Sunday, November 29, 2015

$50 Target Gift Card CYBER SMILE Giveaway!

I am giving away 1 $50 Target gift card to say THANK YOU for putting a smile on my face this year!


How It Works:

1. Like the entry post on my Facebook page.
2. Tag a friend
3. Leave a comment sharing what makes you smile

The winner will be announced on Thursday, December 3rd. Thank you for all of your love and support over the past two years! Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Not-So-Crazy Literacy and Math Center Rotations

Hello Teacher Friends! I bet you are looking at my center rotation board and thinking WHAT IN THE WORLD!???? The first time I saw it, I thought the same thing. Before you think that there is no way, please bear with me.


I began teaching kindergarten four years ago at a pretty small school. At the time, there were only two teachers in kindergarten, and my teaching partner used a system like this. We have tweaked our board over the years as we have grown, but it has mostly stayed the same.

REASONS I LOVE IT
  • We put our centers out on Friday afternoon before we leave and they are set up for the entire next week. This eliminates all of the running around each day for your new material. Additionally, if you happen to be out sick, it is ready to go for your sub and the kids know the routine!
  • Centers are spread across the room. With only 2-3 students max at each center, you will experience a (mostly) quiet literacy and math block. (By the way, we use this for math and literacy. I am only going to show our literacy center activities in this post.)
  • Our first grade team does the Daily 5 and they rave about how the kindergarteners come to first grade knowing how to rotate. I loved the idea of doing the Daily 5, but I also wanted a more routine way for our kindergarteners to participate in certain activities every week (i.e. computer time, writing center, etc.).
  • I have a rotation playlist on my iPod that we play during centers. Specific songs tell students when to rotate. It is so nice to not have to do the talking sometimes! P.S. I tried to make a Spotify playlist to share my center rotation playlists with you, but they don't have an option not to shuffle the songs, and they CANNOT be shuffled. I will post again soon with snapshots of the playlists and where you can purchase the music.


HOW IT WORKS
  • The letters at the top of the chart stand for the days of the week. I move a magnetic eraser over the day to help students easily locate what centers they are going to. I do run through their center numbers quickly before we go to center rotations.
  • The star on the cards stands for the teacher table. Because we are the stars, right?
  • There are 10 centers around the room. These ten centers are marked with large numbers and glued in order around the room. Students will complete all ten centers by the end of the week. Several of the centers are routine, so you are not constantly introducing new centers. You can read more about what we do at each center below.
  • Our class sizes have grown over the past two years, and I can no longer meet with each reading group every day. My two highest reading groups meet with me every other day. On their off days, they go to a Smart Shop (SS) instead of seeing me. Smart Shops are additional activities that students can choose from throughout the week if they are finished with their work. With these groups, I will sometimes gives them something specific to work on. Right now they are working on first grade blends independently. I use Babbling Abby's Blend Books for my advanced kindergarten readers
  • I do not meet with a small group on Friday. Instead, I pull students over for assessments. We do a fun Rainbow Sight Word program that the kids love, and I test that on Friday. Once students have completed the two centers for that day, they have the remaining twenty minutes to complete any unfinished work for the week and turn it in.

BUT WHY DID YOU DO THAT?
  • You'll notice that my group with the star as their second center only has two rows of students. This is on purpose. This should be your group that meets with you every day and may need a smaller setting and extra support.
  • If you look at the bottom two rows you will notice that there are two groups of students who go to the same center as another group at the same time on Friday. This couldn't be avoided with having four groups. I made sure that these center numbers (Center 6 and Center 3) were activities that could be worked on at their seat and were not group activities.

BUT WHAT IF THAT DOESN'T WORK FOR ME?

I know that every classroom looks different. If you have four groups, you may want your students to read independently on days they are not meeting with you instead of doing a Smart Shop. You may only have three reading groups and not four, so you don't need Smart Shops at all! Or you may want to meet on Fridays. Don't you worry. I have included several different options for your board, so you can personalize it. My board actually looks different than my teaching partner's board.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO IMPLEMENT?

