Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sports fan?

I've been in a reading rut lately, partially due to circumstances and partially due to my inability to put work down when I get home at night. Since I had a little more time to myself over Thanksgiving weekend, I thought I'd try to catch up on some sports fiction, esp. for boys. I have a hard time recommending titles to them and actually being able to discuss them unless I've read them. My hook is usually, "well, this one is popular here" or "this one's about football, why don't you try it." Not very persuasive but sometimes it works. So now I have two solid recommendations, one oldie, and one newbie (in my mind). Either of these titles would be great for both girls and boys. Of course there is a little romance in them and high school drama, something most girls probably enjoy. Then there's the football angle. If you follow football and understand the lingo, these will satisfy your sports craving.

PopPop by Gordon Korman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marcus is a brave high schooler who unknowingly moves to a town where a NFL legend lives. Marcus meets Charlie one day when he's practicing plays in the town park. Charlie is athletic, older, and a phenom with a football. He is also quirky and disappears on a dime, takes things from stores w/o paying for them, and seems to know everyone in town. It takes a little bit but eventually Marcus realizes that Charlie is the father of the town quarterback hero, Troy Popovich. Unfortunately, Troy and Marcus are main rivals on the team. While Marcus proves himself to be a versatile player all over the field, Troy solely plays quarterback and sees Marcus as a huge threat, especially when he learns how close his father and Marcus have gotten over football practice. Charlie pays more attention and praise to Marcus than his own son. Troy and his sister are very protective of Charlie and see Marcus as someone who might expose the secret they're trying to hide, a secret that could damage the legend status of Charlie Popovich. Of course there's a surprise close to the end and it's not a happy one. This is a very good sports book that makes you analyze whether playing football can actually be more detrimental than we realize to our young players and if it's worth it in the end to have them bashing helmets in games. I highly recommend this to all ages and both girls and boys!

View all my reviews UnstoppableUnstoppable by Tim Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Downton Abbey, the real story

For those of us interested in the back story of major TV shows, this book fits the bill for Downton Abbey.  This book is written by a family member of Almina, one of the Duchess' of Carnarvon.  She was the wealthy daughter of Alfred de Rothschild and accepted into English society despite her parents not being married.  She married into one of the oldest families and inherited Highclere, their estate.  She lived a long life as the Duchess of Carnarvon and with her considerable wealth, used her influences to provide medical aid during the Great War and beyond, both at Highclere and in London at their city home.  This book is well written and interesting, sharing tidbits of English life and highlighting the workings of English society along with the impact of the Great War on travel and life in the countryside.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere CastleLady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by Fiona Carnarvon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the real story behind Downtown Abbey, this book is a treasure. I enjoyed hearing the history of Almina's fortune, her love of Highclere, the Earl's adventures in Eqypt and the historical adventure through Victorian England. I especially liked Almina's love of nursing and how she applied her fortune to do good as much as she could for others.

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Continuing with medieval....

First Test (Protector of the Small, #1)First Test by Tamora Pierce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, I'm a little behind on my Tamora Pierce reading but I finished this one yesterday. Yep, it's a quick one and I'm hungry for the next one in this series. I'm proclaiming this Pierce as my "author to catch up on". Except it's no longer summer and time is fleeting during the school week so let's hope our public library has #2 Page in stock today! Kel, or Keladry, is a new female page who has to endure a year's probation before officially earning the title of page...same kingdom and castle as Alanna, or the Lionness as she is now called. Kel holds Alanna in very high regard and hopes to attain the same greatness, without the magical influences. This is the story of how Kel comes to Tortall and passes her first year, probationary of course, as she's still a girl. How wise she becomes during that year! Her character is very similar to Alanna's and her tactics to gain ground amongst the boys struck a similar chord. I look forward to moving on with this series! Enjoy!

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Sunday, September 28, 2014


The Falconer (The Falconer, #1)The Falconer by Elizabeth May
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I don't normally like steampunk but this novel highlights more of the fantasy/fae part of the novel while working steampunk into it. Aileana Kameron witnessed the brutal murder of her mother but a faery and is trying to work through her grief while hungering for the battles with the fae around her. She has a good friend, Kiaran, who is also fae but he's on her side. Her pixie Derrick doesn't get along with Kiaran but both love her in their own way. Then there's her society friend, Catherine, and her brother, Gavin (Lord Galloway) who muddy the waters while helping Aileana along her path to vengeance against the faery who ruined her life. Lots of great action with tools of ingenious invention, mystery surrounding who she will meet on the final battleground, and of course whether her love remains alive....now when is book 2 coming out???

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Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

The Blossoming Universe of Violet DiamondThe Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Violet is a very charming middle schooler whose father died when she was young and her mother raises her in Moon Lake, Washington. Violet's father was African American and her mother is white. She has never met her paternal grandmother but as she starts to become more aware of who she is and worries about differences in color, her mother and grandparents encourage her to ask questions and seek answers. Violet's journey begins at an art show where she meets her grandmother for the first time. While not necessarily the best beginning, Violet and her mom settle some differences between them while also healing old wound between mom and grandmother, Roxanne Diamond. Of course Violet eventually learns about her father's family and even comes to love her cousin Ahmed, but not before suffering through an ordeal that no 11 year old should ever have to deal with by themselves. Great voice and wonderful relationship building, crossing racial lines and blurring them but celebrating the uniqueness of both!

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Historical Fiction - Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

SugarSugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sugar is one of the only children left after slaves departed the Wills' plantation on River Road in Lousiana, during Reconstruction. Her mama died and left her to be raised by the Beales, an elderly couple who were left behind when their children moved north. Sugar and Billy Wills (the master's son) have become good friends but change is coming to River Road. As Sugar learns from Billy, "Chinamen are coming" and change is coming fast. Jewell Parker Rhodes hits it big again with this novel, her second for upper elem/middle ages. Sugar is spunky but sweet, kind but daring, and she stands up for what she truly believes in. Her spirit should appeal to both girls and boys as well as adults and teens. I'm looking forward to her next one!

