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A middle school librarian who reviews Mg and YA books.
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1. Weekend Reading #4

I have lofty goals for this weekend!  
I am currently reading four books that I am enjoying and need to finish (I actually have 7 books on my currently reading list on goodreads.  SEVEN!).  

We got our first order of the year this week--6 boxes of brand new shiny books.  I have taken home more than I need to and I still have a few ARCs I have to get read and reviewed.  So, I must finish somethings this weekend so I can move on to more things!

I am closest to being done with Jackaby and actually hope I will get it finished today (I have been taking my lunch time in the back room so I can read while I eat).

George is a new book I started that is small and quick, that shouldn't take too much time.

I am just at the Scoundrel section of The Princess, the Scoundrel and the Farm Boy.  I know that this book flies so hopefully I can get that done tomorrow morning before out Saturday soccer games start!

And lastly, I was sent a copy of Doldrums and it's so pretty that I want to get it reviewed soon.  Maybe get that one done Sunday night.

What are you up to this weekend?

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2. My Thoughts: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

3 frosted maple cookies.

Cover Love:  OH YES!!  I just completely adore this cover.  I want to be on that park bench with Jackson and Crenshaw!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
Because of the cover and the synopsis.   I am not as in tune to childhood hunger and I think I need to be for someone who works at a middle school so I was hoping this would give me some more insight.  Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.
Romance?: Nope.

My Thoughts:
I haven't read The One and Only Ivan, a travesty I know,  nor any of the Animoprhs, so I think this is my first Katherine Applegate story.  The writing is wonderful, fluid and descriptive.  It was easy to stay in this story once I was there.  Jackson is very sympathetic and is his little sister.  His parents, however, are not.

I know there are mixed reviews on this book.  I can totally understand that.  It's a very real situation that Jackson's parents find themselves in, and you just want to shake the pride right out of them.  I mean, how can someone be too proud to ask family members for help or to go to local services for help, yet not too proud to stand out with a cardboard sign.  That just seems super false.  Jackson's dad was diagnosed with MS.  He has a medical issue.  The fact that he is not going to his parents or siblings or that Jackson's mom isn't makes me scratch my head.  I know that the one thing either set of my husband's or my parents would do is make sure that our kids are fed.  Even if they didn't help out with rent, they would  make sure my kids had food.  Jackson's parents seemed so immature and childish.  It was very frustrating to read. 

Not only that, they don't let their kids know what is going on, yet their kids know.  The parents need to open up, Jackson is way more wise than give him credit for!  He is so stressed out by what is happening that his mind conjures up his imaginary friend from his younger childhood.  I loved Crenshaw and his relationship with Jackson was very sweet, there just wasn't that much of it.

In the end things for Jackson and his family seem to get packaged up nicely, however, with the way Jackson's parents act I don't imagine it will be that good for long!

To Sum Up:  I think this would be an important book for some of those kids that you know are in weird transition with their families.  They are in and out of our school every year.  It would be nice for them to see that they are not alone, however, most of them are probably in way worse situations than Jackson.  I also think many kids who are no where close to Jackson's situation would enjoy this because it is a glimpse of a life that hopefully they will never know.  I will be buying a few copies for my library.

Book requested and sent from Macmillan.  Thanks so much!!

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3. September

Phew, school started last week and it always is a super hectic time for me.  I have been reading, including finishing CRENSHAW, which I will review next week. 

The last weeks in August here were super smoky because there were a lot of forest fires happening in NW Montana, so rain and cooler weather was very welcome around here. 

On a personal front, my oldest son became a senior in high school.  And because I am so impressed and proud of how these turned out, here is one of his senior pictures.  (If you can afford it, pay to have your child's senior pictures done, it is so worth it!)

I will be reviewing more books next week!  Hope your fall started out amazingly!

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4. My Thoughts: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

4 wonderful M & M cookies.

