Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Books with Positive Female Relationship

Something I've become aware of within the last year or so is how many books have female characters pitted against one another.  Aren't there any books for young people that show great, positive friendships in which there isn't bickering or rivalry?  Yes, I know that this type of rivalry is real for many of our young girls in every day life.  Mean girls are a real problem, but where are the books that show it doesn't have to be that way?  Where are the books that show an alternative to the cliques?

I am a firm believer that books can change your life.  They can change your outlook and the way you interact with the real world around you.

So I've been paying attention and here are a few that I've read over the past few years that I think do a great job.  I've divided it up into middle grade books and YA books if you're looking for certain readers in your life.

Middle Grade Books

 Peppi doesn't always  make the best choices, but she's going to make it right.  There's definitely conflict within this book, but Peppi has found some solid friends who give her great advice.  And she helps out one of her friends when she really needs it.  There are cliques, but they are not focused around cool girls.

Check out my review here.
How could I have a post on female friendships without The Baby-Sitters Club?  The reason it made this list of books I've read in the past two years is because Raina Telgemeier has come out with the graphic novel versions of Ann M. Martin's stories.  And if you can get a kid interested in the graphic novels, that might lead to the rest of the series by Ann M. Martin.

Check out my review here.
Raymie meets three new friends the summer she decides to run for a beauty pageant.  You'd think that three very different girls, all entering the same contest would end up in some not so great relationships, but these girls rally together to help one another.

Check out my review here.

I chose this because it's a positive sister relationship.  Even though Catrina is sometimes annoyed by her little sister, Maya, she cares deeply for her.  They bond a lot throughout this books as well.

Check out my review here.

This book will be for your older middle grade reader.  6th, 7th, 8th grade.  It deals with the topic of sexting, in a more "innocent" way if that's possible (the pictures in question are of a girl in her underwear and no more than that).  It does have a trio of girls entering middle school and they are each finding themselves drifting in different directions, but still manage to maintain their solid friendship.  They also support one another in making positive choices, but are supportive when their friend makes a mistake and don't turn their back on her.

Check out my review here.

YA Books

Although Cath's relationship with her sister, Wren, is strained, and her mother is out of the picture, there are great examples of positive female relationships.  Her roommate, Raegan is the best.  At first you think it's going to be terrible, but Reagan is mature and understanding and doesn't really get sucked into the drama--so she doesn't allow Cath to sink into it with her.  Her relationship with Wren is where most of the drama comes from, but there are many reasons and it stems more from the fact that they're family and are struggling with some real issues than this being a mean girl situation.

This one is a romance, though.  So it's not all about the friendships.  But positive all around.  There are also some issues I had with Raegan and Cath judging other girls they see.  It's not a perfect book or a perfect representation of positive female relationships, but I did think they Rainbow Rowell gave Cath some positivity in her life to equal out the negative situations.

 This story takes place in an asylum (well two really).  Some of the women kept in the asylum were only there because their families put them there so they didn't have to deal with them. That was accepted during the time period because women were not valued.  But in the second asylum (the good one), Grace finds solid friendships with two other women who have been committed, a nurse, and the sister of a doctor.  Although this book isn't about friendships--it's very much about women's rights and the treatment of individuals with mental illness (all entwined with a murder mystery, of course)--these relationships are solid foundations for Grace.

Check out my review here.

 Amanda is new.  She had to leave her old life behind when someone found out that she is transgender.  Now she's living with her father, who doesn't quite accept her as she is now.  She finds some solid friendships within this book--and some not so solid.  But the friends she make stand by her, even when her worst nightmares come true and everyone finds out the truth.

This might a bit out of range, but I really love Vivian and Harp.  Vivian and her best friend Harp set out across the country in the wake of a "Rapture" that supposedly happened.  But Vivian is sure that she can find her parents because something just doesn't seem right to her.  Harp isn't so sure and is surly, drinks a lot, and isn't always the most dependable when it comes to making choices.  She is, though, always there.  With Harp on her side, I know she'll be okay.  Just as I know Harp will be okay because she has Vivian.

Check out my review here.

What about you?  Any good examples of strong, positive female friendships within MG or YA books?  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review: House Arrest by K.A. Holt

House ArrestHouse Arrest by K.A. Holt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*spoilers at end*

Timothy has been put on house arrest for a year and has to keep a journal to prove to a judge that he has learned from his mistake. What was his mistake? Stealing a wallet and using someone’s credit card to pay for his little brother’s monthly medication. Levi isn't even a year old and he has a trach to help him breathe, but it also means constant care. Nurses, medical supplies, dr visits—they all cost a lot. And ever since Timothy’s dad left, it's been up to his mom to do it all, so Timothy wanted to help. Now he's stuck in his house for twelve months and he's angry.

Through his journal, Timothy talks to his probation officer, James, and psychologist, Mrs. B. He relates, through verse, what he and his mom deal with on a daily basis. As a twelve year old, Timothy is often left in charge because his mom has to work and they don't have a nurse that day. So Timothy does things like suction Levi’s tube, change ties, teach his brother sign language, and generally keep him happy and alive.

Timothy works so hard to grow and learn and keep himself in control, and does an amazing job, despite the odds. Despite being a twelve year old boy who feels like it is his responsibility to make sure his brother has the medical care he needs. Despite seeing because his mother give every little part of herself to keep it all together as she breaks apart at the seams. Despite his father leaving their family without a word. Despite being responsible for his brother when there is no nurse that day and his mom HAS to go to work. The world is against this kid—that’s what it feels like.

Then things start to go up. His probation officer and his psychologist are amazing and helpful and caring. His neighbors jump in and help with food and clothing and comfort. They all help carry his family when they need it. So you start to believe that it's all going to be okay and things truly are looking great.

But when Timothy makes a choice between violating his parole and keeping his baby brother alive, he makes the right choice and gets Levi to the hospital—and also lands himself in juvie. No one evaluates the situation and sees that this kid was doing right and he had grown so much in the previous almost year. No one who is capable of making a decision sees this or tries to change it. And although he does save his brother, and his brother goes to get help, all the work Timothy did to make it happen doesn't even seem to count.

