April 19, 2017

Obsessing Over #8: The Song from Somewhere Else by AF Harrold

This book caught my eye when I was prepping book orders for this fall.  It comes out this summer and I have already preordered my copy.  I think it sounds so amazing!  I am not sure what appealed to me the most, but since I read the synopsis it's become one I can't stop thinking about!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

Frank thought her summer couldn't get any worse--until big, weird, smelly Nick Underbridge rescues her from a bully, and she winds up at his house.

Frank quickly realizes there's more to Nick than meets the eye. When she's at his house, she hears the strangest, most beautiful music, music which leads her to a mysterious, hidden door. Beyond the door are amazing creatures that she never even dreamed could be real. For the first time in forever, Frank feels happy . . . and she and Nick start to become friends.

But Nick's incredible secrets are also accompanied by great danger. Frank must figure out how to help her new friend, the same way that he has helped her.

Paired with gorgeous black-and-white illustrations from Levi Pinfold, acclaimed author A. F. Harrold weaves a powerful story about unlikely friendship, strange magic, and keeping the shadows at bay.

And yes, I am back. There are a couple of reasons for this that I will get into in a future post. I am not sure how steady I will be but, I just want to share my love of books with everyone and that's what it is all about!

February 10, 2017

My Thoughts: To Catch a Killer by Sheryl Scarborough

4 chocolate chocolate chip cookies.

Cover Love:  Meh.  Pretty normal looking for a mystery book.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I discovered this instagram account that makes me want to sit and drink coffee and read books all day.  She reads thrillers and I started really wanting to read a a good thriller.  This one came to my attention from an email I got from the publicist.  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

Erin Blake has one of those names. A name that, like Natalee Holloway or Elizabeth Smart, is inextricably linked to a grisly crime. As a toddler, Erin survived for three days alongside the corpse of her murdered mother, and the case—which remains unsolved—fascinated a nation. Her father's identity unknown, Erin was taken in by her mother's best friend and has become a relatively normal teen in spite of the looming questions about her past.

Fourteen years later, Erin is once again at the center of a brutal homicide when she finds the body of her biology teacher. When questioned by the police, Erin tells almost the whole truth, but never voices her suspicions that her mother's killer has struck again in order to protect the casework she's secretly doing on her own.

Inspired by her uncle, an FBI agent, Erin has ramped up her forensic hobby into a full-blown cold-case investigation. This new murder makes her certain she's close to the truth, but when all the evidence starts to point the authorities straight to Erin, she turns to her longtime crush (and fellow suspect) Journey Michaels to help her crack the case before it's too late.
Romance?: Yes.

My Thoughts:
This is a great, suspenseful mystery.  In the middle I really wanted to read the end to find out who the killer was.  There were so many suspects surrounding Erin!  I sat there one night after I stopped reading and just went through who I thought did it.  One of the good things about reading a digital book is that it's not very easy to skip to the end.  (I was RIGHT!!)

There were a lot of suspects and a few red herrings.  I liked the romance between Erin and Journey, a lot.  They have chemistry!  What bothered me so much as it does in a lot of these books, is how nobody, including her friends, took Erin that seriously.  She wasn't a drama queen, she didn't have a history of that.  And she'd just found the body of her teacher.  I just think people should have given her a little more credit.

And her guardian was AWFUL.  I mean, she took Erin in and made her her own, but the way she would shut Erin down at every turn when she wanted to know about her mom was unhealthy, for both of them.  That is the one part of the book that made me uncomfortable to read.  

The mystery wrapped up pretty neatly, with both Journey and Erin in peril at points during the book.  This has all great elements for a suspenseful read. 

To Sum Up:  Great mystery, action and danger.  I will be buying this for my library and I hope the author writes another one with Erin, Journey and her Uncle Victor (along with all the secondary characters).  This is a fun read!

January 24, 2017

Obsessing Over #7: York: the Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

This book seems to have it all.

Gorgeous cover, proven author, an alternate world, action, and a massive puzzle to solve.  

I cannot wait to get my hands on this one!

Here is the synopsis from Edelweiss:
It was in 1792 that twin architects and engineers Tess and Theodore Morningstarr arrived in New York with a vision for the most complex and magnificent city the world had ever seen: a symphony of towering skyscrapers, the world’s first mass public transportation system winding amongst them, and a dazzling array of buildings and parks, all of which ran on technology no one had ever seen before. Sixty-five years later, they disappeared, but not before giving the city a parting gift: the Old York Cipher. A puzzle laid into the very city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By 2017, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is considered little more than a tourist attraction.

Tess and Theo Biedermann, twins named for the enigmatic architects, and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment house in Manhattan—but their home is threatened when a real estate developer announces that the city has finally agreed to sell him dozens of original Morningstarr buildings. For millions of people, the sale and likely destruction of the Morningstarrs' vision means the end of the dream of the Old York Cipher. For Tess, Theo, and Jaime, it means the loss of their home. And they decide they’re not going to just stand by while their families are evicted. If they want to save they building, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. And there’s only one way to do that: They have to solve it.

January 12, 2017

Currently Reading

I am doing it again, starting books without finishing the one I had already started.  Because of that, right now I have four books I am currently reading:

1.  Shadows of the Dark Crystal by JM Lee:  This was previously a books I posted an Obsessing Over post about. I bought it as soon as it came out and started it over Christmas break. I am really liking it and being in the world of The Dark Crystal again, it's just that other things keep pulling my attention away.

