April 14, 2014

My Thoughts: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

4 peanut butter brownies.

Cover Love:
Yes!  It fits the tone perfectly!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
Jenny Han is a master of contemporary romances.  I loved Shug (which is a middle grade romance) and her Summer trilogy (The Summer I Turned Pretty, It's Not Summer Without You, We'll Always Have Summer).  So of course I wanted to read this one!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

Romance?:  Yes!

My Thoughts:

The thing that fascinated me the most and what made for a fully developed character was the relationship between Lara Jean and her sisters.  She is the middle of three sisters.  Their mother died when they were young (their youngest sister doesn't even remember her).  This event defined their roles and relationships in their family.  When Lara Jean's oldest sister goes off to college it's up to Lara Jean to be a better big sister and the organizer of the house.  She truly comes into her own in this new role, but its so subtle in the book that you don't realize it until she is spelling it out for her older sister towards the end.  I loved this dynamic!

There are two guys for Lara Jean.  The author made them both such good guys it's hard to have a favorite.  The interesting thing is that the boys are both suspicious of each other, but I think they are truly both good guys.  They both make a few mistakes, which is perfect because they are just teenage boys.  There isn't a perfect one out there!

The romance is really secondary in this book.  Like all good coming of age stories this is about Lara Jean coming into her own.  I think we will see a much stronger Lara Jean in the second book, one who isn't afraid of giving her letters to the boy she loves!

To Sum Up:  I will read any contemporary teen romance Jenny Han writes!

ARC requested and received from Simon & Schuster. Thanks Venessa!

April 2, 2014

The Power of Re-Reads

It seems like only last summer that I read The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, but it was actually four summers ago. I convinced a young reader at my school to read them and he whipped through them so quickly and would come in so enthusiastic about them that I decided to reread them.  I just finished The King of Attolia, after finishing The Queen of Attolia the day before.  I read them so fast and just could not put them down.  They are amazing.

And that got me thinking, I need to reread more books.  I don't do it nearly enough.  I loved revisiting these characters and this world.  And it was relaxing!  It was nice to just read and enjoy.  Not that I ever read to not enjoy, it's just that sometimes I feel rushed.  Rushed to get the next book read to review here or to booktalk at school.  It was nice to go back to a world I love and just read to read.

I vow to reread more.

What series would you go back and reread today if you had time.  For that matter what series that you loved would you not go back and reread because it was too emotional for you?  (For me, I don't think I would ever reread the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness.  So amazing, so emotional)

March 31, 2014

My Thoughts: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

4 chocolate, chocolate chip cookies.

Cover Love:
Yes!  I love this cover so much.  Even if I wasn't overly interested in the book I would read it simply because of the cover!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
Well, the cover, for one.  But the synopsis, wow.  How could anyone who has grown up watching The Wizard of Oz not want to read this?  Here it is from GoodReads:
I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!
Romance?:  No, but Amy develops feelings for a couple different people who help her along the way.

My Thoughts:
First of all, read the novella.  If you don't have an ereader, buy it and read it on your computer.  It's really good and gives you a lot of understanding as to why Dorothy is evil in the first place.

Second of all, by the time Amy gets to Oz you know for certain, this is not your technicolor Oz.  This is a dark, place full of evil and there is no one you can trust.  NO ONE.

Amy lives in our reality, in Kansas, growing up watching The Wizard of Oz, knowing all about Dorothy.  But beyond enjoying it a little when she was younger she doesn't give Oz or Dorothy much thought.  But, like Dorothy a cyclone sweeps her up and brings her to Oz.  I say "brings her" because everyone in Oz feels that someone or something is responsible from bringing Amy (and Dorothy) to Oz.

There are so many forces at work in Oz it's dizzying--there are the Wicked Witches, who are now Good?  There are the Good Witches and people (like the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Lion and Glinda) who are now Wicked?  There are Winged monkeys and Wingless monkeys.  There is literally NO ONE for Amy to trust, but she does enter into some uneasy alliances and I hope, in the long run, that Amy will be successful for herself, not for anyone else.

This is a very visual book.  The author does a fantastic job turning Oz into something dark and twisted and gross.  And Dorothy's three companions are also dark and twisted and gross and evil and violent.  And they are also supremely loyal to Dorothy.  But they are all also still the insecure characters we met in The Wizard of Oz.  Despite having a heart, the Tin Man doesn't know how to love; the Scarecrow, with his brain, still doesn't think he's smart enough; and the Lion still gets scared.

Also, the Wizard is still around and even though he's not in the book long, I really liked his character.  Not sure if I can trust him, but I really liked him.

There were a few slow parts, one right in the middle, but  first third and the last third are a thrill ride that you will have a hard time putting down!

To Sum Up:  This might be a bit old for the my library-with it's swearing and imagery, but I think it will hit big with a lot of young adult readers--both young and older adults!

Book begged for and received by HarperCollins.  Thanks Alison!

March 27, 2014

My Thoughts: The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

3.5 chewy snickerdoodles.

Cover Love:  Not sure.  I don't hate it, but I don't love it either.  I worry it would turn middle school readers off because it looks too young.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
The week before this was coming out Macmillan Kids put quotes from the book on their Instagram account (if you aren't following them you should be).  It really whet my appetite for reading it.  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
Fiona Loomis is Alice, back from Wonderland. She is Lucy, returned from Narnia. She is Coraline, home from the Other World. She is the girl we read about in storybooks, but here's the difference: She is real.

Twelve-year-old Alistair Cleary is her neighbor in a town where everyone knows each other. One afternoon, Fiona shows up at Alistair's doorstep with a strange proposition. She wants him to write her biography. What begins as an odd vanity project gradually turns into a frightening glimpse into a clearly troubled mind. For Fiona tells Alistair a secret. In her basement there's a gateway and it leads to the magical world of Aquavania, the place where stories are born. In Aquavania, there's a creature called the Riverman and he's stealing the souls of children. Fiona's soul could be next.

