Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Thickety

So, I'm a little conflicted about this book.  The characters and the design skew a bit young, but this is a Dark book.  Yes, that capital D is intentional.  I'm just not sure what to do with it.  It looks like a 6th grade book and reads like an 8th grade book.  I'll just have to see what happens.

When Kara Westfall was five years old, her mother was hanged for witchcraft.  Ever since that time, she, her brother, and her father have been outcasts in the village.  Her father is barely functional stuck in the horror and despair of losing his wife.  This leaves Kara to take care of herself and her sickly younger brother.

The village is surrounded by a dark and dangerous forest called the Thickety.  It's filled with magic and frightening creatures.  No one ventures inside because of the risk of death or worse.

One day a strange creature lures Kara into the Thickety where she discovers a grimoire and begins covertly practicing magic.  She is in constant danger of discovery, but the magic is powerful and addictive.

About halfway through the book, things take a (not so) surprising turn which I won't reveal in the interest of not spoiling the story.  But the twist at the end I did not see coming.

This was a good but disturbing book with an interesting exploration of addiction.  I am interesting to see what J.A. White does with book two.

Ruin and Rising

I've been a big fan of this series since the beginning, and the final installment is not a disappointment.  The atmospheric quality of Bardugo's writing is one of my favorite things about it.  From the first page, I am transported to this alternate version of Russia complete with lush backgrounds and costumes.  I practically get chilled from visiting the frozen world of Ravka.

Before I move on to the plot, please be aware that this is the final book in a trilogy, so there will be spoilers.  Don't read this review if you are behind on your reading!

Alina, Mal, and the rest of the survivors of the failed attempt on the Darkling are now underground at the White Cathedral under the control of the Apparat.  Alina is weakened after the battle and confused and disturbed by the band of religious zealot warriors the Apparat has assembled.

When she finally gains the strength, she and her surviving grisha set out with Mal to track the firebird.  She believes that finding the final amplifier is the only way to defeat the Darkling.

This quest will reveal dark truths about Morozova and put her friends in greater peril than ever.  The stakes are higher than ever as the final battle approaches, and everyone will be faced with difficult choices and heartbreaking sacrifice.

One of my students said this book was more melancholy than the others in the trilogy, and I think that is the perfect description.  I thoroughly enjoyed this series, and I can't wait to see what Leigh Bardugo writes next!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Saving Lucas Biggs

Margaret is heartbroken when her father is convicted of a crime he didn't commit.  The Victory corporation owns pretty much everything in Victory, Arizona, including the judge who presided at the trial.  Some people see Margaret's dad as a whistle-blower and a hero, and some people see him as a traitor.  Unfortunately, the people in charge see him as a problem to be handled.

The only way to save him, is to use the family "gift" and travel back in time to 1938 to stop the event that turned Lucas Biggs into the hard and cold man he is today.

Back in 1938, things are not going well for the Victory corporation or for the miners who produce the company's coal.  When a disaster in the mine causes increased tensions in the town, the miners go on strike.

There is one moment where everything hangs in the balance.  The first time around resulted in tragedy, and the balance tipped in Victory Corporation's favor.  Margaret hopes things can be different this time.  If she succeeds, she will save three lives and change the future of Victory, Arizona.  If she fails, she loses her father.

This is a story about time travel, friendship, and the struggle between social classes with a dash of environmentalism thrown in.  We get multiple perspectives on the action from both 1938 and 2014.  You will be on the edge of your seat as Margaret and her friends try to change the past to save the future.  Read this collaboration between husband and wife, Marisa de los Santos and David Teague!


Kennedy Waters is living a pretty normal life.  OK, her dad left when she was a little kid, but she and her mom are happy and healthy.  She has her art, her best friend, and her cat.  All in all, life is pretty good.

Everything changes when she returns home to find her mother dead of an apparent heart attack.  Suddenly, her world is falling apart.  But things are about to get a lot worse.  Worse like a vengeance spirit trying to murder her in her sleep!

She is saved by two guys she's never seen before who break into the house and destroy the spirit.  Lukas and Jared tell her that her mother didn't have a heart attack; the same spirit who tried to kill Kennedy killed her mother.  And it's all part of a bigger plan.

Lukas and Jared bring Kennedy into the world of the Legion, a group that has been battling demons and spirits for hundreds of years all in an effort to keep a world-destroying evil at bay.  They are also convinced that Kennedy has inherited a place in their ranks.

Now she and the other Legion members must battle vengeance spirits to collect pieces of a device that will save the world.

This is Kami Garcia's first solo novel, and the best part about it is the creepy factor.  I loved all the haunted locations in the story.  If you are a Supernatural fan, you will either love or hate this book because it has a lot of similarities to the tv show.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Into the Woods

You all know I love fairy tales.  I'm sure it's no surprise that I also love Into the Woods, and I can't wait for the movie to come out!  Come by the library to check out a book from our fairy tale display, and enjoy the trailer below.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Red Pencil

Amira's life in Sudan is one of hard work, but she is happy.  Her father, Dando, is her favorite person, and he encourages her creativity calling her Amira Bright and finding perfect drawing sticks for her sand drawing.

When her best friend moves away to go to school, a desire to learn is kindled in her heart.  Everything changes when the Janjaweed arrives.  They are a local militia bringing death and destruction in their wake.  When they are gone, the village is destroyed, and many people are dead.

The survivors flee and end up in Kalma, a refugee camp.  Life is now filled with trash and strangers and hopelessness.  It is the gift of a red pencil and a pad of paper from a stranger that begins to wake Amira from her grief.

Amira's dream of going to school comes alive again, and now she will do anything to learn.

Andrea Davis Pinkney's new verse novel is beautiful and heartbreaking story about pain, violence, and the will to succeed.  Be sure to read the author's note at the end for a brief explanation of the true events in Darfur that inspired this story.

Stay Where You Are & Then Leave

War breaks out on Alfie Summerfield's fifth birthday.  Before that day, his life was good.  He had two parents at home who loved him, a street full of friendly neighbors, and a best friend next door.  But the war changes everything.  Alfie's father volunteers for the army immediately hoping it will improve his chances.  Everyone is saying it will all be over by Christmas anyway.

