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ARC Review Month, Book Review #5: Dark of the West by Joanna Hathaway

As promised, for today’s post I’ve reviewed my ARC of Joanna Hathaway’s debut YA novel, Dark of the West. Unlike Alone Together, which I reviewed here, today’s novel is the first in a new YA series (called Glass Alliance), rather than a standalone text. The publication date has been pushed back, but I wanted to post this review now while the book is still fresh in my mind. This novel is set to be released on February 5, 2019, so I’m going to stay clear of any major spoilers. But, as always, a few details not included in the book blurb will be included in my three-part review. This is the last ARC I’ve had the pleasure to get my hands on, but I’ll be on the lookout for more opportunities to read and review other new YA reads.

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ARC Review Month, Book Review #4: Alone Together by Sarah J. Donovan

I’ve been lucky enough to receive advanced reader copies (ARCs) of two YA novels set to be published in May 2018. It seems, then, that this month is the perfect time for blogging about these two new releases! I’m especially excited to share my thoughts on these books, as they are both debut novels. This week, I’m reviewing Sarah J. Donovan’s verse novel, Alone Together. In two weeks, I’ll be reviewing Joanna Hathaway’s historical fantasy novel, Dark of the West. As a disclaimer, my ARC reviews will be pretty spoiler-free, but of course a few details not found in the blurbs will be included in my reviews. If you’d like to see the other book reviews I’ve done, you can check them out here, here, and here.

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How Does It Work?: A Student (Now Candidate!) Perspective of ISU’s PhD Program Requirements (English Department)

For anyone who has been reading my blog for a while, you know that I post a new update every-other Friday. Coincidently enough, today ended up being the day chosen for my dissertation proposal defense. As the defense is scheduled for 11 a.m. CST, this post will go up a few hours later than usual. Still, I thought today would be the perfect day to describe Illinois State University’s PhD program requirements for English graduate students. The dissertation element itself won’t be discussed, but the five steps leading up to it can provide insight for anyone reading who’s interested in applying to ISU’s program or is looking for ideas for creating/revising PhD requirements at their own institutions. Now that I’m a PhD candidate (baring a bit of paperwork), I’m excited to share my thoughts on what I’ve experienced in the last (almost) four academic years.

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Looking for Your Next Dystopian Read? Book Review #3: Unplugged by Donna Freitas

The weekend after I received approval from my dissertation committee to defend my proposal (otherwise known as last weekend), I read three novels and quite a bit of fanfiction. Reading is my go-to activity when I’m feeling nervous, and with Axis 360 (a library app that I wrote about here) just a click away, I had plenty of books to pick from when I wasn’t in the mood to find a new fic or reread some of my favorites. Unplugged was the first novel I read this past weekend (Fan Art was the second, and I reread Simon vs. the Homo Sapien’s Agenda in order to prep for teaching my classes this week). Unplugged is the first book in The Wired trilogy, and I haven’t read the second and third installments that came out last year, The Body Market and The Mind Virus. The first book was an interesting read for multiple reasons, which I’ll get into in today’s (very spoiler-y) book review.

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Top 5 Diverse Young Adult (YA) Novels I’m Looking Forward to Reading This Year

As I’m in the middle of teaching my Young Adult Literary Narratives course for the first time, I’m currently rereading a novel a week as part of my preparation for class discussions. With all my other responsibilities -and the fanfiction I read – I haven’t had much time to read novels not directly related to my class in the past few weeks. I’m the type of reader who has trouble not finishing a book in one sitting (or at least one day) if I am really enjoying it. With this lack of willpower in mind, I’ve compromised by making a list of books I want to read once I have a bit more time on my hands. Spring break is only a couple weeks away, and I’m definitely planning on doing some non-work reading during that time. In today’s post, I’ve listed five of the books I’m most looking forward to reading along with a short explanation as to why I’m feeling this way.