Cover Love:  Yes!  I love the simplicity of it.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
Everyone gushes about Rainbow Rowell and I loved Eleanor and Park.  I decided to finally read this and am so glad I did!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?
Romance?:  Yes.  Sweet, darling romance.

My Thoughts:
There are a lot of reasons to love a book.  One of the big ones is that you can relate to one of the main characters.  I could relate to Cath, but more as I ma now than as I was in college.  I have always loved solitude, and was so, so homesick when I started college.  I wasn't allowed to wallow or be alone like Cath because I happen to be on the track team at my college.  It was such a blessing because it forced you to get out and be involved and you kind of had a set group of people you could hang out with.  I have often wondered if I have made it if I didn't have that.

Cath's roommate helps get her out of her shell but the one person who should have been there to help, her twin sister Wren, was such a bitch!  She was so intent on being an individual and partying that she couldn't see that Cath was drowning and needed help.

But, like any good coming of age story, Cath begins to find her footing and accepts herself and finds some romance and grows strong.  I think it;s super easy for parents to let their child come home from college after a semester if they still haven't found anything to connect them to school, but I also believe that if they can just wait out the year they will fond a reason to stay.  Cath found her reasons and became a strong person who could make the choice to be on her own or be with people and be happy with either choice.

To Sum Up:  Such a relatable story for a lot of readers.  Love Rainbow Rowell!

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5. My Thoughts: The Disappearance of Emily H by Barrie Summy

4 fudgy brownies.

Cover Love:
Yes.  I love the way the bridge is almost part of the font.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
The synopsis for this book got me very excited.  A middle grade book about bullying with a little supernatural bent.  I was very excited to read this!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
A girl is missing. Three girls are lying. One girl can get to the truth.

Emily Huvar vanished without a trace. And the clues are right beneath Raine’s fingertips. Literally. Raine isn’t like other eighth graders. One touch of a glittering sparkle that only Raine can see, and she’s swept into a memory from the past. If she touches enough sparkles, she can piece together what happened to Emily.

When Raine realizes that the cliquey group of girls making her life miserable know more than they’re letting on about Emily’s disappearance, she has to do something. She’ll use her supernatural gift for good . . . to fight evil.

But is it too late to save Emily?
Romance?: There is a cute little middle school crush.

My Thoughts:
It's very hard not to feel for Raine right off the bat.  She lost her grandmother, who is the only one Raine knew with the same "talent" Raine had, and was living with her scatterbrained mother.  Her mom can't commit to staying in one place for very long, mostly because she gets involved with the wrong man, then runs when it goes bad.  So, when school starts for Raine she is not optimistic about staying there for very long.  She tries to keep herself apart from others so that she won't have too many ties to break when she moves away.

What sets Raine apart from others is her ability to see and collect sparkles.  The sparkles are memories and Raine's grandmother was training Raine on how to use her gift.  Now her grandmother is gone and her ability to see sparkles is waning, so when she sees one it's hard for her to not go after it.  Soon after school starts Raine discovers that she is living in the house of a girl named Emily who had disappeared a few weeks before.  Every now and again Raine comes across sparkles that give her memories of Emily's life before she disappeared.  And she discovers that there was a group of girls at the middle school who were making Emily's life miserable.

This seemed like a straight forward bullying/mean girls story, but there are twists and the reason for Emily's disappearance is not what it seemed.  I really liked the twists because they came across as very unexpected and it made it a good mystery, one of the best middle school ones I have read in a long time.

This ended strong, without a hint of a sequel, which is fine but, I would definitely visit Raine and her unique ability again.

To Sum Up:  Buying this one for my library and I will be book talking it this fall!

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6. Weekend Reading #3

Looking forward to quiet weekend (the last one before school starts next Thursday) and to getting some reading done!  Both of these books are really good!

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7. Added to the List #14

I got two books in the mail this week--Crenshaw and We'll Never Be Apart.

I am SO excited for Crenshaw.  It sounds amazing and emotional and just perfect.  Plus, cats!!
We'll Never Be Apart is one I won though a Shelf Awareness giveaway.  It looks intense and scary.