Our kindergarten team does complete whole group in reading until Labor Day. After Labor Day we do 1-2 weeks of three center rotations as a whole class. During this time they do not meet with the teacher, but we monitor and help during center rotations. Mid-September they do three rotations and meet with the teacher, but they are still not using the big board. We typically move to the large board around the third week in September.

WHAT DO YOU DO AT YOUR CENTERS?

I will show you pictures of all ten of my centers and example activities that we do at each one.

CENTER 1


I have a little table at center 1, so I like for this activity to be a partner activity or something that needs more space. I am gearing up for Thanksgiving, so students are making a Thanksgiving dinner menu using word cards. I love Having Fun in Primary's Thanksgiving Literacy and Math MEGA Unit.

CENTER 2


I have a pocket chart hanging from the wall under my Smartboard, so I do a lot of pocket chart activities at center 2. Next week, my students will sequence Thanksgiving sentences. Advanced students will record their sentences as well. I laminate file folders and hot glue them to the wall next to some of my numbers when I need to place papers in there for them.

CENTER 3


This student news center is the same ALL YEAR! Woot! Students write about what is going on in their lives. They can choose from several different types of news. We keep their news and put them in a folder and send them home at the end of the year. This a great way to see progress in students' writing throughout the year. It also happens to be one of their favorite center activities! I also choose three students' work to display on our What's the Scoop Board (which I found somewhere out in Pinterest Land).


CENTER 4


Another center that stays the same all year is the listening center. Students listen to a book on tape and then respond to the reading. What's great about this, is that you can change the response over the year to make it harder, but the overall routine stays the same for your students.

CENTER 5


Center 5 is my writing center. Occasionally, I will have students free write, but I absolutely LOVE the emergent readers that are included in Having Fun in Primary's Mega Bundles. Many of them require the student to read each page and then cut and paste the correct illustration for the page. Love this to monitor students' comprehension of a text. The students also love coloring their books afterwards with markers!

CENTER 6


Center 6 is always our dictionary. Students complete the focus letter for the week in their dictionary and turn it in for me to check. There are a few weeks when we are reviewing that I might have a different activity out for them, but it mostly stays the same. We use My First Dictionary which I created last year. A bonus is that it is differentiated. Below the dictionary you can see my Smart Shops and Math Tubs. I will save information on those for another day.

CENTER 7


Center 7 is computers.....always a kindergarten favorite! I love doing ABC Bingo or Sight Word Bingo on www.abcya.com.

CENTER 8


Center 8 is Write the Room. Write the Room is fantastic for getting your students up and moving around. I choose thematic write the rooms to match what we are learning about in science and social studies.

CENTER 9


I change up center 9 throughout the year. At the beginning of the year, I tend to put out a beginning sound sort and have students take it back to their seat. As the year progresses, students spend time in the reading center where they complete a task based off of the book that they choose to read.

CENTER 10


I change up Center 10 each week. Sometimes I put out letter roll dice games. Other times I do silly vs. nonsense word sorts. At this point of the year, I am doing activities where students sound out words and record them on their recording sheet. My little table in the back is great for a partner activity, so I love to have them working together here.

We love how we do math and literacy centers, but there are so many different ways to do them! If you want to implement these in your own classroom, you can check it out HERE.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Texas Forever, Y'all!



There are only two things that could have made our trip to Texas better. 1) No rain. Thanks, Tropical Storm Bill. 2) A Tim Riggins sighting. Texas Forever!



Seriously, we had such a fun time in Austin. We didn't get out as much as we would have liked due to the appearance of Tropical Storm Bill, but I had a great time catching up with Jeremy and Jarett. On Tuesday morning, we woke up to the puppies just being cute. So I have to share the cute puppy pics. I pretty much wanted to steal Olive and Brooklyn and take them home with me.



Later that morning, Jeremy took us down to the state capitol which was really neat. Apparently, it is the largest capitol building in use in our country. Definitely beautiful and ornate! Looking up at the dome from the inside was pretty impressive. We had a quick lunch at a really delicious BBQ place and then had to run home because it started pouring down sheets of rain. So we ended up back at the house, and I watched The Bachelor On Demand....how's that for vacation for you? It was actually heavenly. Their guest bed is like a big, fluffy marshmallow.