Now it is four years later, and Alfie's father has stopped writing letters.  His mother says he is on a secret mission for the government, but Alfie only half believes her.  Most days Alfie doesn't go to school.  He works as a shoe shine boy at the train station to make extra money for the family.  It is while he is shining shoes one day that he accidentally discovers the truth about his father.

This discovery sets Alfie off on his own secret rescue mission.

You may recognize the author, John Boyne, from The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.  This new book is set during WWI and focuses post traumatic stress disorder, which was called shell shock in those days.  People understood even less about PTSD then than we do now, and many people accused these men of being cowards.  This book scratches the surface of the horror of "shell shock" and hope for eventual recovery.

I really liked this book and its subtle exploration of painful issues related to WWI and it's aftermath.  It will take a careful reader to really grasp the story and its implications.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Winner's Curse

Kestrel's life is about to change, but she doesn't know it.  Herrani slaves are a matter of life in the empire, but Kestrel doesn't like to think too much about it.  It's almost an accident when she wonders into the slave market one day.  The whole idea makes her uncomfortable, and she wants to leave until she sees him.  He's handsome, strong, and a trained blacksmith.  That talent would be useful to her father, a general in the Valorian army with soldiers garrisoned on the estate, but that wouldn't be enough to tempt her.  It's his refusal to sing and the implied punishment in the auctioneer's eyes that pushes Kestrel to bid and win.

Arin wasn't always a slave.  When the Valorian war machine showed up ten years ago conquering, killing, and enslaving, he was just a child.  Now he is a slave, but he doesn't intend to be one for long.

Kestrel and Arin should be enemies, but each seeks out the company of the other, and their feelings begin to grow.  This isn't just a tale of star crossed lovers.  These two are on opposite sides of a brutal war with each side taking ruthless action against the other and each betrayal cutting ever deeper.  Kestrel can only deny her feelings for so long, but can she ever truly love and trust her enemy?

I loved Marie Rutkoski's new book!  It's a great love story, but there are so many more moral questions at play.  It is much more complex than I had imagined.  Highly recommended!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The True Meaning of Smekday movie trailer!

The movie is called Home.  I guess they thought the title was too weird.  :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Crossover

Josh's dad, and pretty much everyone else, calls him Filthy McNasty because of his skills on the basketball court.  Only two people can come close:  his twin brother JB and their dad.

But just as their team is poised to take the championship, things start to go wrong.  Josh and JB have always been best friends, but now JB has a crush on the new girl Alexis.  Miss Sweet Tea may be cute and a baller, but it's not easy for someone else to take the number one spot away from Josh.

Josh's dad used to be a professional player in the Euroleague until his hurt his knee.  His career could have continued if he's had knee surgery, but he has always been opposed to doctors.  The same is true now that he's had fainting spells and shortness of breath.  Heart problems run in the family, but "da man" can't be brought down  so easily.  The fried chicken and donuts don't help.
All of this is driving Josh a little crazy, and he lashes out at JB at a game.  Can these two brothers ever repair their relationship, or is this the end of a beautiful friendship?

I loved Kwame Alexander's story of basketball and family told in verse format.

The Nethergrim

Edmund wants to be a magician, so he saves all his money to buy books and candles to learn on his own, but he has to do it in secret because he father thinks reading is a waste of time.  He bought the inn to leave to his eldest son, and that's what Edmund should be concerned about.  But Edmund only cares about two things:  magic and Katherine.

Katherine is tall and strong and prefers sword fighting and horses to pretty much everything else.  Her father trains all the king's horses with Katherine's help.  She doesn't have many friends, but she only needs her father, the horses, and her two best friends Edmund and Tom.

Tom is a slave to the cruelest master in the village.  He has a special gift with the natural world.  He can speak to and understand animals, and he has a vast knowledge of plants.  His only moments of peace are when he can steal time with his friends.

When a number of children go missing from the surrounding area, all signs point to the return of the Nethergrim.  Even though it's supposed to be dead, killed by a trio of men including Katherine's father, the signs are clear.  As fear and despair spread through the countryside, Edmund, Katherine, and Tom realize they know where to find the missing children, but no one will listen.  That means the three friends must venture into danger to save the missing children before it is too late and the ancient horror that is the Nethergrim awakens.

What a fabulous fantasy epic by Matthew Jobin!  I can't wait for book two!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Zane and the Hurricane

Zane's father died before he was born in a car accident, so he's only known his mother's side of the family in New Hampshire.  All that changes when his mother discovers a long lost relative in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She's not just any relative though; she's his great aunt Trissy who raised his father.  She's very old, and she wants to meet Zane.

Zane only agrees to go if he can bring his dog, Bandy, so the two set off reluctantly for New Orleans.  Things are going so awful until a few days after his arrival when news of Hurricane Katrina arrives.  In their efforts to escape, Zane is separated from Miss Trissy.

Now Zane must survive the worst storm he's ever experienced, but what happens after the storm is even worse.  Plus, he's on his own in a city filled with danger.  The once beautiful city is now full of filthy water, dead bodies, and violence, and it seems like no one is willing to help.

Zane is lucky to find two other survivors who are willing to share early on, and the three companions set off looking for dry land and shelter, but it seems there is very little compassion left for the poor bedraggled companions.

Rodman Philbrick's new book is a powerful story of survival and the importance of compassion.  This book is a great entry to the Hurricane Katrina disaster for readers of all ages.  Highly recommended.

The video below shows the day by day development of the storm.  If you want to see more storm footage and the devastating effects, there is plenty of video available on the internet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stubby the War Dog

I was trying to get this review done yesterday in time for Veterans Day, but it didn't happen.  This was such a cute story!  I can't believe it hasn't been made into a movie yet.

This is the true story of Stubby, a stray dog who wandered onto the training grounds where doughboys (soldiers) were getting ready for deployment during WWI.  There he met Robert Conroy, and the two became fast friends.

Stubby went to Europe with Conroy and became a valued part of the unit by detecting poisonous gas, bombs, and injured men.  He also provided much needed companionship to lonely soldiers far from home.