I ran to my library to grab The Finest Hours (the young readers edition) after I saw the trailer at the movies because Chris Pine is in the moive.  And also, it looks super interesting. 

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8. My Thoughts: Last Year's Mistake by Gina Ciocca

4 double fudge brownies.

Cover Love:
I like this and know it would be eye catching for readers in my library.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
Sometimes when I am in a reading slump the only thing that gets me out of it is reading a contemporary teen romance.  I reached for this about a month ago for that very reason and it worked!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

Kelsey and David became best friends the summer before freshman year and were inseparable ever after. Until the night a misunderstanding turned Kelsey into the school joke, and everything around her crumbled—including her friendship with David. So when Kelsey's parents decided to move away, she couldn't wait to start over and leave the past behind. Except, David wasn't ready to let her go...

Now it's senior year and Kelsey has a new group of friends, genuine popularity, and a hot boyfriend. Her life is perfect. That is, until David's family moves to town and he shakes up everything. Soon old feelings bubble to the surface and threaten to destroy Kelsey's second chance at happiness. The more time she spends with David, the more she realizes she never truly let him go. And maybe she never wants to.

Told in alternating sections, LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE is a charming and romantic debut about loving, leaving, and letting go.
Romance?: Yes, of course.

My Thoughts:
I really liked this romance and story between Kelsey and David.  The main reason is that both teens are very true to life.  David is not that perfect teen boy that lots of YA romances make their main boy.  He's flawed and has a hard time communicating and  doing the right thing.  Kelsey is too focused on what people think of her and cultivating an image.  I have met both of these teens in real life!

The biggest problem with Kelsey is that she doesn't know what she wants.  She wants the David she grew up with and probably a romance with David, but tells all her friends she doesn't.  Then gets upset when one of her friends goes out with him.  David knows he wants Kelsey, but since she is making it so difficult (and already has a boyfriend) he moves on, but never far away.

They make several mistakes (including making out while they both still have significant others), but eventually get out of their own heads long enough to realize they want and need to be together.

I remember my own teenage years and I have two teenagers in my house.  I know the difficulties teens have in  navigating relationships--whether it's just someone they are dating or whether it's someone they are in love with.  I think Gina Ciocca has done a great job of putting those struggles on paper.  This was a great read!

To Sum Up:  More true to life than a lot of teen romances I read, but I truly enjoyed it.  Would be a great read for teens!

Galley sent to me by Simon & Schuster.  Thanks!

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9. My Thoughts: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

5 freshly baked oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies.

Cover Love:
It's alright.  Not my favorite cover ever, but it's fine.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I liked the synopsis and have been hearing good things, so I checked it out and gave it a go.  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
Romance?:  Yes!

My Thoughts:
I adored Simon.  I want him to be in my life.  He's darling and funny and loyal and sweet.  Seriously, I just loved him!

I loved Blue too.  Their emails back and forth were so sweet and flirty and fun.  It was easy to see how well matched they were.  One of the things I liked about this book is there wasn't any of that angst that comes with a lot of contemporary teen dramas.  Yes, there was a little misunderstanding, but it was still all over email so there weren't awkward scenes where Blue and Simon weren't talking to each other in the halls and their friends weren't having to pick sides.

I like to think that Simon's coming out is more like how it would be today, with the majority of people being just fine with it.  Yes, Martin was an ass, but even he knew he'd gone too far and while there were a few assholes, on the whole most everyone was just fine with his being gay.

I adored Simon's family and how supportive and wonderful they were.  Even though Simon hated how they made a big deal out of everything, Simon's mom's talk to him hit me hard.  That's exactly how you feel as a mom, when you aren't allowed into your child's everyday life anymore.  It's so hard and so sad, but you are also so excited to see what kind of person they are becoming!

This book made me cry a bit and smile a ton.  I went back and re-read sections as soon as I was done.  I just loved it.