I'm angry at this book. I am so incredibly upset. Which is good because books should make you feel. And three days after finishing it, I’m still seething. I liked this book more than I expected and I felt cheated —not so much for myself, but for Timothy. He was cheated. And it's not fair. Which I realize is life. Usually I am okay with endings that aren't happily-ever-after. But this one rubbed me the wrong way. I had thought things would get better, not perfect, but improved. And they did, right before it was completely ripped away from him. And that was it.

I still recommend this book. I will share it with my book club this year because I think we’ll have a lot to discuss. It's completely appropriate in all ways, but still deals with heavy themes: divorce, very sick relatives, asking for help, growth, ideas of what is morally right vs what is technically right in the eyes of the law, family. There is a lot to discuss.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Book Review: Awkward

Awkward (Awkward, #1)Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Awkward has been a favorite in my classroom all year and I'm just getting to it in preparation for book club next year. I'm so glad I read it. It has a cast of diverse characters as two clubs, Art Club and Science Club, battle it out for a spot at the school's club fair. Penelope (Peppi) is in Art Club and on her first day at school, she did the most terrible thing to this kid who tried to help her and she's trying to say she's sorry--still trying. As she finally begins to be friends with the boy, Jaime, she realizes he's in Science Club. How can they be friends if their friends hate one another?

Peppi isn't a flawless character, which I appreciate. She makes a lot of mistakes and her friends make a lot of mistakes. Luckily, they learn a lot from their mistakes and also how to save their club.

The teachers are also lovely. I loved the Science teacher. She's very strict, orderly, and possibly a ninja in a previous career? There are many rumors surrounding her and how terrifying she is--even though she isn't and helps out our main character multiple times.

A second book recently came out about another student in Art Club and it looks fabulous. I'd love to hear about all these characters eventually and hope this becomes a longer series.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't express how much I love Perry T. Cook! In All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook, Perry is an eleven year old boy who has spent his entire life living in a prison. He was born there, and through the help of a progressive warden, has been allowed to stay with his mother who was incarcerated shortly before his birth. Perry goes to a regular school, has rules, completes chores, and has a family within the prison walls. When the DA discovers the set up at Blue River Prison, he doesn't like it and takes Perry out of there immediately--to live with him and his family. Although the DA, Tom, has promised to help Perry in any way he can, it doesn't take Perry long to figure out that if he wants to be back with his mom, he'll have to rely on himself.

The characters in this book are amazingly well written. Not only is Perry a thoughtful, inquisitive kid, but he's learning how to stand up for himself. He has many people who are on his side and willing to help. But he needs to learn how to speak out now, speak up for what is right.

We also get hear from his mother's perspective throughout. Her chapters are short and spread out. They allow us to see Blue River Prison from the inside, even when Perry isn't there anymore. We see the loving mother of a boy. A mother who does everything she possibly can to protect and fight for her boy.

One character who really intrigued me was the DA, Tom. Although he is painted as the villain, he's not truly one. He's a man who really believes that he is doing the right thing and trying to correct a wrong. Only he is very misguided in his attempts.

I strongly urge you to read this book. It has made its way onto my Book Club list for next year and will also be book talked!

View all my reviews

Monday, July 10, 2017

Monday Musings: Prequels, Novellas and Side Stories

You know that feeling when you've finished a series and you want another book.  You NEED another book.  You must have more information about these people and you have to remind yourself that they don't really exist. It takes time, but you move on and come to terms with how things ended (or you've invented something to help you get through the ending so that you know in your heart where it led your characters in the end).

There you are, sitting at home, minding your own business and WHAM!  You find out that the author has written another book.  A prequel, or a series of novellas about some of the side characters.  Or a whole other line of stories about a side character or characters that never even existed in the first series but are now connected.

Now you must decide if you allow yourself to trek down that slippery slope.  Can you take your emotions that are wrapped around the original series and unwind them gently and allow new information into your understanding of that world?  Do you really need to know about that minor character who you kind of like, but enjoy not knowing everything about them?  Maybe.

I don't read most books that are added onto a series.  I've learned that I'm usually disappointed.  Not necessarily because they're bad, but because I've moved on.  I've come to terms with the way the series ended and I don't feel the need to bring all that out again.  I don't want it ruined.

How do you feel about stories published about the side characters or prequels?  Do you clamber over other readers to get your hands on them, or do you keep a respectful distance?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is told from multiple perspectives throughout the book. The omniscient quality of the narrator allows us to know the "secrets" right away--there isn't a whole lot to unravel. However there is still a question of how things will unfold and if the characters themselves will understand the truth and what that will mean for them--and if they'll figure it out in time.

Luna is our main character, sacrificed as the youngest baby in the Protectorate, and now being raised by Xan (a witch), Glerk (a swamp monster), and Fyrian (a tiny dragon, who is more of a sibling than a guardian). Every year Xan rescues a baby left in the bog and flies him or her to a town and a loving family. Only when she rescues Luna, she falls in love with her and accidently feeds her too much moon, enmagicking her. But Luna's magic is so intense that it becomes dangerous and Xan must encase the magic deep within her. And now, as she nears thirteen, Luna's magic is slowly returning.

During this time we also see both heroes and villains from the Protectorate as they try to make sense of all the terrible suffering that happens in their village. Over the course of thirteen years we witness the lives of the people of the Protectorate through Antain's eyes. Antain begins as an elder in training, but we can see right away that this won't go very well for him because he questions the decisions and traditions of the elders that lead to the misery surrounding his town.

One of the issues I had with The Girl Who Drank the Moon was the constant change of perspective. The omniscience meant that we knew a lot, but we knew a lot because we saw the same moments in time from different perspectives--and sometimes not just two. It made the story seem to stretch out instead of move forward. It also made it more difficult for me to really relate to Luna. We don't even really get anything from her perspective until we're a good ways into the book because it takes awhile for her to grow up.

And that's when the story really started. I felt like a lot of it was background building and it was long and arduous building. It could have been shorter.