2.  Ana of California by Andi Teran: This is similar to a modern version of Anne of Green Gables. I am reading this on my Nook so mostly my reading of this takes place right before bed or when I wake up and can't fall back to sleep.

3.  Day Shift by Charlaine Harris:  Charlaine Harris has published three books in her Midnight Texas series. I read the first one, Crossroads, before Christmas and really enjoyed it.  Good mysteries and interesting character. this is also being made into a series that will be on NBC this spring.

4.  The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood: I am not sure why I never read this before by it's being made into a series that will be on Hulu starting in April. The trailer looked so intense that I had to pick it up and read it. It's really good and I am having trouble focusing on anything else.

I am reading too many books at the same time for sure, but I want to finish all of these and am liking them. The interesting thing is that they are all different genres so I am not getting storylines crossed!

November 29, 2016

Blog Tour: A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

4 yummy avalanche cookies (recipe below!)

Cover Love:  Yes, I love this cover.  Whimsical and fun, just like the book.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I was invited to participate in this blog tour and since this book was one I had ordered for my library I was happy to read and review it!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

Eleven-year-old Nikolas—nicknamed “Christmas”—has received only one toy in his life: a doll carved out of a turnip. But he’s happy with his turnip doll, because it came from his parents, who love him. Then one day his father goes missing, and Nikolas must travel to the North Pole to save him.

Along the way, Nikolas befriends a surly reindeer, bests a troublesome troll, and discovers a hidden world of enchantment in the frozen village of Elfhelm. But the elves of Elfhelm have troubles of their own: Christmas spirit and goodwill are at an all-time low, and Nikolas may be the only person who can fix things—if only he can reach his father before it’s too late. . . .
My Thoughts:
This book was such a fun read.  The whole time I was reading it I thought what an awesome read aloud it would be for elementary and young middle schoolers.  Actually, it would be a fun read aloud for almost every age.

This has all the elements of a good classic, an "orphaned" child (well, his dad is missing anyway), and evil auntie (how can these aunts always be so mean to their nephews?!) animals and a quest. I have to say that I was reminded of Roald Dahl the whole time I was reading it and it put a smile on my face. Sometimes if an author writes a whimsical, quirky story, the resemblance to Dahl is too much, like they were trying too hard.  This one was just right.  But there was some fantastical elements that made this book all the author's own.

This was such a fun read and put me in the mood for Christmas! Pick this one up today, you won't be disappointed!

Avalanche Cookies:
This is a no bake recipe I discovered a few years ago and has become one of our favorite Christmas cookies.  I always make a ton and give them to lots of people.  You can print the recipe out here, or see the blog where I discovered it here.

What is your favorite Christmas read or goodie?

November 21, 2016

Added to the List #27

I was listening to a podcast this week that talked about this series of graphic novels, so I went to our public library to check them out.  This is the first one, which I have started but am not too far into.  I did check out all the other ones I could so that I could whip through them during Thanksgiving break.

I got a few books from Simon & Schuster and some from my public library this week. 
From Simon & Schuster:
Mars One by Jonathan Maberry: one of my favorite authors, this one I am very excited about reading. 
Baseball Genius by Tim Green & Derek Jeter: I am not a big fan of baseball stories so I will be handing this off to one of my students who does love baseball stories.
Confessions of a High School Disaster by Emma Chastain: This one looks darling.  Might be a perfect January read to get me through a cold winter day!
At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson: I think this one sounds so interesting. I haven't read anything by this author yet, so this one will be my first.
From my public library:
Raging Sea by Michael Buckley: This is the second in a series, I really enjoyed the first one but kind of forgot about continuing in the series until the third one popped up on Edelweiss. I hope to get this one read over Thanksgiving.
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott: I don't read a ton of adult books, but I consider Megan Abbott to be more of a crossover author. Her books are always fascinating and quick reads. This one sounds especially good.
The Mirk and the Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson: I had this one checked out awhile ago but didn't get it read in time. It came back to my attention a bit ago and I decided to check it out again. I will get it read this time!
This past week the filming of A Wrinkle in Time was brought to my attention by this video. A Wrinkle in Time was a book I didn't get read until I was in my 30s, but I think that made me love it all the more, because I understood it better. Then I discovered that Chris Pine would be playing the father in the movie!  I adore him.  My excitement went through the roof but since I have to wait over a year for the movie, I decided to re-read the book!

 What have you added to your list this week?

November 1, 2016

Obsessing Over #7: Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull

I am in my 9th year as a school librarian.  I did two years at an elementary school and am in my 7th at a middle school.  One of the continual favorite series in all those years has been Fablehaven by Brandon Mull.  The original series is 5 books long and is just an awesome middle grade series, I highly recommend you to read them if you haven't already!

(One of the reasons they were really popular early on was that Brandon Mull came to our school district on an author visit (before I was a librarian) and he enjoyed the area so much that his characters make a brief stop in our town in book 4!  Kids love reading that!)

I was so excited to see a continuation of this series is coming out this spring (I already ordered 3 copies for my library and one for me)!  Here's the synopsis from Dragonwatch:

In the long-awaited sequel to Fablehaven, the dragons who have been kept at the dragon sanctuaries no longer consider them safe havens, but prisons and they want their freedom. The dragons are no longer our allies....

In the hidden dragon sanctuary of Wyrmroost, Celebrant the Just, King of the Dragons, plots his revenge. He has long seen the sanctuaries as prisons, and he wants nothing more than to overthrow his captors and return the world to the Age of Dragons, when he and his kind ruled and reigned without borders. The time has come to break free and reclaim his power.

