All the Bright Places

All the Bright Places

By Diane Talbot

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this book, though, as a mom and teacher, watching Finch spin out of control with no adult stepping in, made me sad and anxious. I also worried about Violet, dealing with Finch’s emotional roller coaster alone. It was not an easy read. Mental illness and suicide ideation is not something that can be taken lightly and this book did a good job of addressing this issue.

As a side-note, I really want to do my own “wandering” project now. It is an amazing concept to discover all the bright places in your own area.



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The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (Fairyland, #2)

By Diane Talbot

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I liked this book a lot. I read the first one (The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) last year. I loved it, but by the time I was finished, I was not chomping to move on to the next book in the series, as I often am when I find a series that I like.

Last week I needed a sure-thing, a happy read, and picked up the second book in the series. The whimsy and imaginative use of language and characters did not disappoint. I love the escaped shadows who are enjoying their freedom from their corporeal people and creatures. I loved that September is growing up, learning to stand up for herself and understand the gray scales in life. The text is packed with delightful details. I love how clothing is sentient and adjusts to the wearer’s needs. Every sentence is beautiful and skimming is not an option.

If you love Lewis Carroll, you will love these modern twists on the fantastic fairytale.

That said, I have to admit that the next book will be sitting on my shelf waiting for a while until I need a sure-thing read. These books, for me, need to be savored and I seem to have a limit for how much I can enjoy, kind of like eating a pile of candy. At the moment, I am ready to brush my teeth and dig into something different.

It is good to know there are a few more books on my shelf ready for when I need a deep-dive into imagination.



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Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures

By Diane Talbot

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The stories of these intelligent and brave women who were instrumental in making history fascinated me. I am so glad that Ms. Shetterly brought these stories to our attention. I enjoyed not only their stories but the background of how NASA and the space race inspired a generation.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in the space program, women’s and civil rights, science or mathematics. And if you are not interested in any of the above, pick it up and see how interesting these subjects can be when framed through the lives of women who changed the course of history.

Listening on audiobook made it a bit hard to keep characters straight, but also helped me get through the more technical explanations. I think audiobook, plus a paper copy for reference would have been ideal for my reading of this book.




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Reader, Come Home

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World

By Diane Talbot

Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World by Maryanne Wolf

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I have been reading other reviews and people seem to either love or hate this book. It isn’t an easy read and it took me over eight months to finish it, which is highly unusual for me and my reading style.

I gave it a mid-range rating. I liked it. I picked it up here and there and read a chapter at a time. I enjoyed Proust and the Squid more and felt this book was overly pedantic and repetitive, but I did appreciate much of what Maryanne said.

I too worry about what the digital world is doing to ours and our kid’s brains with regard to reading and critical thinking. I also agree with her that the digital world is here to stay and our kids need to become bi-literate in a healthier way than they are currently. I do worry about how much of our textbook reading has moved to digital formats–especially for struggling readers. On the other hand, the ability to have audio readily available has been an advantage for many of my students.

I read this book with a real-live paper book, which is my preferred medium for informational books that I am learning from and that I will reference as a literacy specialist. I’ve been known to print out whole e-textbooks. However, in the time since I have read this book, I’ve read 48 other books, both fiction and nonfiction, the majority of which I read either on Kindle or by listening to audiobooks on my commute.

I don’t think there are easy answers to how to take advantage of and lessen the negative impacts of the digital world, but I appreciated Maryanne’s views and ideas on how to best introduce digital media to kids. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy books in many forms and encourage my students to do the same.




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The Plastic Magician

The Plastic Magician (The Paper Magician #4)

By Diane Talbot

The Plastic Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I am enjoying the world the author has created with these books–a world where magic is like a science to be learned and discovered. Those who are “magically inclined” are apprenticed to magicians who train them to take the exam that makes them a magician in their own right. Magic can be done on only man-made materials and this book focusses on Alvie, a young American woman who likes to wear pants and take apart cars, in the early 1900s. Alvie travels by mirror to Europe and London where she learns the art of polymaking–or magic with plastics.

The book chronicles Alvie’s apprenticeship and growing romance with a fellow apprentice in the art of paper magic.

There is not a lot of action during the first part, but then it picks up when Alvie is kidnapped and has to use her wits and magic to escape. The book has a sweetness and innocence that is rare nowadays. The Kiss didn’t happen until the 75% mark.

I can’t say this book was un-put-down-able, but it was a lot of fun to read.