I would only recommend this to middle grade readers who are already comfortable with fantasy books. I feel like even good readers who don't have much basis in fantasy might be thrown off by it. Overall, it was an okay book and once the story gets going, it's compelling--it just might take a while for that to kick in.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Mid-Year Review 2017

It's halfway through 2017 already and I'm looking back at my reading goals and some of my favorites for this year.

I didn't get too ahead of myself this year with my book goals.  Sometimes I have three or four different types of reading challenges for myself.  I wasn't feeling that too much back in January.  I'm still not feeling it, so I'm glad I didn't do it.  I did however set myself a book total goal like I always did.

Book Total Goal for 2017: 70
This is more than my goal for last year, but I did surpass my goal last year.

Total for 2017 so far:  27
According to Goodreads, I'm six books behind schedule.  I am okay with this, though.

Diversity in Books:
I didn't really set a goal for this because I didn't really have any idea of where I was because I never kept track before.  So this year my goal is to keep track.  

I have a spreadsheet in which I'm checking off books as having either a main character or the author who is a POC, LGBTQ+, or a person with a disability (mental or physical). 

So far, I have 10 out of 27 books that count as diverse.  I'm setting the goal for myself to get to 20. 

A few of my favorite experiences this year have been re-reads.  So far, I have re-read the following titles:


I'm currently finishing up The Handmaid's Tale.  It's been years since I read it and although I remember it, I don't remember the details.  And I want to see the Hulu series, but need a refresher first.

Finally, my favorites so far!  I wanted to add The Dark Days Club and Red Queen, but I thought it was cheating because they were re-reads from just last year and they shouldn't be on my favorites list two years in a row--should they?

In no particular order:


How has your year gone so far?

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: A Madness So Discreet

A Madness So Discreet A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love historical fiction that doesn't put romance as a center plot line. LOVE IT.

Mindy McGinnis has put her main character Grace into a terrible situation: she's in a mental asylum, placed there by her family because of the fact that she's been found pregnant. No one can know that she's pregnant, it would be terrible for the family because it would uncover secrets that would ruin them all. And Grace hasn't spoken since. While there she meets a strange doctor who recognizes her intelligence and schemes to take her out of there by pretending he botched a procedure on her and they will need to hide that from her affluent and very powerful father. He takes her away to a new asylum, one that is run with dignity and care. Although Grace must continue to hide her voice, she accompanies the doctor as he visits crime scenes in an attempt to use the new science of criminal psychology. Very soon, they discover that there is a serial killer in their midst.

We meet a number of characters throughout the book who live in the asylum. Some truly do have mental health disorders, but others do not. Most are women who are put there by husbands or fathers simply to get them out of the way. Some are ill, but mentally ill, and so they are committed so their family members do not have to deal with them. The conditions at the first place Grace is living in are deplorable. There is a lack of food, lack of medical care, and patients would often be beaten or hit. Some of them were locked in cellars for long periods of time. Unfortunately, this is what many asylums were like. The one in which Grace travels to was much nicer. Patients were treated with respect and care. It is a comparison that Grace makes often during her time there.

A Madness So Discreet is about many things, but I believe it is very much about how women have been viewed in the past. Not only are we shown multiple women who have been sent to live in asylums not because they needed help, but because they were different, needed medical attention, or were defiant, but the serial killer is targeting young women--mostly prostitutes. As you read the Dr.'s and Grace's surmising about the killer and his or her motives, you can see this played out even more.

The best part, is that there is no romance. There is no love interest. It truly is about Grace. I loved this book and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books! I think I might try outThe Female of the Species.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Books for Your Reluctant Reader

It's summer, I know, but it's super important to keep your kids reading throughout the summer.  Don't let the summer slide happen!  I'm not saying that they need to read ALL the time, but find a little time each day when reading is required.  Join a summer reading program at your local library.  Our library is amazing and they've had really great interactive events for kids.  It'll get them there, surrounded by books--so why not check a few out?

But what if you have a kid who doesn't like to read during the school year?  Well, I would say that they just haven't found the right book or author.

So here are some suggestions for you Middle Grade Readers.  Think anywhere from 5th--8th grade, depending on the book and the maturity level of the reader.

 Graphic Novels
If you haven't checked out graphic novels, get some!  Go to the library and ask where they keep their graphic novels for children.  Now, don't you start griping and telling me that graphic novels are just comics and don't count as reading.  What else do you think you're doing when you read a comic or a graphic novel?  You're reading words and pictures at the same time, using inference as you fill in the spaces of the story that can't be included due to the lack of narration.  It's a different kind of reading, but it's reading!  The narration takes place with both words and pictures and that's fine.  Here are some suggestions, based on my students' interests this past year.

 I had a group of kids passing this series around.  I read the first one and then couldn't get my hands on the next ones because they were so popular!  It's about a girl and her family who move into an old house that used to belong to a long lost relative.  After the first night they're all sucked into a magical realm and she must work to save them all.
 Raina Telgemeier has a few books out.  Ghosts is about a girl whose little sister has cystic fibrosis and so they move someone that will help her--but Catrina doesn't like this place.  She's especially nervous about it when she hears about all the ghosts haunting it and the Day of the Dead celebration that is approaching.  It might not be the best place for any of her family.

And by the way, boys and girls both have been drawn to Raina Telgemeier books!
This probably looks familiar!  Raina Telgemeier (the same from above) has taken the classic and turned it into a graphic novel.  This is perfect!  I had a number of kids start on these books and then transition to the original novels.  And there are a ton of the original novels--only four of the graphic novels.

Oh and it's great fun for an adult to read who was super into the books as a kid--trust me, I know. :)

Books in Verse
Sometimes the idea of reading a book that is pages and pages filled with words is daunting.  So find a book where the pages are filled with so many words.  Books in verse are stories told in poetic form.  Here are a couple of authors that stood out in my class this year.

 This is the story of Ha' and her life in Vietnam that changes drastically when war arrives to Saigon and she and her family must flee to America.  She struggles to find a place in Alabama where she feels safe with her family.

