Copyright FAQs: An Educator’s Guide

Copyright law is an often misunderstood topic, especially where the field of education is concerned. So, what exactly is copyright?  Peggy Johnson writes that, “The intended purpose of copyright is to balance the rights of the public for access to information and creative expression with the rights of its creator and to provide incentives for the advancement of knowledge and creativity” (218).

Are educators exempt from copyright law?  No, not necessarily, but there are guidelines that educators should consider to determine if they are practicing fair use.  Section 107 of the Copyright Law of the United States addresses these limitations on exclusive rights:

107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all the above factors.

Let’s dissect that a little, shall we?  Many educators’ concerns about copyright will be covered by number (1).  As long as a work is being used for educational purposes, then it is most likely considered fair use.

Number (2), the nature of the copyrighted work, looks at the work as a whole.  Is the work published or unpublished?  If the work is not published, then copying and distributing the work could negatively affect the creator’s ability to sell the work in the future.  Also, works of fiction are favored over non-fiction in the eyes of copyright protection because of the creative process involved in producing the work.  Non-fiction works are based on facts, and facts alone are not copyright protected (Russell, 36).

Number (3) concerns the amount of the work that is being used.  In general, using smaller portions of the work is favored over using larger portions.  However, there is no set percentage of a work that is allowable under copyright law.  Educators are asked to use their best judgement and to utilize only the most relevant portions of a given work (Russell, 36) .

Number (4) addresses the commercial potential of a work.  If there is a current market for the work, then one must consider how the use of that work will affect the market value.  If a book is out of print, then educators needn’t worry as much about affecting the copyright holder’s sales (Russell, 36).

Now that we have a better understanding of fair use, let’s address a few frequently asked questions that educators may have concerning copyright law.

Copyright FAQs

A new student joined my math class in the middle of the school year, but I do not have any extra workbooks available to give him. Can I make copies of another student’s math workbook?

Unless otherwise noted on the workbook, consumables should not be copied. If the workbook is still in print, then purchasing a new one is recommended.  Under fair use (4) making copies of a work that is still in publication negatively affects the copyright holder’s ability to receive compensation.

If the workbook is out of print and every effort has been made to locate an additional copy, then copying only the necessary portions of the workbook would be considered fair use (Russell, 57).

I would like to show The Indian in the Cupboard movie in my classroom at the end of a language arts unit featuring the same book. Is this allowed?

Yes, Section 110 of the Copyright Law allows for public viewing of performances for educational purposes, as long as the video has been legally purchased. However, rental agreements from online rental or streaming agencies may prohibit public viewing. Be sure to check you user agreement before broadcast. Videos purchased by the teacher, school, or public library are allowable (Russell, 67).

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:
(1) performance or display of a work by instructors or pupils in the course of face-to-face teaching activities of a nonprofit educational institution, in a classroom or similar place devoted to instruction, unless, in the case of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, the performance, or the display of individual images, is given by means of a copy that was not lawfully made under this title, and that the person responsible for the performance knew or had reason to believe was not lawfully made;

My school wants show the Disney movie Moana as part of a movie night fundraiser. How do we avoid copyright violations?

If the movie is not being shown for educational purposes then it does not constitute fair use (number 1). If attendees of the performance are charged admission (section 110, 5 (A) (i)) then this could negatively impact the product that is currently on the market. Movie night organizers should determine if the school district has a public performance license (Russell, 66) .  If not, then they will need to purchase one for the event.

Following an art study on photography, my 5th grade students have the option of doing Power Point presentations or a YouTube video compiling their favorite photographs that they’ve recently taken. Many have expressed interest in adding music to their presentation. How does copyright come into play?

This would fall under fair use (1) since it is being used in the classroom for educational purposes (Russell, 93). However, students should be encouraged to use open source music. Use the search tools on Creative Commons to locate these resources. Be sure to have students cite their sources.

My 4th grade students are doing biography reports about famous Hoosiers. Students can download pictures from the internet for their reports because they are free, right?