No one person is capable of stopping Celebrant and his dragon horde. It will take the ancient order of Dragonwatch to gather again if there is any chance of saving the world from destruction. In ancient times, Dragonwatch was a group of wizards, enchantresses, dragon slayers, and others who originally confined the majority of dragons into sanctuaries. But nearly all of the original Dragonwatch members are gone, and so the wizard Agad reaches out to Grandpa Sorenson for help.

As Kendra and Seth confront this new danger, they must draw upon all their skills, talents, and knowledge as only they have the ability to function together as a powerful dragon tamer. Together they must battle against forces with superior supernatural powers and breathtaking magical abilities.

How will the epic dragon showdown end? Will dragons overthrow humans and change the world as we know it?

I was able to download a review copy and plan to get it read and reviewed before the publication date. So excited when that works out!!

October 28, 2016

My Thoughts: Shuffle Repeat by Jen Klein

4 sweet frosted sugar cookies.

Cover Love:  Darling!  I don't think they needed to add the illustration at the bottom with the car and the road, but I like the photo of the guy and girl holding hands, I wish that was bigger, more of the focus.  But I know it will be eye catching on display in my library.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
This came in my first book order of the fall and I was looking for something light and fun.  I started this right when I pulled it out of the box!  Here's the synopsis:

June wants high school to end and real life to begin. Oliver is soaking up senior year’s glory days. They could have coasted through high school, knowing about—but not really knowing—each other.

Except that their moms have arranged for Oliver to drive June to school. Every. Single. Day.

Suddenly these two opposites are fighting about music, life . . . pretty much everything. But love is unpredictable. When promises—and hearts—get broken, Oliver and June must figure out what really matters. And then fight for it.
Romance?: Yes, of course.

My Thoughts:
To be perfectly honest, I almost gave up on this book.  June was so closed off and judgemental and righteous in the beginning that I had a very hard time liking her.  She was just so certain that Oliver and his group of friends were awful and she and her group of friends were right to dislike everything and everyone. I was afraid her attitude would last too long in the book and turn me off on it completely.  However, I stuck with it and her attitude didn't last too long. She started to see that there was some value in most people and while some people are exactly what they appear to be, a lot of people aren't, including some of her "non-conformist" friends.

I LOVED OLIVER.  Seriously, new book boyfriend.  He's such a good guy.  And I know he does give off a certain type of attitude with his appearance, he's just so much more than that.  He is who I would totally have crushed on in high school, especially once I got to know him!

I would like to give this book to all the girls who judge people before they can be judged, that put up that wall to protect themselves.  I work in a middle school and there are A LOT of girls like this who I want to read this book, but most of them wouldn't read a romance because it's not dark enough!

To Sum It Up:  Darling romance that could teach people a lot about judging others before getting to know them!

Book from school library collection.

October 21, 2016

Road Trip Reading #3

This weekend is a four day weekend for schools in our state so we are going to visit my oldest son in college! I will have to be driving, though, so I won't get a lot of reading done in the car.  Hopefully I will have time to read while I am away.  I am in the middle of reading Scary Out There and am loving it!  I am also reading Shuffle Repeat because it just came in with our latest order at school.  Fingers crossed that I come back having finished both!

October 19, 2016

School Library Issues

I am going to try and write this without naming the book or the author, just talk about the issue.  I am sure that other librarians have had this issue and am wondering what they do with it.

So, we have a series in the library that is pretty popular with our readers-young and old (we have a few teachers that love it as well).  The author has started a second series, which the second book for recently came out.  One of our teachers was very excited to read it so she took it home over the weekend before I had it cataloged for our collection.  When she came in on Monday she told me she didn't think it was appropriate for a middle school library.  I kind of rolled my eyes, knowing how conservative this teacher tends to be.  But, I started reading on the page she told me to and holy cow!  It was such a steamy sex scene.  Like, WAY above what should be in a book for a middle school.  I pointed it out to the high school librarians, just to get their opinion and they both agreed it was too steamy for their libraries too. I didn't feel too bad because this was only the second book in so we hadn't invested too much money.

Then the fifth book in her more popular series came out.  And again, there was a pretty steamy sex series in this book.  It's like this author is writing herself out of YA!  We kind of use the barometer of "would a student see this on TV."  And both times we had to say NO.  Not broadcast TV anyway.

So, here's my concerns.  I haven't seen anything on any blog reviews that talk about this.  I realize mot blogs aren't written by librarians, but nobody even mentions the sex scenes.  I read a lot of YA books and I haven't ever read anything in any YA book that matches this.  I have in adult books, but not YA (honestly, not even in "new adult" book, it's that steamy).  I don't shy away from putting books on our shelves that has swear words or talks about sex, but this is way more than talking about sex.

I feel like I am self-censoring and I hate that, but I also feel that school libraries have to have a different standard for what goes on their shelves, especially a middle school library.  And it makes me so sad because it this is the way YA books are heading I will have less of them on my shelves.  I love YA books, I think is great for kids to read about issues they will soon be facing or are already facing.

(It should be noted that I have not read any of the books in either of these series, but my partner librarian has as well as a few other teachers)

What are your feelings about sexual books on school library shelves? 

October 4, 2016

My Thoughts: Afterward by Jennifer Mathieu

4 bittersweet chocolate chip cookies.