Alistair has a choice. He can believe her, or he can believe something else...something even more terrifying.

Romance?:  No, but Alistair certainly feels something for Fiona.

My Thoughts:
This is a fantastically written book.  It moves so fast and quickly catches the reader.  There is magic and emotion and it is vividly written.  Whether it's the time (early 90's) or Fiona's world in Aquavania you feel like you are there.  I read way too late every time I picked it up.

Here's why I didn't give this book five stars, or even four.  There just wasn't enough resolution for me.  I felt like this was a book that should give the reader more of a tying up, but it just wasn't.  However, I think this is something that appeals to many readers.  The fact that they can draw their own conclusions and can turn it over and over in their head.  It's a brave choice by the author.  He definitely doesn't write down to his audience.

It's hard to think that all Fiona tells Alistair isn't true, it's so magical and the world looks like so much fun!

A lot of reviews I read have a hard time deciding whether this is a flat out middle grade book (as it is being marketed) or more of a young adult book (because of some older ideas).  I think it is just fine for middle graders and I know several readers who will eat this up and will love that they can discuss things with me.

I truly adored Alistair.  He is one of those kids who is not the most popular, and doesn't even have a lot of friends, but he is well liked.  He's quiet and good-hearted.  He's also willing to step outside of his comfort zone when his curiosity gets the best of him or he needs to help someone he cares about.

All of the characters are so well written.  Fiona, Charlie, even Kyle.  So well done!  This author doesn't mince words, but brings to these people to life.  I looked forward to visiting them every night when I picked up the book.

To Sum Up:   Well written, lots to discuss.  It will be a big book for middle graders for sure!

eGalley requested and received from Macmillan through NetGalley.  Thanks!

March 26, 2014

Food From Fiction: Peanut Butter Brownies from To All the Boys I've Loved Before

There is a scene in this wonderful new contemporary romance by Jenny Han where Lara Jean, the main character, makes peanut butter brownies for a study date she has with Peter.  They sound amazing.  I mean, I like brownies and I like peanut butter, so I would just love peanut butter brownies, right?  Sadly, I discovered I didn't have a peanut butter brownie recipes.  I had many peanut butter cookie recipes, but no brownie recipe.  Time to turn to pinterest. 

There are a lot of Peanut Butter Brownie recipes out there, but I think that this one looks the best.  I will be reporting back when I actually make them!

Have you ever made Peanut Butter Brownies? 

March 25, 2014

Added to the List #6 (Spring Break Reading Plans)

I have been adding books to my TBR list like a maniac.  Unfortunately I haven't been getting much reading done.  Here are a few I hope to get done over spring break (long road trip)

(some of these I have downloaded as ARCs but just don't see myself reading them before they expire!)

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy: This one sounds humorous, and it might be, but I have read a couple reviews that focused on more serious aspects.  Can't wait to read this one! (out 3/18/14)

Hero by Alethea Kontis: Loved the first one in this series, so when I got this in my latest library order, I took it home.  Need to get it read soon so my students can have a crack at it (out now)

Only Everything by Kieran Scott: I LOVED her She's So/He's So trilogy and am so excited to read this one (can't say I love the cover though).  It's gotten some great reviews! (out 5/6/14)

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd:  I got this from a Shelf Awareness giveaway.  Excited to give it a try this spring!

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea:  This one came in with an order and I took it home with me.  It looks super and has gotten such good reviews!

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan:  I am not sure where I was when this came out last winter because it looks exactly like something I would love.  Checked it out from my public library to give it a try!

March 24, 2014

For The Win!!

I got this in the mail the other day.
I literally gasped.  I had been hoping and hoping but wasn't convinced I would get it.  
So very happy, and already halfway through!

March 17, 2014

The Genius of The Thief

I am re-reading The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner.  I have gotten a couple of my boy readers into that series this year and it made me want to re-read it again.  I have to say, it is genius.  Even though I know how it ends, I know the twists, there is so little foreshadowing.  If you are reading it for the first time, there would be no way for you to know what happens.

I found one piece of foreshadowing after Gen gets rediscovered by the magus in the Attolians prison cells, but unless you know what is going to happen, it is written as part of the story so well that it doesn't seem like anything.  Wow.

And I just fall in love with Gen all over again.  I love to see how his relationship with the magus changes over the course of the books.  There is truly respect between these two!

And the first time we see him meet the Queen of Attolia.  It's so wonderful knowing what happens inlater books!  I do not think I will be able to stop at reading just The Thief.  I will have to read one!

I have been kept up late two night in a row re-reading this because it is just so good!  If you have never read this book, put it high on your TBR today!

March 4, 2014

My Thoughts: The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

5 wonderful oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies.

Cover Love:  Yes, it fits the others and hints of adventure and intrigue.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I simply adored The False Prince and The Runaway King, books one and two in this series.  They are so good and wonderful, amazing characters and world building.  If you haven't read them, stop reading this review and go pick up a copy of The False Prince (which is currently under $6 as an ebook) right now.  You will be hooked on the story right away.

(I am not putting the synopsis on here because I don't want to spoil anything from the first book.  I am going to try and not put any spoilers on here but might slip)

Romance?:  Yes, finally!

My Thoughts:
This was a great ending book to this series.  It had everything we come to expect from this story, and a lot more war.

Our hero has a lot of scheming and thieving and torture to go through to get to the end.  Like always there is more going on in the story than the reader knows.  And there are deaths and near deaths that will rip your heart out!  And there are wonderful resolutions to problems that have been running through the other books. 

