Thursday, January 22, 2015


Rio has lived her entire life below in Atlantia.  Many years ago when the above became too polluted, humanity found a solution.  They built the underwater city of Atlantia, and some were chosen to live there to increase humanity's chances of survival.  Some where chosen to stay above to live in the polluted world and send food and supplies below.

Rio has always dreamed of going above, but when her mother died she promised her sister, Bay, she would stay below with her.  But Rio is shocked when Bay chooses to go above and leave her sister alone in Atlantia.  It is at this moment that Rio reveals her secret.  She is a siren.  Her true voice can bend people to her will, but she has kept this power a secret all her life to stay out of the hands of the council and those who would use her for their own ends.

It is only after Bay is gone that Rio begins to explore more of Atlantia where she comes in contact with her Aunt Mer, a powerful siren.  Rio isn't sure she can trust her aunt or the disturbing truths she learns about Atlantia.

One thing is for certain.  Rio will find a way to get above even if her feelings get more confused every day.  Atlantia is more dangerous than she ever imagined especially for a siren living in the shadows.  But she is also in danger of losing her heart to True, the clever boy who wants to protect her.

Ally Condie's new book has a similar feel to the Matched trilogy, and you will definitely enjoy Atlantia if you liked the first series.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe

After their home burns down, 8th grader Gabriel Ashe and his family move to the small town of Slade to live with his grandmother.  There isn't much to do in Slade, and Gabe spends a lot of time with a neighbor boy in the woods behind their houses.  The game seemed a little childish at first, but it was fun, and it's not like Gabe had anything else to do.  The two boys become warrior princes who have to save their kingdoms from a creature called The Hunter.

School starts, and Gabe learns that Seth is the school victim.  He feels torn between his friend and the popularity he has always wanted.  When strange things begin happening in town, everyone blames Seth.  Seth insists it was The Hunter.

At first Gabe is annoyed.  It's just a game, right?  But their is a suspicion in the back of his mind that maybe Seth is telling the truth.  Either way, the pranks are becoming more dangerous, and Gabe finds himself in the center as both victim and accused.  Will he discover the truth before it is too late?

This is something different from Dan Poblocki's other stories.  It starts out as a friendship story turns to a mystery and ends up in horror.  It will definitely keep you guessing about who is to blame and how everything will resolve.  It's a bit of a slow start for a horror story, but keep with it.  You won't be disappointed!

Friday, January 9, 2015


Clariel just wants to be left alone.  She wants to live in the Great Forest, but her family has just moved to Belisaere, the great city of the Old Kingdom.  Her mother is a master goldsmith, and the guild of goldsmiths is thrilled to have such a skilled artist in their ranks, but Clariel's family has other important connections.

They are cousins of the king, an old man who has grown weary of power and politics.  He has refused to govern for years leaving the guilds in the city to take power, and no guild is more powerful than the goldsmiths.

Clariel is also the granddaughter of the Abhorsen.  The Old Kingdom is steeped in magic.  Many years ago, the greatest sorcerers bound free magic with the Charter.  The Charter protects the living from dangerous free magic creatures and from the dead who can be called back into the world of the living.  The current Abhorsen has neglected his duties to spend time hunting and feasting.  The Charter has keep the Old Kingdom safe for a long time, but that may not continue.

Clariel does not care for power or position.  She would rather be alone with nature, but she has been forced into a city teeming with life and politics and into the path of those who would use her as a pawn to serve their own ambitions.

This is one of my most anticipated books of the year!  I love Garth Nix's original Old Kingdom trilogy, and it was wonderful to be back in his rich fantasy world.  Clariel is set 600 years earlier than the first book in the original series, so you can start here without feeling confused, but you should definitely read the other books as well.

This is the second book I've read recently about the addictive nature of power and how that addiction can corrupt.  If you've already read the original old kingdom books, you know what Clariel will become which makes her choices and words that much more powerful.  It was also a real treat to meet Mogget in his younger and wilder state.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2014 in Review

It's time once again for my 2014 Reading Year in Review!  All new and improved!  Now with cat gifs!  I know you're super excited, but try to contain yourself.

Oh, internet, you are a weird and wonderful place.  Now, if you can tear yourself away from Shaq dancing with a kitty, let's get started.

Here is the breakdown.  This is one of my favorite parts of this exercise because who doesn't love a good breakdown of data on a subject your love?

Total books read:  107!  This is actually 29 fewer books than I read in 2013, but I'm ok with that.  I think I pushed myself too far last year and got a little stressed.  107 is a much more relaxing number.