Cover Love:
Yes, the image of the bike and balloon combined with the tag line "Ethan went on a bike ride. Four years later, he came back," are very striking.  Good stuff!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I was in the mood for something different and I needed a book I thought I could get done quickly.  I have read Jennifer Mathieu before and knew I liked her writing so I gave this a try!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

When Caroline's little brother is kidnapped, his subsequent rescue leads to the discovery of Ethan, a teenager who has been living with the kidnapper since he was a young child himself. In the aftermath, Caroline can't help but wonder what Ethan knows about everything that happened to her brother, who is not readjusting well to life at home. And although Ethan is desperate for a friend, he can't see Caroline without experiencing a resurgence of traumatic memories. But after the media circus surrounding the kidnappings departs from their small Texas town, both Caroline and Ethan find that they need a friend--and their best option just might be each other
Romance?: Not really, but a pretty strong friendship develops.

My Thoughts:
This was a powerful book.  The author wrote it from the alternating points of view of Caroline and Ethan.  She did a great job with each of their voices.  I can't imagine the research she must have done to write Ethan so well!  I'm sure that kids coming back from that kind of trauma display all types of behavior and the way she wrote Ethan seems so real and true.  His chapters were particularly moving and engaging.

And Caroline was every bit as messed up because she blamed herself for Dylan's abduction.  Although Dylan wasn't gone nearly as long as Ethan, because he was autistic his recovery was very stalled.  That was one of the most interesting contrasts in the book:  Ethan's parents had money to get him (and them) help, Caroline's family did not.  However, Caroline's mom also kind of wanted to act like it didn't happened, which didn't help anyone in their family.

I liked how Ethan's flashbacks were handled.  Even though the what happened to Ethan was totally disturbing, the author leaves it to our imaginations.  She isn't graphic with his memories, what comes back to him truly is what he can handle in his recovery.  However, it's very clear the kind of abuse and trauma he had to deal with during his four years.  It was just so well done.

I loved how the book ended, there was hope for both Caroline and Ethan and their families.  It was a good ending and really the best one for this story.

To Sum Up:  This would be a powerful read for many ages.  I am going to get it for my library because it gives students a glimpse into stuff that is very real, but rare.  Just the kind of book I loved to read when I was a young teen!

Book requested and sent from Macmillan for review.

September 27, 2016

My Thoughts: We Know it Was You by Maggie Thrash

4 yummy frosted ginger cookies

Cover Love:  I'm not sure.  I don't hate it, but I don't love it.
I just don't feel it is very eye catching nor does it fit the tone of the book, however, I like it as a cover.  I like the font and the huge, accusatory title.

Why I Wanted to Read This:  I was in the mood for a suspense book and this one sounded like it fit the bill.  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

It’s better to know the truth. At least sometimes.

Halfway through Friday night’s football game, beautiful cheerleader Brittany Montague—dressed as the giant Winship Wildcat mascot—hurls herself off a bridge into Atlanta’s surging Chattahoochee River.

Just like that, she’s gone.

Eight days later, Benny Flax and Virginia Leeds will be the only ones who know why.
Romance?: Not really. There are a lot of romances that happen or were already happening in the book (it's set at a high school), there just isn't any romance for or between our main characters.

My Thoughts:
I really liked this book for several reasons.  First off, it takes place at a boarding/prep type school.  Although there is a dorm, there aren't a lot of "boarders" and they are kind of looked down upon by the local kids who attend the school.  I like this reversal for a prep school type setting.  Normally, the local kids are the ones looked down upon, rather than the boarders.  Because of this setting the population of kids is pretty small, everyone knows everyone and the class lines area kind of blurred.  Seniors are friends with lower class men and pretty much everyone knows everyone else!

The author writes from several different points of view during the course of this book, with Benny and Virginia being the main two characters.  One thing I loved was how the author wrote about the perceptions each character had of the others.  Benny constantly was devaluing Virginia in his head and she was constantly thinking about what a nerd Benny was.  Neither of them truly saw what was going on with each other, nor were these perceptions easily changed.  It just felt really true to teenagers and high school because sometimes its so hard to change your reputation.  People don't want you to change who you are!

The mystery was also really well done, a lot of red herrings.  I found the "who done it" to be a little implausible, but overall was keep interested the whole book.  I also liked all the little kernels the author threw out there that didn't get answered.  This book is titled "Strange Truth #1" so I am looking forward to learning more about Benny and Virginia in upcoming books.  There is a mystery involving Virginia that is alluded to several times in the book that I am especially looking forward to learning more about.  I really liked Virginia!

Overall, I liked the setting of a small. elite school and  the mystery.  The smallest thing that kind of bothered me was the ages of Benny and Virginia, they seemed a bit older and more mature than 15.

To Sum Up:  Even though Benny and Virginia are 15 year olds, I feel that there were a few things in this book that make it too mature for my library.  However, it's a great mystery and a fun read so I will recommend our high school librarians buy it for their collections.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the review copy!

September 16, 2016

Cover Love #1

 Sometimes I see a cover I love so much I just want to share it.  I want to shove it in front of other people's faces and say, "LOOK!"  So, that's what this new feature is about.  Last week I was doing some book shopping and looking through spring catalogs.  I came across a book that sounds good, but when I saw the cover I knew it was a book I want to read, to hold in my hands, to display at my house!  Just look at it!