If your reader enjoys this, then introduce them to Thanhha Lai's other book Listen, Slowly --not written in verse.  In this book, Mai was born and raised in California.  She's looking forward to a spectacular summer, when she finds out that she has to travel to Vietnam with her dad and grandma so she can help her grandma.  While her dad is off treating patients, she is to look after her grandmother--who speaks no English.  Mai speaks no Vietnamese.  It's going to be a long summer.

I have not read Crossover because I just can't get through sports books.  I've tried.  Many times.  I have very little interest in sports and so it's hard for me to focus on characters who are so devoted to it.  But my students LOVED this book!  It was a hit with many of my boys and girls.

Gordon Korman

I have found that Gordon Korman is an excellent introduction into literature for my students who really don't want to read anything.  If I can get them to start Ungifted, then I can get them interested in other books as well.  Here are two that I would start with offering.

 Ungifted is hilarious! Donovan is ALWAYS getting in trouble.  In fact, we meet him while he's in detention for some stunt or another. Donovan ends up making a very bad decision and it results in the destruction of the gym of his school--oops!  Before his parents are contacted, though, he receives an invitation to attend the Academy of Scholastic Distinction--a complete mistake.  But it might the only way Donovan escapes whatever punishment is about to come down on him.  No one will ever think of looking for him in a school for geniuses!  Only he'll have to figure out a way to make them all think he belongs there.  Hilarity ensues!
Masterminds takes place in the town of Serenity, where none of the kids have ever left.  It's the nicest place ever and there is nothing bad ever happens there.  But when Eli's best friend is sent away after an accident, he begins to suspect that something is up.  The more he snoops, the more he discovers and it's not as serene as all the adults are trying to make them think.

This is great because it's a mystery and the kids are in charge, trying to outwit the adults.  It's also a series.

Gordon Korman has many other books as well, so he's a great author to get kids hooked on reading!

What about you?  Any book suggestions that you've found to be winners for your more reluctant readers?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Allegedly

Allegedly Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mary has spent most of her very young life in what she calls "baby jail." She's now been put into a group home, but it's not much better. The others girls are dangerous, the two women who run the place are mean and don't care about any of them--especially Mary. They all know why she's there--she killed a baby. Allegedly.

When Mary finds herself pregnant, she begins to feel as if she might have a chance. She and her boyfriend (who is also in a group home) can run away and start a new life together. But first she'll have to not get killed by her housemates, save up enough money at her job, and manage to get the ankle bracelet off her.

Tiffany D. Jackson makes us take a hard look at the life of Mary. She's tough, yes. But she's also vulnerable and young and there is no one out there looking out for her. And how did it come to be that she's been accused of such a crime? Although most of this book is realistic fiction, it's also a mystery: What really happened when Mary was younger?

We also see quite a lot of side characters--all with their own issues. Some have serious mental health issues that have brought them to this point and others have fought their way here because of their environment. This is a compelling read, but it's dark and dirty too. It will be difficult to put down as you try and piece together what really happened to Mary and what happened to that baby.

This book does contain very mature material. I would not recommend it to students who are in middle school and if you are recommending to high school students, I would be aware of their maturity level and their family/personal as well as any triggers.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review: The Sun Is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Natasha and Daniel's story is a love story, but it's much more interesting than just that. I am NOT a romance story kind of person, but there are some that I enjoy. I decided to give The Sun Is Also a Star a chance because I've been hearing so much about Nicola Yoon. I loved it.

Although opposites in many ways, Natasha and Daniel fall in love within the span of a day. This is the story of how that happens. Natasha is spending her last day in the United States, trying to make sure it isn't her last day in the US. She's desperately going from one place to the next looking for someone who can help her and her family not be deported. Daniel is on his way to an interview that will determine the rest of his life as a doctor. It will make his family happy and proud and him probably miserable.

Natasha works hard at not letting Daniel's fantastical ideas about love and life interrupt her plan for the day--she will definitely not fall in love with him. Daniel will find a way to make Natasha fall in love him. It's his new goal (in a totally uncreepy way--I promise!).

I thought The Sun is Also a Star was a fantastic read. It's not just a romance, but a glimpse at the world of an undocumented teenage girl who has worked so hard and now her dreams are being smashed to pieces because of someone else. It's the story of the son of immigrants whose parents want the best for him and that means pushing him into a life he's not really interested in leading. It's about finding your own way--despite the circumstances you're given, or maybe because of the circumstances you're given. It's also about how everything around us is connected in someway.

Romance readers will definitely enjoy this book, but readers of YA who aren't necessarily drawn to romance will also enjoy it. Enjoy!

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Friday, June 9, 2017

Review: Fuzzy Mud

Fuzzy Mud Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar, Tamaya and Marshal take a shortcut through the woods after in order to avoid the school bully, but they find themselves in even more trouble. After getting some weird mud (fuzzy mud) on her hand, Tamaya finds herself breaking out in a rash and it's spreading--a lot. If she tells the truth, then she has to admit that she and Marshal were not following rules. And Tamaya always follows the rules, however when it comes to light that someone else might also be hurt because of her choices, Tamaya has to decide whether breaking the rules will hurt her or help someone else more.

Fuzzy Mud explores a lot of major issues in this short book: the environment and the effect of introducing man-made substances into it; choosing between following the rules and doing the right thing (they're not always the same!); and bullying. By switching between Tamaya, Marshall, and other key figures, Louis Sachar builds on how this situation even came to pass.

Mostly we see the story through Tamaya's eyes as she discovers the mud, touches it, and watches as the rash spreads across her body. Through her sections we see how she struggles with not wanting to break rules, but also wanting to fit in and not quite understanding societal rules for fifth grade girls. Marshall gives is the real view of being the victim of the class bully. The new kid at his school has pinpointed Marshall and none of his classmates are stepping up--even though they all see it. There are also snippets of interviews with scientists who are trying to determine if certain micro-organisms that have been created are safe for the environment or not in a set of hearings in which they are debated. The headmaster at the school also gets her perspective as problems start spiraling and she is trying to keep it controlled.

Fuzzy Mudis a book that will interest some of your more reluctant readers. It's also one that will be good for kids who interested in the environment and improving our world. Being that's less than 200 pages, it makes it less daunting than many middle grade novels. This is a book that I'll be using next year for our fifth grade book club.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Monday Musings: The Importance of Half Stars in Ratings

Monday Musings is a weekly post in which I talk about whatever I would like to talk about.  Often it's book related.  Sometimes it's not.