To Sum Up:  Some language and situations are a bit mature for my library, but I will be recommending that the high schools in my district get a few copies each!

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10. Blog Tour & Food From Fiction: School for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough

Today I am delighted to welcome Kelly McCullough to my blog.  Kelly has written fantasy for adults for years and School for Sidekicks is his first book for younger readers.  Check out his website for some fun book launch videos he's been making in anticipation for the release of School for Sidekick.  It's a great read that I know will be a big hit in my library!  Here's the synopsis:
Evan Quick is a GIANT superhero geek who dreams of one day becoming a superhero himself. Every morning he checks to see if he's developed his powers overnight, and every day there's nothing. No flying, no super strength, no invulnerability—that always hurts to check—no telepathy, no magic. Not even the ability to turn off the alarm clock without smacking the switch.

But then Evan somehow manages to survive a supervillian's death ray, and is sent to the Academy for Metahuman Operatives. Unfortunately, his new school is not what he expected, and instead of fighting bad guys, Evan finds himself blacklisted, and on the wrong side of the school's director. If Evan ever wants to realize his dream, he must convince his "mentor" Foxman, a semi-retired has-been, to become a real hero once again.
For author guest posts I like to ask them to share a recipe that is either a dish from the book or something they just enjoy.  Here is Kelly's post:

So, for this blog post I asked Foxman for one of his recipes. This was his response:

Foxman's Korean Chicken Burritos
Guaranteed goodness you can eat on the run.

The first thing you have to know about cooking for costumed heroes is that the meal can be interrupted at any time by anything from supervillain attacks to alien invasions or natural disasters. If you ever watched a superhero movie you know that the more involved the cooking process and the more you’re into the meal, the higher the chances of interruptions.

So, before anything else, your recipe has to take that into account and be flexible in the cooking process, or have some major built-in safety procedures. I prefer to go with the latter, and all of my recipes begin thusly:

1) Build one large robotic culinary prep system.* You’ll want it to have at least six arms, all with modular capacity so it can swap out any of its hands for a prep knife or powered whisk. I recommend building these in titanium sheathed with a hyperdense polyceramic armor–something ablative is ideal. You don't want stray plasma blasts to knock out an arm just as the meringue peaks are hitting that perfect spot.

That's why I armor all of my appliances too, and the stove has both internal and external shock damping to prevent small missile impacts from causing the soufflé to fall.

2) Computer control for the robo-chef.** I prefer to go with full blown artificial intelligence, because that gives the system a much better chance of figuring out whether a meal is just on pause for a villain battle, and the timing can be sorted by adjusting temps, or if it's going to have to park the cordon bleu fare and shift to sandwiches and other grab and go meals for the duration of an invasion. However, friends who've had some rogue AI issues swear by a simple but highly adaptive supercomputer with no self-awareness.

Which way you go is up to you, but whatever you do, remember to armor the daylights out of the computer core and harden it against EMP. Because if you don't someone is going to toast off a nuke somewhere close by, and then, bang all your recipes are gone forever. Which is another reason to always backup, backup, backup.

3) Decide how far back to basics you want to go. For example, my robo-chef is always stocked with staples like flour, water, sugar, eggs, and salt because I prefer to have things like crusts and breads made to order for more elaborate meals. I also stock in frozen crusts, and buns and things for quicker meals, and I know some heroes who prefer to have meals mostly prepared beforehand so the system is really doing more reheating than cooking, but that's always seemed so cheap and easy.

4) Ingredients:

8 Large whole wheat tortillas

1 lb. chicken breast, shredded.
1/4 cabbage, shredded

Sauce for Chicken:
2 tablespoons tamari
3 tablespoons chili paste
2 tablespoons chili flakes
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
2 tablespoons sake or other rice wine
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Black bean mix:
1 can black beans, drained
1 tablespoon butter
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup pickled jalapenos
1/4 lb. shredded cheddar cheese
1 whole avocado, diced
1/4 cup diced green olives
1/4 head of crisp lettuce, shredded

5) Preparation under normal circumstances. Pretty simple actually, you order delivery on all the ingredients, along with any other groceries you might. Once they arrive at your dummy address—got to protect that secret identity—you have your sidekick collect them and bring them back to the secret lair. There, place the groceries on the kitchen table in easy reach of the culinary robot.