And it sounds so good, here's the synopsis:

Sophie Seacove has been abandoned by her parents and sent to work as a servant at a dilapidated house surrounded by sea monsters. (Sophie always suspected her parents hated her.) It’s dangerous work, made worse by the untrustworthy residents of the house: There’s Scree, the creaky caretaker who knows more than he lets on. The Battleship, a widow haunted by her own poor choices. And the Battleship’s twin sons, gleeful sadists who will do anything to be rid of Sophie. When the Battleship’s nephew, Cartwright, offers Sophie an irresistible deal—find the mysterious Monster Box, and he’ll get her off the island—Sophie agrees, opening up a years-old mystery and setting off a deadly chain of events. But everyone is lying to her. The twins are trying to kill her, or at least make her sit through their horrible performance of Hamlet. And Sophie needs to use her brains, her brawn, and her unbreakable nature if she’s going to make it off this wretched island alive.
I just can't wait to see this cover in person. What do you think?

September 13, 2016

Added to the List #26

Fall publishing season is gearing up and I have been getting some great middle grade reads in the mail.  One of my favorite things about getting books from publishers is that I get to see some books showcased that I hadn't heard of yet.  I have added all of these to my fall order for my library!
This past week I got:

The Littlest Bigfoot by Jennifer Weiner.  As you recall I have been Obsessing Over this book and was SO excited when it came in the mail.  It also came with a darling stuff bigfoot.  As soon as I finish the two books I am currently reading I will be starting this one.  Can't wait!!

The Girl Who Rode the Wind by Stacy Gregg was one that I had put on my library order for the fall.  Nine years into being a librarian and I am still amazed at how many girls love horse books.  I am going to pass this along to one of my 8th grade girls and have her read it.  She was just complaining about not having anything good to read!

Duels & Deception by Cindy Antesy looks like an awesome period read.  I think I will save this one for this winter!

The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz looks DARLING!  This one is going to be a fun read and I bet I will have a few readers at my school who will really enjoy it.

Jubilee by Patricia Reilly Giff was one that was not on my radar.  Not sure how I missed it, but am really glad it came in the mail.   It sounds so sweet and heartbreaking.  It looks like it will be a quick, but emotional read.  

Moo by Sharon Creech is going to be another popular one in my library.  She is such a strong writer and I have so many kids that read her whole collection here.  She's always popular! 

I also got an amazing pack of YA books from Simon & Schuster that I will highlight later in the week.  What have you added to your TBR lately?

August 21, 2016

Blog Tour: My Thoughts: The Secret Sea by Barry Lyga

4 yummy frosted maple cookies.

Cover Love:
I really like this cover, I think it would make kids want to pick up this book.

Why I Wanted to Read this:
I really like a good alternate universe book and the synopsis of this one seemed right up my alley.  Here it is from GoodReads:

Twelve-year-old Zak Killian is hearing a voice. Could it be a guardian angel? A ghost? No, that's crazy. But sometimes the voice is so real. . . . It warns him of danger.

One day Zak is standing on the subway platform when the tunnel starts to fill with water. He sees it before anyone else. The voice warns him to run. His friends Moira and Khalid believe this is more than a premonition, and soon all three find themselves in an alternate universe that is both familiar and seriously strange. As Zak unravels the mystery behind the voice, he faces decisions that may mean the end of their world at home--if they can even get home!

My Thoughts:
Overall this was a great read.  There were a few things in the beginning that made it a little hard fro me to get into but once I was over that hump, the book flew.

One of the things that bothered me a ton were Zak's parents.  They were so frustrating.  They were convinced that Zak was doing "bad" things so rather than talk with him, they ground him.  Then they get him a psychiatrist, but are more into blaming each other for his behavior than really getting him help. It was very hard to get over this because every scene with them made me want to throw the book!

After a pretty slow start a little twist happens that caught my interest.  Once that came about, I was much more into the book.  Once they got to the alternate universe, I was very into the book.  The author set up a great world with the alternate universe.  There are a lot of similarities between our world and the one that Zak and his friends get to, but enough differences that cause them to be very lost and confused.  The rules of the new world and society are very different than ours and they don't have a lot of time to learn them.  The author did a great job of conveying their confusion and fear.  This new universe is very technologically advanced to us and open to a lot of new ideas, but they are also very backwards in some issues.  I was glad that Khalid was able to find an ally once they got to the alternative universe and thankfully it was one willing to believe and help out.  Giving them a guide was very important.

From the start of their time in the alternate universe I felt something was off in the story Zak was being told.  I'm not sure if this was because I'm an adult and I consume a lot of content, so I'm pretty quick to develop theories, or if it was easy to deduce.  I would like to chat with someone from the target audience after they read it to see if they jumped to the same conclusion that I did.

There is a lot of action and I guess what I would call "speculative science" in the alternate universe.  None of it was over my head and the story moved along very quickly.

To Sum Up:  I think this is going to be a big hit with middle school readers.  I will be buying a copy for my library and book talking it this fall.  I already have my first reader for this story picked out and I know he will love it.

Macmillan is giving away a finished copy of The Secret Sea to one of my readers.  US only, winner will be announced on August 29.  

August 20, 2016

Weekend Reading #12

This weekend I am giving myself reading time.  I am finishing up The Secret Sea by Barry Lyga for a blog tour (see my post and giveaway of a finished copy tomorrow!).  Then I am starting Stray by Elissa Sussman.  This is a book from my library that I brought home for the summer (along with about 40 others).  I need to get some of them read before school starts so I'm starting with thi one.