Once the war was over, Stubby became a celebrity!  I am barely skimming the surface in this review because I don't want to give away all of Stubby's tricks.  Read Ann Bausum's new book, and you'll fall in love with Stubby, a real American hero.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood

Abby Spencer's life in Houston has been pretty normal up to now.  She's never known her father, but she has her mom and her grandparents plus great friends at school.  Everything changes one day when she discovers she has a serious food allergy.  Nearly dying can give a girl the courage to ask her mom about her long lost father!

That's when she discovers the truth.  She's always known her father was Indian, but the truth is even crazier than that.  He's a Bollywood star and not just any Bollywood star either.  Naveen Kumar is the hottest star of Bollywood cinema!

Abby wanted her life to be more exciting, but this might be too crazy.  She goes to Mumbai to meet her father and his father where she discovers the wonders and extreme poverty of India.  She also gets a taste of the celebrity life!

No one back home is ever going to believe this!

This is a sweet story about family relationships set against the backdrop of a Bollywood musical.  Varsha Bajaj's story is a light and fun read.  If you went to Tweens Read, you may have seen the author there.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Win Mockingjay Tickets

Now is your chance to win tickets to see Mockingjay Part I!  All you have to do is pick up the entry form in the library, fill it out, and get your parents to sign it.  

All entries are due by 8:15 on November 21, and the winner will be announced later that day.  

Theater:  AMC Willowbrook
Date:  November 21
Time:  7:00PM

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Mockingjay Extravaganza!

I know I'm excited for Mockingjay!  How about you?  Our next book club meeting will December 8, and it will be a Hunger Games/Mockingjay book/movie discussion/extravaganza!  All members of the fandom are welcome even if you are not a regular book club attendee. :)

Anyway...Here are some trailers for you.  :)

And here's a link to the official YouTube channel for even more videos!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Julian is not like his friends.  At least that's what everyone keeps telling him, but the way he sees it is different.  His best friend Lonnie is the leader, the one with all the ideas, and the rest of the gang just kind of follows along because his ideas are usually good and because Lonnie's just so persuasive.

No one meant for Danley to get hurt.  They were just kids playing around, but now the suspension is over, and Julian and his friends are back in class.  But Julian's English teacher isn't satisfied.  Mr. Selkirk wants something written, and it has to be long.

This is beginning of Julian's musings on his life, his friends, and their adventures.  Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and sometimes Julian writes the truth whether he can see it or not.

This is the story of the year when Julian finally starts to see things for how they really are, to see the truth about his friendships and about his choices.  To finally see what it means to stand up and be yourself.

I really enjoyed Mark Goldblatt's coming of age story.  Julian is not a character you always like, but I think most of us can identify with those moments when you just go with the flow because that's what's easiest.  Highly recommended!

Students reading this book should be aware that the historical context is important to the details of the story.  You will hear characters using words, phrases, or attitudes to describe people of other races that may surprise your modern mind. Keep the historical context in mind as you read.  How would the characters and story be different if it took place in 2014 instead of 1969?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The School for Good and Evil

Sophie is determined to be a princess in a fairy tale, so when it comes time for the kidnapping, she does everything she can to make sure she is taken.  The rest of the village takes precautions: nailing windows and doors shut, patrols in the street, the good dirtying themselves up and the bad trying to be a little better.    Every four years, a mysterious creature comes in the night to kidnap the best and worst child in the village.  No one is exactly certain where they go, but the faces of kidnapped children in storybooks are proof enough.

Sophie believes her devotion to personal beauty and carefully planned acts of charity make her the obvious choice for good.  Sophie doesn't really have any friends.  She's too good for anyone in the village, but what started out as one of her "acts of charity" has actually turned into a friendship of a sort.

Agatha is the opposite of Sophie in many ways.  She is dark-haired, wears only black, has a perpetual grumpy attitude, and lives in a cemetery.  Additionally, she thinks Sophie is insane for wanting to be kidnapped.  So, while Sophie is doing everything in her power to be kidnapped, Agatha is trying to protect her.

When the actual kidnapping does happen, the two girls are taken together, but Sophie's exultation quickly turns to dismay when she is dumped in Evil and Agatha is dumped in Good.  How could this have happened?!

From day one Sophie is intent on proving there's been a mistake, getting her prince, and winning her happily ever after.  Agatha sees the true danger around them and devotes her time to finding a way home.  Will either girl get her hearts desire?  And will these two misfits find out where they truly belong?

I really enjoyed Soman Chainani's book about misconceptions and friendship.  I love the way the author picks apart common fairy tale tropes to show how ridiculous the are in "real" life.  I recommend this one for fairy tale and fantasy fans.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Ophelia, her sister Alice, and their father are still grieving from her mother's death when her father gets a special commission to prepare the world's greatest exhibit of swords.  As an expert in swords, Mr. Whittard takes the job hoping to distract himself and his daughters from their grief.

But this is no ordinary museum.  The displays are strange and shifting, and the museum curator, Miss Kaminski, is strange and beautiful.  Mr. Whittard is too distracted by the swords to pay much attention, and Alice is enamored by Miss Kaminski who gives her clothes and makeup.  This leaves Ophelia to explore alone.

Soon she finds a door hidden in a mosaic image of the sea.  The door is locked, and inside is a boy.  He does not know his name, and he has been the Snow Queen's prisoner for many many years.  Slowly, he tells Ophelia his story, the story of how he was trained to fight the Snow Queen, but he is now her prisoner.

And slowly, our scientific Ophelia begins to believe.  And she knows she must help him no matter how terrible the danger because if she doesn't, the Snow Queen will bring about the end of the world.

I love Karen Foxlee's new book about magic and friendship!  It is a sweet and delicate tale.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sure Signs of Crazy

Sarah's life is ruled by one event in her past.  When she was little, her mother tried to drown her and her twin brother.  Simon died, Sarah survived, and following trials for both of her parents became media sensations.

It would be nearly impossible to put something like that behind you anyway, but the media dredges the story up every few years, and Sarah's father uproots their lives to move to a new city.  This means they always live in a rent house, Sarah's always the new girl, and she's always ready to pack up and go at the first sign that her mother's story is coming back.

To make things worse, Sarah is worried that her mother's crazy is hereditary, so she's always examining herself for signs of it.  Her father is an alcoholic who drinks until he passes out pretty much every night and on the weekends.