It's a rewarding ending to those of us who have read the other books!  This is a quick read, thank goodness because it's one that you will not be able to put down.

The best thing is that if you love these books, then you will love The Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner.  Similar main characters and great world building.

I have gotten many people (students and adults) addicted to this series with my enthusiasm, however, it's Ms. Nielsen's writing that has really hooked them.  I was so sad to say goodbye to our hero and this world.  I will revisit them someday soon! 

To Sum Up:  Just read them.

Book requested and received from Scholastic.  Thanks Candace!

March 3, 2014

Mini Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I have been so lucky lately and have had quite a few books mailed to me.  It's great because I have been trying not to request ARCs so these are surprise books, which is even better.  I just am not finding the time to read some of them, so I brought them to my school and handed them out to a few of my most avid readers with the exception that they write me a mini review when they are finished.

One of my favorite sixth grade readers, Alena, chose Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge.  Here's what she thought:

A charming and exciting twist on Beauty and the Beast as well as love and destiny.  I couldn't put it down.  Each page had me under a captivating spell.  Readers of Throne of Glass will love this book!  I can't wait to read more from Rosamund Hodge.

If that doesn't make you want to read it, I am not sure what will!

February 28, 2014

Reading Round Up

*I have been reading a book that by all accounts I should love, but I am just not loving them.  I don't dislike them enough to stop, but they haven't caught and held my attention yet.  The book is RED RISING by Pierce Brown.  This one has gotten stellar reviews and everyone loves it and it's the next Hunger Games, etc...  And it's good, it really is, but I have been able to put it aside and read a few others while I am reading it.  That's just not a good sign in my book, but I am thinking if I push through I will really like the ending.  So, I am not giving up on it, I am just not high on it yet.  Have any of you read it yet?

*Interestingly enough, the most avid readers in my school are not that excited about ARCs.  I went through a week where I was getting about one a day, totally exciting, but I just don't have time to read them!  I want to honor the publisher who sent them so I decided to bring them in for some of my older, more avid readers (they are all more YA books).  They liked them, and I had a few read them and give me mini reviews, but they just weren't clamoring for more.  I think if they were ARCs of popular series it might be different, but right now they are more interested in what is on my shelves.  This was a very interesting development to me!

*Lastly, I want spring!  Winter is getting me down and I think that's why I haven't been reading as much.  I just feel like I would rather watch TV, I don't want to have to think much!  Plus I am cold.

*How was your February?

February 11, 2014

An Important Book For Teens: Speak

This fall I had a 6th grade girl who bought Speak at our book fair.  After they left, because I knew the family, I emailed the mom and told her what the book was about so I thought she should read it first so that they could discuss it when the daughter was done.

This is a book that sticks with you for sure, so after I discussed it with this mom I pulled it off the shelf to reacquaint myself with the story.  It is so powerful!  If I could have my friends with young girls read any book I would have them read this one.  What happens to Melinda happens so fast that she didn't even know what was happening to her.  Most young girls would not be prepared for this--either to stop it or to deal with it afterwards. 

Many of my friend's daughters would not be prepared because they've grown up in a cocoon of safety and family and while they know this kind of thing is out there they don't think it would happen to them, they probably don't think it would even happen to girls in our town. (My husband is a detective in our town and is sitting here while I write this so I ask him how often acquaintance/date rape is reported and he said probably a couple times a month, which I more than I expected him to say).  And while many of these girls I know wouldn't be at a party with older boys when they are headed to high school, it can happen.

And I know enough moms that have a little bit of that want of popularity for their daughters that they might let them go off with a friend and not quite know where they are headed.  That's when the trouble can happen. 

This book can open so much dialogue for mothers and daughters (and mothers and sons).  And after reading this article about Laurie Halse Anderson and her experiences talking to boys about this book I feel more strongly about having my own sons read it and discuss it with me.

What are your thoughts about Speak?

February 10, 2014

YA Books Into Movies--The Trend

So the Vampire Diaries tanked and so did City of Bones.

(I really hoped City of Bones did well because I do really like those books, I haven't read Vampire Academy though so I didn't have an opinion on that--however, I think they marketed it better because I never once saw "based on the novel" which I think turns people who haven't read the book off)

There is a part of me that thinks, okay, can we stop trying now? And there is part of me that hopes they don't stop.  If something gets attention for YA books, that's gotta be good, right?

I don't think that Divergent will be a hit.  It might make money because the trailers are interesting and it is getting a ton of press, but...

the books just aren't Hunger Games level.  I gave The Hunger Games to everyone I knew, adults and young adults.  I wanted everyone to read it because it was that good.  I didn't feel that way with Divergent.  I enjoyed it, plenty of students in my library loved it, but there just the same people reading it that there was with The Hunger Games.

I hope it's a success, I really do, but I just am not banking on it.

What do you think about the YA to the movies trend?

February 3, 2014

Added to the List #5

The other day I was reading Cold Spell, which is a retelling of The Snow Queen.  Very good stuff, so I decided to look for other versions.  I found one called Winter's Child by Cameron Dokey.  And it had this subtitle, Once Upon a Time FairyTales.  A whole series of fairy tale retellings by various authors.  How did this escape my attention?!  We have a few in my library collection, but after a little research I added the rest to my spring order, and thus my "to be read" list!  There are some really good looking books in this series and I adore fairy tale retellings. 

Have you read any of these?  My library has Beauty Sleep: A Retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" so that's the one I am starting with.

January 31, 2014

Where Do You Get Your Books?

The other day a teacher came into the library to see if we had a book she wanted to read.  It was checked out, so she went to her kindle and bought and downloaded it.  It got me thinking.