Actually, you should assume, unless otherwise noted, that all images on the internet are copyright protected (Russell, 80) . While this would fall under fair use (1), students should be advised to search Creative Commons for open source images. Students should also be encouraged to search the state library’s digital collection. Again, all sources should be cited.

My class subscribes to a Scholastic News magazine. We have added a few new students to our class and no longer have enough issues for each student. Can I make copies of the originals (Russell, 57)?

Fair use should be examined here. Yes, it falls under fair use (1) for educational purposes and the amount of copies would be small (fair use (3)). However, because this is a subscription magazine, making copies negatively affects Scholastic’s ability to generate revenue. I would recommend that you contact customer service to adjust the number of issues your class receives.

My school puts on an annual talent show, but there is always concern about students singing, dancing to, or performing to popular music. Is this something that we should be concerned about?

If the talent show is free of charge or any fees are used for educational purposes, then it is considered exempt under section 110 (4) (A) (B):

Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

4) performance of a nondramatic literary or musical work otherwise than in a transmission to the public, without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage and without payment of any fee or other compensation for the performance to any of its performers, promoters, or organizers, if—
(A) there is no direct or indirect admission charge; or
(B) the proceeds, after deducting the reasonable costs of producing the performance, are used exclusively for educational, religious, or charitable purposes and not for private financial gain

My 2nd grade students are doing a research project on an animal of their choice. May they print articles and make photocopies in the library to assist them in their research (Russell, 57)?

This would be considered allowable under fair use (1) since it is for educational purposes.


Sources Cited:

Collections Hosted by the Indiana State Library, Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

“Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17), Chapter 1 – Circular 92.” U.S. Copyright Office, Accessed 11 Apr. 2017.

Johnson, Peggy. “Managing Collections.” Fundamentals of Collection Development and Management. 3rd, Rev. Ed, 3rd ed., American Library Association, 2013, p. 218.

Open Icon Library, and User: ZyMOS. “Copyright license icon.” Digital image. Wikimedia Commons,×31.svg.

Russell, Carrie. Complete Copyright for K-12 Librarians and Educators. American Library Association, 2012.


If you build it: a documentary review

I discovered the documentary If You Build It while researching makerspaces for an annotated bibliography project.  The film caught my attention because it is about reinventing a high school “shop class,” turning it into an endeavor that can benefit an entire community.

If you build it movie

Designers, architects, and activists Emily Pilloton and Matthew Miller make their way to Windsor, a poor rural community in North Carolina.  Pilloton and Miller approach the local school board, asking if they can reinvent a high school shop class in an attempt to change the economic outlook for Windsor.  The school board reluctantly agrees and Pilloton and Miller, living on grant money and credit, create a program that ultimately benefits both the students and the community.

Design. Build. Transform.

Pilloton and Miller take a ragtag group of high school juniors and, over the course of a school year, turn them into designers and builders.  They begin with what may seem like simple projects, yet some of the students have never held a tool in their hands.  The projects gradually get more complex as the students are asked to design a state-of-the art chicken coop and eventually a building that will house Windsor’s summer farmers’ market.  With Pilloton and Miller’s encouragement and unique approach to teaching, the students rise to the occasion.  Challenges mount, yet the students persevere.  In the end, they create something that each of them and the Windsor community can be proud of.

This film struck a chord with me.  Under financial duress, schools are abandoning their technical and vocational programs to detriment of both students and communities.  Students, like those featured in the documentary, that aren’t bound for college are leaving high school with few skills and even fewer job prospects.  They simply aren’t equipped to compete in the 21st century workforce.  Programs like Pilloton’s and Miller’s teach students the skills they need to compete in the workforce.  Vocational programs can incite change in communities, just as it did in Windsor, North Carolina.

If you have any interest in saving or reinstating vocational and technical programs in your community, I encourage you to watch If You Build It.   It is available for streaming on Netflix.  Share this program with educators, administrators, and even state law makers.