If you've got good AI, you're done at that point except for the eating. If you've gone with a more rudimentary robo-chef, you'll probably have to instruct it to put away the groceries, load the ingredients in the appropriate hoppers and give the machine an execute command. Then, you just sit back with a nice drink and wait for the robot to call chow time.

6) Preparation in emergencies. It's possible that the computer will be having a hiccup, or there might be power complications. In that case you might have to give verbal commands on individual steps. If so, it goes like this:

Computer: Mix the chicken sauce ingredients.
Computer: Add the shredded chicken and cabbage to the sauce, stir
Computer: Prepare two pans.
Computer: Pan one, add the chicken and sauce mix over medium heat
Computer: Pan two, drop in one tablespoon butter, and minced garlic
Computer: Pan one, bring to boil and then simmer for 4 minute
Computer: Pan two, thoroughly sauté garlic, then add everything but beans, lower heat
Computer: Pan two, as pan one starts to bubble, add beans and bring back to medium
Computer: With one minute left on pans, put tortillas in microwave for 20 seconds
Computer: Lay out tortillas and distribute chicken and bean mixes evenly
Computer: Add cheese to tortillas and let melt
Computer: Query guests as to extras they would like
Computer: Add extras as ordered
Computer: Present plates to guests.
Computer: Clean the kitchen

*I'd include schematics, but OSIRIS (Office of Strategic Intelligence and Research, International Section) has informed me that all of that is considered classified and not suitable for sharing with the civilian population.

**Again, I can't offer schematics due to national security considerations, but really, AI is fairly straightforward and a simple application of first computing principles will get you there pretty quickly without violating any stupid national security directives.

Thanks for visiting my blog today Kelly. I hope the book will be a big hit. I will be book talking this at my library all year!

Do you have a question for our guest author? Kelly McCullough will be on Reddit doing an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) this Thursday August 6th at 3:00 PM Eastern Time. He'll be answering questions about School for Sidekicks, all past works, being a writer, his cats, and much more. You can submit your questions by going to http://www.reddit.com/r/iama at the scheduled start time.

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11. My Thoughts: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

4 chocolate chip cookies with nuts.

Cover Love:  Yes!  I love this cover but it definitely made me think it was going to be a light story.  It wasn't.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I have read a few other Cherie Priest books and was excited to see her writing a YA book.  And I loved the cover.  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.

Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There's an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby's story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon---her best friend, Libby, who lives.
Romance?: No.  I thought there was going to be, but there wasn't.  I liked that choice the author made, it makes the book seem a little more mature than an average YA book.

My Thoughts:
This book was a quick and easy read.  The pacing was good and story interesting.  I found myself reading late because the story just kept feeding me--bit by bit.

Once May was onto the idea that Libby might be alive she had to go find someone to help her.  She found a computer hacker named Patrick who was willing to help her.  There were times I felt this partnership would end in romance, but the author didn't go that way at all.  Not even a little bit.  May was focused on finding Libby and Trick was just along to help her.  The real "relationship" was Libby and May.  When Libby died May became half a person.  At the same time things happened in her family life--parents divorcing and her mom moving--that threw her even more off kilter, but she never fully recovered from losing Libby.  It makes me wonder what would have happened to her further down the line without Libby.  Would she have ever gotten stronger on her own?

There was a lot of action, with May being convinced there were clues in the webcomic that would lead her to Libby.  It was a good mystery and May and Trick were put into several dangerous positions.  It's tough to really review this because I don't want to give anything away.  I think that if you are in the mood for a mystery and a YA book with no romance, give this one a try!

