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YA Book Review: The Fifth Vertex

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The Fifth Vertex: The Sigilord Chronicles Book 1 by Kevin Hoffman

Okay, so I read this book a year ago, and I could have sworn I had reviewed it here, but since I can’t find the review, you probably can’t either.  And since the second installment is out and ready for my greedy eyes, let me tell you about this first book in the Sigilord Chronicles.  Because obviously I just read it again in preparation for reading the second book.  Right?  You do that, don’t you?

I like to have the story fresh in my mind, and if I can’t binge read a series because all of the books aren’t out yet, I will re-read all of the books until I get to the last one.  It’s what I do.  And I am so. freaking. glad I had to re-read The Fifth Vertex.  Don’t let the cover fool you–when I first picked it up I was just sure it was going to be a graphic novel (of which, admittedly, I am not a fan.  Picture books are for children).  The sheer pleasure of the surprise of it being the genuine article–a fully-imagined world where magic and multiverses collide with the best and worst of human nature–well, that’s the stuff.

In this first installment, we meet Urus Noeller,  a young man who was born deaf in a warrior society.  At his introduction, he is lamenting his failure to pass the warrior tests of his society, contemplating taking his own life rather than be culled–branded and outcast.  He climbs a high building, intending to jump many stories to the desert sands on which his city is built.  He jumps.  He lands.  In a pool of blue light.  He lives.

What follows is a heart-pounding race to stop Blood Mages from finding and destroying 5 vertices that protect Urus’s entire world and universes beyond.  He meets Murin, a strange and mysterious man who looks nothing like anyone Urus has ever seen, and Cailix, maybe the most bad-ass female character ever written into a fantasy.  He discovers he has power of his own–that the blue light he landed in when he jumped from the roof is his own brand of magic.  And he takes on the responsibility of saving multiple worlds.

Hoffman is one hell of a character developer.  He has written a complex story that never gets  too complicated to understand, because it is character-driven.  His characters are unique and interesting and unfailingly human.  I love how he never forgets to use Urus’s deafness as part of the plot, how the individual attributes of each character contribute to the story with verve.

Because I loved (and loved to hate) everyone in this tale, I can’t wait to dig into the second book, Blood Sigil.  I’ll let you know next week if it holds up.

Love wins,


This post is linked to Literary Musings Monday

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The Joys of Guided Reading

You’ve probably noticed that I talk about reading and/or literature in almost all of my posts. I probably always will. I’m one of those crazy librarians who can’t think of a better way to learn about the world than to read a good story. (But if you’ve read more than one post here, you already know that.)

May I have your attention, please?

May I have your attention, please?

The Littles and I share a love of both reading and learning.  We look forward to our school sessions and during breaks we genuinely miss school.  Sometimes we pick a book to read together just for the sheer fun of it, even when school is not in session.  Now let me explain our favorite class: Guided Reading. When I say guided reading, I mean reading aloud together, going over vocabulary from the book, answering questions out of study guides I create for each book, and doing some sort of hands-on activity that helps us keep that day’s chapter in our minds. For me, it’s the most important class we do. For one thing, look at the English language practice we get. Vocabulary, reading comprehension, the chance to discuss grammatical twists and turns, and practice understanding how the language works. The boys take turns reading every other page, and we usually do a chapter a day. If they have questions, we can all stop for the answers before moving on. There’s no confusion or passing over a chance for knowledge because their psyches can’t assimilate the lesson. This helps tremendously when we read books from other centuries like Robinson Crusoe or Oliver Twist (you knew I was going to throw Dickens in there, didn’t you?). Then when we’re done we answer both ‘what happened’ questions and critical thinking questions, because there’s no point in reading a book about the plight of the poor if they don’t know what a plight is or don’t understand just how devastating poverty was in Dickens’ time and is today. Sometimes these books give us the opportunity to explore current events. For instance, has the poverty problem been solved in our world?  And what can we do to help?

Beyond the English language practice, the activities we do might be an art project or a science experiment or anything in between. It’s an opportunity to learn more than just history and language. We can incorporate any subject into these activities, even geography and math. And it’s fun! Guided reading is our very favorite time of the school day.


Right now we’re reading Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright.  If you’ve never heard of this gem, let me tell you, it is quickly becoming one of my favorite chapter books for children.  You know how some authors plant you in that slow, lazy childhood summer place so deeply you feel it wrap you up and spirit you away?  This book has the stuff.  It was first published in 1957, so it has that innocence about it that only mid-20th century children’s books have.  To be honest, the reason I chose it for guided reading right now is I’ve been pushing this book at those boys for a couple of years, practically begging them to read it on their own or for book reports, and they kept passing it over for ‘more exciting’ stories.  I was so afraid they were going to miss out on this beautiful, amazing  story because it didn’t have zombies or Greek gods in it.  Solution?  Make it a class.