Minecraft–A Multiuser virtual environment

Today I am giving an overview of Minecraft Pocket Edition (MCPE).  This is an electronic game that my daughter Grace has been playing for a few years now on her iPod and iPad.  In this game, users build and create virtual environments out of 3-dimensional building blocks, or cubes.  Users have the ability to design their own players, allowing their individuality to shine through in their characters.  In MCPE, there are 2 player modes–creative and survival.

Creative mode

In the creative mode, users have access to all the blocks they desire and can build whatever they wish.  There are two types of land in creative mode–there is a flat environment with no hills or trees.  This type of land is great for building large structures, such as castles.  Below you will see that Grace has created an entire town in this mode.  Her town is complete with a church, movie theater, roller dome, library, bakery, bank, and dance studio.

Grace's MCPE town

 The other type of land in creative mode is similar to a natural environment, with grass, trees, hills, and even different types of weather.  Users can choose which environment they want to build their world in.  Below is an example of a village in a MCPE natural environment.

MCPE village in a natural environment

Survival mode

In survival mode, users automatically spawn into a natural environment where they have to find food, build shelter, and scavenge materials to survive.  Over time, users collect tools like the ones below that help them survive.  Pick axes can be used to mine blocks so that users can build new structures.

MCPE survival tools

A fun feature of MCPE is that if another device is near, players have the ability to interact with one another, turning it into a social game.  Users can play in each other’s worlds as long as their devices are in close proximity.

There are other apps that interact with Minecraft, such as Minecraft Maps.  This app allows users to visit environments created by other players across the globe. There is also an option to add other environments or to play in other user’s worlds by logging in to different servers.

Of Minecraft Pocket Edition, Grace says, “I really like that you can change your worlds and customize them to be whatever you want.”  Unlike a typical video game where the backgrounds and worlds are programmed into the game, users get to create their own playing environments in MCPE.  There are an infinite amount of ways that you can play and create in Minecraft Pocket Edition.

Libraries can offer programming to children and teens that feature multi-user virtual environment games like Minecraft.  Minecraft clubs can meet on a regular basis at the library, allowing players to interact with each other in their building block worlds.  Library staff can create their own libraries within the game.  They could also build environments made famous in popular literature. Picture the haunting moors in Wuthering Heights or the stark and barren landscape of Mars as found in The Martian.  Again, the possibilities seem endless.  If they aren’t already, young adult librarians should be tapping into the Minecraft sensation in order to reach this often overlooked population of teens.

Gracie’s Song book review

Last week I was contacted by author Michelle Schlicher, asking if I would like to review her latest book Gracie’s Song.  Michelle’s timing was perfect because I was just finishing up another book and looking for a new one to start.  Michelle described Gracie’s Song as a contemporary romance.  I am being completely honest in saying that I didn’t quite know what to expect from a contemporary romance novel.  Was it going to be hot and steamy like a Harlequin Romance novel?  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  You see, romance novels aren’t typically a genre that I seek out.  If a book that I read happens to have a great love story, then I’m almost sure to enjoy it, but a straight up romance novel isn’t something I would generally choose.     Fortunately for me, Gracie’s Song was, in my opinion, contemporary fiction with an element of romance.

 Gracie's Song

Gracie Brannen left her home in Glenwood under mysterious circumstances shortly after her high school graduation, leaving behind her family and friends and a whole lot of unanswered questions.  Among those she left behind was lifelong friend and boyfriend Finn Miller.  Ten years later, she returns home for her mother’s funeral.  Though Gracie has grown into a strong and independent woman, it seems that not much has changed in her small hometown.

Gracie quickly rekindles her relationships with both her sister and best friend and is welcomed into their families.  Her absence is easily forgiven by everyone except Finn, with whom she just can’t seem to reconcile her past.

Gracie’s Song has elements of intrigue that will leave readers on the edge of their seats as Gracie’s past and her reasons for leaving Glenwood are slowly revealed.  This story will break your heart and leave you wanting to know more about some of Gracie’s closest relationships.  While the author didn’t leave any loose ends, Gracie’s Song would easily lend itself to a sequel.

