just racism-is a deadly venom that will destroy you.

Just like a tapeworm burrows into you sucking away at your life source so too will hatred burrow into your heart. It will attach itself and quickly takes over. As it slithers through the chambers of your heart, manipulating you with its whispers to hate and hate and hate, it leaves behind its path of destruction till your heart is hardened and covered in its poison. Even the smallest seed of hatred will find a way to manifest itself, to demand your attention and take away the feelings that matter. Hatred of the color of a man’s skin, hatred of another man’s religion, hatred of a man’s culture, hatred of___ you fill in the blank. It doesn’t matter what kind, because if you don’t eradicate the hatred, it will consume you till nothing is left.

Lesson 3: We need to see life through the eyes of children.

“I think there is just one kind of folks. Folks.” Scout beautifully makes this statement towards the end of the novel, and Jem reaffirms her thinking when he mentions he believed the same thing. Through the eyes of a child people are seen as people. There’s no black, white, rich, poor, smart, dumb.  People are viewed as equals in Scout’s eyes. Atticus, too, hold these words as truth. When it comes down to it, we are just that: people.

Lesson 4: This truth is worth fighting for even if you’re fighting a losing battle.

If there is one lesson which applies to all facets of life it's lesson four. Truth and justice matter. It is worth our time and effort for others to see what is just and fair. We must fight for what’s right even if no one will listen or care. We stand up for the truth because it matters. The moment we stop fighting for what is right is the moment we lose it forever. Yeah, it's tough fighting a losing battle but it must happen.

Lesson 5: The world needs more Atticus Finches.

This book rips open my heart each time I read it. I’m forced to reevaluate the way I see others and the manner in which we conduct our lives and I always come to the same conclusion. The world needs more men and women who will camp outside prison cells at night to protect the innocent. Men and women who teach their children to be kind and understanding to people in all circumstances. Men and women who attack tough situations with tenacity and confidence, who think with both their head and their heart.  Men and women who are slow to anger and abounding in love, who fight with their words instead of their fists. Men and women who are not ashamed to stand up for what's right —even if they stand alone— so that justice is brought to light. Men and women who see past the prejudice that corrupt our past, present, and future and instead see individuals for who they truly are. The world needs more people who will embody the courage, grace, selflessness, and wisdom of Atticus Finch.


Stay tuned for my thoughts on Go Set a Watchman; the book arrives on my front steps on Tuesday. In the meantime, you can head over here and read the first chapter. Make sure you check out the designs below inspired by the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird. I had a lot of fun making these prints. Enjoy! 

These prints are supplied from Whispering Words Design and are available for your personal use. You may not use these downloads for professional or commercial use. 

Download See and Hear 8.5x 11 print

Download Leave Her Wild 5x7 print

Download Consider Things From His Point of View 5x7 print

Download Don't Let 'Em Get Your Goat 4x6 print

Download One Does Not Love Breathing 5x7 print

Download Hey, Boo iPhone wallpaper

 

People aren't always as they seem: The Girl on the Train Book Review


It seems that I can read books faster than I can write reviews about them. I just finished book number eight for the summer. Hooray! Yet here I am typing up my thoughts for book number three. Hopefully I'll start to get in a rhyme where I can spend more time writing about what I read. 

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Everyday is the same for Rachel. Each morning she goes through the motions of heading off to work to elude her roommate from the truth. Instead, she spends her day staring out the window of the commuter train as flashes of suburban homes pass by. She eagerly awaits the signal stop where she watches the same couple eat breakfast on their balcony each morning. She begins to believe she knows everything about them. Until today. She sees something that she shouldn’t and now everything has changed for Rachel. Soon she is deeply entangled in a police investigation where she struggles to remember what happened the night the girl from the balcony disappeared.

Told from the perspective of an extravagant alcoholic, readers start to piece together Rachel’s story as the murky clouds of drunkenness slowly begin to disappear from her mind and she is able to replay her life through sober eyes. The Girl on the Train is a thrilling and compulsive read that will forever change the way you look at people. I wish I could say that the novel kept me at the edge of my seat the entire time, but then I’d be lying. About half-way through I figured out the ending and soon lost my intense interest in finishing it. What I appreciated most about Hawkins’s story is the way she addresses society's fascination with other people’s lives.