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Classroom Resource: My Experience with Assigning a Literary Autobiography Project

I’m three weeks into the spring semester, and I uploaded my feedback on my students’ first major assignment a few days ago. I’ve never assigned this project (a literary autobiography) before, so I didn’t know what to expect from it. It’s pretty small stakes, in comparison to the other major assignments, but it was something I decided I wanted to try this semester for multiple reasons. In today’s post, I thought I’d describe the assignment and my reasons for creating it, just in case someone reading this is looking for some classroom inspiration. I think this assignment would work well across many education levels, in case any high school or even middle school teachers have stumbled across this post.

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New Year, New Reading Challenge: 40 Book Prompts to Inspire My Reading in 2018

Last year, I completed the Ultimate PopSugar Reading Challenge 2017 with one day to spare. I actually read about ten books during the first half of my winter break in order to reach that goal. I’m hoping not to cut it so close this year. For 2018, I’ve designed my reading challenge as part of my Christmas gift to my brother. He had challenged himself to read 12 books last year, I challenged him to do 40 with me instead, and he ended up at 30 (here’s his list from 2017). As he wanted to try again this year, I created reading prompts that have connections to each of us, along with more general prompts that can inspire us to branch out from our usual genres and topics. A few of the prompts were inspired by challenges I saw online while creating the list. So, without further ado, here’s the “Romero Sibling Reading Challenge of 2018.”

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New Year, New[ish] Goals: “Resolutions” Ideas for Putting the Right Foot Forward in 2018

The new year is here, and with it, new attempts at getting my life in order. As I’ve spent over a year now in the online planner/bullet journal community, rather than having resolutions for 2018, I have goals/habits/plans that I will be focusing on accomplishing in the next twelve months. While I won’t be listing them all in this post, I think quite a few of my major goals for the new year are pretty relatable to other students, academics, and really, any adult. So, I’ve decided to share them with you, along with a bit of personal commentary on my reasons behind each one. If you’re still working on your own resolutions for this year, perhaps this list can help inspire you.

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A Year in the Life: Looking Back on Top Moments during 2017

As my last post of 2017, I’m officially one post away (two weeks) from my blog’s six-month anniversary. Though varying greatly in length, I’ve managed to keep to my original posting schedule of every other Friday, with the exception of Back-to-School August in which I blogged every week. I plan on keeping to this schedule in the new year, and I’m excited about all the post ideas I’ve added to my brain dump list in the past few days. While I’ll wait until my first post in January to write about my resolutions and goals for 2018, I thought I’d use this post to look back on my top moments in 2017.

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Time to Head Over to the Theater? Movie Review #1: Disney/Pixar’s Coco

This week is finals week here at Illinois State University. The children’s literature folks in our program tend to get together at least once a month to catch up and relax after weeks of work and personal responsibilities. Last Friday, a few members of our group decided to head to the theater before dinner. The movie we went to watch, of course, was Coco. As ChLit readers, viewers, and scholars, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us were interested in checking out this new children’s movie that has received such great reviews from most people who have watched it (the movie has a 97% score on Rotten Tomatoes). I’ve broken down my review into three parts, just like with my book reviews. I do include major spoilers in this review (especially in the “viewer” section), so if you don’t want to know about any major plot points yet, I suggest coming back once you’ve watched the movie.

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Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo) Results: A Quick Update on How I Did

 

Hello, Everyone! This week’s post will be the last one I write during this fall semester. Unsurprisingly, with all the work I’ve got going on right now, this post will be short and to the point. Even though I didn’t achieve all my #AcWriMo goals, I still think it’s important to wrap it up by writing a final update on how much I was able to get done this past month. Plus, even without completing all my goals, I still feel like I had a really productive month.

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Lesson Planning: Designing My First Young Adult (YA) Literature Course

It’s that time of the semester. No, not the drowning in final exams and papers time. That’s still three weeks away. Nor is it the can’t-see-any-surface-in-my-house because-of-all-the-books time. That happens way earlier on in the semester. No, the time I’m talking about is when you receive an email letting you know what course(s) you’re teaching next semester, and asking you to submit your textbook request form ASAP. As half of my graduate assistantship is currently devoted to my work for our Writing Program, this next semester is likely the last one in which I’ll only be teaching one course. I’ve been assigned my top choice, ENG 125: Literary Narrative, and I’ve decided to use a different design than the one I used last year. Instead of a ChYALit adaptations course, my new 125 class will be a YA literary narratives course.