When I hear of a book I want to read, if it is already published, here are the steps I take to acquire/read the book.

First, I check my library collection and the high school's collection.  If it is in either collection I check it out from there (no due dates for me!).

Secondly,  I check my public library.  They have a connected catalog and we can pull books from pretty much anywhere in the NW part of our state.  It's awesome.

Normally at this point I have the book either checked out or on hold.  Mostly, I stop here.  If I haven't found it at this point I write a reminder somewhere (I have quite the spreadsheet going of books to read, upcoming books and books to order for my library).

If it's still on my mind, I check Barnes & Noble.  If it's a decent price I will buy it there and then.  If it's not, I won't. 

If it's a book I really like and I have checked it out, then I will buy a copy for my home library. 

(This is published books, I do get print galleys mailed to me sometimes and do download egalleys, however, I don't always get those read before they expire nor print ones read before publication.)

How do you acquire your books?  Do you always buy or do you use your library a lot?

January 30, 2014

My Thoughts: Cold Spell by Jackson Pearce

4 warm & gooey chocolate, chocolate chip cookies.

Cover Love:
Yes, I love this cover.  It's ominous and magical.  I also love all the covers for this series!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I wanted to read this because of how much I adored the movie Frozen.  There are a lot of versions of The Snow Queen out there and this one sounded very interesting.  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
Kai and Ginny grew up together–best friends since they could toddle around their building’s rooftop rose garden. Now they’re seventeen, and their relationship has developed into something sweeter, complete with stolen kisses and plans to someday run away together.

But one night, Kai disappears with a mysterious stranger named Mora–a beautiful girl with a dark past and a heart of ice. Refusing to be cast aside, Ginny goes after them and is thrust into a world she never imagined, one filled with monsters and thieves and the idea that love is not enough.

If Ginny and Kai survive the journey, will she still be the girl he loved–and moreover, will she still be the girl who loved him?

Romance?: Yes!  It's all about romance with this one!

My Thoughts:
I had previously read Sister's Red, Jackson Pearce's first book in her fairy tale retellings series.  I didn't like it.  The older sister in the book, Scarlet, was very off putting as a character to me.  Because of that I have been hesitant to read any other books in this series.  I am very glad I got over that and gave them another chance.  Not only did I really enjoy this book, I ended up putting Sweetly and Fathomless on hold as well. 

First off, I loved the setup to the book.  Meeting Dahlia as a young woman, seeing what happened to her, was a great tie-in for the main story.  Also, as I read this book a few things from Sister's Red kept sounding familiar, like the Reynolds family.  Turns out that the Reynolds and Fenris, the wolf like creatures they hunt, is the thread that connects all of the fairy tale retellings.

Kai and Ginny's relationship was so genuine.  He was her everything and they were also great friends.  My heart broke for Ginny when Kai left with the Snow Queen (or Mora).  However, Ginny's journey taught her so much about herself, it turned out to be such a good thing for her.  There is magic and mystery and legends and danger on Ginny's journey.  She discovers a lot about herself and she finds family. 

Mora is not a person to be hated, but like most villains, someone you sort of feel sorry for.  She didn't really have a choice in what she became, it was all about survival.  But, she also didn't have to take loved young men from the people who love them!

To Sum Up:  This was a great retelling of a fairy tale I am not overly familiar with.  I really enjoyed it.  I feel that the language and some of the situations are a little mature for my middle school library, but I will recommend it for the high school libraries!

Book checked out from local public library.

January 29, 2014

Reading Bingo Challenge

I have started a Reading Bingo Challenge here at school.  I got the idea form Pinterest, I think that it was from Random House Canada originally though.  It's going to be a lot of fin and I have a bunch of students really excited about it.  Today I wrote down my first book and I was pretty thrilled.  The rules are pretty easy--has to be books you haven't read yet, no double dipping, different levels of prizes and you can win more than one prize.  Here is a link to a printable game board if you want to play along!

January 21, 2014

My Thoughts: Blackthorn Winter by Kathryn Reiss

3 frosted ginger cookies.

Cover Love:  Not really.  It's fine, but not overly eye catching.

Why I Wanted to Read This:  Just trying to read a few more books from my library collection.  I had seen this one a few times So I finally decided to give it a read.  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
The last place fifteen-year-old Juliana wants to be is halfway around the world in Blackthorn, England, an idyllic seaside artists' colony her mother has dragged her off to while her parents weather a trial separation.

Juliana misses her father terribly and doesn't understand why her mother needs to travel so far to resurrect her artistic self, which she claims to have lost in the marriage.

Soon after they arrive in the tiny village of Blackthorn, the artists' colony is set on its heels by the murder of one of its own.

Juliana feels compelled to solve the crime, but she is shocked and frightened when it seems that clues in the matter are hitting a little too close to home.

Can she figure out who the murderer is before anyone else--herself included--gets hurt?
Romance?: A little between Juliana and an English boy named Duncan

My Thoughts:
I loved the setting.  The author did a great job of creating a seaside English village. 

I liked Juliana and her family.  I really liked that there were two mysteries, one from Juliana's past and then the murder in the village.

I liked the set up to the murder and could tell right away who the victim was going to be.  I am sure the author meant it to be obvious though.  The murder was a little bit harder to figure it out.  My guess was correct, however, it was nothing because of anything the author put in there.  I just kind of thought it would make sense and I was right!

I liked how the author gave Juliana reasons to want to stay in the village.  Especially Duncan who was just so sweet and kind, and did stick by Juliana even when she was making some weird accusations into the murder.

To Sum Up:  This is a good read that I can point kids in the direction of when they ask me for a mystery!  I am glad I picked it up and gave it a read.