Sarah has always tried to hide her true feelings until her language arts teacher gives her an assignment to write over the summer, suggesting the students start by writing to their favorite characters.  Sarah writes a series of letters to Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird, and this is when she starts to be honest with herself, and she even writes all the things she wishes she could say to her father.

Sarah thought Garland was the armpit of Texas, but as the summer progresses, she will find new friends and start to make her peace with herself and her mother.

I loved Karen Harrington's new book!  It is heartbreaking but funny, and, of course, I appreciate Sarah's fascination with words.  This is a must read!

Friday, October 3, 2014


Velvet lives in a world of monsters.  She used to think all that horror movie stuff was a joke, but that was before the first wave, before thousands of people suddenly turned into mindlessly violent creatures.  Connies--short for contaminated.

ThinPro protein water was the most popular diet drink in the country.  People were drinking it everywhere.  It wasn't until after the second wave when Connies were rounded up to be experimented on that scientists discovered the truth.  The protein in the water was contaminated causing a mad cow effect on humans.  Many people know someone contaminated.

For Velvet it's both her parents, and now she is left to take care of her little sister, make ends meet, and try to finish high school.  Add to that the stress of the unaccounted for Connies still living in some remote areas.

Most of the Connies have been rounded up and neutralized with collars that send shocks to their brains to control their violent urges.  These Connies live in kennels like animals waiting for family members to claim them.  Most don't.  Even though they aren't violent anymore, they are like dementia patients.  They can't talk, they need help going to the bathroom and feeding themselves, and they have to be tied up to keep them from wandering off.

But Velvet is different.  When she finally finds her mother, she brings her home where she faces violence and prejudice.  But Velvet is convinced her mom is different.  If she can just get her back into a familiar routine, maybe her mom's brain will be able to repair itself.

Even as Velvet is struggling with all the responsibility of caring for her family, more contaminated are starting to appear.  Is this the beginning of a new wave?  And how will she be able to protect her family and survive in a world gone mad?

This is was a great sci-fi thriller.  There are plenty of dystopian elements with just enough horror to keep you on edge!  Read Em Garner's new book for a new take on zombies.  I already ordered the sequel!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rick Riordan Webcast


This is a compelling "what if" story.  During the 1960's the United States and Russia were stockpiling nuclear weapons in an effort to intimidate each other.  This all came to a head during the Bay of Pigs crisis when Russia placed missiles in Cuba aimed at the United States.  In reality, both sides backed down, and nuclear catastrophe was avoided.

Fallout is Todd Strasser's imagining of what might have happened if Russia had dropped the bomb.

Scott's dad decides to build a bomb shelter in the back yard just in case.  This causes a lot of laughter and derision from his neighbors who don't think World War III is going to happen, but Scott's dad just wants to be prepared.

When it does happen, those same people who laughed at his family are fighting their way into the shelter.  But Scott's father has only stocked enough food for four people.  Can ten people survive on food for four long enough for the radiation levels to drop?  To make matters worse, Scott's mother slipped when she was climbing into the shelter and smacked her head on the ground.  Now she seems to be in a coma, and there is a lot of blood.

Scott has never seen the adults in his neighborhood fight before, but being locked in the shelter is bringing out the worst in everyone.  Underneath the fighting and the hunger is the nagging thought of all the people who probably didn't survive.  The book alternates between the present in the shelter and the past in the months leading up to the bomb.  This puts the loss of all the friends and teachers who were part of Scott's life before in context.

This would be a great book for discussion and an interesting paring with The Diary of Anne Frank.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Kyra is on the run for the attempted murder of Princess Ariana who also happens to be her best friend.  I know what you're thinking.  Maybe she was framed.  Nope, she really did try to murder the princess, but there is more to the story than that.

With the help of a special pig who can sniff out anyone, Kyra tries to find the princess, whose gone into hiding, in order to save the kingdom.

Kyra was living a quiet and successful life as a master potioner with a specialty in poisons before things went wrong.  She worked well with her two partners and was even engaged to be married, but her life was not destined to be easy.

With the help/hindrance of a cute boy named Fred, Kyra tries to outwit the palace guard and her fellow potioners to save the kingdom!

This is a fun read filled with romance and adventure!

This is Bridget Zinn's debut novel.  Sadly, the author died from colon cancer in 2011.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tweens Read Book Festival

I am taking a bus to this FREE event!  Come to the library to get a permission slip! Click on the image below for more information about the event.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Across a Star-Swept Sea

Persis Blake is the flirtatious, ornamental, and obsessed with fashion.  She's also the best friend to Princess Isla, ruler of Albion.  But everyone knows Persis is the girl you call when you need advice on fashion, flirting, and parties.  Everyone knows Peris Flake.

That's why it's the perfect cover.  In public Persis plays a foolish rich girl.  In private she is the Wild Poppy, leader of a league of spies who risk life and limb on rescue missions to the neighboring island of Galatea.

Long ago the world and all it's inhabitants where nearly destroyed.  A small number of people escaped by going into orbit around the planet.  When they landed, two kingdoms developed.  The working class on both islands was made of reduced.  People with limited mental capacity due to generations of genetic manipulation.  Know a woman named Persistence Helo has created cure, and there on no more reduced.

On Albion, the ruling class and the regs are learning to mix together and change centuries of class division.  On Galatea, the ruling class remained intent on repressing the regs to maintain their own power.  This has led to a violent revolution where Citizen Aldred is capturing aristos and subjecting them to chemical reduction and forced labor.  To Citizen Aldred, all aristos are bad.

This is where Persis comes in.  With a variety of disguises, the Wild Poppy and her team snatch aristos from Aldred's clutches.  Things get complicated when Justen Helo, grandson of Persistence and foster son of Citizen Aldred himself shows up saying he has become disillusioned with the revolution.

At the urging of Princess Isla, Justen and Persis embark on false romance to explain his presence in Albion.  The grows ever more dangerous for Persis as she must fool this boy even as she unexpected begins to develop feelings for him.  Are Justen's motives as pure as he purports, or is he hiding secrets from Persis, too?