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People aren’t always as they seem. Our society focuses on the idea that every minute of our lives needs to be documented and recorded for the world to see, but no one really knows what’s behind the camera. We start to see photos of people we know and we question them. Is that a real smile? Are they truly happy together? How is their life so much better than mine? The only life we see is the one in the camera. When we finally find out what’s behind the lens our perspective changes.

We are quick to covet the lives of others based on snapshots that glorify the better parts of their life. We are quick to judge other by the pretenses we create by watching them from afar. We struggle to find our own happiness because we compare our everyday moments to the picture perfect photographs we like on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest. Like Rachel, we find ourselves staring out the window at a life we wish was our own. We must learn that there is more to life than the pictures we create.  

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What are your thoughts on The Girl on the Train? Do you ever find yourself fantasizing about the life of someone else around you? 

May the FORCE be with you: Star Wars, Episode IV A New Hope Book Review

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A Summary 

 In a galaxy far, far away Luke Skywalker dreams of adventure but is stuck living a boring life on his uncle's farm. His life quickly changes when he intercepts a mysterious message from a princess trapped by the Empire. With an old hermit, a smuggler and his Wookie companion, and two trouble-making droids, Luke embarks on a mission to save the princess but encounters more than he bargained for. 

My Top three LIKES from Stars Wars A New Hope

1. Biggs and Skywalker’s relationship // In the exposition of the novel we encounter a brief interaction with Luke and his dear friend Biggs. Biggs is about to leave Tatooine and travel to join the rebellion forces, while Luke Skywalker, desperate to join Biggs, must stay and live his mundane life on his uncle’s farm. This short scene gives a backstory that isn’t seen in the movie. Readers are able to better understand the relationship between the two characters and empathize with Luke later on when his best friend is blown up in his X-wing while trying to attack the Death Star.

We’re a couple of shooting stars, Biggs, and we’ll never be stopped.
— Luke Skywalker

2. The Storyline Design // Multiple stories are told at once in this action packed adventure. There is Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine. Princess Lia stuck aboard the Death Star. Han Solo and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon. Artoo Detoo and See Threepio getting into all sorts of trouble in various places throughout the galaxy. The layout and the design of the book creates smooth transitions for the reader to flawlessly transition from one character's story to the next in a similar fashion that Lucas uses in his films. One story frame would simply wipe in front of my eyes and be replaced by another. 

3. It's Star Wars // I liked this book for the simple fact that it is Star Wars. The Star Wars story is a timeless classic, a story I've enjoyed since early childhood. 

Even though Lucas is credited with being the author of the book, the novelization was created by Alan Dean Foster based on Lucas’s working script at the time the movie was in production.

Even though Lucas is credited with being the author of the book, the novelization was created by Alan Dean Foster based on Lucas’s working script at the time the movie was in production.

My top three DISLIKES from Stars Wars A New Hope

1.  Poor Writing // The story is lacking in detail and substance. I thought it would offer more light into the beginning of the Star Wars saga, provide more of a background.  Not so much. It is laden with poorly described scenes and characters. Kenobi is made out to be an old, crazy wizard who smokes a pipe all day in his cave. When I came across this section of the story, I felt like I was in the wrong sic-fi story. This is more Lord of the Rings details than Star Wars. Then there are areas with poor similes and metaphors. For example, "Luke's mind was as muddy as a pond laced with petroleum." Talk about bad imagery. In addition, I struggled with the lack of word choice. The word bowels is excessively used to describe any moment a place is located deep within something. 

  • "The central briefing room was located deep within the bowels of the temple." 
  • "There was a brief moan,the whoosh of powerful vacuum, and the small robot was sucked into the bowels of sand crawler as neatly as a pea up a straw."
  • "As they traveled farther and deeper into the bowels of the gigantic station, they found it increasingly difficult to maintain an air of casual indifference."

Give me some variety, please! 

2. Too many Earth references // These are several Earth references that surface in the book. They just don't fit within this realm and leave the reader and the characters confused.  

"I understand you're quite the pilot yourself. Piloting and navigation aren't hereditary, but a number of the things that can combine to make a good small-ship pilot are. Those you may have inherited. Still, even a duck has to be taught to swim." 

"What's a duck?" Luke asked curiously. 

3. Chunky Dialogue// I always tell my students that the book is better than the movie. This book, however, is not the case. The movie is far superior than the book. The novelization is filled with unnecessary changes in dialogue that slow down the story instead of progress it. I've watched the movie so many times that it was easy to pick up on the poorly altered dialogue. 