January 16, 2014

Books To Pre-Order: Spring 2014

I already have an order for my library set for this spring, but here are a few I will pre-order for my personal library (hard copies so I can hold them and look at them and smile).  These are my most anticipated reads for spring 2014:  (I am pleased to say there are more MG books on this list than YA--but a few that cross over)

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

I read the prequel, No Place Like Oz, was hooked immediately.  Can't wait for this one, top of my list for sure! 

Eleven-year-old Nola Sutton has been best friends and neighbors with the Swift boys for practically her whole life. There's the youngest, Kevin, who never stops talking; the oldest, Brian, who's always kind and calm; and then there's Canaan, the ringleader and Nola's best-best friend. Together, they have a summer of fun adventures planned.

But then everything changes overnight.

When the boys' dad leaves without even saying good-bye, it completely destroys the Swift family, and all Nola can do is watch. She tries to hold on to them, but they are changing. Kevin stops talking, Canaan starts hanging out with mean boys, and Brian is never around. Nola just wants things to go back to the way they were -- the way they've always been.

Is Nola strong enough to save the Swift boys from themselves, or has she lost them forever?
I have loved Kody Kepplinger's YA books so I totally squealed when this one hit my radar.  Plus, when I was in elementary school one of my favorite books was Me and the Terrible Two by Ellen Conford (it made me want to either have twin boys or date an identical twin (did it!)).  The synopsis for this book made me feel nostalgic for that one.

They killed his brother. Now they're coming for him. . .

As the second prince of Archenfield, Jared never expected to rule. But behind the walls of the castle is a dark and dangerous court where murder and intrigue are never far below the surface.

Now his older brother is dead. The kingdom is his. And the target is on his back. Can he find the assassin before the assassin finds him?

I did get an ARC of this (thanks Little Brown) but have already pre-orderd a few copies for my library.  I KNOW this will be a big one for many of my readers! 

Thirteen-year-old Margaret knows her father is innocent, but that doesn't stop the cruel Judge Biggs from sentencing him to death. Margaret is determined to save her dad, even if it means using her family's secret—and forbidden—ability to time travel. With the help of her best friend, Charlie, and his grandpa Josh, Margaret goes back to a time when Judge Biggs was a young boy and tries to prevent the chain of events that transformed him into a corrupt, jaded man. But with the forces of history working against her, will Margaret be able to change the past? Or will she be pushed back to a present in which her father is still doomed?

Told in alternating voices between Margaret and Josh, this heartwarming story shows that sometimes the forces of good need a little extra help to triumph over the forces of evil.
The synopsis of this one!  It gives me goosebumps every time I read it.  I imagine this one will be a great read aloud in middle grade classrooms!  (I have an egalley of this one but want to wait until a little closer to pub date to read it--might be a spring break road trip read!)

There is no synopsis of this which is good because if you haven't read the first two, you might not want to be spoiled.  Just know that the first two have been two of my favorite reads!  (I also have an ARC of this one, thanks Candace!!)

What are some of your most anticipated reads for this spring.  Which ones would you beg for?

January 15, 2014

My Thoughts: Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt

 3 bittersweet chocolate cookies.

Cover Love:  It's okay.  nothing that really stands out for me!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
The synopsis really caught my eye, especially the part that talks about Mia keeping her disease a secret.  I was very interested to see how she pulled that off!  Here is it from Good Reads:
Mia is always looking for signs. A sign that she should get serious with her soccer-captain boyfriend. A sign that she’ll get the grades to make it into an Ivy-league school. One sign she didn’t expect to look for was: “Will I survive cancer?” It’s a question her friends would never understand, prompting Mia to keep her illness a secret. The only one who knows is her lifelong best friend, Gyver, who is poised to be so much more. Mia is determined to survive, but when you have so much going your way, there is so much more to lose. From debut author Tiffany Schmidt comes a heart-wrenching and ultimately uplifting story of one girl’s search for signs of life in the face of death.

Romance?:  Yes.  Mia has two good guys to chose from!

My Thoughts:
I already talked a little bit about this book and my feelings on reading books about sick kids.  Check it out.

I liked Mia but the whole way that she and her family went about dealing with this cancer was infuriating!  I think it was supposed to be, but I spent most of the book shaking my head at her and wanting to throttle her mom.  I hoped that the end would be good with Mia finally getting a backbone and standing up to her mom and that was my main motivation for finishing up this book.  I got so frustrated at times I wanted to throw it across the room!

There was one nurse that Mia started listening to, but he wasn't in the book much.  I wish he had been a little bigger character.

I actually really liked both the boys looking for her attention.  It was hard to be rooting just for Gyver because the other one, Ryan, really steps up for her as well.  It was not totally black and white.

Mia really, really needed to give her friends a chance to help her out.  I think one of my problems with this book is that we really didn't get to know the "pre-cancer" Mia at all.  I don't know how cancer changed her and what people thought of her before.  It bothered me that she was so tight with these girls and she let her mom talk her out of telling them  She didn't even give them the chance to act the way she expected them to.

Mia's mom was just truly awful.  The thing that struck me (and I know this is not her mom's story) was who did her mom have to talk to?  When my son got sick (not cancer, but health issues), I talked to everybody.  I know that's not really usual (especially for me) but so many people have been through rough things and have advice or just a shoulder to lean on, that I found myself opening up a lot.  Her mom didn't give herself the chance to cope with this because she just wanted to pretend it was chicken pox, or whatever.

To Sum It Up:  Interesting coming of age story with cancer as the backdrop.  I think many girl readers in my library will enjoy the combination of romance and cancer in this one!

Bought for my school library.