Lucky for us, their was a break in the rain and we made it out for dinner at a local little joint called Sapo. OMG. You know how they say that Texas does everything bigger? Well, look at this HUMONGOUS tostada burger. That's right. I said tostada burger. Do you see the tostada in that burger!?? Sarah Thomas and my Be Healthy Challengers, if you are out there reading this post, I ate half of it and like three fries!!! Which was PLENTY. I had never had anything like it. Oh, and the guacamole was amazing.



Good thing I only hate half of that burger. Had to save some room for dessert, right!? The boys suggested that we grab a cupcake from Sugar Mama's down the road. Holy Moly. My dad and I split a Blueberry and Peach Cobbler Cupcake and a Strawberry Shortcake Cupcake. Holy Moly. Melt in your mouth cupcakes. Jarett and Jeremy ate Strawberry Shortcake and Carrot Cake. Mmmmmmm! After being fully stuffed, we laid around and watched PLL and Chrisley Knows Best. I had never seen Chrisley Knows Best, but oh my goodness. It is HILARIOUS. Where can I watch the past three seasons? Anyone?


Alas, we had to leave Austin. Tears. Until next time. Our next big stop was Santa Fe, New Mexico. We didn't want to do the entire drive in one day, so we decided to drive to Lubbock and stay the night there. Oh my goodness. You people were not kidding when you said that the drive through West Texas was boring. Eek! This was pretty much what my drive was like the entire 7 hours. I will say that I loved seeing some of the ranch signs on the way. I geeked out a little bit.



But, never fear! I occupied my time reversing the previous night's choices by eating fresh fruit and green bean chips! We spent a pretty uneventful night in Lubbock. The most exciting thing that happened was my workout I did in the fitness room. No one was in there, and I just blasted my music up high and did some weights and a little running. I am currently in New Mexico until Saturday! It is gorgeous so far. I will try to blog about it soon. I can't wait to tell you all about the antique salt and pepper shakes that I purchased. Until then!

Eating (Mostly!) Clean on the Road

Hey y'all!!! My dad and I are heading out west! I'm so excited I can barely contain myself. I have had several people ask me to keep them updated and to try and blog throughout the trip, so I am going to try my very best to update as often as I can! We left yesterday morning from Memphis and are currently in Austin, Texas. I came to Austin last summer for the first time, and I am so happy to be back and visiting with our fabulous hosts, Jeremy and Jarrett.


One thing that I have been the MOST nervous about is staying on track with my food and fitness on the road. I snuck some weights and resistance band in the back of the car, wondering if they will actually see the light of day. Lucky for me, Jeremy invited to his boot camp this morning. Yep. That kicked my butt. Thanks, Synergy Fitness, for allowing me to eat more breakfast tacos. Kidding. But, seriously....

I have splurged on some delicious Tex-Mex and BBQ so far down here, which I am sure that I will do at times on this trip, but I was DETERMINED not to stop anywhere on the road for snacks, lunch, etc. In an effort to be prepared, I did what any foodie would do. Peruse Pinterest. Read blogs. Stalk everyone else's social media pages. So, thank you, you clean-eating gurus for your tips and tricks for the road. This is NOT perfect, because I'm not perfect. But definitely better choices than I might have made a year ago. Here is what I ended up with.:



If you have any questions about any of the items in the picture, just ask! I will TRY to write about our time here in Texas later today or tomorrow!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Honey Banana & Papaya Smoothie Bowl

Oh. My. Goodness! Smoothie bowls, I have just discovered you and don't ever want to give you up! As many of you know I have been working on incorporating more clean foods into my diet. This has been going well, but I definitely still struggle with sweets. I had my first smoothie bowls about a week ago, and have made several more at home since then. I can honestly say they are delicious, healthy, and curb my cravings for sweets.

Last week I had my first experience over at Fit Food Revolution in Green Hills. The Strawberry-Banana Protein Bowl is to die for. Please take note of the healthy chocolate magic shell drizzle on top. Yum! I ate this around 4:00. I was surprised by the amount of energy I had that evening and how I didn't want to eat for the rest of the night.


