Search This Blog

Sunday, October 8, 2017

"The Mountain Between Us" Book Review

The Mountain Between UsThe Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was intrigued by this book because of the upcoming movie adaptation and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. Basic premise: Ashley and Ben are two people who are rushing to get home (for their own separate reasons) and decide to take a charter plane to beat the incoming storm. Alas, due to unavoidable circumstances, the plane crashes and they are stranded in the snowy mountains. Facing injuries, hunger and forces of nature, these two form a relationship while trying to survive.

I want to break this story down into two pieces because readers of either of these two genres may find this book interesting:

-Romance: I didn't know that this book is marketed as Christian fiction. In fact, I wouldn't have even known unless I looked up the tags on Goodreads. With that being said, this is a story of how two people build a relationship... there are tons of instances of raw emotion and honest conversations, which if you think about it, are the basis for any relationship. It's also not a magical "oops, let's make them fall in love since they're the only two people in this plane crash", but rather a slow build on admiration of certain character traits that progress throughout the novel.

-Survival: I love a good survival story. And based on movie previews, I can already tell you that there will be changes to how much the characters were injured in the plane crash. Our character, Ben, happens to be a doctor coming back from a conference before taking the charter plane, and and explains in great detail how he attempts to take care of certain injuries, as well as measures he takes to ensure their survival. There are great details that help make this survival story believable, as well as practical.

Overall, it was a quick read and enjoyable break from the typical romantic fiction that sets readers' fantasies to unbelievable and potentially unachievable heights. Try it, you may like it!

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion in this review.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 9, 2017

"The Flower Workshop: Lessons in Arranging Blooms, Branches, Fruits, and Foraged Materials" Book Review

The Flower Workshop: Lessons in Arranging Blooms, Branches, Fruits, and Foraged MaterialsThe Flower Workshop: Lessons in Arranging Blooms, Branches, Fruits, and Foraged Materials by Ariella Chezar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember taking a flower arranging class during my undergrad and it being loads of fun, so I was excited to receive this book to review. Bottom line, this book is gorgeous (!!) with pages of pictures of various flower arrangements and color schemes that had my yearning to go out to the market to buy flowers to decorate my house with (which I am unashamed that I actually did a few times).

I accepted it long ago that I didn't need a loved one to buy me flowers... I just needed this book instead! One of the best things to do when receiving a instructional book to review is to actually complete one or two of the recipes that the book suggests and afterwards, flower arranging may become a new stress relieving hobby. Not only did I learn color schemes and which flowers suited for the best moods, but also seasons that flowers grew, the math that goes into planning an arrangement (and not just the budget, there's symmetry to be had when it comes to roses!) and how to manipulate flowers, fruit and even birds nests into works of art.

For anyone who likes to dabble in home decorating or entertaining, or enjoys home and garden nonfiction :)"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"Since You've Been Gone" Book Review

Since You've Been GoneSince You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sounds like a repeat of other teen summer fare, but this caught me off guard with the challenges encountered and lessons in bravery, love and authenticity learned by the characters. For fans of "Paper Towns", "The F It List" and "Let's Get Lost", this will definitely keep you interested til the last page.

View all my reviews

"Cats in Paris" A Magical Coloring Book Review

Cats in Paris: A Coloring Book of the Felines of ParisCats in Paris: A Coloring Book of the Felines of Paris by Won-Sun Jang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How does one properly rate a coloring book? I think that constructing a review was the most tedious part, in which I had to resort back to the book for its therapeutic purpose of relieving stress via coloring. SO, here's a review that will provide insight into the two biggest things that I think go into a coloring book...

1. Construction of the book- the pages are thick and heavy, which would be perfect for those who like to color with markers versus crayons or colored pencils. Personally, I dislike flimsy pages for fear that pressing down too hard will rip through the page. This did not happen at all, which made me a happy camper.