I decided to read through this novelization after discovering one of my close friends has yet to ever experience the Star Wars galaxy in any form! Don’t worry, we’re on course to fix this real soon. It was great to draw back into the world of Star Wars through text as the book was a fun read; however,  it does not come close to the beauty and wonder that is George Lucas’s Star Wars. I highly recommend that you choose the movie over the book.


If you’ve read the novelization, how would you rate this book? What ways do you stay connected to the galaxy far, far away…?

Download That's no moon 5x7 print

Download Tatooine iPhone wallpaper

Download Tatooine 5x7 print

Download The Force Surrounds You 5x7 print

These prints are supplied from Whispering Words Design and are available for your personal use only. You may not use these downloads for professional or commercial use. 

The Color of Extraordinary: The Sky is Everywhere Book Review

For the majority of the year I am a seventh grade language arts teacher. Last Friday, my cohort of young minds spent their last day in seventh grade and embarked on the much anticipated summer vacation. While I will continue to teach throughout the summer as an online summer school teacher, I wanted to create a space to document my journey of discovery as I explore new pieces of literature. I’m excited to see what new worlds I will travel to and new friends I will meet along the way. So without further ado, here is the first of many books I will read and then review this summer.

Seventeen year old Lennie Walker’s life is shattered with the sudden death of her beloved sister, Bailey. In the months that follow, Lennie is unable to shake away the cloud of grief that hovers over her. The new boy in town, Jon Fontaine, possesses the power to help her forget her pain and sorrow, but Toby, her sister’s boyfriend, helps her keep Bailey alive. Lennie struggles to sort out her identity as she navigates the story of her life. Having spent most of her life on the sidelines while her sister takes center stage, Lennie starts to realize she can no longer be the company pony. She must be the racehorse.

My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy

This is my second book this month written by Jandy Nelson. I stumbled upon her other novel I’ll Give You the Sun while out at Barnes and Noble with my husband. I was captivated by her writing style in IGYTS, so I figured I would check out her debut novel The Sky is Everywhere. Like IGYTS, this book takes place in California. The back cover synopsis sets the story up to be about a love triangle, but love is only one part of this story. The love is entangled in grief, loss, and despair. It is a story about finding oneself again after dealing with a life shattering event.

I had very high expectations about TSIE after reading IGYTS, but found that I liked IGYTS much more. However, this is not a review about IGYTS--maybe that can be a discussion for another post. It took me a few chapters to really get into Lennie’s story. I wasn’t able to connect quickly to any of the characters, not because of Nelson’s writing, but because I’ve never experienced a heart wrenching loss before. Nelson’s poetic nature and ability to capture words is what really kept my attention while reading this novel. Each chapter is bookended by Lennie's poems, which creates a diary type story and ultimately reveals the depth of Lennie's pain.

You can't help but fall in love with her Uncle Big and surrogate mother Gram. Big, with his unconventional bug pyramids and pot smoking habits, serves as a light in the post-Bailey Walker household. He is a critical character on Lennie's path through grief as he shares words of wisdom and reminds Lennie of her dreams.

Gram, with her green thumb, artist skills, and self-sacrificing nature, serves as the mother figure. Lennie's mother left when she was a year old due to what the family calls the "restless gene" and Gram's been taking care of her ever since. Gram put the needs of her own family above her own pain and sorrow.  

These Walkers keep their pain to themselves, and Uncle Big and Gram are no exception. Big smokes his pain away while Gram saves her crying for the shower because she thinks no one can hear her.

Many pages in the book were dogeared because I was struck by the beauty of Nelson's words. There are several memorable lines from this novel, but the one that stood out the most and continued to resonate with me long after I closed the back cover was, "Each time someone dies, a library burns."

I never thought of life in this way, but it's true. Each of us are our own libraries. We hold all of the wisdom and knowledge and creativity and wonder inside us. And there isn't anyway to save the books that live within our brain.

Nelson does a beautiful job of tying together the themes of wanderlust, identity, betrayal, and abandonment in her emotional debut novel. Readers will laugh out loud and cry alongside Lennie as they travel through her emotional roller coaster of grief.

To catch a glimpse at memorable lines from this story, check out the designs below. I know I keep saying it--but Nelson has a way with words that truly speak to you. Pick up one of her novels today and see for yourself. You will not be disappointed