This companion novel to For Darkness Shows the Stars is a sci-fi adaption of one of my favorite classics, The Scarlet Pimpernel.  It's full of adventure, romance, and betrayal.  What's not to love?!  I hope Diana Perfreund will continue the series based on my favorite classics!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Testing

It's graduation day for Cia, and all she can think about being chosen for Testing.  If she doesn't make the cut, she will have no choices for further education.  She will simply have to chose a job and stick with it.
So when she hears the news that she has been chosen, she is overjoyed.  If she passes all the tests, she will get to study at the university just like her father did.  The night before she is to leave, her father takes her aside and gives her a vague warning.  He can't really remember anything about his testing, but he does have nightmare of blood and violence.  The only help he can offer is to be careful.

This puts her on edge, but once a student has been chosen, she must follow through.  Besides, Cia still wants the chance to learn more.

The initial phase of testing seems normal enough, but soon things become deadly, and the candidates turn on one another.  Who can Cia trust as tries to survive the most dangerous test of her life?

Cia knows the government is just trying to find the best leaders for the future, but each test leads her to question the system even more, and she has a terrible feeling that failure is not an option.

Fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent will enjoy Joelle Charbonneau's fast-paced dystopian thriller.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Jane Eyre

I was getting ready for my reading list presentations next week, and I realized I never did a blog post for Jane Eyre!  I love this book!  It's one of my all time favorites, and I read it for the first time when I was fourteen, so I thought it would be a great fit for my 8th graders.

Jane is orphaned as a young child and sent to live with her aunt and uncle.  Her uncle loves her, but his death leaves her in clutches of her cruel aunt and cousins.  This terrible beginning only gets worse when Jane is sent to a spare boarding school with harsh masters.

She eventually becomes a teacher and leaves to be a governess for Adele, the ward of Mr. Rochester.  This is when things really start to get interesting!  Mr. Rochester is gruff and several years older than Jane, but it isn't love before the two develop a mutual affection.  Jane knows nothing can come of it because she is poor and plain, but Mr. Rochester is the love of her life.

Meanwhile, strange things are happening in the house, and no one will tell Jane the truth about these dangerous events.  Will Jane find love and contentment, or will she be thwarted by fate?  Read this gothic romance to find out!

I hope you love Charlotte Bronte's classic novel as much as I do!

2014-2015 Reading Lists

Individual book reviews are also tagged by grade level and year, so you can search for reviews.  For example, if you want to see my reviews for all the 6th grade books, just click on 6th Reading List 2014-2015 in the labels on the right side of the screen.  Happy reading! :)

Princess Buttercup's Recommendations

As she does every year, Princess Buttercup has a few words to say about the reading list selections.  Here are her picks from the 2014-15 reading lists!

Monday, August 25, 2014


Scarlet has been sick for as long as she can remember.  She has a genetic disorder called Long QT which basically means her heart doesn't beat in a normal rhythm and can stop at any time.  She has spent her sixteen years between the hospital and home.  She doesn't really know anyone besides her father and her stepmother, but Scarlet has made a decision.  She may be dying, but she doesn't want to go without experiencing life as a normal girl.

It wasn't easy to convince her parents to let her go to high school for a week, but the fact that her stepmother is the school nurse is a mark in her favor, and she'll be carrying her own AED, automated external defibrillator, around in her backpack just in case someone has to jump start her heart.

Because of her health issues and her zero experience in school, Scarlet is placed in a peer mentoring group where she meets her first real friends.  Jordan is a year older, gorgeous, and haunted by the past.  Nessa is perky and friendly to a manic degree, and Scarlet suspects she is trying to cover for something.  Then there is Celina with her sweatshirts and hoodies who used to be number one in the class, but now she's just withdrawn.

As Scarlet makes it through her first week of school, she learns that everyone has secrets sometimes even the people you think you know inside and out.  When a school assignment prompts Scarlet to look into her own medical history, she will learn the truth about her illness and her broken heart.

CJ Lyons's new book is full of drama and medical information.  It reads a little like a Lifetime Movie, but it is compelling and a great pick for people who love drama!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Forbidden Stone

Wade Kaplan's world gets excited when he and his stepbrother Darrell discover a coded email on his father's computer.  That message sends the whole family into a world of danger, mystery, and ancient secret societies.

The message is from Dr. Kaplan's former teacher, and when he tries to contact the man, he discovers his friend has been murdered.  When he takes the boys, along with cousin Lily and friend Becca, to Germany to attend the funeral and investigate the message, they are quickly trapped in a dangerous web of artifacts and clues started by none other than Copernicus!

Each of them has a skill they will need to solve the mystery.  Wade loves the stars and math just like his dad and Copernicus, Lily is a whiz with computers, Becca is gifted in languages, and Darrell is a man of action.  With their combined skills, they will begin a quest that will lead them to a gemstone that is part of a device created by Copernicus that will change the way we see time and space.

Of course, the Kaplans aren't the only ones on the trail, and their enemies don't care who they hurt in pursuit of their goal.  Read Tony Abbott's new series starter for a dose of action and adventure!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Serafina's Promise

Serafina has a secret desire to become a doctor.  Ever since the day she met Antoinette Solaine, the doctor who tried to help her baby brother, Serafina has known she wanted to become a doctor, too.  But you have to go to school to become a doctor, and Serafina's life is full of chores.  Every day she takes the bucket to stream where she collects water for the family's needs.  Then she sweeps the dirt floor of their home, helps wash the clothes, and then helps Manman and Gogo prepare the rice for dinner.  Even if there were other children to help with the chores, Serafina knows there is no money for school.

But Serafina will do whatever it takes to go to school so she can help the people of Haiti one day just like Antoinette Solaine.  Her dream will have to overcome more than crippling poverty.  Serafina's family will face illness, hunger, floods, and eventually the earthquake that destroys most of the island.  Life only gets harder for Serafina and the people of Haiti, and she will see the truth of Manman's words, "The only unbreakable home is one made with love."

I LOVE Ann E. Burg's newest verse novel.  It is beautiful story about dreams and love in the face of extreme poverty and devastation.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


It's 1867, and the Civil War is over, but life in Richmond is nothing close to back to normal.  Richmond residents have lost the war, their property, and their pride.  The city is overrun with Yankee soldiers who are eager for any opportunity to kick the beaten rebels while they are down.