What are you reading this weekend?

August 1, 2016

Obsessing Over #6: Furthermore

I have been seeing this pop up on blogs and twitter and it has peaked my interest.  First off, this is a dynamic cover.  Second, it sounds like such a fun play on words type of book.  I think this is going to be an awesome read and I can't wait to get a copy for myself and for my library!

July 22, 2016

Weekend Reading #11

I will admit that a couple of things have really slowed down my reading this summer.  
First of all, Stranger Things on Netflix completely captivated me.  I binged on that really hard this week.
Secondly, I am playing Pokemon Go.  I adore this game, but my very favorite thing is that my son will ask me to drive him and his friends around to play.  When your 18 year old, about to go to college son wants you to go out and play a game with him, you go out and play that game!

Anyway, I am going to focus on some reading this weekend.  These are the two books I am currently reading.  I am participating in a blog tour for The Secret Sea in August.  I like the alternate reality aspect of this book.  I also received The Gallery in the mail and this cover is so gorgeous I bumped it to the top of my TBR.  I love the feel of this book in my hands.
(I am also going to Star Trek this weekend, can't wait!!)
What are you reading this weekend?

July 15, 2016

My Thoughts: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

4 spicy & soft ginger cookies.

Cover Love:
I LOVE this cover. You have to see it in person to see how beautiful it is, but it's like  rose gold and shimmery and gorgeous.  So eye catching!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I had been hearing a lot of buzz about this book, even before it was released.  I was lucky enough to get an ARC in the mail, but it still took me a few months to get it read.  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.
Romance?: Nope, not that kind of book.

My Thoughts:
This was a great read.  The only reason I gave it four cookies was because I had a hard time getting into the story.  I feel like this was my fault.  Reading the synopsis made me know there was going to be a lot of times my stomach would be in knots while reading this book.   It made me a little hesitant about diving right in, so I took my time.  When I let myself go, I realized that my fears came true, but the way the author handles it all made it an easy read.  There was a lot of tension and my stomach was in knots, but one reason I was too upset while reading this is that Annabelle always has someone on her side.  People, her parents, believe her.  Having someone in her corner the whole time gives her the confidence she needs to stand up for the innocent and for herself.

I love the setting. This was set at the start of World War 2, in a rural area.  Annabelle goes to school in a one room schoolhouse, but there are also cars.  It's like the cusp of the technological revolution. Annabelle's parents are hard working farmers, but also very much devoted to their children. Annabelle's grandparents and an aunt live with them as well.  These things are during a time that always fascinates me, there is such an innocence about the world still.  And that's what makes this book so powerful.  We see a little girl on the verge of growing up who loses her innocence pretty quickly.  What happens to her and her world changes her, makes her see how the world really is, but it doesn't destroy her.  The author does a great job of walking the fine line between destroying Annabelle and using the situation to make her stronger.

One of my favorite parts of this book is how much takes place in the family kitchen.  Most of Annabelle's confessions to her family happen around the table or when she is helping her mom cooking and baking.  I love that!  This is what happens in my family, the kitchen is the heart of our home and some of our best times are when I am cooking or cleaning up and my kids are doing homework and my husband is helping them or me and we are all just enjoying being together.  Even though the events that happen in this book are serious, you just know that their kitchen is the room that has the most love and trust.

To Sum Up: This book didn't turn out to be the hard read I had expected. It was innocent and interesting and a little disturbing.  It would be a great read for a middle school book club!

Book sent to me from Rachel at Penguin.  Thanks Rachel!

July 13, 2016

Obsessing Over #5: The Littlest Bigfoot

I love the synopsis for this book.  I love the author and have read many of her adult books.  I love the cover.  Right now, I think this book is at the top of my WANT list.  It comes out in early September and I will be pre-ordering a copy for myself and a copy or two for my library. 

Also, I have a certain fascination with Bigfoot.  When my oldest son was first diagnosed with Crohn's disease he had to spend about a week in the hospital.  He wasn't overly sick, he just needed to be on an IV because he was pretty malnourished, so he was really, really bored.  One of the things we discovered was the TV show Finding Bigfoot.  For some reason there was a marathon on and we spent one whole day and evening watching that show.  It was a lot of fun and a good memory during a bad time.  Ever since then we have lots of Bigfoot discussions, even though he's 18 now.  It is something that bonds us a bit, and makes me even more excited for this book.

Any upcoming fall releases catch your eye yet?

July 11, 2016

My Thoughts: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

5 yummy chocolate chip cookies.

Cover Love:
This one is ok.  It's not my favorite, but I do love the colors.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I just loved the concept--descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in a modern day boarding school.  I just couldn't wait to give it a try! Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.
Romance?: A little.

My Thoughts:
I love this world--one that actually had Watson and Holmes.  One that has descendants of both of them.  Jamie Watson had daydreams about meeting up with Charlotte from the time he was young and realized that there was a Holmes his age in the world.  When they finally meet up at an American boarding school it's not a match made in heaven.  A murder at the school brings them together especially when it looks like they are being framed.  They start working together and the rest goes down in Holmes/Watson history!

This author nailed Holmes personality in Charlotte, but she also gave her a little vulnerability.  This book is written from Watson's point of view, which the author also nails.  She did her homework.  The murders all have elements of cases from famous Sherlock Holmes/John Watson which is what brings Charlotte and Jamie together.  They work on finding the culprit, but in true Holmes fashion, Charlotte only tells Jamie the barest minimum of what he needs to know.  She makes him figure a lot out on his own.