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Academic Writing Month (AcWriMo): Creating My Own Version of this Challenge

The month of November has arrived, and with it another reminder that I don’t have the time I’d like to devote to attempting NaNoWriMo. For anyone unfamiliar with this challenge, it’s the National Novel Writing Month challenge, in which participants attempt to write 50,000 words (a novel draft, or at least the start to one) in one month. I tried this challenge once in high school, but only wrote about 23,000 words (nothing to sneeze at, but nowhere near the actual goal). This November, however, I’m going to attempt a personalized version of the academic writing equivalent, #AcWriMo. I’m not going to attempt to write 50,000 words of an academic project, but I am challenging myself to be more academically productive this month.

On Facebook, I’m part of this amazing group created for and by academic women. In it, we offer each other support and advice related to life in-and-outside of academic settings. We also host a 10 day writing challenge at the beginning of each month. This month, a second challenge will extend through the rest of the month, for those of us who want to participate in AcWriMo. In our group, the goal is to achieve at least 15 minutes of writing every day, rain or shine, motivated or not. A small goal, perhaps, but one I really appreciate for its ability to make me feel like I can accomplish something important to my career every day without also feeling like a giant ball of stress. It’s rare for me to stop at 15 minutes when I participate in these 10 day challenges. And yet, outside of them, I can often go days without doing any academic writing. External accountability, it seems, does wonders for my writing productivity.

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PopSugar Reading Challenge 2017: An Update with Star Ratings and One Line Reviews

If today’s featured photo looks familiar, it’s because I used it a few months ago for my reading challenge post. I’ve decided to share an update on my progress, as there are only about two-and-a-half months left to complete the challenge. While I have updated the original post with the books I’ve read since I began, in this post, I’ll provide my star ratings of each book along with a one line review. If you need another book for your TBR list, perhaps this list will inspire you. I’ve listed the books in order of how many stars I gave each book. The last two books are still in progress, which is why I’ve put them at the end with no star ratings (yet). I’ll update this post as I continue reading more books.

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Looking for a Classic Read? Book Review #2: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The majority of my recent blog posts have focused on school-related topics. As such, I thought this week was the perfect time for another book review. There’s still some pedagogical considerations in this post, but I’m hoping that this review inspires teachers and non-teachers alike to give this children’s classic a chance, if they haven’t already done so. My last review was for a very new and trendy YA novel, but today’s is all about one of my favorite children’s novels: The Phantom Tollbooth. I won’t say this book is perfect, as it isn’t (see: colonization origin-story for the secondary world). However, just because a book has its issues, doesn’t mean it’s not worth a read. This motto is definitely the case for Phantom.

So, if you’re a lover of fantasy novels, allegories, puns, or educational tales, click on the link below to…

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How to Teach the Writing of Literary Analysis? My Approach to This Challenge

 

It’s been over a month since my fall semester began. The introductory material for my ENG 170 class – background information on the always-changing and fluid concept of “childhood,” the history of children’s literature, some basic literary terminology – have all been covered, though not to the extent that I would like. Introductory courses call for so much material to be covered and sixteen weeks is never enough time to accomplish that task to the degree I would wish for my students. Nevertheless, my class has moved on to the next major section of my course design: learning how to write literary analysis. Of course, this assumes we are also working on another primary goal: learning how to analyze children’s literature in any mental, verbal, and/or written form.

As I’m about two weeks into this second unit of my course, with two more weeks ahead devoted to this specific skill, I thought I’d break down my approach to teaching the writing of literary analysis. I’d really love to hear back from any teachers and students reading this post. Teachers, how do your approaches to teaching this task differ from my own? Students, what was the most effective learning experience you’ve had in relation to learning literary analysis? I’d love to hear from all of you, but I’ll start by sharing my own process.