Shad's father died in the war, and he and his mother work for Granddaddy's tailoring business to support the family.  Shad is becoming a skilled tailor even though he is only fourteen.  None of that matters because his older brother, Jeremiah, is the favorite.  Jeremiah will inherit the tailoring business even though he's never shown any interest, and Shad is pretty sure his hothead older brother is drinking and antagonizing Yankees when he should be looking for work.

Jeremiah is a bully who never did anything for his little brother, so Shad knows the only way to find out what Jeremiah is up to at night is to follow him.  That's how he accidentally gets initiated into the brotherhood, the KKK.  They don't seem too bad to Shad though--just good old boys getting together to sing songs on take care of war widows.

Something else is happening to change Shad's world.  He's always felt stupid because he can't read, but there's a new teacher in town who thinks he can help.  The only problem is Mr. Nelson is in Richmond to teach at a colored school, and he wants Shad to go there, too.

Shad knows it would be devastating for Jeremiah and the brotherhood to find out about the colored school and his participation in it, but the promise of learning to read is too good to pass up.  But when the brotherhood turns out to be more dangerous than he could have dreamed, Shad will be caught up in conflicting loyalties and choices that could have deadly consequences.

A.B. Westrick's story of postwar Richmond is fascinating and thought provoking.  This is a tale with few moral absolutes and plenty of danger and intrigue.  It's the story of Shad's transformation, and we see him in a way we rarely see characters in children' literature.  You won't like Shad all the time, but you will see him for what he is--a product of his upbringing and environment.  This makes the changes in his character all the more powerful.  I highly recommend it!

Friday, July 18, 2014

West of the Moon

Astri and her younger sister, Greta, live with their aunt, uncle, and cousins.  Their mother died when Greta was just a baby, and their father left for America.  He is saving money to bring his daughters over from Norway, but he's been gone for years.

When Svaalberd the goat man shows up looking to buy a girl work on his farm, Astri knows it won't be like the fairy tale.  In that story, when the bear shows up to take the girl, he leaves her family with riches, and takes her to a world with soft furnishings, full bellies, and kindness.  Svaalberd is a a goat man.  He smells like the goats he keeps, has a hump on his back, bad breath, and a foul temper.

As she suspected, Svaalberd is not a kind a master, and Astri takes the her chance when she sees it to try to escape.  Thus begins her quest to save her sister and get the two of them on a ship to America to find their father.

They will have to face many dangers and challenges along the way, but they will also find friends and uncover the secrets of the past.  Astri knows the traditional Norwegian folktales by heart, and she blends them into her own tale of survival.  But life is not a fairy tale, and as Astri realizes early in the story, no one is going to show up to save her by magical or mortal means.  If Astri wants to be saved, she will have to save herself.

This story was inspired by the diary of Margi Preus's great great grandmother.  Make sure to read the author's note at the end for more information about Preus's ancestor and Norwegian fairy tales.  It probably won't surprise you to learn that I loved this book.  The mix of fairy tales and reality is wonderful, and Astri's tale is dark and painful but also hopeful.  A great read!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Siege and Storm


Alina and Mal are on the run and in hiding, following the events at the end of Shadow and Bone.  They are hungry and dirty but happy to be free from the world of the Darkling.  Of course this time of romantic bliss won't last long.  The Darkling will stop at nothing to get Alina under his control.  When he captures Alina and Mal, there seems to be little hope for survival.

Thus begins the continued search for power, and Alina will gain a new ally in a long lost prince.  Nicholai is roguish and charming, and he wants to make changes in Ravka for the better including making Alina the leader of the Second Army.  They will both face opposition from the establishment, but the Darkling and his forces continue to build their strength, and an attack is imminent.

The nation is not the only thing at stake as Alina questions her sanity, and Mal feels useless and threatened by the princes who see Alina as a political asset and potential marriage partner.  Will their relationship survive Alina's new status and the stresses of preparing for war against the Darkling?

Leigh Bardugo's sequel is just as dark, lush, and romantic as the first book in the series, but about halfway through the story got a little bogged down, and Mal is just annoying for most of the story.  The conclusion really picks back up, so I have high hopes for book three!

Liv Forever

Wickham Hall is full of snotty rich kids as far as Liv is concerned, but the promise of her own art studio is enough to lure her from Las Vegas to the lush grounds and historic buildings of Virginia.  Liv grew up as a foster child, and she guards her heart closely, but deep down she is a true romantic with a real appreciation of art and poetry.

Soon after arriving she meets Malcolm.  They shouldn't have anything in common.  Malcolm is one of the elite, but the more time they spend together, the more Liv comes to know Malcolm as true romantic, just like she is.

Most of the other kids at Wickham Hall ignore her at best.  She is a scholarship kid after all.  Her only friend other than Malcolm is Gabe, another scholarship kid with a huge chip on his shoulder who believes he can see and hear ghosts at Wickham Hall.  Liv doesn't believe him--at least not until she becomes one of those ghosts herself.

Now she, Malcolm, and Gabe form an unlikely trio determined to uncover the truth behind Liv's death and the history of suicides at Wickham Hall before it's too late for all of them.

Romance, suspense, grisly murders, creep ghosts, secret societies.  This is a good Gothic lite read.  My only real issue with the story is Liv and Malcolm's instant and all consuming love for each other.  It's a little far-fetched, but if you can let that go, you'll get a good thrill from Amy Talkington's paranormal love story.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Vengekeep Prophecies

Jaxter Grimjinx is one in a long line of thieves and con artists.  His family has pulled off some of the greatest heists in the five provinces, and Jaxter is destined to join their ranks.  The only problem is Jaxter is the clumsiest kid in Vengekeep, maybe in all the five provinces.  It's hard to pick a lock when when you keep dropping the instruments.  His only real skill is the ability to use plants and herbs to nullify magical charms and wards.

Many years ago a pair of prophetic twins wove a series of tapestries, one for each year, that would warn the inhabitants of Vengekeep of troubles in the year to come.  Each year that tapestry is revealed at celebration.  This year, the tapestry reveals the worst series of catastrophes in history:  fire, flood, earthquakes, horrifying beasts.  But the tapestry also reveals the Grimjinx family will save the town.  Can this be true?  The most reviled family of thieves in town will save them all?

