Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Hunger Games Trilogy

Suzanne Collins

If I'm going to cry, now is the time to do it.  By morning, I'll be able to wash the damage done by the tears from my face.  But no tears come.  I'm too tired or too numb to cry.  The only thing I feel is a desire to be somewhere else.

This summer Twitter was, well...uhm, all a-twitter about the release of Mockingjay. Mockingjay is the third and final installment of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy. I hadn't read any of the books. One of my students had recommended them to me last year but I just hadn't gotten around to them. I posed that I needed to get with the program. My awesome and very wise twitter friend Laura suggested I get all three at one time so I wouldn't have to wait to read the next one.

That was, perhaps, the best advice I've received in some time. My momma gave me a Barnes & Noble gift card (that she got with her AMEX points, she is the queen of this - believe it) and I downloaded them on the Nook at once.

All three books are woven through and through with AWESOME. I don't even know which book is my favorite of the three since I read them back to back. I kind of think of them as one large book.

The books follow Katniss, a citizen of Panem. Panem is a controlled environment, to say the least. It is made of up of 12 districts and The Capital. Each year, two children in each district must compete in the Hunger Games. I wouldn't spoil it but it's reality television to the extreme.  And it's all for the Capital's entertainment. Over the course of the books Katniss moves from simply a competitor to warrior to a rebel to a leader.

The thing that made me love The Hunger Game books is Suzanne Collins' world building.  Every time I opened the books, I was transported to Katniss' world.  I was there with her.  I felt her emotions.  Oh, and the twists.  Collins is master of the plot twist.  You never see them coming but they always fit. 

Recommendation: 7th grade and up
Rating: Loved It! (Loved Them!)

Friday, September 3, 2010


Neil Gaiman
If I'm going to do this, thought Coraline, I'm not going to do it in her clothes.  She changed back into her pajamas and her dressing gown and her slippers, leaving the gray sweater and the black jeans neatly folded up on the bed, the orange boots on the floor by the toy box.

I don't know why I'm just now reading Coraline.  But it was worth the wait.  It's dark and creepy and delious. 

It's that terrible part of the summer, right before school starts.  Coraline is bored and her parents aren't paying much attention to her.  In her boredom, Coraline makes a discovery that will liven things up.

Coraline finds an other world full of parodies of the world she knows.  Dark parodies.  Coraline sets out on an adventure that will seriously impact her world.  If she is successful, things will return to normal. If not, it's the button eyes for Coraline.

I really enjoyed being with Coraline on her adventure.  I love the changes the adventure brought to Coraline's life. Gaiman's writing is dark and creepy.  You are really right there with Coraline.  But, as a writer, I have to say that my favorite part of the book were the 'extra features' at the end.  Gaiman tells about how and why he wrote Coraline.  There are extra drawings and he tells the story of working with the illustrator.  

Recommendation: grade 6 and up
Pages: 162 pages
Rating: Love it!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sisters Red

Jackson Pearce

Nothing can help you, Dragonflies.  Say good-bye to the world you knew, welcome tot he mouth of the cave.  I'm sorry I failed you.  I'm so, so sorry. 

Scarlett March is intense.  I mean, the girl is seriously obsessed.  And rightly so.  She and her sister, Rosie were attacked by a Fenris (that's a werewolf to you and me) as young girls.  They lost someone very special to them.  Scarlett gave up part of herself save Rosie.

Scarlett continues to try to save Rosie.  As older sisters are wont to do to, Scarlett is over protective and under estimates Rosie.  I don't think she does it on purpose.  It's just what older sisters do (I guess, I'm the younger sister).  And, as younger sisters are wont to do, Rosie's not sure she wants to be saved or protected.  She's not sure she wants what Scarlett wants. 

And to that drama, add a boy.  Silas is Scarlett's partner (no, I'm not going to tell you in what) but he's falling for Rosie.  Can she fall back?  How will Scarlett react?

SISTERS RED is billed as a fairy tale re-telling.  I think it's more of a 'Where are they now?'  Or the aftermath of the fairy tale.  The story is told in alternating chapters by the sisters.  I love that.  You really get to know the thoughts, feelings and motives of each sister. 

I highly recommend SISTERS RED.  It's a beautifully told tale of sisterly love, first love, revenge and following your heart.  Plus, the cover is so wicked awesome!  It's a work of art.

Recommendation: grades 6 and up
Pages: 324
Rating: Loved it!