Do you get annoyed at not being able to give half stars on Goodreads and other rating sites?  I know it frustrates me.  There is such a big different between a 3 star rating and a 4 star rating, I think.  This is where I tend to use half stars the most.  Because a book might be pretty good--the writing is well-done, the characters are developed, but there's something missing.  Something that doesn't bring it to a four, but it's definitely not a 3, either.

For me, the other numbers are much more concrete and I rarely use half stars elsewhere--but I still do!

For example:
1= There were some major issues with character, plot, or something else.  I finished reading it, but it was really hard to make it through.

2= Some minor issues that made it difficult to want to read it, but I did.  I didn't very much enjoy it, but there wasn't anything terribly wrong.

3= If there are issues, they are minor.  I liked it well enough, but there was something really big missing or not completely developed.

3.5= Well-written overall, but not mind-blowing.  I was interested and intrigued, but not to the point where I couldn't stop.

4=I really really liked this book.  There were so many positive things happening and it kept me engaged throughout.

5= I cannot stop thinking about this book or the characters or the upcoming sequel.  It is sure to be a book that I bring up throughout the years as one that others should read.

Could I just lump that .5 in either the 3 or the 4?  Sure, but I really believe there needs to be a place in between.  Just give us the option!  Come on, Goodreads.  Help us be more accurate in our reviewing and rating.  :)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Mini-Review: A Time to Dance

A Time to Dance A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman and highly recommend it. Veda, an award winning dancer of traditional Indian Bharatanatyam, is in a horrific accident that leads to having one foot amputated. Dancing is all she has known and now it is taken away from her. However, Veda is fierce and will not go down without a fight. She's just going to have to relearn everything she ever knew about dance and life. Told in verse, Padma Venkatraman paints beautiful images that not only allow you to see the movement of Veda's world, but to hear music as she does, and feel her pain, humiliation, and hope.

View all my reviews

Monday, May 1, 2017

Review: Passenger

Passenger Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This time traveling adventure will take you through various historical events and destinations as Etta and Nicholas search for a tool that could change their entire lives, both past, present, and future. In order to save her mother, Etta goes in search of the astrolabe, a tool wanted by Cyrus Ironwood who is keeping her mother hostage. Nicholas follows her after being promised his freedom from the Ironwoods if he makes sure Etta follows through on her promise to return it. Neither wants to tell the other the truth, but as they journey through time it becomes harder and harder to keep the truth a secret from one another.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. The pacing was pretty well done as Etta jumps from one time period to the next, following clues her mother left behind. She and Nicholas are thrown into various times that force them to adapt rather quickly, despite not having the right attire or means to acquire them. All while running from evil men chasing them throughout the time periods so they can get to the astrolabe first.

What I didn't like:
The romance between Etta and Nicholas was somewhat contrived. From the very beginning (as soon as they saw one another across a ship) they are taken with each other. And it's not just that they like one another--they are meant to be together. After one look. I wanted there to be some work on either or both of their parts, but it just came too easily. The only problem was that they were from two different time periods and someone would have to leave their time period in order for a relationship to be had.

Will I read the second book?
I haven't' decided yet. Probably. The place in which Alexandra Bracken leaves us, is one in which I must find out the end. Nicholas...I need to see him in Wayfarer after that ending. So many things revealed at the end that I'm going to need some closure here.

Happy Reading!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Queen of the Frogs

The Queen of the Frogs
Davide Cali and Marco Soma
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2017
Genre: Picture Book
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

**I received this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
It is available to purchase on March 20, 2017.

In The Queen of the Frogs, a normal, every day frog finds a crown and becomes queen.  But what does that mean?  What does a queen do?  Well her fellow frogs have many ideas about what it means to be queen and so she follows them all and things change for their little community.

The pictures in this book are whimsical and depict the frogs in little outfits, including old fashioned swimming suits, plaid pants, and sweater vests.  The story is also fun as we see the frogs fawning over their new queen in different ways.  The big issue I have with the story is that at the end, they are watching a couple on a bridge (wait, what bridge?).  Apparently the couple used to argue on the bridge (we've seen them before?) but now they are very happy together.  These last two pages threw the entire thing for me because it seemed unnecessary.  I was actually pretty surprised to even see anymore pages because the story seemed to have ended.

So overall I'd say it's a cute read and the pictures are very beautiful, but it's not a must-own for me.  For now, we'll pass on this one, or borrow from the library.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Monday Musings: The Old Lady Who Read YA

Monday Musings is a weekly post in which I talk about whatever I would like to talk about.  Often it's book related.  Sometimes it's not.

I'm 35 years old.  Wait... yes that's correct.  I'm seriously always losing track of exactly how old I am.  No joke.  I just had to think it through to see if I am 35 or 36.  Is it because my birthday is at the end of the year, so I'm subconsciously subtracting the 1981 from the current year, even though my birthday is still 10 months away?  Maybe.  But I digress.

We're here to discuss the Old Lady Who Read YA.  That's me.  Although I really don't consider myself old--at all.  More often than not, I'm struck by the fact that I am an a adult.  And not a just-turn-21-adult, but like a real adult.  I'm even a mom.  I'm in charge of a classroom full of children.  This is all very strange to me.  Who in their right mind would allow someone so young to be so independent?  Oh yeah... I'm 35.

Many people think that means I should be reading "adult" books.  Which I do sometimes--mostly when my husband has teased me enough and I feel the need to prove to him that I can and do read books that are written for teenagers or middle schoolers. When I'm asked what I'm reading, I can see that look that tells me they don't appreciate the greatness of MG and YA reads.  And I also find myself not always able to join in books with other adult readers because I haven't read anything they have recently.

But here's the secret folks:  Middle Grade and YA books are so much better than most adult books.  Seriously!  I mean think about the character development.  Pre-teens and Teens are naturally going through so much change and development that it's almost impossible not to have great character development happening.  I'm not saying that it's easy to write MG and YA books, but that there is so much growth potential.  And as much as I love character development, I also want my book to move along.  The plot has to go somewhere.  Good MG and YA has both strong character development and a plot that pulls you in and makes you stay up all night to see what happens next!