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The Sun is also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star

By Diane Talbot

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this YA novel. It is a romance with two smart and likable characters. The book is timely for its discussion on immigration, deportation, and racism. I enjoyed and learned from the sidebar chapters explaining the scientifically and culturally relevant information.

The story takes place in New York City over the course of one day. Natasha is a science-minded girl who spends the day trying to keep her family from being deported and worries about losing her friends, her dreams and her future. Daniel is a romantic poet who spends his day trying to get Natasha to fall in love with him by exploiting her love of science.



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Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

By Diane Talbot

Little Fires Everywhere
by Celeste Ng (Goodreads Author) 

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Diane A. Talbot‘s review Jul 15, 2019  ·  edit
It was amazing- five stars
I really loved this book. The character development was rich. I saw myself in Mia and in Elena. The book questions what we give up and what we gain no matter what our path in life takes us. And I also related to both women as a mother; how do we parent children very different from ourselves–or too much alike? Is what we want what is best for our kids? There are no easy answers and this book does not try to answer them, but it gives much to think about. beautifully written and crafted.

Refractionary–An Investigation into a Character Name

By Diane Talbot

One of my reluctant reader teen students, Rory*, needs to read three books over the summer. The first book he chose was Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. Rory listened to the audiobook quickly—and immediately started the next—high praise indeed! He dubbed it a “page turner” which we thought funny since he is listening to it. I read my copy on my Kindle and I liked the option of highlighting and returning to ideas for exploration with Rory. I like reading along with my students so we can discuss the books and I often use words or themes for further study.

One of the things I like about using this book as a launching pad to our tutoring sessions is how the names of many of the Epics (superhumans who take over and rule the earth) have names that were morphological treasure troves. The first name we explored was Refractionary, an Epic who is a “Class A Illusionist with invisibility capabilities.” She is a lesser Epic and has difficulty maintaining her illusions. There is always a tell-tale shimmer as if light is reflecting on her.

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on Pexels.com

We began this investigation by finding the base of the word. Rory is an experienced word investigator with  gifted level verbal abilities and was able to analyze the word into a word sum <re + fract + ion + ary>  or maybe <re + fract + ion +ar(e) + y>. In any case he teased out the <fract> as the probable base and we went to Etymonline to search out the meaning of the base. We did not find <fract> but our search showed us <fracture>. Was there a possible relationship?  I suggested he try adding back on the prefix <re-> and we found our trail.

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We found that refract is a verb meaning “to bend” and is a back formation from refraction, from Late Latin (1560s.) Refraction is a noun of action, <re> “back” + fract “to break up, possibly with a sense of undoing” + ion (a noun making suffix).  The Latin word it is derived from is the combining form franger “to break” which in turn appears to come from the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root *bhreg-  “to break”

Following the PIE Root led us to find connections that did not fit in our matrix to other familiar words such as brake, fragile, frail, and fragment.

We agreed that <fract> must be a bound base because it shared the same meaning in the word fracture. We agreed that this was a fitting name for our Epic, because she shimmers as she refracts the light.

Next, we went to Wordsearcher and found words that we thought would be related and began to construct a matrix. We decided to leave any exploration of <ary> versus <ar(e) + y> for another day and use <ary> in our matrix.

As we put each word into the matrix, Rory defined words, used them in sentences, and explained how they had a sense of “breaking.” Words we were unsure of, we looked up in a dictionary to get a better understanding.

To finish off our session, we played one Jenga block after writing out a word sum This is Rory’s favorite part of the lesson and we get very competitive. We keep playing until we run out of words to build or our tower falls down.

*Names and details changed

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English

By Diane Talbot

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I enjoyed this book and thought the author had a good argument for his ideas regarding how Celtic languages have influenced English grammar. It made sense to me. However, I do not know enough about the arguments on the other side. McWhorter is arguing against what he seems to think is the prevailing view that the Celtic languages had little impact on English. I would love any references to that point of view if anyone knows of a good resource.



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Turtles all the way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down

By Diane Talbot

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


John Green has been one of my favorite YA authors since before he was cool. This book takes you inside the head of a girl with anxiety and OCD. I enjoyed the book and the glimpse of understanding of what it might feel like to deal with those types of challenges. In the Q&A with the author, I found that Green also has anxiety and OCD, though he states that his challenges manifest differently. It is nice to see Green’s honesty and I hope his words help promote normalization of getting the help needed for mental health issues.



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