The energy was incredible, so I decided to experiment and concoct a few of my own bowls at home in my handy-dandy Vitamix. Today I might have met perfection in a bowl. Meet the Honey Banana & Papaya Smoothie Bowl. It tastes like a Hawaiian summer vacation. I was inspired by a post I read over on Kimberly Snyder's blog where she describes papaya's skin beautifying benefits. And who doesn't want pretty skin?


I have included approximate portions of the ingredients below. It's pretty flexible, so just add more or less of the things that you like!

Ingredients:

For the smoothie:

3/4 of a frozen banana
1/2 cup of chopped papaya
1/2 cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon of shredded coconut

Topping Ideas:

shredded coconut
sliced banana
honey drizzle
granola (I used KIND Oats & Honey Clusters with Toasted Coconut)

Directions:
Place smoothie ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and load it up with your favorite toppings!


Mmmmmmmmmm! is all I have to say! Let me know your thoughts or variations that you try!




Sunday, February 15, 2015

Kindergarten RTI: Letter Identification Essentials (Intervention & Small Group Resources)

Happy February, my friends! I hope you are all surviving these cold temperatures. I am currently sitting on the couch, fire in fireplace, with hot chocolate in hand. This is how I am feeling right at this moment.....


And since I don't have a million things to get ready for tomorrow, I thought I would FINALLY update the good old blog. I recently revised some of my RTI resources due to some of my students' needs and thought I would share! I am loving intervention time with my little kindergarteners. I'm not going to lie...my other students get a little bit jealous of the activities that we are doing at our table. That might have to be my next project!

The way that our schedule works, I have about 25 minutes to work with my small group. My teaching partners and I actually switch students due to the size of our school and students who need the support. The first half of the year, my group is mainly working on letter identification. Below are some of the resources that you will find in the letter identification bundle I created.


I keep all of my materials in a binder to stay somewhat organized. All students who are receiving intervention at my school have their own individual red folder. I put materials in plastic sleeves so that students can use them over and over again!


I introduce the focus letter each week by displaying the "I Can" poster and reviewing the "I Can" statement for the week.


I showcase several pictures of words that begin with the focus letter. My group typically works as a group to identify the beginning letter in each word. We then go back and search for other letters that we know.


Students work independently to find the focus letter, regardless of font! They love this!


The Roadrunner Read is a great way to practice letter name fluency. Students can highlight the focus letter and then practice reading the letters as fast as they can. Time students and then have them try to beat their own time!


Students can use dry-erase markers to practice forming the focus letter by placing the paper in a page protector. You can choose not to use the page protector and use some old-fashioned paper and pencil. :)


This is a great way to review and/or assess towards the end of the week! In our county we use the STARS assessment bi-weekly to monitor students progress, but I have included two different ways to assess your students as needed. And let's face it....sometimes you just need more than one type of assessment method.

What resources do you use during your intervention block?









Friday, January 2, 2015

The Nighstand Diaries #3: 25 Books to Read in 2015


Happy New Year! I hope that your new year is starting out as amazing as mine! I have spent the last few weeks catching up with family, road tripping to New Orleans, ringing in the new year with friends, and of course relaxing with a good book...or two. Over the last few weeks I have noticed the plethora of books on my bookshelves that have yet to be read. My resolution for 2015 is to read the books on this list BEFORE I purchase any new books. The only exception is if George R.R. Martin FINALLY releases The Winds of Winter. :) Which books are you reading this year?

1. The Hypnotist's Love Story by Liane Moriarty


Overview: Ellen O’Farrell is a professional hypnotherapist who works out of the eccentric beachfront home she inherited from her grandparents. It’s a nice life, except for her tumultuous relationship history. She’s stoic about it, but at this point, Ellen wouldn’t mind a lasting one. When she meets Patrick, she’s optimistic. He’s attractive, single, employed, and best of all, he seems to like her back. Then comes that dreaded moment: He thinks they should have a talk.

Braced for the worst, Ellen is pleasantly surprised. It turns out that Patrick’s ex-girlfriend is stalking him. Ellen thinks, Actually, that’s kind of interesting. She’s dating someone worth stalking. She’s intrigued by the woman’s motives. In fact, she’d even love to meet her.