Gracie’s Song is author Michelle Schlicher’s 2nd novel.  I can’t wait to read her debut novel The Blue Jay.

For more information about Michelle’s books, click on the images below:



Please note:  I received a complementary copy of this book to review.  All opinions expressed within this review are my own.


January Reads

Apparently, I’ve read quite a lot this month!  Want to know my secret?  It’s audio books.  I’ve listened to four audio books this month and read 6 books in print.  I’ve gotten into a habit of listening to audio books when I’m doing laundry, cooking, or even when I’m working in the teacher workroom while volunteering at Grace’s school.  I like to fill the quiet spaces with something to occupy my mind.  It makes unpleasant chores so much more tolerable and it is a great way to check off the boxes on my to-read list.

This is just a brief rundown of the books I’ve read this month.

Books in print

In the Woods by Tana French

Technically, I started this book in December, but I finished it a few days into January, so I’m counting it!  This is the first in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series.  The story follows detective Rob Ryan as he investigates the murder of a child in his hometown.  This investigation hits a little too close to home for Rob, who, as a child, was abducted along with his two best friends.  Rob was the only one to return alive.  The mystery surrounding his friends’ disappearance remains unsolved and Rob struggles to reconcile his past experience with new information he’s learned during this investigation.  This was a great mystery, though not an easy one to digest due to the subject matter.  I have the second book in this series on my bookcase, just waiting for me to reach out and grab it.  4 Stars.

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

Eighteen year old Madeline struggles to remember the last time she left her house.  A deadly immune deficiency keeps her locked inside her home.  It is her own personal, hyper-sanitized bubble.  She lives with her mother and is homeschooled. She has a nurse who visits her daily, but most other guests are off limits.  Madeline seems happy and well-adjusted despite her unusual living conditions.  That is, until Olly moves in next door.  When natural human curiosity takes over, Madeline becomes filled with typical teenage angst that threatens everything about her perfectly protected life.  This YA read may lack a little substance, but the twist at the end might just surprise you.  3 Stars.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove is a grumpy old man.  He is hard-headed and stuck in his ways.  Ove has big plans for himself, but when his neighbors begin meddling in his day to day life, he find that his plans are thwarted over and over again.  I don’t want to say too much about this book, because I would hate to give anything away.  You should know that it is a heart-wrenching read.  Your heart will break for Ove time and again.  But this is also a beautiful love story that proves that it is never too late to love or live.  5 amazing stars.  This is the best book I’ve read in quite some time.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

This was the latest book that I’ve reviewed.  You can read all about it here.  This was a fun read and well deserving of 4 stars.

Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt

Nicole is a girl growing up in a boy’s body.  She shares all of the same features as her identical twin Jonas, yet she is transgendered.   This is the story of her family’s struggles and triumphs over prejudices living in small town, Maine.  For me, this was an interesting and informative read.  It was also inspirational to see her family overcome their own fears to become Nicole’s greatest supporters.  4 stars.

Audio Books

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

With their dad away working on the oil fields, the Campbell sisters are forced to take care of themselves.  On the rare occasion when their dad does make it home, he is usually drunk and violent.  After a night of violence, the girls flee their home, knowing they will never return.  While trying to escape their past, the girls run into trouble that will haunt them for the rest of their lives.  I didn’t love this book.  The narrator of an audiobook can really be a deciding factor in how much I enjoy the book.  I didn’t care for the narrator, but aside from that, I just think the story lacked substance.  The character development just wasn’t there.  The sisters survived terrible situations, but I just didn’t feel a real connection to them.  I gave this one 2 stars.

Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kalig

This was fun and quick to listen to, although it did garner me a few questionable looks from my husband who could overhear it while I was making supper one evening.  Mindy Kalig is honest and funny.  She’s someone you can picture as a friend.  Like many  other celebrity memoirs, this was a collection of quirky stories in Mindy’s characteristically dry humor.  She makes a great narrator, so this is a good one to listen to on audio.  I gave it 3 stars.

