Monday, March 27, 2017

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren

From the Publisher: 

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

My Review: 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Like many books I choose, this cover and title spoke to me, and because of the description I knew it was a book for me. Having lost my best friend in my 20s, I was anxious to see how teenagers would be portrayed dealing with a lot of the same emotions I had. 

Though Trixie's tragic death occurs well before the book begins, her absence remains an obvious hole in the lives of alternating narrators Lucy and Ben - and of the friends and family that try to help them deal with their grief while also dealing with their own. 

I was compelled to watch Ben and Lucy as they orbited each other in their small, lakeside town. Though seeing the other brought raw feelings to the surface, Ben and Lucy are inexplicably drawn to each other through their shared loss, former friendship, and hope for the relationship they may have had. 

This book is not just about grief over losing a person so integral in one's life. It is about struggling to move on, to remember, and to deal with guilt and everyday reminders of her absence. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Why Audiobooks? Why Not?

I often get surprised reactions when I say that I listen to audiobooks. Though I usually prefer to curl up with a print book, I like to listen and also read on a Kindle.  

After having my second child (and being home for an extended period), I found I was missing the daily access to books in my school library - not to mention a brain break for me. Audiobooks gave me that break and brought me back to reading. I could still fold the laundry or do the dishes (carefully) and read. At that point in my life, it was a beautiful thing! When I returned to work, audiobooks permitted me to "read" on my commute. I got in a solid 40 minutes of reading everyday without having to give up anything but a few songs and commercials on the radio. 

The reactions I've received regarding audiobooks range widely!  
  1. Oh, I would fall asleep.
  2. I can't concentrate.
  3. Don't they have computerized voices? 
  4. I'm not tech savvy. 
  5. I prefer my books in print. 
To which I respond: 
  1. Zzzz.... It's not a lot different than if you drop your book without bookmark while sleeping! Feeling sleepy? Pause your book.  
  2. Sometimes I find my mind drifting, but that can happen with print books too. The difference is instead of a bookmark you press pause, and you take a stretch break! 
  3. Your Kindle can read to you in a digitized voice, yes, but a "real" audiobook has voice actors. This is when I open Overdrive on my phone and press play. The inflection and emotion of the narrator usually hooks most people. One of my favorite examples to share is Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, which has different narrators (with different voices) for each character, and they have British accents which really made me feel like I was right there in the story. 
  4. You don't have to be tech savvy. Here, I made these directions for borrowing free eBooks through your public library consortium. Better yet, bring me your Kindle or smartphone, and we'll work together! 
  5. You don't have to give up your print books! Some books are just as fun, if not more, in audio format. Singer Sara Bareilles's book Sounds Like Me: My Life (So Far) in Song is a perfect example. She begins each chapter by singing the song which it's named after then explains how/why she wrote the song. 
Whatever the excuse, if you haven't listened to an audiobook I highly recommend you try one! With modern technology, it's easier than ever to access them right from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. I'm fortunate to have a local public library with a great eBook and audiobook collection. If you're a Pennsylvania resident over 18, I highly recommend you sign up for a Free Library of Philadelphia library card. Their collection is fabulous! (I personally have borrowed audiobooks using Overdrive and eBooks for my Amazon Kindle.) 

Have you heard about the AudiobookSYNC program? This free program is aimed to teens 13+, and it gives two free audiobook downloads each week all summer. 

Want to learn more about SYNC? Visit their website for full details. If you're forgetful like me, be sure to sign up for the email or text reminders! 

Check out this summer's titles below! 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

You want to try eBooks in your school library?

I purchased Kindle Fire HD 7" devices with part of my book budget. Though hesitant at first, my principal came from a school that was heading towards more eBooks than print in the library (the horroršŸ˜±), so he was supportive. Here are the steps I took after talking to many other librarians who circulate eBook devices:

1. To start, I had the district create an email address for the library (bshslibrary@...), so the purchases wouldn't be tied to me personally or an account that was seen as "mine." Using this email address, I created an Amazon account, so I would have buying power to purchase eBooks.

2. I contacted an Amazon educational consultant. Since I was purchasing 10 devices, this was more than what is normally on an individual account.
  • Though I originally intended to purchase Paperwhites (for battery life), the consultant I worked with got me a deal where I could get Kindle Fire HD 7"s for less + I got a $25 Amazon gift card per device. 
    • With devices costing less than ever (Amazon is running a 15% off on 2 Kindle Fire deal through 03/04/17), there is no time like the present to make the leap into eBooks. 
    • This is the protective case I purchased, though there are many options. 
    • These are the screen protectors I purchased, though there are many options. 
  • I used the gift cards to begin purchasing and loading the devices. I subscribed to the following email lists to find inexpensive eBook deals: 
  • I also love to watch some of my favorite publishers like Epic Reads edeals and Fierce Reads eDeals. I know there are others that I get less frequently, but I can't remember them at the moment. 
  • I have never paid more than $3.99 for a Kindle book (it was one of John Green's that was in high demand), and usually only pay $.99-$2.99. 
3. I created a Google Sheet (we are a Google Apps for Edu school) to track each of my devices and which books they have. You can view mine here.
  • The nice thing about Kindles is that you can put each book on up to 6 devices, depending on its licensing. It is a little bit of up front work, but once you get the hang of it, things get easier. I wrote down a step by step list that I keep in my Kindle folder to refresh my memory.
4. I have two binders on a podium in the fiction section open for students to flip through and see what books we have. Here is what I put in pagesavers in the binders.

5. I have a laminated bookmark in each print book we also have on Kindle. This is a great activity for substitutes to do/check when you're out! Here it is.

6. Here is the Kindle User Agreement form. Students may not borrow a device until this form has been signed and returned.

7. Here are my step-by-step directions for updating the devices:

  • Buy a book(s).
  • Deliver book(s) to Kindle set 1 or 2. 
  • Add book(s) to the following locations: 
    • Kindle catalog list (sheet in step 3)
    • Kindle binder list (doc in step 4)
    • Destiny Kindle catalog description, so books are searchable in Destiny. See my list example here.
8. Once the devices are updated with books, I "lock down" the Kindles with parental controls (another nice feature).
  • I do not allow students to use any of the apps except for Books. 
    • I clear the browser (Silk) history, have save passwords turned off, clear all in privacy settings, then block the web under parental controls. 
  • I do not circulate chargers but allow students to use their own (if their phone charger works) or come to the library to charge it for a few hours.
  • Last summer I checked out devices for the summer and loaned a charger with each device that went out. This was successful.
Overall, my students still seem to prefer print over eBook. I thought it was important to test things out with eBooks and make them available to students who may not be able to afford a device. Having the Kindles has allowed me to purchase some of the mini books that go with series but aren't always published in print (Life Before Legend, for example), and students appreciate having the opportunity to read these.

This was a long-winded response. Feel free to ask any questions you may still have in the comments below!