January 13, 2014

Added to the List (#4)

In the past few weeks I have added a few books to my "to be read" list.  One of the worst and most awesome things about being a librarian (and bookseller) is the amount of books that cross my desk.  New books, older books, upcoming books, it's enough to make my head spin.  Anyway, here are book I added to my reading list the past few weeks:

After watching (and completely LOVING) Frozen over Christmas break I decided I wanted to read Cold Spell, another retelling of The Snow Queen.  I have to admit I didn't love Jackson Pearce's Sisters' Red, but this one seems to have really good reviews.  I checked this one out from my public library, but if it's good I will be buying it (and probably all of Ms. Pearce's fairy tale retellings) for my school library.

I got Cruel Beauty in the mail, I think from a Shelf Awareness giveaway, and since fairy tale retellings are one of my favorite genres I was very excited to see it in my mailbox!

I also got The Winner's Curse from MacMillian before Christmas.  It has to have been the prettiest packaged ARC I have ever received.  While it wasn't on my radar before I got it, there is great buzz for it and I am excited to start it!

During the last #ewyagc on Twitter a few librarians were talking about Allies & Assassins by Justin Somper.  I have not read his Vampirates series, but the comparisons for this one being thrown around were The False Prince, which I LOVED.  So, I requested this one and received an ARC during break.  I am going to wait until a little closer to the publication date to read it.(Plus, I love the cover!  Kind of Robin Hood looking.)

The Hallowed Ones was one I ordered for my school library.  When I pulled it out of the box, something about the cover just made me want to read it.  I checked it out to myself and will probably start it in a week.  It looks really good.  (Plus, I just watched the Cinemax series Banshee--which I really liked once I got past the swearing and the violence.  That takes place close to an Amish community so my interest was peaked more because of the setting of this book)

The previews for the Vampire Academy movie look really good so I got the first one from our high school library and started it right away.  If it is appropriate I will be ordering this whole series for my library.  I know it will be big after the movie comes out!

What did you add to your list last week?

January 9, 2014

My Thoughts: No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

3.5 peanut butter cookies.

Cover Love:  YES!  I just love this cover, it totally sets the tone for the book.  You really know what you are going to get--murder, mystery quirky.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
Really, the cover caught my eye the most.  How could I not want to read this, so fun!  The synopsis kept that feeling going.  Here it is from Goodreads:
Small towns are nothing if not friendly. Friendship, Wisconsin (population: 688) is no different. Around here, everyone wears a smile. And no one ever locks their doors. Until, that is, high school sweetheart Ruth Fried is found murdered. Strung up like a scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.

Unfortunately, Friendship’s police are more adept at looking for lost pets than catching killers. So Ruth’s best friend, Kippy Bushman, armed with only her tenacious Midwestern spirit and Ruth’s secret diary (which Ruth’s mother had asked her to read in order to redact any, you know, sex parts), sets out to find the murderer. But in a quiet town like Friendship—where no one is a suspect—anyone could be the killer.
Romance?: Yes, a little one. Sweet though.

My Thoughts:
This book starts out strong, with a horrific murder.  I did find it a bit slow until the last third.  I think it is because I had a hard time connecting with Kippy. I did like her, she was described as very pretty, but you can tell she is totally nerdy, however, her friend has some jealous over Kippy's "perfection." Neither she nor the readers would think she is perfect though.  She has had a history of mental issues, very explainable and nothing that required more than some group therapy, but because of that, it's easy for the people around her to discount the things she tells them about her investigation of the murder.

The last third of this book flew by but here's what I had to do to keep reading--go to the end to find out who did it.  I do this sometimes when I am finding a book slow.  Once I read some of the ending I decide whether I want to keep reading or not--sometimes I don't see anything that peaks my interest and sometimes I read something that makes me wonder how the story got there, then I go back and keep reading.  This book did that, I totally was surprised by the killer andwent right back to where I left off and kept going.  I was very glad I did.

Kippy's dad kind of drove me nuts.  He for sure is a man who has no clue how to parent without his wife around but he does try his best.  The thing that bothers me is how quick he is to not believe Kippy.  I know she has that history, but it would be refreshing for a parent to take their child's side in a YA book every now and again.  (Although his guilt in the end for not believing her was satisfying!).

The mystery of the book was very good, I couldn't guess at all who the culprit was (at least the ones I guessed were wrong).

To Sum Up:  A good, mystery, probably a bit mature for my middle school library, but one I am glad I read!

egalley requested and received from HarperTeen via Edelweiss.  Thanks!!

January 8, 2014

My Thoughts: The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine

4 yummy double chocolate chip cookies.

Cover Love:
Yes! adorable picture, love the colors and fonts as well.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
 I adore contemporary romances.  I needed a book that I knew I would actually finish and I figured this one would fit the bill.  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.
Romance?: Yes! And how.

My Thoughts:
Wren is a very good girl, who always does the right thing and never causes problems for her parents.  When one of her teachers basically tells her that all her hard work is for naught and that she will not reach her goals she starts rethinking her lifestyle.  Enter Grayson, a typical "bad" boy (but deep down actually pretty high achieving).  He is everything she isn't and she is everything he wants to be.  It's a perfect recipe!

This author can write chemistry!  When Wren and Grayson finally kiss, my stomach had butterflies and my knees got a little weak!  I loved reading romances that actually effect me physically.  It was just what I needed at the time.

Grayson falls head over heels for Wren and tries very hard to change for her.  And it's not just lip service, he really tries to change (and makes small baby steps towards succeeding).  This is every "good" girls dream.  I was a good girl in high school and college, but never actually fell for a bad boy.  Even in movies and TV shows I was always attracted to the good guy.  Bad boys (except for Dean Winchester) hold no attraction for me.