To Sum Up: Fast paced and very enjoyable.  I think this is a read that many readers would enjoy!  I will be ordering this one for my library.

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12. Weekend Reading #2

I started reading this the other night and was quickly caught up in the story.
Reading time is low this weekend because it is super hot here so we are rafting!
Happy weekend reading everyone!

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13. July 31-Currently

reading:  I read I AM PRINCESS X by Cherie Priest this past week.  I really enjoyed it!  The cover, being all pink and purple, makes it seem like it's going to be a light hearted story, it wasn't.  But it was just good.
watching: The Walking Dead. This winter Scott started watching this series and although I had watched the first season, I stopped partway through the second season. So while he was watching it I kind of got interested again.  Spent this past week watching it and am not ready for the season 5 marathon in August.
listening: Start Up was a very interesting podcast about a guy starting a media company.  His company produces the podcast I was listening to last week, Reply All. This one was quite fascinating.
writing: I got some new pens this week so I of course had to write with every single one!

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14. My Thoughts: Some Adult Books I Have Read

This was a great read, but not at all on par to READY PLAYER ONE by the same author.  (If you haven;t read that yet, what are you waiting for).  This book is a bit of a genius story though--generations of people raised on video games and science fiction tales were actually being trained for an inter-galactic war.  I love that!  I love that everything people experience they can relate to a movie or tv show they watched or book they read or a game they played.  It is so much more satisfying that these things are real life (unlike the Walking Dead--how many words for zombies do they have that isn't "zombie"?).  I enjoyed this book, didn't read it near as fast as I did Ready Player One, and didn't love how neatly thing tied up in the end.  It will make a great movie someday!

I was not at all interested in reading THE MARTIAN until I saw the trailer for the movie.  That caught my interest and luckily I was able to get a copy from my library that day.  This was a fantastic read, a little slow when it was just Mark's log on Mars, but once NASA figured out Mark was alive this book just flew.  I can't wait for the movie.  The tension during some of the scenes in the book was so strong that I know seeing it on screen with totally stress me out.  Luckily I know how it all ends so watching it all will be a little easier for me!  Great story.  If you love science or survival stories, read this book.

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15. My Thoughts (& Giveaway): Stone Rider by David Hofmeyr

4 soft frosted sugar cookies.

Cover Love:  I like how it is simple but eye catching.  Appealing to many readers.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
This one actually flew under my radar until I was offered a chance to participate in the blog tour.  I looked up the synopsis and decided I wanted to give this one a try.
Here it is from GoodReads:
In the vein of The Outsiders and the early Western novels of Elmore Leonard, this inventive debut novel, a cross between the cult classic Mad Max movie series and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, blends adrenaline-fueled action with an improbable yet tender romance to offer a rich and vivid portrayal of misfits and loners forced together in their struggle for a better life.

Adam Stone wants freedom and peace. He wants a chance to escape Blackwater, the dust-bowl desert town he grew up in. Most of all, he wants the beautiful Sadie Blood. Alongside Sadie and the dangerous outsider Kane, Adam will ride the Blackwater Trail in a brutal race that will test them all, body and soul. Only the strongest will survive.

The prize? A one-way ticket to Sky-Base and unimaginable luxury.

And for a chance at this new life, Adam will risk everything.

Romance?: Not really, although Adam does have a crush during the book.

My Thoughts:

Dystopian books used to be my absolute favorite genre.  There have been some great ones--The Giver, The Hunger Games, Unwind, The City of Ember.  The problem is that The Hunger Games was so successful that the genre got diluted for awhile there.  (This doesn't count the books I consider "apocalyptic," like Rot & Ruin and The Knife of Never Letting Go).  So I have kept away from them for some time.  When I got a chance to be part of this blog tour I read the book synopsis and decided I wanted to give this dystopian book a chance.