Jaxter comes up with a plan to save Vengekeep, but it will involve sneaking out of town to gather ingredients from all over the five provinces.  With the help of his new friend, Callie, Jaxter will have to overcome his own insecurities and match wits with a range of mages and con artists.  Can Jaxter Grimjinx, klutz and failed thief really become a hero?

Brian Farrey's book is a fast-paced fantasy adventure.  If you think the cover art looks familiar, you might recognize the style.  The cover art and the chapter heading illustrations were down by Brent Helquist, illustrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Friday, July 11, 2014


Jake Cullen has grown up in the shadow of his family's football legacy in small town Texas.  His older brother, Wyatt, was the star of the Granger High School team for four years and is the starting quarterback at UT as a freshman this year.  Their father Troy was a high school and college star who even played in the NFL for a while until one last concussion forced him to quit and come home to Granger to run the family cattle ranch.

Jake feels like no one really sees him for who he is, including his father.  Troy Cullen barely even notices his younger son with all the excitement and drama going on in Austin with Wyatt.

Jake has other battles to fight as a freshman on his high school team.  He's the third string QB after a senior who's been waiting in line behind Wyatt for his chance to play and a transfer student who isn't willing to be backup to a freshman.  An injury in the first game of the season turns things into a QB battle.  Jake has talent, but he doesn't believe in himself.  He's a good teammate who wants to win but not at the expense of the team rapport.

Will Jake be able to step into the limelight and get his father to finally notice him?  Read Mike Lupica's new book about football in small town Texas to find out.

The Warrior's Heart

Eric Greitens's memoir is a great read.  After weeks of putting it off thinking it would be too manly for me, I read the whole thing in one day!  What a great story about the importance of living a life of service.

The story starts when Greitens was in college and went on several humanitarian trips.  The first one led him to China where he taught English to college students and learned for the first time what it is like to live in a world with strong government control.  His students were hungry to learn anything about America, and when he learned that several of his students participated in the protests at Tienanmen Square, his view of the world really began to change.  These were normal people who were willing to risk everything to fight for their rights.

Greitens when on several other humanitarian trips before eventually deciding to join the military.  He knew that if he really wanted to make a difference in the world, he would need to step up and protect those who couldn't protect themselves.

The first half of the book describes Greitens humanitarian efforts that led him to the decision to join the military, and the second half mostly focuses on his SEAL training.  There he learned about strength, perseverance, and learning to protect his team.  Greitens class started with over 200 men, most owhom dropped out before graduation.

This is such a great read and an inspiring story.  I do want to mention that in the military section of book there is some "bleeped" profanity--the first and last letters with a dash in between.

The Maze Runner

OK, I confess I'm a bad librarian, and I just now read The Maze Runner for the first time, and I was motivated by the movie.  The important thing is that I finally did read it, and it was a great twisty ride.  If you haven't read this series by James Dashner, what are you waiting for?  You only have a few more months until the movie comes out!

When Thomas wakes up in dark elevator car, he can't remember anything but his name.  He has no idea where he came from or where he is, but he quickly learns he is in The Glade, a large open area surrounded by the heavy stone walls of a shifting maze.  The other gladers, all boys, have jobs to keep the society moving, and there is definitely a power structure.  Thomas feels inexplicably drawn to the maze.

He wants to be one of the runners who go out every day to explore and map the maze.  It's a difficult job with a time limit.  Every night the walls of the maze slide shut keeping the gladers out and the grievers in.  Grievers are large creatures with stingers and metallic arms.  Occasionally, they will get a glader outside the maze.  Their sting is incredibly painful and deadly if not treated immediately.

Soon after Thomas's arrival, something strange happens.  A girl arrives.  She comes with a message that everything is about to change, and then falls into a coma.

Some of the boys have been suspicious of Thomas from the start, and the arrival of the girl only makes things worse.  His urgency to get into the maze only increases.  He believes there is a way to escape even if the others insist they've tried everything.

As the action heats up, the world of the glade gets more dangerous, and Thomas's compulsion to escape the maze intensifies.  It's clear that they must escape, but no one knows how many gladers will die in the process.


Maisie has lived a pretty sheltered life.  Her mom home schools her, and her only real friend is another home schooler named Luther.  Her world is small.  It seems like a huge joke that her middle name is Danger.  She's a science wiz, and her life long dream is to be an astronaut.  As difficult as that dream would be normally, for Maisie it is practically impossible.  She was born without a right hand.

When she finds a contest to win a spot at a space camp run by one of the greatest minds in space exploration, she thinks her dreams have come true.  She has a great time at the camp, and she even starts a camp romance with the super-hot and super-rich Wilder.

But there is more going on here than Maisie realizes, and a close encounter with alien technology changes everything.  Soon Maisie Danger Brown may the earth's only hope against an invading force.

I can't really give you too many details about Shannon Hale's new book because I don't want to ruin any of the surprises.  This is a bit of an experiment for Hale whose other books are fantasy novels.  Hale is one of my favorite authors, and I was excited to read this one.  It takes a bit to really get going, but once it does, it's a great ride!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Tesla's Attic

I love Neal Shusterman as I'm sure you know if you've been reading this blog for any amount of time.  It only takes a couple of pages in this new series starter co-written with Eric Elfman to figure out why.  As with all Shusterman's books, it's clear from the beginning that this is not your average story.  It is his skill with character and plot which transforms what could be a ho-hum story into a clever and surprising tale of friendship, honesty, and long ago scientific rivalries.  Who else could this?

Nick has just moved to Colorado Springs with his father and younger brother Danny following the tragedy that destroyed his home and killed his mother.  The family is still reeling from this loss, and they've moved from Florida in part to escape and in part because the ancient house left to them by a relative is the only housing option they have.

When Nick decides to use the attic as her bedroom, he knows he'll need to have a garage sale to get rid of all the junk that's been hidden there for ages.  But once he gets rid of them, he realizes they are not just ordinary objects.  That may look like an innocent toaster, but when Nick tries to use it, it blows out all the lights in the room.  Did I mention it doesn't even plug into the wall?  And that's the tamest of the objects.

Soon after the stuff is gone, guys in suits show up to demand the items and immediately put Nick on edge.  He knows that stuff is more than it seems.  He also seems to know instinctively that the the white suit guys should not get there hands on any of it.