Ellen doesn’t know it, but she already has.

2. The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley


Overview: Spanning from the 1930s to the present day, from the Wharton Park estate in England to Thailand, this sweeping novel tells the tale of a concert pianist and the aristocratic Crawford family, whose shocking secrets are revealed, leading to devastating consequences.

As a child, concert pianist Julia Forrester spent many idyllic hours in the hothouse of Wharton Park, the grand estate reminiscent of Downton Abbey where her grandfather tended exotic orchids. Years later, while struggling with overwhelming grief over the death of her husband and young child, she returns to this tranquil place. There she reunites with Kit Crawford, heir to the estate and her possible salvation.

When they discover an old diary, Julia seeks out her grandmother to learn the truth behind a love affair that almost destroyed the estate. Their search takes them back to the 1940s when Harry, a former heir to Wharton Park, married his young society bride, Olivia, on the eve of World War II. When the two lovers are cruelly separated, the impact will be felt for generations to come.

This atmospheric story alternates between the magical world of Wharton Park and Thailand during World War II. Filled with twists and turns, passions and lies, and ultimately redemption, The Orchid House is a beautiful, romantic, and poignant novel.

3. Extra Virgin: A Young Woman Discovers the Italian Riviera, Where Every Month is Enchanted by Annie Hawes


Overview: In 1983, a pale Annie Hawes and her equally pale sister leave England for the sun-drenched olive groves of a small Italian town in Liguria. With fantasies of handsome tanned men and swimming in the sea urging them on, they are hired to work for ten weeks to graft roses -- of which they have little knowledge -- along the Italian Riviera, board and lodging included.

But none of the men seem to be under forty, and Ligurians have particular ideas about life, including swimming ("To go swimming in seawater outside the month of July or August is even worse for your health than drinking cappuccino after twelve noon!"). But Annie and her sister are captivated by San Pietro's quirkiness and beauty, and suddenly their brief stay stretches into years, as they are bemused, charmed, and ultimately accepted by the eccentric inhabitants of their adopted home.

4. Faithful Place by Tana French


Overview: Tana French's In the Woods and The Likeness captivated readers by introducing them to her unique, character-driven style. Her singular skill at creating richly drawn, complex worlds makes her novels not mere whodunits but brilliant and satisfying novels about memory, identity, loss, and what defines us as humans. With Faithful Place, the highly praised third novel about the Dublin Murder squad, French takes readers into the mind of Frank Mackey, the hotheaded mastermind of The Likeness, as he wrestles with his own past and the family, the lover, and the neighborhood he thought he'd left behind for good.

5. Tout Sweet: Hanging Up My High Heels for a New Life in France by Karen Wheeler


Overview: In her mid-thirties, fashion editor Karen has it all: a handsome boyfriend, a fab flat in west London, and an array of gorgeous shoes. But when her boyfriend, Eric, leaves she makes an unexpected decision: to hang up her Manolos and wave good-bye to her glamorous city lifestyle to go it alone in a run-down house in rural Poitou-Charentes, central western France.

6. The 13th Sign by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb


Overview: What if there was a 13th zodiac sign? You’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign. Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s. What about the rest of the world? What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change, and infuriating the other 12 signs?

In this book by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb, Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives, including her own, depend upon it.

7. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez


Overview: It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo s dictatorship. It doesn't have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas The Butterflies.

In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters Minerva, Patria, Maria Teresa, and the survivor, Dede speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

8. Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal


Overview: When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throws in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been—and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum—is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets.

For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Uptown mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places.

9. Summer in the South by Cathy Holton


Overview: After a personal tragedy, Chicago writer Ava Dabrowski quits her job to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee, at the invitation of her old college friend Will Fraser and his two great-aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn. Her charming hosts offer Ava a chance to relax at their idyllic ancestral estate, Woodburn Hall, while working on her first novel.