You can follow Jackson Pearce on Twitter and on her website.  She does awesome live shows!
Also, a special thanks to Saundra Mitchell.  I won SISTERS RED from her and it arrived very quickly and with a lovely hand written note.  I love it when people write notes.  You can follow Saundra on twitter and on her website.  She also writes awesome books that I'll review soon. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Cinderella Society

Kay Cassidy

In a lot of ways, playing Cinderella is like watching a train wreck in slow motion.  You're terrified of what you might see as it unfolds, but you can't not look.  
Especially when you suspect that you might be the train. 

Jess is like a lot of high school girls.  She blends into the background.  She pines for a hot football player who may or may not know she's alive.  Things should be looking up though.  She made the cheerleading team.  That should help, right?  Wrong.  The extremely cranky, perhaps slightly evil displaced cheerleader Lexy has decided to make Jess pay for 'stealing her spot'.  Jess is a good person.  She's an excellent cheerleader, an awesome volunteer and she wants to do the right thing.  But she lacks a key ingredient, as so many of us do, confidence.

Things begin to change when Jess finds a note in her bag with a little silver high heel pin.  Jess has been invited to join a secret society of popular do-gooders - The Cinderella Society. 

I have been privileged to be part of two 'societies' in my life.  The first was the Stingerettes - my high school drill team.  In Stingerettes, I was always comfortable.  There was some degree of competition but nothing cut throat.  I felt safe there. 

The second is Kappa Delta Sorority.  Kappa Delta took that safe feeling to a whole new level.  I felt loved because of my goofiness, not in spite of it.  I found a group of girls who believed in me more than I believed in myself.  In Kappa Delta I discovered I could be an excellent leader as well as a good follower.  I also found the joy of service. 

THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY reminds me a lot of Kappa Delta.  High school is rough.  The thought of a loving society helping you become the best you could be warmed my heart. 

There are so many other reasons I love THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY.  The intrigue.  The romance.  The need to serve the greater good.  But I really love the make over scenes.  TCS doesn't try to make Jess into who they want her to be. They help her discover her true self, her own sense of style.  I'm thirtysomething and I still struggle with that.  I'd love to have a Cindy make over. 

Recommendation: Girls 6th grade and up (I'm planning a TCS book club for my 8th grade girls in the fall)
Pages: 322
Rating: ALL TIME

I have to say thanks to Myra McEntire, Holly Root and Kay Cassidy!  I won TCS from Myra's blog.  She was interviewing Holly.  And Kay sent a lovely note, bookmarks and a signed bookplate.  Thanks Ladies!

Monday, June 7, 2010

An Awesome New Blog!

Dear Readers,
I am currently up to my eyeballs (as usual).  I wrapped up the school year last week.  I have this week off then summer school starts. My boys are super busy (evidence: Brennan just stole my notebook and pen and wrote all over the couch while I was typing this.  He'll be 2 next week)  I've been working more than usual on my own book.  And, of course, I've been reading.  Oh, and playing on Twitter.  Always with the Twitter.

Well, today on Twitter I found a true gem.  Mitali Perkins (author of the upcoming book BABOON PEOPLE) tweeted about a new blog about Middle Grade books.  From the Mixed Up Files is named after an awesome middle grade novel - FROM THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg. 

From the Mixed Up Files is a group blog and website put together by an extensive and fun list of middle grade authors.  The first post and book giveaway went up today. 

I am really excited about this site for a number of reasons.  First and foremost because I'm a huge book geek and a new place to read about books is exciting to me.  Second, middle grade is my first love.  I love teach middle school.  I love reading middle grade.  I'm enjoying writing my own middle grade book.  Third, well, actually all those loves were #3, 4 & 5.  I'm just excited, okay?  Work with me here.

So, what are you waiting for? Get over there and check them out!  You can also follow them on Twitter @MixedUpFiles

I'll be back later this week with my review of THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY by Kay Cassidy. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures
Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Isn't this what people do around here?
Yeah, no.  Not people like us.  Not in the middle of a school day.
For once can't we be them? Do we always have to be us?
I like being us.

In the name of full disclosure, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES was the first book that I read on my new Barnes & Noble nook.  I thoroughly enjoy my nook but that's another post perhaps.  The sheer awesomeness of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES added to the joy of the nook exponentially.  Back to the matter at hand.

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is a love story.  A wonderful, old fashion love story - with a paranormal twist.  Ethan has lived in Gatlin, South Carolina his entire life.  But he doesn't fit in.  Well, actually he does.  He's a very popular basketball player.  Ethan feels different.  He doesn't feel that he fits in.  He's dreaming of getting away.