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“Fandom Spotlight” Introduction: My (Current) Top Five Fandoms

If you want to spend more time in your favorite story-worlds, all you need to do is go online and search for some fanfiction. Or, if you prefer watching rather than reading, some fanvids or fanart. For those of you who have been living under a rock for the last few years, fanfiction, fanvids, and fanart are stories, videos, and images created by fans of certain works using elements of those works. So, for example, a fan of Lord of the Rings writing a version of the trilogy in which Frodo is female or a fan of Twilight writing a story about Bella and Edward in a BDSM relationship (and if you’re E.L. James, making millions by changing the characters’ names and publishing the story as an original trilogy). In the case of fanvids, there are many different types of videos including those that tell alternate stories, those that focus on a particular [relation]ship, those that compile favorite clips, and more. Finally, in fanart, fans can create new visual scenes between characters, change characters’ identity markers (like race, age, gender), or recreate iconic images from the source material using their own artistic skills and media. If you’re not familiar with basic fandom terminology, check out this link before continuing.

As part of my blog, I’d like to have the occasional “fandom spotlight” post. In these posts, I can recommend some of my favorite fanfics (I’m not much of a fanvid or fanart person), talk about trends that are happening in my favorite fandoms, and potentially interview some of my favorite fan writers. Before I experiment with these spotlights, though, I thought it important to share with you the current fandoms that I spend most of my time in. I’ve been reading fanfic for more than 15 years, so I’ve been a part of many fandoms in the past. For this post, though, I’m going to focus on my current top five fandoms and the particular elements of them that I enjoy the most. I thought this short intro would help give readers a sense of whether or not they’ll be interested in my future fandom spotlights.

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Back-to-School Month: Kitchen Tips and 10 Easy Meal and Snack Recipes

For our final post this month, I’d like to share some cooking tips and easy recipes for the busy college student (or really, anyone who’s busy and old enough to use kitchen appliances). Eating balanced meals and keeping snacks on hand for busy days is essential, especially if you’ve just moved away from home and are now relying on yourself to cook some or potentially all of your meals. Getting a meal plan is a great idea for anyone living on campus or who spends large amounts of time on campus (especially during lunch time). But, really, knowing how to make at least a few balanced meals can really go a long way when it comes to staying energized and focused.

So, let’s head right into the kitchen!

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Back-to-School Month: 10 Tips from a Student Who Is Also A Teacher

As my fall semester begins in  three days, I thought I’d focus this back-to-school post specifically on advice I give to my students or that I would give to my students if I was their advisor. Unlike the other posts in this series, this list of tips is all about the college experience, especially for any of you who are just starting out or who have come back after many years away from the classroom.

The tips aren’t in any particular order and in some ways they might seem a bit repetitive. If you begin to wonder why they are so similar, keep in mind that when a teacher/professor says something multiple times, it’s usually because it’s really important information to remember.

So, let’s read some advice.

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Back-to-School Month: 10+ YouTube Channels for a More Balanced Life

For this week’s post, I’ve compiled a list of ten YouTube channels that college students can benefit from, especially if they’ve (you’ve) moved into a dorm or apartment (or house) for the next few years. Only three of these channels are aimed specifically at students (see below in category four); the rest are all targeted to adults in a more general sense. After compiling the list, I realized how skewed it might seem to female readers/viewers. However, just because all but one of these channels are run solely by women does not mean their advice applies only to this particular audience. I won’t get into the potential reasons for this gender imbalance, though of course my own gender plays a role in my choices. For any readers who are not women reading this post, I still suggest checking out these channels to see if they can help you balance your home, health, school, and financial life. I also have an additional list of channels to check out at the end of this post, so make sure to stick around until the very end.

Note: Click on the channel names to go straight to the YouTube pages. Click on the individual “playlists/videos” to check out specific videos from the sites. If available, click on the “website/blog” version of these channels to see more text-based (rather than video-based) advice.

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