Middle School Books:  77  It shouldn't be a surprise that the vast majority of the books I read are for middle school.  That includes anything we have in our library here at Campbell.  I enjoy middle school and YA books, and I especially like being able to recommend them to you.  :)

High School Books:  11  Most of the "high school" books I read are recommended by high school librarians or have a lot of buzz.  There have been a few great ones this year including Rose Under Fire which had me curled in the fetal position and weeping.  Books=emotional catharsis.  I also read Dreams of Gods and Monsters to finish out Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy.  Middle school readers, you can enjoy those later.  Everyone else, what are you waiting for?!

Books written for Adults:  19  I am pleased with this relatively high number.  It was one of my goals this year to read more books about grown ups like Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  I highly recommend this one to the adult readers of this blog!

Genre Breakdown

Adventure: 2

Classics:  2

Fantasy:  30

Historical Fiction:  13

Horror:  6

Humor:  2

Mystery:  8

Realistic Fiction:  16

Romance:  8

Science Fiction:  27

Sports:  5 (What the heck!  This is a shockingly high number!)

Biography/Memoir:  6

Nonfiction/History:  3

Nonfiction/Science:  0 (What happened here!?)

I tried not to count anything twice, but I might have.  I enjoy the analysis, but I'm not too crazy strict in the process.  I like looking at the genre distribution because it helps me to be more conscious of my book selections.  For example, I usually read my more nonfiction and not nearly so many sports books.

Here are the books broken down by rating with an explanation of what I mean when I give a book that rating.

Five Stars:  16 (Awesome!  Perfection!)

Four Stars:  51 (Really Good!  Almost Perfect!)

Three Stars:  38 (Good, but not not special)

Two Stars:  5 (Eh, tolerable)

The good news for 2014 is I didn't have any one star or abandoned books.  That means it was a pretty good reading year!  Plus, 77 of my 107 books were excellent reads!

I want to give credit to Goodreads for helping track my reading every year.  I love this site because it connects me with friends, tracks my books, and has better tools every years for helping with my yearly analysis.  If you click on the widget on the right side of your screen, you will be redirected to my shelf.  I accept friend requests from pretty much everyone including students on Goodreads because I only use it for cataloging and discussing books.  :)

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for, my top ten books of 2014!  Woohoo!  So excited!
Just to clarify, these are all books from the Campbell Middle School library.  While the rest of this post includes all the books I read in 2014, the following concerns the 77 middle school books on the list.

Here they are in no particular order:

Sarah loves words and books, but she is terrified she will end up like her mother who has been institutionalized since she tried to drown Sarah and her twin brother in the bathtub.  Her brother died; Sarah survived.  Now every day seems like a struggle against what could be her destiny.  Sarah's favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird.  She loves the story and wishes her own troubled father were more like Atticus Finch.

On the last day of school, her English teacher passes out empty notebooks and encourages the students to write over the summer.  Most of the kids throw them away, but Sarah begins writing letters to Atticus Finch as she tries to figure our who she is and how she fits into the word.

I love this book!

Serafina's life in Haiti is filled with the duties of surviving from day to day, but a chance encounter with a female doctor plants a dream in her heart.  One day Serafina wants to be a doctor, too.  She doesn't know how she'll get there.  Schools cost money her family doesn't have, but she is determined to reach her goal.

Then her beautiful home is destroyed by an earthquake while she is away from her family.  Stranded and alone, Serafina must find a way to survive and help those struggling around her.  Will she be able to keep the promise she made to herself to go to school?

This is a beautiful story of tragedy and hope.

Felicity has just moved to Midnight Gulch with her mother who never seems to settle and her little sister.  They've never stayed anywhere for very long, but Midnight Gulch is special.  Not only is it the town where her mother grew up, but it's also a town that was once filled with magic.

Felicity has her own kind of magic.  She's a word collector.  Everywhere she looks, she sees words and emotions.  She also believes there is still magic to be found in Midnight Gulch if she can find a way to break the curse.

This is a charming and beautiful book about friendship, family, and love.

No, your eyes are not playing tricks.  That is actually a sports book in my top ten.  If you know me at all, you know sports books are not my favorite.  I read them out of obligation and sometimes discover gems like this wonderful book!

Josh Bell, AKA Filthy McNasty, is a basketball phenom, and when he and his twin brother JB are on the court together, they are unstoppable, but their perfect little world is about to be shattered.  Things get tense when a girl comes between the two brothers, and it may take a terrible tragedy to bring them back together.

This is a joyful verse novel about life, love, and basketball.