And I am glad I did!  t set up a very interesting world, one that I want to learn more about.  Not necessarily the world of the "Left-Behinds" on earth, but the world of the Sky-Base.  That place sounds both amazing and awful.  I have a feeling that anyone who wins the right to move to the Sky Base don't really get to be part of the Sky Base.  I bet there is a lot of dystopia on the Sky Base.  I wouldn't mind a prequel book either.

Back to the story, each person involved in the race own a byke/motorcycle.  But they are made of a material that seems to remember previous riders and that adds to the abilities of the current rider.  Winners of the races win a ticket to Sky Base and the second and third place riders earn points that they can save up to eventually purchase a ticket.

The world Adam lives in before the race is awful and crazy and bleak.  Basically people can be miners (I can't remember the name of what is being mined, but they are pulling it from the earth's core) or have a job in town (and by town I mean old Western type town).  If you are young enough you can ride in the race.  This race reminds me of a novella I read a long time ago that was written by Stephen King back when he wrote under the pen name of Richard Bachman called The Long Walk.  It was the story of boys who walked, just walked, but if you fell or stopped walking you were shot and there could only be one winner.  Not everyone dies, but a lot of people do and it's ok to try and kill other riders.  The strong survive and all of that.

Adam literally doesn't have anyone.  He has no family and no friends.  However, a strange rider named Kane enters his life early on and although they don't connect right away, Kane soon becomes someone Adam realizes he can trust--warily.

The one thing that didn't quite jive with me is that Adam has no confidence, yet he is a really good rider.  One that many consider the one to beat.  And he knows he's good, he feels it.  That should give him some confidence, but he has a hard time making decisions.

To Sum Up:  This is a book that would appeal to many YA readers, especially those that like dystopian.  I have many questions about this world and look forward to book 2.  I will be adding it to my order for the fall!

I am giving away a copy of Stone Rider to one lucky reader from the US or Canada.  Please fill out the form below and I will inform you if you win.  Contest ends on August 12.
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16. Author Discussion: Kenneth Oppel

You are looking at one of my favorite series.  I just love the Airborn series by Kenneth Oppel.  I booktalk them, I re-read them, I have them displayed in prominent places in my library.  When I have a reader looking for something different I hand them one of these books.  But here's where it ends.  I have tried and tried to read other books by Kenneth Oppel and I just can't get into them!  It makes me so sad because I really love Airborn--I adore Matt Cruse and the story line is very cool.  By the third book the romance it super sweet.  This is an awesome series.  I really wish I could get into a few of his other series.  

Has this happen to you?  Is there an author that has one book or series you love but other books that you haven't gotten into?

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17. My Thoughts: The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher

4 yummy frosted maple cookies.

Cover Love:  Sort of.  I like that it looks geeky and all, but there really is no math in this book.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
You know that contemporary teen romances are my bread and butter.  This one was mailed to me by Harper Collins in the spring and I decided to read it to help get me out of my reading slump!  Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:
It all begins when Ana Watson's little brother, Clayton, secretly ditches the quiz bowl semifinals to go to the Washingcon sci-fi convention on what should have been a normal, résumé-building school trip.

If slacker Zak Duquette hadn't talked up the geek fan fest so much, maybe Clayton wouldn't have broken nearly every school rule or jeopardized Ana’s last shot at freedom from her uptight parents.

Now, teaming up with Duquette is the only way for Ana to chase down Clayton in the sea of orcs, zombies, bikini-clad princesses, Trekkies, and Smurfs. After all, one does not simply walk into Washingcon.

But in spite of Zak's devil-may-care attitude, he has his own reasons for being as lost as Ana-and Ana may have more in common with him than she thinks. Ana and Zak certainly don’t expect the long crazy night, which begins as a nerdfighter manhunt, to transform into so much more.
Romance?: Yes, of course!