Here is one truth I have recognized since reading this book.  After Wren starts dating Grayson she makes a few questionable choices that really upset her parents.  Overall, they are small things, but of course, they blame Grayson and do not trust their previously very trustworthy daughter.  It drives me nuts when parents are like this.  But, I totally understand.  My own teenage son has been making a few tiny poor choices.  Very tiny.  And overall I am not losing trust in him, but when a child sets the bar really high with their good behavior, even the slightest dip makes parents really uncomfortable and worried.

This is one couple I really, really wanted to see stay together in the end.  Luckily, like most good teen romance novels there was a happy ending, but I was very worried for them both during the course of the book.

This is written in alternating viewpoints and the author nails both Wren's and Grayson's voices.

Grayson's friends were awful.  Just saying.  Not really friend types at all.

To Sum It Up:  Adored this romance, loved the main characters.  Will read this again some rainy day when nothing else in appealing to me!

eGalley requested and received via Edelweiss.  Thanks HarperCollins!

January 6, 2014

2013-Favorite Reads

 These are the books I rated as 5 cookies books this past year.  I seem to really dig fantasy books...

 Shadow on the Sun by David Macinnis Gill:  I really enjoyed this whole series:  Black Hole Sun (#1) and Invisible Sun (#2), but this my favorite of the trilogy.  I never thought of myself as a big sci-fi fan, this trilogy might have changed me.  So much action!

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson: Such a good book, such an interesting premise and so much action.  I adored this book and am so excited it's going to be a series.  Can't wait for #2!

Fire & Ash by Jonathan Maberry: I have loved most of the books in this series and was so impressed and moved by how the author ended it all.  It made me feel glad I stuck with it even after the very sad death in book two and the very dark third book!

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer: I love discovering an older book that is really good.  I had this one on my to read list forever and was very glad that it lived up to the hype.  Great dystopian!

Fat Kid Rules the World by KL Going: Another older read that I am so glad I finally read!  So emotional and so good, a must read for sure!

All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Barry: So well written and enjoyable and emotional.  Very good read!

Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal: I read this one this fall, but didn't end up reviewing it because I barely reviewed anything for the past few months.  This one was a very interesting take on a fair tales, so good!

The Runaway King by Jennifer Neilsen: This is the second book in one of the best series--no second book slump here.  All around great!

Kiss Me Again by Rachel Vail: Wonderful, innocent romance.  This is the second one and so sweet!

January 3, 2014

2013-Most Popular Posts

I don't normally look at my stats because I am pretty happy with my blog where it is at.  Also, I don't get what the difference is between page views and unique visitors, etc...  But, this week I did look at my stats (only the ones off the blogger dashboard, I don't use a separate counter).  It as very interesting!

Very early in my blogging life I posted about reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid online (did you know it started its life on the internet as a comic book on funbrain?).  That has been my all time most visited page of all time.  Interesting.  I posted it in 2008 and still get people commenting on it.  I am not even sure you can still read the comic online!

My second most popular post is one I did after I read Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.  I had been watching the UK version of Skins and had fallen in lust for Luke Pasqualino and decided he would be the perfect Patch.  This gets a lot of views, but no one comments, which makes me wonder what people search to actually get this hit, because I don't think it has anything to do with Hush, Hush!

This year my top five most viewed posts were:
1.  Tween Tuesday: New Series I Want to Try
2.  Quick Reviews: Boarding Schools Edition
3.  Today in the Library
4.  My Thoughts: After Eden by Helen Douglas
5.  Book Snobbery

I was pretty glad to see that overall I am getting more visitors than I thought, sometimes a lot more!  I enjoyed blogging for the most part this year, had my slow times, but am overall feeling glad I am continuing on with this endeavor.

I just love sharing about books!

January 2, 2014

My New Layout

I have been messing around with my template for a few months now and just hadn't created anything I really liked.  Over this Christmas break I decided to give it another go.  I do all this on my own and while I have flirted with the idea of buying a custom layout from a designer I am just too cheap to do that because I really thought I could make elements on my own.  So I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

I spent a bit of time looking at layouts that I liked and one thing I realized I liked was the "cleanness" of most of the blogs, so I made my background white.

I also decided that even though the title is "Milk & Cookies" I don't have to actually have cookies on there.  I did keep with the color scheme though--tan and dark brown.  I like how it all looks together, white with tan and dark brown, kind of like cookies and milk!

I used PicMonkey for my side elements and header and image-maps.com for the social connections element.

However, the most valuable thing I found were these blogging and picmonkey tutorials from Something Swanky.    

I have to say that I LOVE my new design.  I hope you enjoy it too!  And thanks for stopping by!

December 31, 2013

Ending A Beloved Series (a Semi-Rant)

I know that it is all up to the authors how they want to end a series, but I also know this, there should be some reward for loyal readers who have stuck by a series till the end.

I have a couple of girls at my school who read Divergent and Insurgent for the second time this fall in preparation for Allegiant.  They wore black to school on the day it came out (for Dauntless).  They squealed when I handed them shiny new copies to check out.  They smiled and read through lunch.  They were SO excited.

Now, they stand at my desk in the morning and warn everyone away from even starting the series.

I know what happens even though I haven't read Allegiant (mostly because the aforementioned girls told me, but I also saw a lot around the blogosphere shortly after the book came out), and I do have to wonder why the author did what she did.

Like I said, I didn't read it so I don't know all the details around what happens but was there hope?  I feel a dystopian series should end with hope.

I also recently finished Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin series and I have to say that it was an awesome ending to the series.  There were deaths, yes, but the series ended with hope and it was a reward to loyal readers.  I didn't feel I had wasted four years of my lives on these books. 

I don't think anyone wants to reach the end of a beloved series by throwing the book across the room and screaming obscenities.  They certainly don't want to feel that they wasted time!