Lena is new to Gaitlin.  She's beautiful but she does not fit in.  It could be that's she's new.  It could be that she's beautiful.  It could be that she lives with her Uncle Macon, the town recluse.

Gaitlin itself is as much a character in BEAUTIFUL CREATURES as Ethan and Lena.  The town is steeped (or stuck depending on your point of view) in Civil War history.  There are secrets around every corner.  I grew up in a tiny town in Texas and I could relate.  Now I'm wondering what secrets Rockwall holds.  Which, I think, is what a good book should do for you...change your outlook.  

But Ethan and Lena are drawn together.  Their story is sweet and touching and real.  I could picture them together.  Their relationship reminded me of my first love, actually.  (The feelings, not the paranormal bits.)   And, as in all good love stories, forces are working to keep them apart.  It's their quest against those forces that seals the deal. 

I had been looking forward to reading BEAUTIFUL CREATURES since December when it was released.  It did not disappoint. I had a hard time concentrating on other tasks.  I wanted to be reading BEAUTIFUL CREATURES all the time.  I am looking forward to the next book in the series BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS to be released this October. 

Recommendation: 8th grade and up - boys or girls.
Pages:  563 (according to Barnes &  - the nook doesn't have the same page numbers)
Rating: ALL TIME!  Right now I'd rank it in my top 3 of the year with THE DARK DIVINE and HEX HALL

Thursday, April 29, 2010

More Flip Flops!

I have more flip flops in! Here's a photo of the variety:

Here's what I have:
Cheetah with brown - size 6
Blue Plaid - sizes 7 & 8
Green and White - size 6
Stripes - sizes 8 & 9
Brown Sequins - size 7
Black Sequins - sizes 8 & 9
Cheetah with Pink - Sizes 8 & 9

If you'd like individual pictures of a particular style, send me an email -

They are $20 a pair and I'll ship them to you for free. They are super comfy and super cute!

As always, you can donate directly to my 3-Day account by clicking here. 

I walk because I can and for the millions who can't

Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Give a FLIP!

(please excuse the cross post but this is SUCH an important topic)

I am so excited to be doing the Breast Cancer 3 Day walk again this year.  I will walk 60 miles over the course of 3 days.  I will also camp out 2 nights (which is the hard part ;).  I participated in the 3 Day last year and raised $2300.  I had an asthma attack and wasn't able to fully participate in the last day.  However I was proud to have raised so much money for an important cause.

I walk with a great group of ladies - The Hot Pink Mommas.  We have a good time.  We met through our boys' sports teams.  We have 14 boys and 2 lonely girls between us.  Thankfully, none of us have been directly touched by breast cancer.  But we walk because it could be one of us.  Or one of our daughters or daughter in laws (ya know, way in the future)

This year I am committed to raising $2300 and completing all 60 miles!  To help raise money, I am selling super CUTE and super COMFY flip flops.  The first part of my order arrived yesterday!  Here are the four great styles that arrived:
Here they are individually:

They are $20 a pair and I'll ship them to you for FREE (if you're not local :) Comment below or email me at aimeebartis (at) to order
Silver sequins sizes 8 & 9
Blue sequins size 8
Blue plaid size 7
Brown sequins sizes 7, 8, 9 & 10

I'll post more pictures and sizes when the rest of the order arrives.

If you would like to learn more about the 3 Day, join the Hot Pink Mommas or donate directly to my fundraising account, visit my website.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hex Hall

Hex Hall
Rachel Hawkins

It was that my worst fear seemed to be coming true.  It's one things to be different around people who you're really, well, different from.  It's a whole other problem to be an outcast in a group of outcasts.
~ Sophie

Earlier this month, I won a contest that C.J. Redwine had on her blog, The Last Word. (on my day o' winning as it's come to be known) C.J. is really funny and her husband's cupcakes are brillant.  Plus, she has awesome interviews.  I won a book from an interview with her agent Holly Root.  Holly emailed me a huge list of books and said I could choose 2!! So generous!  HEX HALL and RISE OF RENEGADE X arrived in no time.  Woowhoo!

I was so excited to get HEX HALL.  It was released on March 3rd but before that Twitter was, well, all a twitter with it's awesomeness. 