But Woodburn is anything but quiet: Ancient feuds lurk just beneath its placid surface, and modern-day rivalries emerge as Ava finds herself caught between the competing attentions of Will and his black-sheep cousin Jake. Fascinated by the family’s impressive history—their imposing house filled with treasures, and their mingling with literary lions Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner—Ava stumbles onto rumors about the darker side of the Woodburns’ legacy. Putting aside her planned novel, she turns her creative attentions to the eccentric and tragic clan, a family with more skeletons (and ghosts) in their closets than anyone could possibly imagine. As Ava struggles to write the true story of the Woodburns, she finds herself tangled in the tragic history of a mysterious Southern family whose secrets mirror her own

10. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann


Overview: In 1925, the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett ventured into the Amazon jungle, in search of a fabled civilization. He never returned. Over the years countless perished trying to find evidence of his party and the place he called “The Lost City of Z.” In this masterpiece of narrative nonfiction, journalist David Grann interweaves the spellbinding stories of Fawcett’s quest for “Z” and his own journey into the deadly jungle, as he unravels the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century.

11. The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore


Overview: Nobody in Nashville has a bigger name to live up to than Bezellia Grove. As a Grove, she belongs to one of city’s most prominent families and is expected to embrace her position in high society. That means speaking fluent French, dancing at cotillions with boys from other important families, and mastering the art of the perfect smile.

Also looming large is her given name Bezellia, which has been passed down for generations to the first daughter born to the eldest Grove. The others in the long line of Bezellias shortened the ancestral name to Bee, Zee or Zell. But Bezellia refuses all nicknames and dreams that one day she, too, will be remembered for her original namesake’s courage and passion.

Though she leads a life of privilege, being a Grove is far from easy. Her mother hides her drinking but her alcoholism is hardly a secret. Her father, who spends long hours at work, is distant and inaccessible. For as long as she can remember, she’s been raised by Maizelle, the nanny, and Nathaniel, the handyman. To Bezellia, Maizelle and Nathaniel are cherished family members. To her parents, they will never be more than servants.

Relationships are complicated in 1960s Nashville, where society remains neatly ordered by class, status and skin color. Black servants aren’t supposed to eat at the same table as their white employers. Black boys aren’t supposed to make conversation with white girls. And they certainly aren’t supposed to fall in love. When Bezellia has a clandestine affair with Nathaniel’s son, Samuel, their romance is met with anger and fear from both families. In a time and place where rebelling against the rules carries a steep price, Bezellia Grove must decide which of her names will be the one that defines her.

12. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


Overview: Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under.

13. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen


Overview: Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

14. Sold by Patricia McCormick


Overview: Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family's crops, Lakshmi's stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family.

He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at "Happiness House" full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.

An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family's debt-then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.

Lakshmi's life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother's words-Simply to endure is to triumph-and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision-will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?

15. Morning Glory by Sarah Jio


Overview: Fleeing an East Coast life marred by tragedy, Ada Santorini takes up residence on houseboat number seven on Boat Street. She discovers a trunk left behind by Penny Wentworth, a young newlywed who lived on the boat half a century earlier. Ada longs to know her predecessor’s fate, but little suspects that Penny’s mysterious past and her own clouded future are destined to converge.

16. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson


Overview: Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.

17. The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett


Overview: Nine months after the death of his beloved wife Amanda left him shattered, Peter Byerly, a young antiquarian bookseller, relocates from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to outrun his grief and rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, he discovers a Victorian watercolor of a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Amanda.

Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins and braves a host of dangers to follow a trail of clues back across the centuries—all the way to Shakespeare’s time and a priceless literary artifact that could prove, once and for all, the truth about the Bard’s real identity.

18. The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett, and Amanda Pressner


Overview:
With their thirtieth birthdays looming, Jen, Holly, and Amanda are feeling the pressure to hit certain milestones—score the big promotion, find a soul mate, have 2.2 kids. Instead, they make a pact to quit their jobs, leave behind everything familiar, and embark on a yearlong round-the-world search for inspiration and direction.