Then there's nostalgia.  I already mentioned above that I don't feel old (well maybe physically sometimes).  I'm not sure if that why I like YA or if it's because I read MG and YA that I feel that way.  Who knows.

Why do you read YA or MG?  Do you go back and forth?  Does it make you feel younger?  Older?

Next week's musing: Half-stars in ratings

Monday, February 13, 2017

Monday Musings: ARCs

Monday Musings is a weekly post in which I talk about whatever I would like to talk about.  Often it's book related.  Sometimes it's not.

People seem to have very strong views about ARCs.  If you're not sure what this means, it stands for "Advanced Reader Copy" and it means that this copy was an advanced release, given out for review purposes before the publishing date.

I have not received any hard copies of ARCs myself.  I don't attend book conferences (I can't afford it and the ones I could "swing" happen during the school year) and I'm not big enough for authors and publishers to reach out to me and offer them.  No big deal.  I'm not blogging to get ARCs.  If I was, I would have quit  by now!

I have, however used NetGalley to get e-ARCs or digital copies of the book, so I got to read a few books before they were published.  Again, my blog isn't popular enough to get flagged for the really popular books.  No biggie.  I found a couple of books that I later bought for my classroom!

However, I haven't read an ARC in ages.  It's been about a year.  Why?  Because there is too much pressure and I needed to back off the pressure.  Pressure? To read?  What?  Yes, pressure.  Because when you accept an ARC, there is the expectation that you will read and review it before publication.  This truly seems fair since you're getting a book for free, right? So there's a deadline and my life gets a little too hectic to have too many deadlines (I have enough deadlines for work!).  Plus, I just wanted to read all these other books that were already out.  What about those? I was missing out on those!  So I gave up on my pursuit of ARCs.  I'm considering going back to Netgalley, but trying to be more selective and only choosing books that have far publishing dates, so that I can read them and review them in time.

What are your thoughts on ARCs?  Do you love them?  Have you ever tried NetGalley or Edelweiss?  Or have you sworn them off?  

Next week's musing: The greatness of MG and YA

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Book Excitement!

I am super excited about two books that just arrived!  I spent some very precious reading time re-reading the first books in the series for both of these.  Now I have them both in my hands and I can't read fast enough!

Unfortunately I haven't' finished reading them yet!  I haven't even started...  I'm actually still reading Glass Sword again before I can start King's Cage.  I think I'll go straight to King's Cage because I will NOT be able to stop myself.  Then I'll jump back into The Dark Days Pact.  

The difficult decisions!  

I love books. Just saying.

Have you read either of these series?  What do you think?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Monday Musings: My Three Wishes

Monday Musings is a weekly post in which I talk about whatever I would like to talk about.  Often it's book related.  Sometimes it's not.

Not necessarily book related, but my wishes might be book related!  Also, these are all purely selfish and fantastical.  There are no noble wishes here.

1) I wish I had Hermione's time turner--for real.  I mean I know we all say we want more time to do things and that we would like to be in two places at once, but realize how difficult it would be and how it could completely mess up the space-time-continuum or whatever.  I, however, would like to have time each night after my daughter has gone to sleep to do the following: read a book (one entire book, or if it's super long, then half), plan the most awesome lessons, grade and give detailed feedback on all 120 students, work on my blog, write/work on writing, catch up on any and all TV shows that I would like to watch, play a crossword, sleep.  I want to do all of this every night.  No biggie.

2) The ability to eat it all.  And not gain massive amount of weight.  Enough said.

3)  My simplest wish: To always have warm, fresh out of the dryer towels when I'm finished showering.  I don't want towel warmers.  I want that fresh and fully feeling every time I step out of the shower.

What are your 3 indulgent wishes?

Next week's musing: ARCS

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Book Review: Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon

Camo Girl
Kekla Magoon
Aladdin, 2012
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Diverse Reads, Middle Grade, Being Yourself
Rating: 4 out of 5

Ella has been friend with Z forever.  He was there for her when she needed it the most and pulled her out of her darkness.  Even though being friends with Z is difficult, especially as he sinks more and more into his own dark world, Ella can't leave him behind.  So she endures.  They are a pair--a pair who get made fun of on a regular basis.  Ella gets made fun of because she is the only black girl at her school and her face is covered with patches of different colors.  Z is made of fun because he acts weird--very weird.  When a new boy arrives at school, Ella is ecstatic because he too is black.  She's finally going to have someone who is like her! Only now it seems like she has to make choice between Z, the friend who was always there for her and desperately needs her now, or Bailey, the friend who likes, really likes her. 

There were parts of Camo Girl that were difficult to read because my heart was just breaking.  It broke so much for Ella.  She is a lucky girl.  Although her father recently died from cancer, she lives with a grandmother who encourages her to stand up and be the strong girl she sees, and a mother who loves her so very much.  She has a friend in Z like none other--but she knows that something isn't right with him now.  And Ella's other friend has abandoned her because Z is too weird and all the other kids know it too, but she's trying so hard to help him, to keep things normal for him and for her.  Then, when she does try to do something without Z, it breaks both of them because Ella doesn't know how to explain it to him so he will understand--if he can understand.

Through all of this, Ella is trying so hard to accept who she is, but she can't.  She does her best to go through her day without looking the mirror.  She doesn't want to see herself and be reminded of the way she looks.  Every day she is reminded by the bullies in her school who call her "Camo Girl" and trip her while she walks by.  Every day she remembers what Z did for her on the day her father died and she cannot abandon him--not like everyone else has.

This book is about acceptance, not so much acceptance of others, although that is here.  It's about accepting oneself and accepting the truth.  It takes a lot of Ella to accept the truth about Z and take the steps needed to help him--but will it be too late?