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

When on Tybee or in Savannah...

Savannah Blues (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries, #1)Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love southern novels, esp. ones that take place in cities I love to visit, like Savannah or Charleston. Thus, this book fits the bill and while I think I read it way back when, I couldn't resist re-reading, esp. since summer is winding down and I'm on Tybee right now! Mary Kay Andrews ranks up there with other well knows southern authors like Dorothea Benton Frank and Mary Alice Monroe. This novel doesn't disappoint and Weezie is just a really lovable character. If her antics with Bebe don't make you laugh, something wrong!

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Myth-O-Mania Series

Myth-O-Mania SeriesMyth-O-Mania Series by Kate McMullan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This would be perfect for our 6th graders who study Ancient Greece and Rome. It's on a lower reading level and reads pretty quickly. The gods are not deep characters but the story runs along with the myth to help for understanding and building comprehension of the myths. I liked the voices of each character. In this novel, we meet Hades and learn how he becomes God of the Underworld. I personally liked how Zeus was obnoxious and kind of a twerp in this novel. It goes against the traditional depictions of him as the mighty ruler of Olympus.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

E-I-E-I-O, preschool here we go!

Old Mikamba Had a FarmOld Mikamba Had a Farm by Rachel Isadora
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A wonderful new alternative for Old McDonald Had a Farm! This artfully pleasing picture book takes the old version and puts an African spin on it. The artwork is beautiful with many textures and accurate depictions of each animal on the farm. Of course, there are not just the traditional animals associated with Africa. There is a glossary at the end which tells you more about each animal. My 4yo was very interested in the ones he did not recognize so we spent time going through the glossary. This is a very valuable resource for integrating art and music into the classroom content!

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Laugh with the Moon (SC JBA Nominee 2014-2015)

Laugh with the MoonLaugh with the Moon by Shana Burg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great book about a girl, Clare, who has lost her mother and temporarily moved with her father (a doctor) to Malawi. She meets a local girl, Memory, who also has lost her mother and her father. She also becomes "mother" to a chicken named Fred. Clare must learn to adjust to a new way of life without the conveniences of American living while her father works at the local hospital. Clare attends a local school and finds a way to grieve her mother's passing through the opportunity to teach English to 176 school children, including Memory's little brother Innocent. His smile becomes a sign of peace for Clare. As Clare adjusts to life in Malawi, she must deal with another tragedy that hits very close to home again. Through it all, Clare becomes friends with local children, shows strength and perseverance in times of tragedy, and is sad when she learns she is returning to her home in Boston. What a powerful story! I hope Shana Burg keeps writing fiction for this age level!

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tamora Pierce's "Alanna: The First Adventure"

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness, #1)Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alanna is to girls what False Prince is to boys. Why have I never read Tamora Pierce's books? This was fabulous! I can't wait to read the next in the series. While reading, I couldn't help but think of Alanna as Joan of Arc, without overly zealous religious fervor of course. Alanna wants to be a knight so much that she disguises herself as a boy and takes her twin's place in the castle to train. Her magic gifts eventually come out and she is forced to reveal herself as a girl but she bests a bully in fights, makes friends with a local king of thieves, charms the prince, and becomes one of the favorites "knights in training" at the castle. What a great fantasy!

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Delirium (Delirium, #1)Delirium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you liked Matched, Divergent, or the Hunger Games, this is another great series to read!

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Latest Middle/YA Fiction Updates

Legend (Legend, #1)Legend by Marie Lu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this book in a day and couldn't put it down! Looking for the next in the series now...if you like Hunger Games and Divergent, this will appeal to you!

Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton, #1)Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring cleaning

It's finally spring and as the weather warms up, I feel so motivated to de-clutter, clean, enjoy the outside, and read.  How to do all of those at the same time?  Hmmmmm....

Well, I'm enjoying my audiobooks while I carry my little guy to soccer practices on Mondays and Wednesdays.  I have discovered how much I'm motivated to cook when I have an audiobook to keep me company.  The same goes for folding laundry.  I also find that when cleaning or de-cluttering my home or office, that my reading life needs some rethinking.  What about you?

In my #bookbootcamp discussions, I find inspiration to read so many new titles that my TBR list is growing disproportionately to my actual reading lists.  So why not apply the de-clutter and spring cleaning advice to our reading life like we do to other areas of our lives?

Those series titles that I tried but couldn't finish...swept off of my TBR list.  I dusted off a few titles sitting on my bookshelf and returned them to the library since I haven't read them in the 6 weeks they've inhabited the shelf.  Surely, there is someone else who can read these while I catch up on other good books!

Here are some great books I've read lately.  I've been heavily reading historical fiction and it started with the Luxe series by Godbersen, which lead to the Flappers series by Larkin.  While these wouldn't be appropriate for middle school, I do feel they give us some insight into those eras of history.  The one middle grades novel I've finished recently, One Came Home by Amy Timberlake, is a great Wild West mystery with a strong sharpshooting female character.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Liked False Prince?

If you're looking for a YA/middle grade fantasy with action and suspense, this is the start of a fabulous series...The Ascendance Trilogy.  The third book comes out in February and I have students who can't wait to get their hands on it.  Check out @nielsenwriter's blog for her ARC giveaway if you too are waiting patiently/impatiently for February's release date.  http://www.jennielsen.com/blog

Check it out on Goodreads too!
I highly recommend The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1) by Jennifer A. Nielsen