2. Coloring options- a coloring book needs to have some variety when it comes to choosing which pages to color. I thought that there were many different options, and since this was a cat themed coloring book, they all had felines in some shape or form. One thing that I shrugged at were how many similar pages there were (for example- multiple versions of cat stamps.... I got the hint with one or two, but there were a total of 6). I'm also not a cat person (SORRY!!), but I enjoyed the different scenes. Another thing that did bother me were the lack of Paris related scenes...

Overall, I received this book to review because I wanted to review a coloring book simply because I had not done so previously. I was pleased with this choice, but do think it could use some improvement in some areas, particularly in the balance of coloring options of both cats and of Paris.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 26, 2015

"The Perfect Egg" is the Perfect Cookbook

The Perfect Egg: A Fresh Take on Recipes for Morning, Noon, and NightThe Perfect Egg: A Fresh Take on Recipes for Morning, Noon, and Night by Teri Lyn Fisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have made the mistake that I think everyone has made in their lives... I've bought too many eggs. This cookbook rescued me and my fear of wasting food with classic and diverse dishes for every meal of the day that has reveling in amazement for the one and only incredible edible egg.

Authors (and chefs) Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park divide the book for times of day in which these meals would be ideal (Morning, Snacks, Afternoon, Night and Sweets), but my favorite part may have been the section explaining cooking techniques and various foundational elements that the egg plays a role in within the kitchen's concoctions. Doughs, sauces and breads all incorporate eggs, and even though little 'ol me would've just thrown it in in my past life, I now know how to officially "fold" an egg into the mix.

With this book, I made a few recipes (one from each section) just to try things out. Here's what the critics (roommate, friends and boyfriend) have to say:

Quiche- a delicious reason why I have started hosting book club brunches. The book gives you a total of 8 filling options that have all had our mouths watering.

Sweet Potato Egg Shoap- or Indian inspired croquettes that are sweet, crunchy and great with a cool, creamy yogurt sauce.

Avgolemono Soup- best way to describe this is a Greek lemony egg-drop soup that is light to the palate, and makes your senses think they are on vacation.

Beef Empanadas- I've made so many that my freezer is still stuffed with them. Great to thaw for a quick treat ti provide at parties for guests.

Quindim- Brazilian yellow custards that rival my favorite 5 star restaurant's creme brûlée (but no worries- creme brûlée has its own recipe!)

Have I made you hungry yet? If so, get this book and crack some eggs! You won't regret it.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"Better Nate Than Ever" Book Review

Better Nate Than EverBetter Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was adorable and definitely fits into the "follow your dreams" theme while still standing out for its own merit. Nate is a thirteen year old who is a self proclaimed theater kid, obsessed with musicals, stage dancing, and even costume planning, all of which are sufficient reasons for his constant bullying at school and negligence at home. So, what does a tween oppressed by his surroundings do to pursue his goal of starring in a Broadway musical?? Run away to New York of course!

Read by the author, this audiobook was witty, entertaining and touching all at the same time, "Better Nate Than Ever" comes at a good time in which LGBT themes are slowly becoming popular and needed to be read more. I can't wait to share this with students who can relate to Nate, especially the ones who sing, dance, and just enjoy being themselves.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 4, 2015

"The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager's Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life" Book Review

The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager's Old-School Views on Success in Sports and LifeThe Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager's Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life by Mike Matheny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Never have I read a book that has provided more insight into principles of coaching and becoming a better player. Providing insight into personal values, Christian beliefs and consistent motivation to become a better athlete, this is a book that truly gives inspiration to athletes, coaches, and competitors everywhere.

Mike Matheny, the current manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and a coach of a youth baseball team, explains his Manifesto, or a letter that he gives to parents at the beginning of the season that focuses on the values of leadership, character building, and what it truly means to be a team. What is true sportsmanship like? Matheny, along with co-author Jerry B. Jenkins, discusses that with dedication to the sport, and consistently trying to make oneself better by focusing on core values that would also make one a better person overall.

This book will not teach you how to improve your batting average or show you how to score more during the game. Nor will this book give you the tips and tricks on becoming a better coach and immediately uniting your team during every trial and test that you endure throughout your coaching experience. Instead, this book will talk about keys to success, or identifying traits of leadership, confidence, teamwork, faith, class, character and humility, all of which help develop the person's individuality to make them better overall, both in and out of the game.