Sophia, a witch, (or Soh-fee-yuh as pronounced by headmistress Mrs. Casnoff ) is sent/sentenced to Hecate Hall after a prom night incident which is as funny as it is tragic.  Hecate Hall is a reform school of sorts on an island off the coast of Georgia for wayward magical teenagers - witches, faeries, shapeshifters, etc. Sophie tries to settle into life at Hex Hall but there's always something.  Seriously...vampire roommate; finding out she's a 'dark witch'; 3 beautiful witches alternately trying to befriend and make her miserable (the ultimate 'frienemies'); cute boy; info about her MIA dad.

And, of course, there's the mystery.  I'm not going to tell you about the mystery.  You'll have to read it to find out. I don't want to give away too much of the book but I will tell you that after chapter 28, my heart was broken.  Then the last sentence of the whole book - was. not. expecting. that.  {I actually said "no way" out loud while getting my pedicure.  The pedicure lady looked at me like I was nuts.  I might be.}

HEX HALL is - well, I can't find the right words to describe it - I keep coming back to awesome but that doesn't seem to be enough.  Double awesome with a side order of diet coke?  Triple awesome with spinach pizza and diet coke? That gets close.  Let's go with that.  HEX HALL is triple awesome with spinach pizza and diet coke. 

I really connected with Sophie.  I felt her discomfort leaving her mother, her struggle to make friends.  I admire her loyality.  And what girl hasn't tried to talk herself out of a crush?  Plus, she's wicked funny.  What else can you call someone who refers to her gym clothes as 'fugly'?

HEX HALL is excellent.  I highly recommend it.  I also highly recommend following Rachel Hawkins on Twitter.  I've been following her about a week.  She's also wicked funny.  I was very excited to learn that there will be a HEX HALL 2. You can read more about Rachel on her blog, Reading Writing Rachel

Recommendation: girls in 8th grade and up
Length: 323 pages
Rating: All Time! I am reading a lot of good books lately so I've had a lot of well deserved All Times

Thursday, March 11, 2010

City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
By Cassandra Clare

This book was recommended to me by my twitter peep @MyraMcEntire, and seconded by @MundieMoms, when I was thinking of changing my book from 1st person to 3rd person.  {Side note: I did rewrite said book in 3rd person.  Hated it.  Went back to 1st and got creative.  Go Aimee, Go Aimee!}

OK, back to City of Bones.  It is soooo good.   I can't even stand how good it is.  Well, yes I can stand it.  Anyway, I'm not so good with the focusing today.

Clary is your average 15 year old living in New York.  Which, I must say, is not like your average 15 year old living in Dallas, Texas.  But, again, I digress.  Anyway, Clary is wicked cool and an average kind of way.  Cute boy turns her head.  The boy next door is ready and waiting but she just sees him as a BFF.   Good times.

Then, Clary witnesses something a club she wasn't supposed to see and that no one else can see.  Weird.  Next, she fights with her mom.  Usual.  Then her mom disappears and her apartment is trashed.  Neither weird nor usual.  Scary.

So Clary and cute boy (Jace) endeavor to solve the mystery.  But not in the Scooby Doo kinda way.  In a totally kick butt kinda way.

The last two chapters ripped my heart out.  But they were supposed to and I'm not going to tell you why.  That's too spoilerish.  Go read it yourself!  The ending is completely open and gets you ready for book two:  City of Ashes.  I'm head to the library to get that one right now.  Well, after I finish this but you get the point.

Recommendation: boys and girls 8th grade and up, really any human who enjoys a good book over the age of 13.
Length: 485 pages
Rating: All Time! (I've had a lot of those lately.  Lucky me)

You can learn more about The Mortal Instrument Series here
And if your a grown up momma who loves the series check out Mundie Moms here. {Side note, I didn't get their name at first but when I started reading the book and figured it out, it made me smile. a lot.}

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Lisa Schroeder

Last week I posted my review of  Lisa's first middle grade book, IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES. 
Lisa is gracious enough to answer some questions for us.  I'm so excited because this is my first author interview.  Enjoy!

IT"S RAINING CUPCAKES is so different that your first 3 books, what made you decide to change your style?
I have always loved middle grade fiction, and actually have a couple of drawer novels that I wrote that just weren't quite good enough. When I wrote my first YA, I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, that was actually the change in style. It was something new and different I hadn't done before, but the story wanted to be told that way. I think the verse created an atmosphere for the story I couldn't have achieved with regular prose. And so I continued to write YA books in that manner because it found a fan base.

But I was ready to do something different after I had finished writing another YA novel in verse. I was driving home from work one day, thinking about what I could write about that would be fun. I really wanted to do a FUN book. And cupcakes popped into my head. And I thought, what about a MG novel with a cupcake shop as the setting? And that's how it started.