I definitely recommend Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon.  It's in my classroom library and has already flown off the shelf!  Definitely a great read for middle schoolers as they try to find themselves in this world and accept who they are.  It's a clean read that deals with real life issues kids face in a realistic and authentic way.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Book Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

S. Jae-Jones
St. Martin's Press, 2017
Genre: YA/NA, Fantasy
Rating 3 out of 5

*Thank you to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Liesl has spent her life in the shadow of her beautiful sister and talented brother, listening to the reveling in the stories her grandmother tells her of the Goblin King.  Now, at 19, she has left that fantasy world behind and resigned herself to the life of a spinster--until her beautiful sister is taken by the Goblin King.  Now Liesl must go to the Underworld and return her sister to the world above, but her Goblin King won't make that task easy for her.  In her quest, Liesl, who has spent most of her life believing she is less than, begins to discover who she is and what talents she possesses.  She also begins to see the Goblin King as more than just her Goblin King--which could be detrimental if she plans to return to the world above.

Some spoilers are included below.

I struggled with Wintersong.  Most of it I really enjoyed--especially the first half.  Liesl spends much of the first half of the book looking for her sister Kathe, finding her in the Underworld, and then figuring out a way to escape with her.  The Goblin King is constantly making this difficult for her, but Liesl is determined to rescue her sister--she must do so.  The pace of the first half of the book was fairly quick.

I had a hard time really liking Liesl in the beginning.  She never chose herself.  She was always looking at herself as less-than and therefore her needs and desire were less-than. Her entire focus is on taking care of others--but not herself.  In order to make sure others are taken care of, she must deny herself.  But by the second half of the book, she embraces her desires, her wants, her needs.  Unfortunately, I still didn't like her that much.  But I was still rooting for her.

The writing itself is beautiful.  Despite the fact that you're in a fantasy world, it's easy to picture yourself there and to see what Liesl sees.  You can understand much of what she's feeling and the pain.  SPOILER ALERT!:  When the Goblin King refuses Liesl's advances, I felt for her so much that I thought I was going to cry.  Liesl doesn't understand--and neither did I completely--and she is hurt in so many ways that this is just one more thing he has done to her.  Every time he refuses her, I felt her hurt.

One thing I wasn't a huge fan of was the romance between Liesl and the Goblin King.  It was haphazard, confusing, and off and on.  Her desire for him was intense within romance scenes, but then it would fade out and I couldn't tell if she wanted him because she wanted him, or if she wanted him because he broke her down--which she spoke of often.  That's what really pulled me out of the romance.  Every time they had intense romantic scenes, they were described in very rough and animalistic ways, which isn't a big deal to me.  It was the afterward that brought me out of the story. Liesl spoke about how he broke her down.  There were many references to his breaking her.  In most cases I would not be okay with it, but knowing the rest of the story, maybe I can accept this?  But can I?

The pacing is where I really wasn't happy.  Like I said at the beginning, the first half of the book was well-paced.  We're with Liesl and her sister when the Goblin King first appears in their fringes, we're with her as she tries to come to terms with the fact that her sister has been taken, when she has to fight her way to the Underworld.  We're with her when she finally arrives and must navigate the confusing parties and goblin lore as she tries desperately to save her sister.  Then she becomes the Goblin QUeen and everything just slows down.  Not much happens besides the romance scene and playing music.  I'm also not much of a musical person so a lot of what Liesl talks about in the way of composing sonatas was lost on me.  It something I had to get through in order to get to the next part of the story where something else happened.

Overall, I enjoyed Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones.  It could have been paced a little quicker in the second half, but it was still good.  If you're looking at this for younger readers, there is some pretty heavy sex scenes, a lot of talk about death (he is the king of the Underworld after all), and other themes that don't sit very well for younger audiences.  I would say readers should be at the very least in high school--not a middle grade book.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Musings: How I Arrange my Goodreads Shelves

Monday Musings is a weekly post in which I talk about whatever I would like to talk about.  Often it's book related.  Sometimes it's not.

So I might go a little crazy with my Goodreads Shelves.  I have a ton of genre-based shelves.

Then I have shelves for TBR for different years.  Sometimes I'm really ambitious and I have a "Spring TBR" shelf, but I mostly gave that up.  I do usually keep a general TBR per year and a "Must-Read-In ____" shelf.

Oh and I have shelves where I puts books that I heard about at conferences/workshops, and books I might want to look at for our books clubs at school.

It's a bit of a disaster.

The one good thing about my Goodreads Shelves is that I recently went through and cleaned out my TBR list.  There were books on there I didn't even remember hearing about.  I narrowed it down to 140 from 369.  Be impressed people!  It was difficult in some cases, and required honest assessments of my reading goals and personality.  Do I have to read it?  No.  Do I want to read it?  No.   Even if I really *should* read it?  No!  Get rid of it!!!

Digital cleaning is a must. And my Goodreads Shelves get pretty messy.

How do you organize your shelves?  Do you organize them?  Do you clean them out ever?

Next week's musing: My Three Wishes

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A-Z Reading List: N-Z

The A-Z Reading list is an alphabetical list of books, characters, events, places, etc that all relate to books.  Each letter gets a listing.

This second half of the alphabet was more difficult.  I had to really think about words that connected to reading.  I think I did a pretty good job, if you ignore X and Z.  Those shouldn't count, though, right?
**If you missed yesterday's post, check it out here!

N-- New books are my addiction.  I assume that many of you reading this know what I'm talking about here.  :)

O--Recently, I've discovered Overdrive which is amazing!  Seriously.  You can connect to your publish library if they participate, or you can get it through other sources.  I started using SYNC this summer as they offer free YA audiobooks during the summer only.  Then I discovered my library also used this.  Great way to have digital access to books and save some money.  (Is my husband reading this? I am saving money on books sometimes!)

P--Mrs. P-- was my high school English teacher who made me believe that I might actually be good at reading and writing.  I didn't just WANT to be good, but someone believed I was. When I said I was going to major in creative writing in college, she was on of the few people who didn't question if that was a valid major. Confidence was not exactly my strong suit in high school, but I felt like I knew what I was doing in her classroom.

Q-- Queen Levana:  She's as evil as they come.  She terrifies me.  Marissa Meyer did an amazing job of making her truly scary--especially after reading Fairest!  When you read a novel from the villain's point of view, you expect for them have a little redemption, some understanding for how or why they chose to do this.  Yeah...evil.   Here's my review of Fairest.