I picked up this book because I like baseball--it's an amazing game that has many different dynamics that are incredible to watch. But what was really incredible was all of the lessons that Matheny shared from his career that I could take away into my own life and use in my own coaching experience with my own (non-baseball) team. There are versatile messages presented in this short book that can be applied anywhere and by anyone who is just willing to take the time to dedicate to reading and learning more.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this honest and unbiased review.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Effects of the 2008 Icelandic Economic Recession on Libraries-- Article Review

As a current school librarian, managing a budget for my Media Center is both a blessing and a curse. I can manage money in the sense of spending it on the acquisition of materials that my students will enjoy, but then I worry about the accounting procedures. In the end, the biggest question is still and will forever be looming over my head--Will the library have enough money?

Iceland’s 2008 economic recession is quite similar to the one that also occurred in America and the results were just as catastrophic to budget spending, especially when it comes to libraries.

Between December, 2011 and April, 2012 the most noticed considerable cutbacks occurred in about a quarter of public libraries. Cuts differ between the anonymous libraries, but operational expenditures were the cause of strain on the budget. With the cost of keeping the library open rising, cuts had to be made within collection allocation and staffing. “45 percent of all the libraries show reductions of 30 percent or more. The highest level being over 70%” (Tryggvadottir, 2013).  

To better understand the effects that recessions have on libraries (because honestly, I’m unfortunately ignorant to the economics of such things), let’s take a look at two factors that would further explain what in the world is going on.

The participating libraries in this study recorded having a total of 225 employees in 2007. This number has a slight, yet steady decrease with having 218 employees in 2008, 216 in 2009, 209 in 2010, and 200 in 2011. Even though the math results in an average 11.111% decrease over the span of 4 years, the study does not mention what positions were eliminated, or how that affected overall productivity of the library. Wouldn’t this information be essential to how effective libraries were during this time frame?

Another aspect that I noticed while reading was that a large amount of changes were made in 2010, almost two years after the main events of the recession. Why did this occur? And again, wouldn’t this information be helpful in developing a more rounded idea of libraries’ effectiveness?

An obvious effect of the recession on a library would be the cuts made in collection allocation budgets. These budgets are evaluated yearly and reassessed so that libraries can maintain thorough collections that are relatable to their patrons. With budget cuts, collections run the risk of losing diversity, and being driven by popularity, which could become quickly out of date. Materials that also support local schools’ curriculums are also in dire need, but are often cut, thus resulting in a decrease in use by school age patrons. Lacking of school-age materials can also lead to a reduction of these patrons’ willingness to read, in turn resulting in negative effects on literacy. “Reading comprehension is generally decreasing among elementary school children...a clear connection has been shown between reading comprehension and students’ interest in reading books” (Tryggvadottir, 2013).

So, with these budget setbacks, and my previous experience with budgeting a school library, how are libraries in Iceland still able to fully serve their population of literary loving patrons?

To answer this, I will investigate the following:
-size of public library’s space, collection and staff
-annual budget for collection allocation
-programming sessions provided by the library
-role in the surrounding cultural community

The methods for investigating this will include tours of the facilities, interviews with staff members, and collection of statistics that will support analysis of searching goals.

Let the fun begin! :)

Works Cited

Tryggavadottir, E. (2013). Effects off economic recession on Icelandic libraries. Scandinavian Library Quarterly, 46(1).

Recap: Iceland Research Trip 2015

This past week, I had the very fortunate opportunity to travel to Iceland to complete research for my project studying International Librarianship as part of my Masters in Library Science. As part of the project, I read materials relating to the libraries of Iceland, studied aspects that I find most pertinent to my own career, and toured facilities to see how they functioned in relation to Icelandic cultural standards. This project was also efficiently conducted through a series of emails spanning from early November, 2014 when I decided to choose Iceland as my research subject, and may even continue past project submission, because quite frankly, I made quite a few connections that I wouldn't want to lose in relation to friendships that I had made on this trip. :)

In the next few days I will be blogging about each library I visited and what I found most useful to my studies, as well as a recap of sightseeing, etc. (because I'm sure you all want to know what Iceland is truly like). And don't worry, there will be pictures to help explain!