Have you ever had a series end horribly (in your opinion)?  So horribly that you wished you hadn't read it in the first place?  Tell me about it!

December 30, 2013

Thinking About Cancer Books

Regular readers know that my son has Crohns disease and while it is under control right now we still have to go get treatments every 8 weeks.  The treatments are IV infusions that we have to have done at a pediatric oncology center.  Last time we were there waiting to go back there were also two older kids who were there for cancer treatments.  It got me thinking,

"Does a kid with cancer like reading books about other kids with cancer?"

The Fault in Our Stars was checked out when I got back to school so I checked out Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt.  Right now I am about halfway done and here are some of my thoughts:

I can't speak for all teens, but I know that if I was diagnosed with cancer, I would totally read books about other kids with cancer.  But, that's what I do when confronted with something new, I read.  I know my son wouldn't want to read anything like this, not because he doesn't want to know, but mostly because he's not a big thinker.  He just takes things as they come and doesn't over analyze or reflect.  He's much like his dad in that respect.  I need to think and talk, I really need to talk.  

In Send Me a Sign, Mia decides not to tell her friends she is sick.  It's kind of easy to accomplish this since she gets diagnosed and treated in the summer and it's easy to explain being gone.  Also, her mother supports this decision. It is frustrating to read to say the least, but I bet a lot of kids with cancer feel they should hide their disease.  I know my son doesn't talk about having Crohn's but he also doesn't (seem) to mind when I talk about it or post about it.

I imagine that kids with a disease--be it Crohns, diabetes or cancer--feel a disconnect from other kids and maybe that's why books about sick kids would appeal to them, so they have someone to connect with.  When we were trying to find a treatment for Carter that worked I could tell he had a little separation from most of his friends.  This was the start of 8th grade when everyone was being really social and he just wanted to hang out with us at home.  Now that he is fine and healthy, that has gone away, but it was there.  I would imagine it's way worse with cancer when they have possible death hanging over their heads.

However, I think I would initially read a lot about cancer, then stop.  And choose books that have nothing to do with cancer or this world, lots of fantasy.

I just finished reading Send Me a Sign and came to another huge conclusion.  I don't want to read books about sick kids.   IT brings it too close to home.  I know my son doesn't have cancer, but it's thrown out there every now and again: "Because he is so young his chances of being diagnosed with a cancer later increase." or "If he takes these two meds together he has a very slim chance of getting this certain type of cancer."  Really?  Then how do I make that decision?  So I bawled reading Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie and the sequel After Ever After and now Send Me a Sign.  I don't think I will be reading The Fault in Our Stars anytime soon!

December 12, 2013

My Thoughts: Fire & Ash by Jonathan Maberry

5 wonderful, enormous oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies.

Cover Love:  Yes, it's perfect and fits in with the others.  Also, if you have only seen the hardback covers you should get a look at the paperback ones, AWESOME!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
This is the fourth book in the Rot & Ruin series.  I have loved them all.  This world is amazing and terrifying and  hopeful and one I would hate to live in but one I am very glad to go visit every now and again. I am not putting the synopsis for Fire & Ash on here because if you haven't read any in this series I don't want you to be spoiled.

Romance?:  Oddly enough, yes!  There are two main romances, and one possible one by the end.

My Thoughts:
I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this last spring.  Like in May.  And it sat and sat and sat.  I had a really hard time starting this book, even though the first sentence gave me goosebumps when I finally did start it.  I knew that this was the end and I didn't want it to end.  Jonathan Maberry is an amazing author but writes a lot of adult books, which I have never read.  I will miss him adding books into the YA lexicon because they are so good.

Another reason I didn't want to start this book is that Flesh & Bone, while being very good, was also so dark. I wasn't sure I wanted to get into that again.  Here are my reviews for the other books in this series:  Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, Flesh & Bone. I fell in love with Benny & Tom Imura in Rot & Ruin, cried and cried in Dust & Decay, and cringed a lot in Flesh & Bone.  I wasn't sure what emotions Fire & Ash would bring out in me, and I didn't think I was ready.  After one of my fellow teachers read it and told me how much she loved it, I decided to stop being a baby and get going.

It was so good and so tense and so violent and so wonderful.

I don't want to say a lot except this:  Jonathan Maberry knows how to end a series.  I have stuck with this series through four years and four books.  I have been loyal:  posting reviews, stalking the author on facebook and twitter and hounding contacts and Simon & Schuster for ARCs.   I have gotten many readers (adults and teens) in my library hooked on this series as well.  And he rewarded that loyalty with HOPE at the end of this series.  THANK YOU!

To Sum Up:  It was a heck of a ride and one that I will repeat soon.  Please give this series a try.  It is well written and basically one big coming of age story for Benny Imura.  Time reading these books is not time wasted at all.

December 11, 2013

Added to the List (#3)

Last week HarperCollins added some amazing (and highly anticipated) books to Edelweiss that I was able to download.  I am not sure I will get them all read before they expire, but I can at least check them over to see if they are appropriate for my library!

The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings:  this one might be a little old for students except for those older 8th graders that are ready for more mature subject matter.

Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos:  This is one of my most anticipated of the year.  The synopsis sounds amazing and touching and perfect for a middle shool library.  Can't wait to read this one!

After the End by Amy Plum: Have you noticed there are a few World War III or world ravaged by war books coming out this next year.  This is one that looks very good.

Wicked Games by Sean Olin:  Another highly anticipated read for me. 

Vivian Divine is Dead by Lauren Sabel: I was so excited to see this one available!  I think I will read this one over Christmas break.

Lastly, we got a new shipment of books in and the one I picked to take home (for now) is The Lost Kingdom by Matthew Kirby.  This looks like a fun adventure read!