While there isn't a romance, Jamie definitely has a crush on Charlotte, but it's born of respect, not lust. I just loved the dynamics between these two.  The mystery is also strong, I didn't have it figured out at all.  There were a lot of twists and turns.

To Sum Up: This was a really fun read and I look forward to the next two books in this trilogy.  Because of some mature subject materials I will be book talking this one for my older readers this fall.

July 9, 2016

Road Trip Reading #2 & Weekend Reading #10

This weekend we are driving three hours away to watch our son play in a senior showcase soccer game.  It will be a down and back in one day trip and my husband is driving, which means I am going to be reading!  

What are you reading this weekend?

July 7, 2016

My Thoughts: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins

3 chocolate whoopie pies.

Cover Love:  Yes, I love this cover.  I love that it looks like a summer camp and that each picture is a couple from the story.  I love these short story collections!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I LOVED My True Love Gave to Me, which was a short story anthology of holiday romance stories.  I was very excited when I saw that this one was coming out and super excited to read it.  Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Romance?: Of course!

My Thoughts:
I didn't love this book as well as My True Love Gave to Me.  These stories weren't bad, but they didn't have the same feel to me as the holiday stories.  I can't put my finger on it, but I just didn't love it.  My favorite story was the one by Cassandra Clare, Brand New Attraction.  I liked Leigh Bardugo also, Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail.  Both of these had a supernatural element, which made them fun to read.  (Actually, a lot of these stories had supernatural elements).

I read Souvenirs by Tim Ferdle around the same time my oldest son (who just graduated from high school) was deciding to break up with his long term girlfriend.  There were a couple lines in that story I quoted to him because it was hard on both him and her when they broke up.  I don't think the lines helped them, but I felt they were perfect for the situation.

I also liked that there were stories by authors I have never read yet.  That's one thing I really like about these new anthologies.

This book just didn't give me quite the same feeling as the holiday stories book.  I didn't get that feeling of being young and in love and in the summertime that I was hoping for.  But, I know that these stories will be very popular with younger readers who will get that feeling.

To Sum Up:  I will be buying this for my library and encouraging the girls looking for something a little different to give this one a try!

June 30, 2016

Added to the List #25

Earlier this spring I received a wonderful box of books from Simon & Schuster.  This was an amazing box with the majority of the books already on my radar!

I squealed when I opened this one, especially when I saw The Unexpected Everything.  I love Morgan Matson!

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love is another one I am super excited about.  Teen contemporary romances are my favorites!  Some hot weekend soon I am going to spend time by the lake reading these two.

Three Truths and a Lie sounds like such a tense thriller.  Another great summer read!

This is Not a Werewolf Story was already on my order for the fall.  I think it looks adorable and perfect for a middle school library.

Savage sounds so different than anything out there.  I am going to order this one this fall as well!

Girl About Town is probably the one I was most excited about. I LOVE old time stuff, old time radio, old movies, all of it.  This book looks awesome and it takes place during the start of the golden age of movies!

Thanks so much Simon & Schuster for the awesome box of books.
Reviews to come!

June 28, 2016

My Thoughts: A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff

3 peanut butter cookies.

Cover Love:  YES! I love this cover, it is darling.  It makes me think of summer camps and lakes and fireflies and fun.  Wonderful cover!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this in the mail and after I read A Tangle of Knots I knew I had to read this one.  While it's not quite a sequel, it should definitely be read after A Tangle of Knots. Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
In this companion to A Tangle of Knots, it's summertime and everyone is heading off to camp. For Talented kids, the place to be is Camp Atropos, where they can sing songs by the campfire, practice for the Talent show, and take some nice long dips in the lake. But what the kids don't know is that they've been gathered for a reason--one that the camp's director wants to keep hidden at all costs.

Meanwhile, a Talent jar that has been dropped to the bottom of the lake has sprung a leak, and strange things have begun to happen. Dozens of seemingly empty jars have been washing up on the shoreline, Talents have been swapped, and memories have been ripped from one camper's head and placed into another. And no one knows why.

Romance?:  Nope.

My Thoughts:
While I enjoyed this read, I didn't like it as much as A Tangle of Knots.  Part of the reason is that in Knots, the Talents that people had were kind of normal things.  Things that a lot of people might be good at, just enhanced for different people.  I enjoyed that idea a lot.  It's not like people were superheroes, they were just enhanced.  The Talents that some of these kids had in Jars were more...powerful.  Not all of them, some of them were normal, but they just seemed more impressive.  I didn't really like that change.

This was also a darker book.   The campers were in real danger in this book and a lot of the campers were desperate about their Talents or lack of Talents.  The camp director was one of the most desperate and the desperation leads her to doing some pretty awful things.  I didn't feel like anyone was in true danger, and I hoped everything would be tied up nicely, but I was antsy while reading a lot of this book.

However, I liked the setting a lot.  I always wanted to go to a summer camp like this one, on a lake.  I always went to sports camp that were hot and dusty, not on a lake.  I liked most of the kids in this book and how they worked together to figure out what was going on and how to fix it.  And I did like being back in the same world as A Tangle of Knots.  It's really fun and there is a lot of possibilities.  Also, I love how easily the author writes other points of view.  She can slip in and out of characters so smoothly the story just flows!

To Sum Up:  Love this world and these are two awesome middle grade books.  I will be book talking them a lot in the fall and recommending them for a lot of my 6th grade readers!