But first and foremost, there are quite a few thank yous that I would like to share. Travelling alone can cause quite a bit of stress, and in a country where English is not the first language, one can feel quite disconnected. These people, along with repetition of "I think I can", prayers being said, and deep meditative breathing, helped me in ways that I don't think that they knew of, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

þakka þér to everyone and anyone who has helped me on this incredible trip. I honestly could not have done it without you and your assistance.

Rosa, Frieda, Margret, for showing me their school libraries... Who knew that being the"new kid" for the day would so exciting!

Erla and Palina for showing me the City Library and how important literacy really is to Icelanders.

Kristina for telling me all about her UN Women's Rights project and offering to help me get on board with it.

Kristina and Orn from the National Library of Iceland for showing me the university library, and playing with manuscripts from the 1590's. Thank you for giving me that piece of history and for tempting me even more to move to Iceland.

All of the tour guides, hotel staff, bus drivers and random street walkers that stopped what they were doing to help the lost American girl in her khakis find the right way to go and for pronouncing street names correctly. Clearly I stood out and you helped me feel not so.

Zeke and Winston from New Zealand who loaned me gloves and a flashlight on the Northern Lights trip so that I wasn't "that girl" who'd get lost in the Icelandic highlands and lose her fingers to frostbite in the process.

Bobbi from Halifax who kept me awake in the Toronto airport so I wouldn't miss my flight to Reykjavik. AND to the Indianapolis Public School teachers who kept me awake in the Toronto airport on the return trip. It was great to talk academic standards and Game of Thrones with you :)

Sue and Alex from North Hampton who hiked Thingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir with me and took pictures for me so that I didn't have to keep doing selfies. Your goal of making me look classy succeeded.

Bodi from Reykjavik who offered to show me Reykjavik without looking like a tourist. Thank you as well for the hair tie at the Blue Lagoon, even though my hair is still awful from it.

Chris and Mindy from Columbus, Ohio....thank you for keeping me updated on March Madness while at a coffee bar. My mother would say you guys are good people because of your team.

George from Inverness-- thank you very much for that coffee when I needed it. No sleep for 24 hours is killer, and it must've shown.

The Boston crew-- thank you for being fun and inquiring why I was such a badass traveling alone. If people from Boston feel that, then it must be true. I'm sorry that I didn't tell you I was from Indiana until we departed.... :)

Mom, Dad and Tansy-- thank you for not freaking out when I said I wanted to go to a foreign country by myself. Your support, love and constant reminders to have a snack keep me going and we all know I would suffer without it.

My coworkers and classmates--thank you for the advice for travelling internationally... I'm sorry to let you down, but I did not get married on this trip.

Mahasin, hope you are having as much fun as I am.... International Librarianship FTW!

Andrea, THANK YOU for allowing me to Tara-fy things.

To anyone I may have missed, thank you for your support and effort to keep me sane in preparation of and duration of this trip... I sincerely hope that I can continue researching this field of how international libraries work, because honestly, this is an adventure that is just waiting to be had and I can't wait to continue exploring the world of information seeking. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Destination: Iceland

"I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life."
--Leo Tolstoy, Family Happiness

The initial reaction of those I discuss my upcoming research trip to Iceland includes a combination of dramatic eyebrow raises, jaw dropping, and an exclamation of "oh wow", shortly followed by the dreaded question asked of a newbie researcher... "What are you going to do there?"


As part of my undergraduate Education studies, I was always wanting to study abroad to further investigate how schools operated, and it would have been a dream come true if I had received one of the overseas jobs that I had applied for. (C'mon Hogwarts...I know you need me as a librarian on staff). For this Graduate study, I'm taking things a step further and investigating the correlation between traditional and technological literacy skills in school libraries in different cultures. TRANSLATION: how does the comprehension of using technology correlate to understanding what one has just read, and how does this compare across different cultures?