This story is a wonderful mix of folktale and historical fiction.  When Astri is sold to horrible goatman as his servant, she retreats into the world of fantasy to make sense of her life.  Her one goal is to escape, get her younger sister, and find passage on a ship to join her father in America.

I absolutely love this book and the masterful way the author weaves folktales into the narrative.  Sometimes it is difficult to tell what is real and what is imagined.

In this story, the author takes would could be a run-of-the-mill star-crossed lovers story and turns into something much more thought provoking.  Kestrel is the daughter of the ranking general of a war like country.  The defeat a country, enslave the people, and take over all the estates.  Kestrel has never given this system much thought until the day she finds herself in the slave market where she sees a handsome and proud young man.  Partly on impulse and partly to save him from punishment, she buys him.  This sets off a chain of events that does involve a love story, but it's also about being conscious of your actions and your impact on society and world as well as the rights and wrongs of warfare and retaliation.

One day a strange object that would later be called Calamity appeared in the sky.  Suddenly, certain people developed superhuman abilities.  Sounds great, right?  Wrong.  All of those superhumans quickly become cruel overlords called Epics with the regular people trying to stay out of their way to survive.  When David was eight years old, Steelheart murdered his father.  On that day he vowed to have revenge.

Wow!  What a fast-paced, action-packed thriller!  This is a great series opener, and I can't wait to find out what happens next.

Neal Shusterman never ceases to amaze me.  There are some authors who are just so awesome they elevate everything they write.  I picked this up expecting it to be OK, but I was happily surprised at the depth and complexity Shusterman brings to the story.

After their house burns down, Nick and his family move into a dilapidated Victorian home full of junk which turns out to be the former home of genius, Nikola Tesla.  And all the junk turns out to be Tesla inventions that are more powerful than they appear.  Don't forget the dangerous secret society that shows up to cause trouble.

This book has great action and adventure, but it is the relationships between the characters that make it great.

Zane and his dog go to New Orleans to visit the long lost great aunt who raised his father, but they don't realize Hurricane Katrina is coming, too.  Zane gets separated from his aunt in the evacuation confusion and he must survive on his own until he can find a friend in a town where he doesn't know anyone.  Because this is book for young readers, it may not go into all the detail of post Katrina New Orleans, but Zane witnesses the breaking levees, the dead floating in the water, the violence and chaos of the Super Dome, and the vast divide between the wealthy and poor.  This is a wonderful and poignant story about survival and friendship as well as a great introduction to a disaster that many young readers may not remember well.  It's a great springboard for further reading and discussion.

Since her mother's death, Ophelia has felt isolated and sad.  When her father gets a job organizing a sword exhibition in a fabulous museum, the family to a strange and snowy city.  The museum curator looks young and beautiful, but she seems a touch cold to Ophelia.  Her father is lost in the sword exhibit as he tries to manage his grief.  Her older sister, Alice, is quickly drawn in by the curator's offers of make-up and clothes.

This leaves Ophelia to wander the museum alone until the day she finds a strange boy locked in a room.  He says he's been there for hundreds of years, and his clothes are certainly old fashioned, but Ophelia's logical mind won't accept it.  Despite this, she listens to his story and quickly becomes drawn into his world.  To save the boy and herself, Ophelia will have to face terrible creatures as well as her own fear and grief.

This is a beautiful story about love and courage.

I know that was ten, but in keeping with tradition, I'm listing the nonfiction separately below.

Oh, my goodness!  This is an awesome story.  A stray dog wanders onto training grounds for soldiers during WWI and gets adopted by one of them.  When Stubby's human companion boards the ship to join the fighting overseas, he smuggles the dog on-board in his jacket, and the rest is history.  Stubby turned out to be a sensitive and intelligent dog.  For many wounded soldiers, Stubby provided comfort during their final moments.  He found survivors among the dead on the battlefields.  He could detect gas before any of the humans and alerted the men to put on their gas masks.  The best thing is it's all true!  I can't believe no one's made a movie of this yet!

This great book tells the story of how Eric Greitens went from a regular kid to a humanitarian to a boxer and finally a Navy SEAL.  I really enjoyed this inspiring story about living life to the fullest by serving others.

Plus there is plenty of action while Greitens outlines his SEAL training.

And last but not least, I always like to do a short section on the series books I am still reading.  With so many books in my "to read" pile, a series has to be pretty good for me to continue reading it.

I really enjoyed the Grisha trilogy.  All the books are dark, moody, and highly atmospheric.  Make sure to grab a blanket as you head off into this land of snow and magic.  This is a solid conclusion to Alina's story of love, loneliness, and power.