With a little research, he learns that he and friends are in the middle of an ages old battle between Tesla and Edison.  Not only are they endangered from Edison's modern day followers, but Nick has unwittingly set off a chain events that could destroy the entire planet!  

Monday, June 23, 2014

Loud Awake and Lost

Ember survived the car accident eight months ago, but its effects are lingering.  She's been in the hospital and rehab since the accident, and she can't remember anything from the six weeks preceding the crash.  She's eager to get home, but once there, she finds little clues to a life she doesn't recognize.

She tries to jump back into her life by reconnecting with her best friend and her ex, but she keeps feeling disconnected.  It's like something major and life changing happened before the accident, but it's been wiped from her memory.  She doesn't feel like the ballerina who wears a bubble gum pink jacket anymore.

Plus there's Kai.  On a trip to nightclub she visits in an attempt to jog her memory, she meets this amazing hot guy who isn't like anyone else in her life.  He's unpredictable and creative, and Ember feels an instant attraction to him.

As she tries to piece her life back together, Ember must reconcile the ruffles and lace dancer girl who used to live in her room with the motorcycle jacket and boots girl who was driving the night of the accident.  As her memories start to come back, she will rediscover some truths about herself and eventually uncover the painful truth.

Read Adele Griffin's YA book that is a thrilling journey through trauma to recovery and realization.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


This is the third book in Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series.  It's not a surprise that I love this series!  Fairy tales plus science fiction equals awesome!  The only problem is the fourth book has been pushed to a November 2015 publication date.  That's over a year away!  Why?!  I hope it's worth the wait.  There is a bonus book coming out in January that appears to be the requisite before-she-was-evil story about our villain, Queen Levana, so I guess that will have to tide me over.

Cress was born a Lunar shell, but her early prowess with hacking and technology is anything but a plus.  She's spent the last seven years alone in a satellite doing the bidding of Queen Levana's Thaumaturge, Sybil Mira.  As far as Sybil knows, Cress obeys her every order, most recently tracking the fugitive Linh Cinder.  Instead, Cress has been protecting Cinder and team of fugitives from detection by hacking into satellite feeds.

When Cinder finally makes contact, the fugitives decide to rescue Cress, but everything goes wrong when Sybil shows up at the same time.  This disastrous rescue attempt divides the team into three parts and no one is sure of the survival of any of the other members.

Despite the loss of her friends, Cinder knows she has to stay focused on keeping Levana away from earth and preventing her marriage to Kai.  Will she have the courage and strength of will to take her place as a Lunar princess?

Cress picks up right where Scarlet left off, and the action moves forward swiftly.  This is another great entry into the series, and fairy tale fans will enjoy picking out the elements of the Rapunzel story in Cress's tale.  I highly recommend this series.  It is sci-fi action, romance, political intrigue, and plenty of fairy tale extras!

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Mark of the Dragonfly

Piper has been living alone in Scrap Town 16 since her father died.  She makes her living by scavenging from the debris that falls from the sky in regular storms.  Piper is a machinist with an ability to fix almost anything mechanical, and this talent has helped her scrape by, but she dreams of going to the city one day to make a new life for herself.

When she finds a girl unconscious in the debris after a storm, she brings the girl home to try and help her. When she finally wakes up, Anna is unlike anyone Piper has ever met, and she is terrified of the man who shows up saying he is her father.  She remembers nothing about her life except her name.  But there is one more strange this about Anna; she has a dragonfly tattoo on her arm, a tattoo that marks her as under the special protection of King Aron, ruler of one of the warring nations in their world.

Piper makes a split-second decision to run away with Anna to try and save her.  This begins the journey of a lifetime for the girls on the 401, a train that will lead them to the city.  Thanks to the dragonfly tattoo, the girls make it onto the train, and Piper begins to experience a whole new side of life.

As they travel closer to the city, danger is around every corner, and the more Anna remembers about her old life, the more Piper wants to protect her from going back.  In a world populated by shape-shifters and telepathic creatures, Piper will discover her own kind of magic as she commits to saving her friend.

Read Jaleigh Johnson's first book in this new fantasy series!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Summer of the Mariposas

Odilia and her sisters are left to run wild after their father abandons them.  Their Mama is stuck in a fog of depression and constant working to pay the bills, and the cinco hermanitas spend the summer days swimming in the river.

Everything changes the day they find the dead man floating in the river.  They are afraid to call the authorities because they know if he is an illegal his family may never find out what happened to him.  So they decide to steal the junky car their father left behind and take the man home to his family in Mexico.

Odilia is opposed to the plan at first, but when La Llorona appears to her to tell this is a quest she and her sisters must complete together, she reluctantly decides to go.  After all, their abuelita doesn't live far from the man's home, and it's been years since they've seen her.

On the way the sisters will have to face dangers both normal and paranormal.  They will have to evade border guards, a witch, the lechuzas (owl creatures with human heads), and even the chupacabras!  Will the cinco hermanitas be able to complete their quest?

Guadalupe Garcia McCall wrote this book because of a conversation she had with her students one day while teaching The Odyssey.  One of the girls in her class asked why all the stories where about old white guys, so she decided to write her own version of the story using sisters and Mexican folklore.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Matter of Days

When the BluStar pandemic kills 98% of the world's population, Nadia must travel from Seattle to West Virginia with her little brother, Rabbit.  The siblings secretly received vaccines from their uncle before the disease spread across the globe.

Now they will journey across a wasteland of looted homes and businesses and the remains of the dead who had no one left to bury them.  They will battle disease, hunger, wild animals, and survivors in a world without rules where only the strongest can survive.

Along the way, they will pick up a ragtag group of companions.  They will have to use everything their military father taught them to survive and discover strength they never knew they had in a world where none of the old rules and preconceived notions apply.

Read Amber Kizer's thrilling new novel about pandemic survival.  I could not put this book down.  It's a fast-paced thriller from beginning to end!

CFTV Book Festival Piece Featuring Your Favorite Librarian! (I am your favorite librarian, right?) ;)

High School Summer Reading List

Here is the recommended list for high school students provided by the district.  There are a lot of books on this list, so if you want a suggestion, come by and talk to me in the library.