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

In a fit of desperation, I downloaded The Book Whisperer while volunteering in the library at Grace’s school.  I had packets to compile and staple for the entire school, so I knew I had a few hours worth of work ahead of me.  I was working in the teacher resource room, so I knew I wouldn’t be offending anyone by having the book played aloud.  This is a book that all elementary teachers should read.  In fact, there is merit in it for middle and high school teachers, as well.  Donalyn Miller shares her secrets on how she successfully encourages a love of reading in her sixth graders.  Her methods are fairly simple and would be easy to implement in almost every type of classroom.  I was in awe of her knack for recommendations and her classroom library that contained thousands of children’s books.  This was a fantastic professional development book.  It gave it 5 stars.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

A group of well to do strangers are gathered in the home of a South American Vice President to celebrate the birthday of a Japanese businessman.  The entertainment for the evening is a beautiful opera singer who mesmerizes the guests with her enchanting performance.  As the evening comes to a close, the home is stormed by hostage takers in what would become a months’ long stand-off.  Patchett delves into the lives of both the hostages and captors, who eventually become like comrades during their time together.  I think this was my first Ann Patchett book, with State of Wonder patiently waiting for me to pull it off my bookshelf.  It was a wonderful piece of fiction, loosely based on actual historical events.  Patchett has a gift for story telling and I look forward to reading more of her books and stories.  I gave this one 4 stars.

What I’m Reading Now

 Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I put this book on hold months and months ago through the library.  In fact, when it finally became available, I almost didn’t download it.  I read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl over the summer and let’s just say that I was no fangirl where this book was concerned.  The writing was amateurish and I feel that the author was attempting to ride the coattails of Harry Potter fandom.  But back to Eleanor and Park.  I decided to give it shot because it is so hugely popular in the YA world and promises to be Rowell’s best work.  I’m about halfway through it right now and I’m happy to say that it is better than I expected.  The writing is much stronger and it has a main character that you want to cheer for.

What I’m Reading Next

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

At Grace’s urging, I’m reading Hollow City next.  She had been interested in reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for awhile before she finally got around to reading it on my Kindle.  Hollow City is the second book in this series and it goes without saying that she is hooked!  I’ve got the third book on hold for her at the library and I suspect we will be making a trip to the bookstore this weekend so that she can buy the graphic novel.  I thought Miss Peregrine’s was just okay, but I’m happy to give this one a go at Grace’s instance.

What did you read in January?  What are you reading now?  What are you reading next?  Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook.

Girl Waits With Gun book review

It has been awhile since I’ve reviewed a book.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading in that time.  I’ve read plenty, but I’ve also had many other obligations to tend to.  Finishing up my online class in the fall took precedence and was soon followed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  I’ve just started my second online class to renew my teaching license and I’m crossing my fingers that it continues to be less rigorous than the literacy class I took in the fall.

The latest book that I’ve read is Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart.  This spunky and delightful read is based on the true story of Constance Kopp and her two sisters who were the focus of an intimidating gangster in the year 1915.   Historical fiction is not a genre that I’m usually drawn to, although I almost always enjoy reading it once I get started.  When I read the review for this book in our Sunday newspaper, I immediately added it to my Goodreads list.


Stewart, who is best known for writing non-fiction books about botany, creates a fantastic tale in turn of the century New Jersey.  City girls turned country spinsters, the Kopp sisters lived their daily lives trying to avoid the limelight until one fateful summer day when their horse and buggy collides with an automobile driven by the notorious Henry Kauffman.  In attempting to seek payment for their demolished buggy, Constance seeks out Mr. Kauffman.  What she gets in return is much more than she bargained for.  The sisters begin receiving threats that would make the average woman shake in her bloomers.  But these tenacious sisters won’t go down without a fight.  They take on arsonists, kidnappers, and gangsters all while trying to protect a secret of their own.