Traveling 60,000 miles across four continents, Jen, Holly, and Amanda push themselves far outside their comfort zones to embrace every adventure. Ultimately, theirs is a story of true friendship—a bond forged by sharing beds and backpacks, enduring exotic illnesses, trekking across mountains, and standing by one another through heartaches, whirlwind romances, and everything in the world in between

19. Southern as a Second Language by Lisa Patton


Overview: Not only do Southerners talk slowly, sometimes the whole language is hard to understand. No one realizes that more than Memphis belle Leelee Satterfield. Now that she’s back home, and starting a new relationship with Peter, the Yankee chef from her New England inn, you’d think she’d sit back and enjoy her newly crafted life back home in Dixie. But that just wouldn’t be as much fun.

Opening up a new restaurant with Peter isn’t as easy as she had anticipated, and when Leelee’s ex-husband returns unexpectedly, everything else goes haywire. Throw her three crazy best friends into the mix; as well as Riley, her meddlesome next-door neighbor; and Kissie, Leelee’s beloved second mother, and you have the perfect recipe for a sassy, Southern delicacy. An endearing and chuckle-inducing tale, Southern as a Second Language keeps you guessing up to the very last page how it all works out in the end. Whether among maple trees in Vermont or magnolia-filled Memphis, Leelee’s charm, heart, and laughter will delight readers in any climate.

20. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Overview: Somewhere in South America, at the home of the country's vice president, a lavish birthday party is being held in honor of the powerful businessman Mr. Hosokawa. Roxanne Coss, opera's most revered soprano, has mesmerized the international guests with her singing. It is a perfect evening -- until a band of gunwielding terrorists takes the entire party hostage. But what begins as a panicked, life-threatening scenario slowly evolves into something quite different, a moment of great beauty, as terrorists and hostages forge unexpected bonds and people from different continents become compatriots, intimate friends, and lovers.

21. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole


Overview:
Released by Louisiana State University Press in April 1980, A Confederacy of Dunces is nothing short of a publishing phenomenon. Turned down by countless publishers and submitted by the author's mother years after his suicide, the book won the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Today, there are over 1,500,000 copies in print worldwide in eighteen languages." "Set in New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces outswifts Swift, one of whose essays gives the book its title. As its characters burst into life, they leave the region and literature forever changed by their presences - Ignatius and his mother; Miss Trixie, the octogenarian assistant accountant at Levy Pants; inept, wan Patrolman Mancuso; Darlene, the Bourbon Street stripper with a penchant for poultry; Jones, the jivecat in space-age dark glasses. Satire and farce animate A Confederacy of Dunces; tragic awareness ennobles it." "Louisiana State University Press celebrates A Confederacy of Dunces' twentieth year with this anniversary edition, which includes a new introduction by Andrei Codrescu that examines the relationship of this modern-day classic to the city whose pulse it so brilliantly captures.

22. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman


Overview: When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers devastated Warsaw and the city's zoo along with it. With most of their animals dead, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews into empty cages. Another dozen "guests" hid inside the Zabinskis' villa, emerging after dark for dinner, socializing, and, during rare moments of calm, piano concerts. Jan, active in the polish resistance, kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for both its human and its animal inhabitants otters, a badger, hyena pups, lynxes. With her exuberant prose and exquisite sensitivity to the natural world, Diane Ackerman engages us viscerally in the lives of the zoo animals, their keepers, and their hidden visitors. She shows us how Antonina refused to give in to the penetrating fear of discovery, keeping alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.

23. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters


Overview: It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

24. A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams


Overview: Lily Dane has returned to Seaview, Rhode Island, where her family has summered for generations. It’s an escape not only from New York’s social scene but from a heartbreak that still haunts her. Here, among the seaside community that has embraced her since childhood, she finds comfort in the familiar rituals of summer.

But this summer is different. Budgie and Nick Greenwald—Lily’s former best friend and former fiancĂ©—have arrived, too, and Seaview’s elite are abuzz. Under Budgie’s glamorous influence, Lily is seduced into a complicated web of renewed friendship and dangerous longing.

As a cataclysmic hurricane churns north through the Atlantic, and uneasy secrets slowly reveal themselves, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional storm that will change their worlds forever…

25. The Good Girl by Mary Kubica


Overview: "I've been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don't know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she's scared. But I will."
Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

Colin's job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter. An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, "The Good Girl" is a propulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems....


 
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