It was such a fun book to write. In verse, I have to be careful about too much dialogue, but with this book, I let the characters talk and talk - it was great!

How is writing a middle grade novel different from writing for young adults?

I think in middle grade fiction, you can get away with quirkier characters than you can in YA. I also think MG fiction tends to focus more on family issues. And the big difference - no romance. All of my YA books have romance at the center, and middle grade readers just aren't ready to go there.

You and Isabel are both native Oregoians. Any other similarities?

Ahhh, great question! Well, like Isabel, I would love to travel! Although I have been out of the state of Oregon, I haven't been many places. I've never been out of the United States, and even within the US I've only been to a handful of places. I haven't even been to New York City! So as I wrote about NYC, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to get there. Hopefully someday!

Isabel also has some challenges with her mother, and I think there's a little of me in there with that as well. The mother/daughter relationship can be hard at times.

I love that each chapter title is different type of cupcake. Did you bake all those variety of cupcakes?

Ha - a reader actually e-mailed me and asked if I had all of the recipes. Um, no. I used lots of cupcake shops with menus on-line as ideas for the chapter headings. And then I tried to tie in the little saying that goes with each one into what happens in that chapter. It was challenging at times, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

I actually did very little baking as I wrote this book. I did have to experiment and play around to come up with the two recipes included in the back!

What is your favorite cupcake?

This is just an impossible question. I like so many kinds!!! Just last week I went to this shop in town called Bliss Bake Shop that does all kinds of cupcakes, because I'm going to buy some for my book signing event in a couple of weeks. They had a banana one with a hint of chocolate in it and it was SO good. I also love applesauce and lemon. I sort-of go for the fruity ones, I guess!

Anything else you'd like our readers to know about you and IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES?

A little something special about the book - My grandpa passed away a few months ago. His name was Stan. Stan the barber, who is a character in the book, is named after him. Although my grandpa wasn't a barber and didn't look a thing like Stan, they are both good, kind people, who want to help. And I'm glad I have Stan the barber to sort of memorialize my grandpa.

Thanks so much for having me here! And now everyone should go eat a cupcake!
Thank you Lisa!  And now, what you've all been waiting for, the winner of IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES.

randomly chosen....

Shannon O'Donnell, who's favorite type of cupcake is funfetti with cream cheese frosting!  Yummo!  Funfetti, that's so fun.  I like typing that funfetti funfetti funfetti

Opps, sorry lost focus.  Back to Shannon, Shannon email me your address (aimeebartis(at)gmail(dot)com) and I'll get the book in the mail to you!

IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES hits stores today!  You getcha one!  I'm gonna go get myself one.

Happy Book Day, Lisa!

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Raining Cupcakes

It's Raining Cupcakes
Lisa Schroeder

A fire escape is really not
an escape at all.
Traveling to New York, 
now that would be an escape.

Isabel lives in Willow, Oregon.  She hates that she's never been outside of Oregon.  And she has a plan to change that!  She's entering a baking contest for kids and the finalists get to travel to New York City.

Isabel's family is opening a cupcake shop in Willow called It's Raining Cupcakes.  So, naturally she'll enter a cupcake recipe, right?  Right?  Maybe.  She can't decide. It's complicated.  A lot of things are complicated for Isabel this summer.

Besides the contest, her relationships are complicated.  She's jealous and a tad annoyed with her BFF Sophie.  Isabel wants her mother to be happy.  That seems impossible.  Isabel wants to be happy too.  Can they both be happy at once?

It's Raining Cupcakes is a great book.  Isabel is real and you want to root for her.  You feel her struggle to make herself and everyone else happy.  You feel her love for her mother.  You understand her relationship with Sophie.  Isabel makes you love her.   And want to bake cupcakes.  At least I wanted to bake after I was finished reading It's Raining Cupcakes.

Recommendation: I recommend this book for 5th-8th grade girls.  Especially those struggling with their moms.  I'd also recommend for moms of 5th-8th grade girls who are struggling with their daughters.  
Length: 193 pages (including two yummy recipes)
Rating: All Time!