June 23, 2016

My Thoughts: A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

4 yummy yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting.

Cover Love:  I love this cover, it's colorful and whimsical and includes so many elements from the book.  I adore it!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
When this book first came out, I saw a lot of comparisons to Savvy, which was a book I adored.  It went on my TBR list, but I wasn't able to get it read until now.  Wish I had started sooner!  Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady's past and how she became an orphan. If she's lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent. 
Romance?: No.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book.  The style it is written in makes for a quick and easy read:  short chapters told from different points of view.  The author nails all of the characters voices.  I love that the Talents each person can be simple, like accurate spitting, or more advanced, like baking the perfect cake for a person.  I bet the author had a great time deciding how people in this world can be Talented.

I loved little Cady and rooted for her through the whole book.  But while Cady felt like the main character, this was a book with multiple characters whose storylines are woven together so smoothly.  It was easy to keep track of who was who and what each one was doing.  And while I was able to make some educated guesses about where the story was going to end up, I was constantly and pleasantly surprised by the turns in the story.  And I LOVED how everything was woven together so beautifully at the end!

And all the recipes!  I am going to try some of these cakes.  Look for a future "Food From Fiction" post on that!

To Sum Up:  Awesome middle grade read.  This one is easy to get into the hands of the younger readers in my school!

Remember to enter my giveaway for a pack of Lisa Graff paperbacks!  Check out this post to enter.

June 9, 2016

Added to the List #24 & Road Trip Reading #1 & Weekend Reading #9 & Giveaway

Last week I was so excited to get this pack of Lisa Graff books in the mail.  She is a staple here in my library, perfect for middle school readers.  I read Umbrella Summer years ago and enjoyed it greatly.  I haven't read any of hers so this weekend, while I am at my sons' soccer tournament (a three hour drive away).  So I am taking A Tangle of Knots and A Clatter of Jars with me on the trip.  And, I already had Lost in the Sun checked out from my library to read over the summer, so I was very excited to get my own copy.  I will be reading that this summer as well!

Penguin has graciously offered to let me giveaway a set of Lisa's paperbacks:  A Tangle of Knots; Lost in the Sun; and Absolutely Almost.  Fill out the form below if you'd like to win your own copies of these awesome books!

May 31, 2016

My Thoughts: Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

4 fulfilling blondie brownies.

Cover Love:  Yes.  I think this cover is very eye catching!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
The synopsis was intriguing to me, it made me want to more as soon as I could so I read it!  Here's the synopsis from Good Reads:
Seventeen-year-old David Sullivan’s life is about to change—all because of one tiny, priceless item found in the murky bottom of a Brooklyn water tower.

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make rent.

No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the more expensive—and the greater the improvement.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.

There’s no question the Gold is worth millions, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.
Romance?: Yes. Sully and Hunter have some good chemistry.

My Thoughts:
This book was a really good read:  quick and interesting.  The author did a great job doling out information slowly, but not too slowly.  Just enough to keep you going to the next page to get more about the world Sully lived in.  The most interesting thing is that this world is one that is everything like ours, except there are these spheres that enhance the people who use them.  There are spheres that enhance hearing or make you faster. Sully is a sphere dealer.  He sells them, but has never used them himself.  However, he is famous because he found the most rare sphere ever, a Cherry Red.  He sold it to a collector for two million dollars, but when this collector "burned" them (you need two of the same color to use them) and they didn't enhance anything for him, he voided the check he had given Sully.

Nobody knows where the spheres had come from, but everyone tries to get their hands on them.  This is a very interesting world the author has created.  There are super common spheres and really rare spheres.  There are books about what spheres can do what and how much the rare ones are worth.  Sully is an expert on spheres so when he meets up with a girl, named Hunter, who wants to hunt spheres with him, he jumps at the chance.  And soon they find the most rare sphere of all, a Gold.  Having this very rare sphere makes Sully and Hunter a target from powerful people who will stop at nothing to get this sphere.

I liked the pacing of this book.  Once the Gold spheres gets burned the information comes quick and I liked how the "climax" of the story is not drawn out page after page.  I also appreciated the ending because I don't mind a neatly tied up finish to a book.  And I know that my middle school readers will appreciate it as well.  This will be a great book to hand to a reader who just wants something "different."

To Sum Up:  I am excited for next fall to get this book into the hands of readers who want something interesting with action but don't want to commit to a series or one with a lot of pages.

Book bought for my school library collection.

May 2, 2016

Added to the List #23

The other day I was lucky enough to get a finished copy of Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle in the mail.  This is a book that was high on my TBR list for this spring so I squealed a bit when I opened my package.  Thanks so much Katherine Tegen Books and Harper Collins.  Here is the synopsis:

On the third night of the third month after a girl’s thirteenth birthday, every girl in the town of Willow Hill makes three wishes.

The first wish is an impossible wish.
The second is a wish she can make come true herself.
And the third is the deepest wish of her secret heart.

Natasha is the oldest child in a family steeped in magic, though she’s not sure she believes in it. She’s full to bursting with wishes, however. She misses her mother, who disappeared nearly eight long years ago. She has a crush on one of the cutest boys in her class, and she thinks maybe it would be nice if her very first kiss came from him. And amid the chaos of a house full of sisters, aunts, and a father lost in grief, she aches to simply be...noticed.

So Natasha goes to the willow tree at the top of the hill on her Wishing Day, and she makes three wishes. What unfolds is beyond anything she could have imagined.