R--Raymie Nightingale--Both the book and the character are new favorites of mine.  Raymie has such determination, but so much to learn.  Here's my review of Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo.

S-- Star Wars isn't exactly a reading word.  It has more connection to movies and to the characters.  But I remember being a kid and so into Star Wars that I found a series of books that continued the story.  Yes!  And then I thought, if they could write their own sequels, why can't I?  So I started writing (a very terrible) Episode VII.  I believe it has been lost  and it's probably a good thing now. :)  

T-- Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir-- So I know that the first book, An Ember in the Ashes, was in the first section for E; however I just can't not list this book right now.  It was a perfect sequel! My review for An Ember in the Ashes.

U-- Unhappy is how I feel when I can't seem to fit in time to read on a regular basis.  Not reading truly affects the way I feel. I'm grumpy and irritable until I find time to just relax and sink into a book.  That's why I sometimes stay up too late to read--because being tired the next day is way better than being a crabby and unfulfilled person in life.

V-- Vivian Apple--I love her!  I started listening to Vivian Apple at the End of the World without any expectations and completely fell in love with it!  I haven't read or listened to the second one, but it'll be up next on my audible list.  Here is my review of Vivian Apple.

W-- The Weasleys in Harry Potter are awesome--except for Percy, he's annoying.  Who doesn't want to be adopted into their family and allow Molly Weasley to dote on them?  

X--Xtra reading time at school! (It's a stretch, I know).  I love it when I surprise my students with extra reading time.  They love it, I love it.  Who doesn't love a few minutes more of reading?

Y-- Young Adult books are my weakness.  I love them.  I should be reading more middle grade books since I teach that age group, but I love love love YA!  I am an adult, but I remember what it was like to be a young adult and at times I feel like one too.  Can't convince me that I'm truly an adult--even at 35. 

Z--One of my guilty pleasures is reading zombie books.  I haven't read one in awhile, but one that sticks out to me is Warm Bodies--the book, not the movie.  I also enjoy zombie movies.  I'm pretty certain that if there was a zombie apocalypse, I wouldn't survive, but who knows.  Maybe I've read and watched enough to make sure that I outrun and outsmart those zombies!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A-Z Reading List: A-M

The A-Z Reading list is an alphabetical list of books, characters, events, places, etc that all relate to books.  Each letter gets a listing.

This was difficult.  This first half of the alphabet was much easier than the second half, though.  Some needed multiple entries because I couldn't choose.  So be it.

A--Anne Shirley: I'm so happy I could start out with her.  Anne has been my mentor character since I was a little girl--even before I know it.  I love her imagination and her love of words.  She's so dramatic and so adamant in her current ideas, but as she grows, she learns.  She's flawed, but willing to learn and to try to be better.  If you've never met Anne, try reading Anne of Green Gables.  You won't regret it!
Check out my character spotlights on Anne and Gilbert.

**I also NEEDED to say Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume was a life changer for me.  I read that multiple times growing up.  

B-- I could just say "books" and make this easy, but I feel like that might be cheating.  So instead I will say Ali Benjamin, the author of The Thing About Jellyfish. I fell in love with this book and its beautiful characters. 
Here's my review of The Thing About Jellyfish.

C-- Cress: One of my favorite characters in the Lunar Chronicles was Cress.  
Check out my other Lunar Chronicle reviews:

Winter spotlight

D--  The Dark Days Club:  I can't wait until the sequel comes out!  Just a few more days and I can dive in!
The Dark Days Club review

E-- An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir  and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  I know this is two different books, but I couldn't choose one.  An Ember in the Ashes is the first book in the series about Laia and Elias and their fight against the Empire and I loved it!  
My reviews for An Ember in the Ashes and Eleanor & Park.

F-- I read mostly fiction.  Sometimes I feel guilty about this, but then I read a non-fiction book and I struggle through it.  I'm not going to feel guilty about it.  I'm going to enjoy my reading.  I prefer fiction.

G-- Goodreads:  I have no idea how long I've been using Goodreads.  I know there is a date of when I joined, but I didn't use it very much.  Then a few years ago I committed.  I love using it for organizing my books and planning out upcoming reads.

*And can I also add Gilbert Blythe?  I can't resist!  I used to imagine that Gilbert Blythe showed up at my door and asked if I wanted to go for a walk.  On a regular basis.  Oh Gilbert.  
Check out my character spotlights on Anne and Gilbert.

H-- Harry Potter:  One of my favorite series.  Will probably always be up there.  I absolutely love the way the stories grow with Harry.  They start out simpler, without too many scary moments.  But as Harry grows up, he can deal with more and so can the reader.  Oh to have been a kid growing up with the HP books!  I was in high school when they started becoming popular, so my formative years had passed.  But I have fond memories of them all!

I-- I'm struggling here so I'm going to the internet.  Mostly because if we didn't have the internet it would be difficult to have a blog and share my love of reading.  I also wouldn't be able to speak to others about blogging and reading and writing. (That was lame--I know.)

J--Jedi Academy books by Jeffrey Brown are some of the best middle grade graphic novels out there.  Now, I am a bit biased as I love Star Wars, but I have students who have read it and enjoyed it but weren't super into Star Wars.  The ones who were, loved it!  
Here are the reviews for Return of the Padawan and The Phantom Bully.

K-- King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard.  I cannot wait for this to arrive on my doorstep in just a few weeks! I've been anxiously awaiting the next part of the story and busy re-reading the first two!!
Here are the reviews for Red Queen and Glass Sword.

L-- Legend by Marie Lu:  Probably the best trilogy I've read.  The arc of the story throughout all three books is amazing.  You don't get lost in the third book and go on some wild and confusing ride.  It brings everything to where it should, but it's still not predictable.  It's just....right.

M--Middle Grade Books--I used to gravitate more towards YA, but as of late I've been finding myself reading more and more middle grade books.  Or maybe it's just that I've discovered this as a genre instead of lumping them in with the YA?  

Check back in tomorrow for the 2nd half of my alphabetical list.