Iceland is known for their literacy skills and love for reading. In fact, five titles are published for every 1000 Icelanders, making them the global leader for literacy. The capital, Reykjavik, became a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) City of Literature in August, 2011, and joined the ranks of other distinguished cultural literary contributors Melbourne, Dublin and Prague. Icelanders also celebrate Jolabokaflod, or the Christmas Book Flood, every holiday season in which gifts of books are given on Christmas Eve and the night is spent reading as means of frivolity. "Books are the backbone of the Icelandic tradition"says industry researcher Baldur Bjarnason, and shows that even though in most countries, a small portion of individuals buy a large amount of books, Icelanders stray from the norm and the majority buy books frequently.

Library use is also common. On average, Icelanders who live in Reykjavik will visit their library six times a year, and libraries appear to be well supported, despite the economic crisis in 2008.

Libraries in Iceland, or commonly known as Tara's finally getting to the point....

In 2005, the most comprehensive study to date provides data for key Icelandic libraries, as well as a history of their origins and use by patrons. Primarily focused in Reykjavik, these library systems are analyzed according to their classification

The first public library was created in 1955 when the Icelandic Parliament developed 30 library districts that separated the country. In each of these districts, public library services were intended to serve the small communities, but were hindered by the small amount of space allotted and materials provided for their library were small in quantity and did not suffice the public interest. Fees were often also charged for library cards, and libraries were also operated by volunteers, which paints a picture of how the budget for public libraries is maintained. Within the 2000's, redevelopment of the public library included open internet access, larger housing facilities for the space, as well as incorporating full time professional librarian positions to each facility. Almost all public libraries in Iceland are connected to the OPAC Gegnir (as of 2005), thus making the network more connected than in past years. The largest public library is Reykjavik City Library with six branches in the capital city that serves almost 651,000 annual visitors and circulates around 1.3 million per year.

Research Libraries
Because of the country's size, there are few libraries dedicated solely to the purpose of research. Many academic institutions, such as the Teacher's College at Kennaraskoli Islands have libraries that serve the students purpose, but none are developed and designed to cater to multiple levels of research purposes. (Such as mine.... phooey.)

National and University Library of Iceland
The National Library of Iceland was created to preserve the nationality of Iceland from the explorer's perspective Many manuscripts, Nordic bibliographies, and other texts that helped preserve the treasures such as the Eddas and Sagas and relay their information onto the general public and travelling minds. In 1994 the National Library merged with the Library of the University of Iceland to further strengthen information seeing across multiple departments; the schools of Theology, Medicine, and Law were in high need of information, and the best place to access this would be in one place, hence the merger. This library houses the National Collections of past Parliamentary documents, special collections and reference services, as well as large reading spaces and general academic research use.

School Libraries
Elementary school libraries were introduced in the 1970s as part of an integral program to convey information seeking skills and behaviors. During the beginning of this initiative, the government paid for 50% of the elementary school library's costs, including books, with having a goal of ten books provided for every student. School libraries in secondary schools (ages 16-20) were also being developed during this time frame, however, they were developed by donations of materials and funds, or with the latter being individually designated within the school budget. Recently, legislation has mandated that technology also be made available for virtual information gathering, thereby enhancing the belief that students will learn to become independent in their search for information and knowledge.

So what does this mean in terms of Tara's research??

The correlation between technological literacy and traditional literacy varies depending on the school culture. In diverse urban American schools, there may be more individuals who know how to operate the latest computer game or iPhone app, versus the text they should be reading in class. In comparison, Icelandic schools with smaller populations may not be as immersed in the technological aspects of literacy and prefer the written word version more. So---getting to the juicy part-- where is the line in which the balance of both can create the definition of a literate teenager ready to enter the adult world?

*cue cliffhanger*

Hannesdottir, S. (2005). Library Development in the Electronic Environment: Iceland 2005. IFLA Journal 31(2). 151-161.

Teicher, J. (2012, December 25). Literary Iceland Revels In Its Annual 'Christmas Book Flood' Retrieved January 7, 2015, from