I still love these fairy tales in a sci-fi futuristic world.  Instead of locked in a tower, Rapunzel (Cress) is imprisoned in a satellite in orbit around the moon.  By hacking into earth networks, she gets the ultimate reality programming as she follows the adventures of Cinder, Scarlet, and the boys.  The only problem will be waiting until November for book four!

This is my favorite series of the year.  Neal Shusterman, you are amazing!  If you want to know more about the book, go back and read my earlier review.  If you haven't read this series yet, what are you waiting for?  It is fabulous and disturbing!

Well, I guess that does it for 2014.  Stay tuned for more reviews and book news because

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Abigail Rook has just arrived in 1892 New England.  She ran away from a life of conformity and finds herself penniless, jobless, and homeless.  That is how she finds herself of the doorstep of R.F. Jackaby, detective.

He is unusual to say the least, but Abigail immediately feels comfortable as his assistant, despite the fact that she is skeptical of his claims that he can see the supernatural.

The scene of the first crime is a grisly murder that has the police stumped, but Jackaby sees a paranormal hand at work.  As they settle into the investigation, they grow closer to danger.

This is a fun if not wholly original story with a Sherlock Holmes-esque detective with the Doctor/Companion relationship dynamic and a paranormal twist.  I hope William Ritter continues this series!


Umm...Wow!  This series is amazing!  First, that cover is awesome.  Second, this whole series is just mind blowing.  I have to say this is the most disturbing book in the series by far, but I can't help but think that was Neal Shusterman's plan from the beginning.

Lev feels lost.  He began life as a devoted tithe, but once that illusion was finally shattered he was scooped up by the clappers.  When he didn't follow through with nihilistic terrorism, he finds himself on an Arapache reservation.  He is looking for a purpose for his life.  He needs all those narrow escapes to mean something, and he won't stop until he finds that purpose.

Starkey becomes more power hungry with each passing day, and it doesn't matter who gets hurt as long as long as he is a thorn in the side of the unwinding machine.  Now the clapper organization is funding the Stork Brigade with food, weapons, and clappers.  Starkey rules with an iron fist, but what will he do when the storks start thinking for themselves?

Nelson's one ambition since the Akron AWOL turned his own tranq gun on him has been to take that kid down claim Conner Lassiter's eyes for his own.  He's closer than ever as he takes his new apprentice Argent to meet the most heinous parts pirate in the system.

Conner has discovered something that Proactive Citizenry thought they'd destroyed, an organ printer.  If he can get this information public with the right company, one that's big enough to do something and small enough to not be part of Proactive Citizenry, he hopes he can change the way people think about unwinding.  But he has to make a stop first.  He has to go back where it all started and try to make peace before he can make change.

Risa and Conner are finally back together, but his desire to reconnect with his past may threaten their future.

Cam is trying to move forward since giving himself up to protect Risa.  Now that he's back in the Proactive Citizenry compound, he is disillusioned and distrustful.  With a little searching, he uncovers the horrifying truth about their plans for the future, and he knows he's the only one who can stop it.

My only real complaint about this final book is that Risa plays only a token roll.  Yes, Una has an active part, but what about Risa?  We need more girl power!

That said, the story is amazing, and the way Shusterman fits all the pieces together is mind-blowing.  Kudos, Mr. Shusterman, Kudos.

The Great Touble

Eel was earning his living as a mudlark gathering scraps and debris from the filthy water of the Thames in 1854.  A change of fortune got him room, board, fresh water, and enough money to support himself.  This is a vast improvement over his previous life.

Everything changes one August day when a rival accuses him of stealing jeopardizing his job.  When he tries to get support from one of his other employers, he makes a horrifying discovery.  The blue death has arrived, and it quickly spreads.  Eel knows there is only one person Eel can think of to help.

Eel has been feeding animals and cleaning cages for Dr. Snow who uses the animals in his medical inquiries.  Dr. Snow is more interested than Eel thought, but not for the reasons Eel had hoped for.  Most people believe the blue death, or Cholera, is caused by the foul smelling air coming off the polluted Thames, but Dr. Snow believes there is a more direct cause, and he intends to prove it.

With Eel's help, Dr. Snow races to discover the true cause of the Cholera outbreak and stop the spread before more people die.

I really enjoyed this book more than I thought I would.  It's a true medical mystery based on the real cholera outbreak of 1854.  Be sure to read the author's note at the end to find out more about cholera and its spread as well as the real people Deborah Hopkinson used as characters in the book.  Highly recommended!