And you know what?  They Love This Book.  We’ve laughed together over how much they like it after all that stubborn refusal to read it.  And hopefully I’ve convinced them to try a new genre.  Hopefully, as they grow, they will be like me and want to know All The Stories in the world, regardless of genre or age level.  Well, maybe not, since it’s impossible to achieve and it leaves you with this wistful longing to be reading even when you’re having the time of your life.  And wondering every time you pass a house, a field, or another person, what the story is there if you can find it in a book.  Hmm.

Nah, let them be wistful.  So long as they are readers.

Guided reading is an amazing way to dig in deep with your littles, introduce them to books they may not otherwise read, and supplement your learning experience with a lot of fun.  There are novel studies and lesson plans all over the interweb and soon I’ll be opening my own shop to offer you some affordable novel studies so you don’t have to do the work all by yourself!  Pick a book, find some questions and activities to go along with it, and guide your littles through the glorious pages.  And check back here in a few weeks.  I should have several Lit Looking Glass Novel Studies up and ready for you.

Shamelessly plugging.

Love wins,



Random Acts Should Not Be Random

be kind

Can I tell you something?  Random Acts of Kindness Day burns me up.  It’s all over the ol’ interweb this week, and every time I see the words, I fume.

KT, you might be thinking, this should be your favorite day of the year.  You’re always talking about being kind.

Yep yep.  I sure am.  Always.  We are a species that has the capability and forethought to be kind.  We should not need a specific day to prompt us to be so.  Listen, it takes no effort At All to be kind to others All The Time.  I mean, it might take a moment to breathe through a prickly situation, but that’s about it.

Every day, be kind.  When you go to a store or a restaurant, read the name tag of the person helping you and address them by name.  If you’ve ever worked with the public in any capacity, you know how you can start to feel invisible, like you’re just a drone and people aren’t even noticing you’re really human.  Using a cashier, server, or bank teller’s name affirms his or her humanity, reminds her there are reasons to love her job, and makes his day a little brighter.  I have Never not gotten a good response from it, but I don’t do it for me.  I do it for the person across from me.  It is not random.  I do it every time I come into contact with a person wearing a name tag, even if I’m just saying, “Excuse me.”  It’s such a simple thing to do.  Also, always thank them, and thank them by name.  Yeah, they’re getting paid to do their job, but sometimes that’s not enough, is it?

Also, any time you’re interacting with another person, try to see things from their point of view.  That’s not so hard.  Be empathetic, be sympathetic, Be Kind.  I feel like I’m kind of lecturing here, but that’s not what I’m trying to do.  I just disagree with only doing these things because some Hallmark random day tells you to do them.  You know that aunt/sister/parent/brother/grandparent who talks too much and mostly about himself?  They might be lonely.  Roll your inner eyes if you have to, but be patient with them.  Give them a few minutes of your time.

That person who is taking up the whole aisle at the grocery store, staring at the soup cans, talking on her phone, reconnecting with an old friend?  Are you really in too big a hurry to smile and wait?  Okay, that one can be hard, but I force myself to do it.  I literally ask myself why it’s so important for me to get down the aisle in three seconds and remind myself that sometimes I get caught up in the soup cans, too, or can’t find what I’m looking for.  We all get so involved in our own thoughts that we don’t realize other people need to get around us.  I find the humor, I smile, I wait.  Even at Christmas time.  Maybe especially at Christmas time.

If someone needs something from you, and you don’t really feel like doing it but there’s no valid reason you shouldn’t, do it.  Not because they might owe you something in return one day, but because it’s the kind thing to do.  We are social animals, and refusing to help others cuts us off from social opportunities.  In fact, volunteer somewhere, even if it’s just to take a friend’s kids for a day and let her have some time to reboot.  Hell, take my kids for a day.  I’ll be your best friend.

Rather than celebrating Random Acts of Kindness Day, let’s make a pact to be kind every day.  To find simple ways to make other people smile.  Let’s teach our littles to be those people by setting an example.  Cheesy as it is, we could truly change the world.

I’m in if you are.

Love wins,


Teach Your Children Well



Turn your kids into lifelong learners using these techniques

Whether you’re a homeschooling parent or the parent of a child in public or private school, you have a duty to your children.  A duty to raise them up to be happy, healthy, productive human beings who can contribute to society in their own unique and individual way.

Sheesh.  No pressure.

Breathe; I have a plan.

It’s pretty simple, too, and even realistic.  It is this: engender a love of books in your child and create a lifelong learner.  How does this help with the lofty goal above?  Oh, lovely reader, let me count the ways.

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