It's Raining Cupcakes is available on March 9.  Click here to order from Barnes & Noble
You can learn more about Lisa Schroeder on her website

I love It's Raining Cupcakes so much that I'm going to give my copy away (you know the old saying, if you love something set it free).  One entry for each of the following:
1. follow the blog (Click on follow in the right hand column)
2. leave a comment telling me your favorite cupcake flavor
3. tweet about the contest (@aimeebartis)

I'll have an interview with Lisa on the blog next Tuesday, March 9 to celebrate It's Raining Cupcake's release!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Last week I had the pleasure of attending the TCEA (Texas Computer Educators Association) Conference.  I have never been able to attend a conference with my other school districts so I was super excited.  And, as much as I missed them, I was looking forward to being kid-free for a while.

I attended lots of great sessions.  I have lots of great ideas that I'll be implementing this year and some things on the horizon.  You are gonna love these projects!!

While I was in Austin, I got to meet Lisa and Elizabeth from Simple K-12.  I so heart Simple K-12!    Remember the pre-assessment we took at the beginning of the year?  They did that for us - FOR FREE!!  And they'll do it again at the end of the year for our post-assessment.

I spoke to Lisa and Elizabeth about what we do in Tech Apps.  And they gave me this awesome shirt!  Which I love because I love to say "I heart" things.  Here I am in front of our school hearting my I heart EdTech shirt!  Not an all time favorite photo but you get the picture.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Shines My Shoes
Gennifer Choldenko

"In the visitor's section I see Mae Capone holding her yellow rose across her lap.  Doc Ollie's old sister with her practical shoes has placed the rose behind her ear, like she's a flamenco dancer.  And there's Bea Trixle talking to Mrs. Caconi, holding the rose as if it is made of glass.  It's amazing the power of a few stupid flowers.  Simply amazing."

Al Capone Shines My Shoes is Gennifer Choldenko's amazing follow up to Al Capone Does My Shirts.  It is historical fiction narrated by an 8th grade boy, Moose.  Moose's dad is an electrician and guard on Alcatraz in 1935.  Moose and his family live on Alcatraz with the cons and other guard's families. 

In Al Capone Does My Shirts Moose reaches out to the famed crime boss for a favor.  Which he grants - YIKES!  And now for the payback in Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Moose is a very likable 8th grade boy.  Which can be hard to do.  Actually, it's 7th grade boys that are not so likable - too goofy.  8th grade boys are usually fun.  Moose is fun.  He's worried about a lot of things normal 8th grade boys usually don't have to worry about.  Like a sister who thinks differently.  But he's also worried about the usual 8th grade things - girls and friends and keeping everyone happy.  Moose is a people pleaser and I can relate.

As a teacher, I really liked the Author's Note at the end.  It think it's important in historical fiction to help younger readers distinguish between facts and the author's imagination.  Gennifer Choldenko does a great job at this.  And you get to know more about her.  Another rarity. 

I really did love this book.  Almost as much as I loved Al Capone Does My Shirts.   You don't have to have read Al Capone Does My Shirts to enjoy Al Capone Shines My Shoes but you'll want to find it afterward.   I enjoy Gennifer Choldenko's work.  She has another great book, I love: If A Tree Falls at Lunch Period.  Plus, I feel a certain kinship we both have oddly spelled ordinary names. 

Recommendation:  any middle schooler, especially history buffs.  Boys can relate to Moose and girls will get a glimpse inside a boy's mind. 
Length: 270 pages including Author's Note
Rating: Love It!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Three Little Words A Memoir

Three Little Word A Memoir
Ashley Rhodes Courter

I think I chose this book by it's cover. I know you aren't supposed to do that but I did.  And it worked out.  I love the picture of the little girl on the cover (who turns out to be the author).  And I love the quote on the front cover (you'll have to get the book  yourself).

Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent the vast majority of her young life in the Florida foster care system. Her life was horrific.  Thankfully, not as horrific as it could have been or as I had imagined it.  But still not how I would choose another human to live.

Ashley's story is poignant.  She's honest about her emotions without being too emotional.  She weaves in the sketchy details of her mother's troubled life. (Because I'm nosy, I'd like to hear her mother's story.  But I in no way advocate her getting 15 minutes of fame as a result of mistreating and discarding her children.  So, I'm happy to die curious about her.)  She has to leave her brother.  Which is both a relief and a source of guilt.  She finds her happy ending then does everything she can to screw it up.  But the Courters stick with her.  She gets her happy ending.

I was surprised by what the Three Little Words actually will be too!

I have always believed and do still believe that I will adopt a child someday.  I LOVE my boys and my husband but I know our family is not yet complete.  Ashley's story melted my heart and reminded me of the need for adoptive families. 