This was such a fun and delightful read!  If Mrs. Stewart were to write another historical fiction book in this same style, I would be one of the first in line to read it.

If you enjoy historical fiction featuring brave and daring feminists like the Kopp sisters, I encourage you to add the following books to your to-read pile:

Friday Favorites 10/23/2015

Ahhh…it’s Friday!  Did you all just breathe a huge sigh of relief, too?  That sigh of mine came after finishing one last homework assignment for the week with no intention of working on another until Monday!

Last week, Doug and I went to see The Martian in theaters!  It was amazing!  I’m a huge Matt Damon fan, so I loved seeing him in the role of Mark Watney.  It was well cast all around.  It is a must-see if you’ve read the book.  It’s one of the few movies I’ve seen that really pays tribute to the book.  And just for fun, I thought this was an interesting look at how the book and movie would have been different if author Andy Weir had included the recent discovery of water on Mars in his plot.

The Martian

I’ve not been watching much tv lately, but I finished up homework early one day and decided to check out two episodes of CNN’s This is Life with Lisa Ling on Netflix.  I’ve liked Lisa Ling since her days on Channel One News.  That is a throwback to my high school days, by the way.  Did anyone else have Channel One at their school?  Serena Altschul and Anderson Cooper both made their debuts on Channel One.  Anyway, back to This Life with Lisa Ling.  This is such an interesting series.  The first episode that I watched was on women living amisdt the oil boom in North Dakota and the second was about drug addiction amongst the mormon population in Utah.  Ling does’t take a traditional look at issues.  She spins them in a way that creates such intrigue for viewers.  I plan on watching more of this series when I get a chance.

So, what are you all up to this weekend?  Doug and Grace are watching Star Wars Episode V as we speak.  There is a fabulous vintage market and Lego Brickfest in town this weekend.  Unfortunately, we may miss them both because we have other plans.  But we may try to squeeze in Brickfest Sunday morning if we can all get up and moving.  If you know how we move on the weekends, then you also know that is a big IF.  LOL!

Is it beautiful where you live right now?  Because it is gorgeous right now in Indiana!  We are having the most spectacular display of fall colors that I recall seeing in several years.  I’m not sure if it is the unseasonably warm temperatures that we’ve had this fall or the lack of rain, but I just can’t get enough of the trees!

Speaking of fall, here is a link to love.  Be sure to turn the sound up to hear the cute noises this porcupine makes as he tries pumpkin for the first time.  It’s so adorable!

What are you reading now?  I picked up The Hanging Girl: A Department Q novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen from the library a few weeks ago.

The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler Olsen

This is another great detective series set in Denmark.  Detective Carl Mørck is a bit of an outcast.  Sent to the police headquarter’s basement in what would appear to be a demotion, Mørck and his ragtag band of misfit assistants form Department Q.  Department Q sets out to solve cold cases and does a surprisingly good job of it.  This is another formulaic detective series, but if you have a thing for self-loathing detectives with a wonderfully dry sense of humor like I do, then you will enjoy this series.

Wherever you are this weekend and whatever you are doing, I hope you enjoy!  Happy reading!

Friday Favorites 10/16/2015

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a Friday Favorites post!  And I’ll tell you why–it’s because I’m going back to school!  Eek!  I know, what was I thinking?!  I was thinking that the window of time for me to volunteer at Grace’s school will inevitably close soon.  Once she reaches middle school, there will be very few, if any, opportunities to volunteer.  And let’s face it, volunteering is what keeps me sane during those long lonely winter months.  It gets me out of the house so that I don’t lose my mind.  So, if I’m not volunteering at a school, I might as well be working in one, right?

At this point, you may be wondering what I’m going back to school for.  Currently, my plan is to take two classes so that I can renew my teaching license.  Then, after renewing my license, I will be able to apply to grad school so that I can pursue my masters in library sciences with a focus on school librarianship.