Recommendation: I'd recommend this to 7th grade and up.  Especially kids who've been adopted or are in foster care.  And families who want to open their homes and hearts.
Length: 301 pages
Rating: Love It!

Monday, January 25, 2010


I was shocked to see this tweet after I tweeted about my review of The Dark Divine!

Yep, I'm still a bit giddy....

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Dark Divine

The Dark Divine
Bree Despain
"The Christmas dance?" the dance hadn't passed my mind in days.  Did people who knew the secrets of the underworld go to dances?

This is the quandary of Grace Divine, our heorine.  Grace is wonderful.  Grace is flawed.  Grace is caught between two guys.  But not THAT way.  She's caught between being loyal to her brother Jude and her love Daniel.  Grace wants to keep her promises, she really does.  But she isn't always successful.

Mostly, Grace is a fixer.  She wants to fix Daniel.  She wants to fix Jude.  She just wants everyone to be happy, like they were 3 years ago.  The trouble is, Grace isn't sure what happened 3 years ago.  When she finally finds out, she doesn't want to know.

The Dark Divine is a finely crafted book about secrets, redemption and love.  The ending is fabulous.  It leaves the option open for more Grace-ful adventures!

I was hooked on this book before I owned it. I read the first 4 chapters on line.  I entered contests to try to win a copy.  I was so excited when I received a Border's card so I could run out and buy it.  I finished the book last night and I've already passed it on.  I like to post reviews once a week but I love this book so much I wanted to get the word out ASAP.   This is a MUST READ. 

I would recommend The Dark Divine to anyone who enjoys romance with a little underworld mixed in. 
Length: 372 pages
Rating: ALL TIME!!

BTW - you can learn more about The Dark Divine's author, Bree Despain at her blog.  I highly recommend it as well!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature
Robin Brande

Mena Reece is an outcast of the highest order.  Her own parents wouldn't talk to her.  YIPES!  She must have done something really bad, right?  Wrong.  She simply did what she thought was right. 

But, such is life.  Sometimes doing the right thing produces wrong results (or what you think are the wrong results).  At the beginning.  It's the waiting for the turn around that stinks.  Big time.

Brande does an excellent job of bring us to the middle of Mena's misery.  You really get to know and feel how bad is sucks to be her.  And then we get to see the glimmer of hope.  You get to figure it out before Mena and she's the one telling the story.   Mena is so in the middle of her misery that she can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I go back and forth about the ending.  Sometimes I like how it ended, sometimes I want a different ending.  But, again, such is life.  Most times, get better but the misery-causer doesn't get what's coming to them.   In those cases, I'm reminded of what my daddy used to say, "What goes around comes around and gains momentum in the turns."

I loved this book.  I love it when characters are real and working hard to do the right thing.  I love it when characters become who they are meant to me.  It's awesome and one of my new all time favorites!

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to 7th grade girls and up.  It contains a great lesson about becoming yourself and real friends.
Length: 268 pages
Rating: All Time!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Suck It Up

Suck It Up
Brian Meehl

Morning McCobb wants to be a super hero.  Really, who doesn't?  And it almost works out for him.  Almost.
Morning is an average teenager graduating from a school of beautiful people.  Really, who isn't?
Morning thinks a girl likes him but he's not sure if she does or if he likes her back.  Really, who hasn't?

But Morning is completely different.  Morning is a vampire.  He's even different from all the other vampires.  He became a vampire in an unusual way.  And Morning has the opportunity to show us "Lifers" that vampires are perfectly normal.  And that's where it gets interesting.  Really interesting.

I must confess at this point that I don't generally like vampires or stories about vampires.  I didn't even like THE story about vampires.  I'll wait while you regain consciousness.  I know I'm like the only person in America who didn't like THE story about vampires.  But that's for another day. 

I don't want to say that I started reading Suck It Up expecting to not like it.  I mean the title alone will endeared it to me (I say suck it up all the time).  But I did think it would be a bit of struggle.

Thankfully, that was not the case.  Suck It Up has lots of action to keep the story going.  It's so outside the normal that you can't guess where's it's going.   It has a little love story that keeps you guessing too.  The supporting characters are interesting.  Although I have to say that the PR agent/mom didn't hit home with me too much as a mom.