Evidence Based Reading Instruction

The first class that I am taking is only 6 weeks long.  It on the foundations of beginning literacy.  It is a lot of information to cram into 6 short weeks.  There has been a bit of a learning curve since the class is online.  I prefer to sit in a classroom, soak up lectures, and participate in live discussions.  Instead, I spend hours reading textbooks and online articles, then formulating long detailed responses summarizing what I’ve read and posting them on discussion forums.  What is interesting is that the majority of my classmates are from outside the U.S, so this has created a lot of great interactions.  I am planning on taking my second class starting in January through the same professional development company. I’ve not yet decided what I’m going to take, but I have a few classes to choose from.

What’s happening

Last week was a crazy busy week with my class starting, volunteer obligations, doctor appointments, family visits, and a quick overnight trip out of town.  Doug and I went to Cleveland for a day.  We saw Chris Cornell in concert and visited The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Chris Cornell

And of course, it wouldn’t be a great date without a trip to the grocery store!  We made an impromptu stop at Trader’s Joes to load up on all things pumpkin spiced after drooling over this list.  I can say with certainty that the pumpkin seed brittle earns its title as one of the best pumpkin spiced products!  Though only after tasting it did we discover it may contain wheat.  What a bummer!  It was delicious, but probably not something we needed to eat much of anyway.  It was super decadent!

This week has been another crazy week, with me feeling like every second of everyday has been scheduled.  It’s actually kind of nice to be busy.  School is definitely keeping me on my toes and, so far, I am staying ahead of the game!  Between loads of reading for school, I managed to volunteer at Grace’s school book fair 3 times, go to two optometrist appointments, have a parent teacher conference, and help Grace’s teacher and the art teacher in the school work room, all in four days!  It’s gone quickly!  Needless to say, I’m looking forward to a few quiet weeks ahead.

What I’m reading

After I finish typing this, I’m going to finish my latest book After You by Jo Jo Moyes.  Because it is a new release, it was on a 7 day loan at the library.  I’ve no idea what possessed me to pick it up, considering my hectic schedule, but it has been a nice distraction this week.

So, what’s new with you?  What are you reading?  Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook!

The Silkworm book review

It’s been a few weeks since I have posted, but I can assure you that I have still been reading!  I have a few books waiting to be reviewed and this is one of the best…


The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith is the second novel in the Cormoran Strike mystery series.  For those of you that may not be aware, Robert Galbraith is the pseudonym for Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.  Though clearly an adult series, the style of writing is just as delicious as the wizarding series that gained Rowling so much notoriety.  Much like any mass market paperback mystery, The Silkworm and it’s predecessor The Cuckoo’s Calling are very formulaic.  But what sets this series apart from one that you would typically pick up at an airport gift shop is the beautiful prose contained within its pages.  J.K. Rowling has such a knack for creating vivid imagery that readers tend to lose themselves in her settings.

Set in the bitter cold of snowy London, private investigator Cormoran Strike is hired by a woman to find her husband who has disappeared among mysterious circumstances.  Owen Quine is a second rate writer who has seen little success.  When his latest book is released amidst major controversy, it seems as though Quine may earn himself some infamy. Quine has managed to insult just about everyone he’s ever encountered in his life in his outlandish tale.  When he turns up murdered, it appears as though everyone in the book is a suspect.

Private investigator Cormoran Strike, a down on his luck former military amputee, leaves no stone unturned in his quest to find Quine’s killer.  If you love a good mystery and have a deep appreciation for literature, then you will love the Cormoran Strike series.  If you’ve already enjoyed the first two novels in the series, then I’m sure you will be thrilled to know that the third book Career of Evil is set to be released next week!

A run-down of what I’m reading

So, life happens and I’ve had a full plate lately.  I’m up to my eyeballs in after school enrichment registrations and helping out with other things at Grace’s school.  I’ve had lots of family time over the last few weeks, which I’ve treasured.  But between keeping my house clean, my people fed, and stressing out about things that are currently beyond my control, my blogging has suffered as has my sleep.  I’ve managed to squeeze in reading, but that is about all the extracurricular activity that I’ve had time for.  Though I may be tired, I’m grateful for this busy season in my life.  It means that I am surrounded by people and activities that I love!