Recommendation: Overall, I enjoyed it.  I would recommend it for boys looking for themselves in a character.
Length: 321 pages
Rating: Loved It!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


School's back in session and I have 3 book reviews waiting in the wings.  But first, please indulge me in some musing.
2010 (two thousand ten or twenty ten, your call) WILL be a good year!  That's not wishful thinking, it's fact.  2009 stunk worse than 3 day old fish.  I'll recap for you:

started year worn out from Brennan's Christmas pnuemonia, moving to NY, opps...not moving, hubby laid off instead, Brennan can't stop pooping (TMI I know), hubby out of work, assorted illness for Brennan,  part time job ended sooner than expected, lost 35 pounds, $2000 in dental work for Zac, landed really excellent job, had to wait to start really excellent job, part time job landed, have to stop feed Brennan food - formula only, Brennan bout 2 with pneumonia, hubby starts new 'temp' job, turn 35, finally start excellent job, feel like a middle schooler all over again trying to make friends at the excellent new job, Sam and Zac get swine flu, various financial difficulties, Brennan bout 3 with pneumonia, Breast Cancer 3 Day, asthma fall out, hubby decides 'temp' job is THE one, Brennan decides to eat and grow, freaking about holiday money, holiday money arrives just in time.

So, that's the short version.  Many ups but many many downs.  But Thanksgiving brought an amazing up.

For years, I have wanted to write.  I wrote as a young girl.  I won a poem contest in elementary school (my dog makes me smile, he makes me smile for a mile, he makes me grin until I'm ten, I love my dog).  Impressive since I remember writing it the morning it was due and had no dog at the time (did not have a dog until high school).  I won a Stuart Hall writing contest about the school of the future.  Honorable Mention, I think.  I remember writing the essay but not the subject matter.  Schools of the future, maybe?  Then I forgot about it until huge box of Stuart Hall school supplies arrived.  I hadn't told anyone I had entered the contest, didn't keep a copy of the essay, couldn't remember the contents of the essay.   But LOVED the free school supplies.  I wrote an entire series of books (or maybe short stories) about boy and girl twins - Fred and Rita.  They did the things I did but the outcomes were better.  I never showed them to anyone.  I wish I knew where those notebooks are.

I don't know why I gave up creative writing.  But I did.  Probably some crappy teacher hurt my feelings.  Who knows.  But, as you may have guessed, I enjoy it but I'm EXTREMELY shy about anyone reading what I write.

Two years ago I wrote 2 picture books.  I took a junk course about selling a book.  I followed all the instructions.  I spend a good deal of money to go to New York to Book Expo America to try to sell it (as instructed by the course - course was not related to BEA).  My instructions were to walk up to people and tell them about my books.  OMG - I cried everyday after a day at BEA.  My feet hurt, I was alone in NYC (see country mouse, city mouse story) and I was trying to do something foriegn to me.

So, again, I put writing away.  Until Thanksgiving 2009.  Before Thanksgiving I decided that I needed to read more.  And I decided to start this blog to review books out of our school library.  During this process, I stumbled upon the Young Adult Book Central website.  Somehow from there I ended up on Twitter following Kimberly Pauley and Myra McEntire.  I felt extremely stalker-ish.  Then, to up the stalker ante, I started reading Myra's blog.  She seems a lot like me.  I enjoy her humor and style of writing.  But what's been most helpful is her openness about her journey in writing.  It gave me hope. And something to do.

In the meantime the Friday before Thanksgiving, while in the shower (TMI again sorry) I got THE IDEA.  A sweet young girl named Caley started talking to me in my head.  I had been waiting for years for THE IDEA.  And here it was finally.  What the heck do I do with it now?  Well, I started writing down what was in my head.  And I remembered Myra. She blogged about reading about the craft of writing.

As usual around the holidays, time flew.  I thought of Caley often and wrote down what came up.  But I've never written anything long.   I wasn't sure what to do.  So, I put Caley up and headed back to Myra's blog to find the name of the books she recommended.  I had blown my 'play/me' money on new jeans so I turned to the library.  (the quest for this book in another story)

I checked out Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and How I Write by Janet Evanovich.  I read Evanovich first.  Very helpful.  Quick read. Good stuff.  Then last night after the kidlit chat on Twitter (another Myra recommendation), I started reading Plot and Structure.  WOW!  The first page was written directly to me.  How sweet of Mr. Bell.  I am excited to continue reading, learn the craft and give Caley the voice she needs.

So, there 2009. 2010 is gonna kick your tail.  And if all goes well, 2013 or 2014 or 2015 (or whenever) will see Caley in bookstores.  And maybe I'll be able to inspire a stranger to run out to a library at 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday (the library closes at 6) to get a book that changes his or her life.  Thanks Myra!