With that, I am going to do something a little different today to catch up.  I am going to do a quick rundown of the last few books I’ve read.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider has been sitting at the top of my review list for the longest, so I will start with it first.  I downloaded this one from the library.  I LOVE being able to download books from the library directly to my Kindle.  If I come across a few that are available now while I’m browsing, I usually download them instantly.

Extraordinary Means is a YA novel about two teenagers who fall for each other under strange circumstances.  Lane and Sadie are sent away to a sanatorium for students with tuberculosis.  Latham House is a former boarding school, turned hospital that acts as a means to quarantine young TB patients during an epidemic outbreak.  Comparisons of Extraordinary Means to The Fault in Our Stars aren’t without merit, but to me it fell a little short of TFIOS greatness.  I gave this one 3/5 stars on Goodreads, but would probably make it 3.5 if I could.  It is an interesting story, with some predictable circumstances, but worthy of a good discussion.

Up next on my Kindle was Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertallianother great library download!  Being that it was only recently released last spring, I really didn’t know what to expect from this book.  At first, I didn’t love the tone of this book.  It was brooding and kind of angry.  I’m not sure if it was the book that changed or if it was me.  As I continued reading, it grew on me and I ended up really loving this book for its boldness.  Simon is a gay high school student, forced out of the closet against his will.  And though his dignity has been stripped away, Simon manages to carry on with grace.  This is a sweet teenage love story that gives me hope for our younger generations and it is very worthy of 4/5 stars.

I pulled Donna Tartt’s A Secret History off my bookshelf next.  I have a stack of used books that I purchased over the summer that I’ve barely delved into.  Must stop reading Kindle books!  But in all seriousness, I picked A Secret History as my next read because there was so much buzz about it on my Instagram feed.  People were raving about it and calling it a favorite!

This book was hefty, weighing in at 628 pages.  Having devoured The Goldfinch earlier in the summer, I was sure I was in for a treat with A Secret History.  Boy, was I wrong.  Set in the late 80’s at a small private college that strives to be Ivy League, A Secret History is about a group of pretentious students who study Greek and only Greek.  They are an elite group of six who happen to have the rare and unusual privilege of being educated privately by an eccentric old professor.  When the group stumbles into some trouble and one of the odd men out threatens to reveal their transgressions, the rest take measures into their own hands.  For me, where this book differed from The Goldfinch was in its characters’ likability.   I’ve said it before, I just can’t enjoy a book with unlikable characters and this book was rife with them.  This book has all the feels of a classic, but I’m not sure it will ever live up to that distinction.  I give this one 2/5 stars, leaning towards a 2.5.


And just this morning, I finished up Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, another highly anticipated YA library download that I had on hold.  It was hugely disappointing to me and what’s more is I have all the other Rainbow Rowell books on hold at the library, as well!  I’m still holding out hope for Eleanor & Parkbut may have to abandon the others.

Fangirl is the story of Cath, a socially awkward freshman fumbling through her first year of college, while also dealing with some fairly serious family issues.  Cath writes young adult fan fiction, based on the fictitious Simon Snow series, to a huge internet following.  Simon Snow is a play on the Harry Potter series, but a poor imitation at best.  Excerpts from Simon Snow and Cath’s fan fiction are sprinkled throughout the pages of Fangirl.  I found myself skipping over these sections entirely because they were so poorly written.  I wanted to cheer for Cath, but again, I didn’t find her to be all that likable of a character.  She doesn’t make it easy to like her, even the other characters in the book have a difficult time befriending her.  My overall feeling of this book was one of disappointment.  It was just not a compelling read, nor was it very well written.  I give this book a solid 2/5 stars, with better expectations for Eleanor & Park.  

So, what have you been reading lately?  Anything good?  Because it sure looks like I could use some decent recommendations!  I think I’m going to have to pull something highly anticipated off my bookshelf to make up for these last two snoozers.