My Thoughts:
One reason I loved this book is because both Zak and Ana are so relate-able.  Zak is a geek with a capital G but so comfortable in that position.  He reminds me so much of one of my own children!  Ana is a hard working middle child who is terrified of upsetting her parents (who seems awfully hard to please).  While Zak is always on the look out for a girl and does have his eye on Ana, Ana knows she can't date so she doesn't even let herself be distracted.

I love the atmosphere of the Washingcon!  It totally makes me want to go to a convention.  I love that Zak is totally popular at the convention.  One subtle lesson in this book is that you cannot judge someone on the outside, both Ana and Zak learn this lesson well.

Some of the situations are totally outlandish, but this would make for a fun movie or TV movie.  You wouldn't even need to add action scenes because it is full of them already.

I like that one of the voices of reason is Ana younger brother.  He sees way more than anyone realizes.

The romance between Zak and Ana is super sweet, slow moving (in book time, but since this all takes place in one evening it's actually quick).  The author does a great job alternating between Zak and Ana and does a good job with both their voices. When an author does it well this is a great way of telling a story and developing a romance!

To Sum Up:  Sweet romance and a great story about high-shcoolers on the cusp of taking the next step in their lives.

Book sent by Harper Collins.  Thanks so much!

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18. July 20-Currently

reading:  giving Fangirl a try.  I adored Eleanor & Park and always hear amazing things about Rainbow Rowell's other books.  Plus, I love the cover!
writing:  to do lists and menu plan for company we are having later this week.  My husband's brother and his family from California are coming and we are super excited because they haven't been here for years!
watching:  cheesy, wonderful, romantic movies that I recorded earlier this summer.
listening: I listened to all of the Reply All podcasts this week and adored it.  Now I have to find another one.

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19. Blogs I Love

When I first started trying to grow an audience for my book blog I followed and commented on A LOT of other books blogs.  Over the past few months I have been cleaning out my following list on Bloglovin' and I think I have cultivated a great list of AWESOME book blogs.  Here are some of my favorites: (these are all personal book blogs--I will do another post later about publishing/author blogs.  Penguin has one now that I love reading!)

The O.W.L.:
I think Jill and I started around the same time.  She has rebranded and almost called it quits a few times, but thankfully, she always comes back.  I love her reviews and that she lets her students be involved.  Hers is one I read every time there is a new post!

Donna is another one who almost gave up blogging, but has come back.  I love that she still reviews old RL Stine books and I love her snark.  Fun blog to read!

Forever Young Adult:
I love this blog as much for the book reviews as for all the other YA pop culture they talk about.

Abby the Librarian: 
Abby is a youth services librarian whose blog is great because she really posts from a librarian's point of view, not just a reader of YA books.

One of my favorites from the beginning!

Icey Books:
Great reviews and amazing blog design.  I could look at hers all day.

Ms. Martin:
I love her reviews and she posts a ton.  Always like to read her Staking the YA shelves on the weekends.

These are some of my favorites, but I have added a few new ones to my list this year:   Pop Goes the Reader and Log Cabin Library being two of my favorites new ones. 

As I was cleaning up my following list I was amazed at how many haven't posted in a year or more.  And because I haven't been seeking out many new blogs, I don't know if the whole community is growing like it was. 

Do you have a must read book blog? 

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20. My Thoughts: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

5 wonderful, warm chocolate chip cookies dunked in milk.

Cover Love:
Yes!  The cover is what drew my eyes to the book and that is without even seeing it in person.  I have seen pictures online of the actual book and the cover and I believe it is more gorgeous in person!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
The cover caught my attention, the title piqued my interest and the synopsis put me over the edge.  Here is it from GoodReads:

Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Romance?: Yes, yes, yes!!

My Thoughts:
First of all, this was so gorgeously written, so descriptive, so transportative (I am sure that is not a word).  You absolutely felt like you were in the palace. You could smell the smells, taste the food, see the beautiful clothes and FEEL THE HEAT between Shahrzad and Khalid.  It is intense.

I did have a little hard time at the start keeping people and their plot lines straight, but by the end it had all snapped into focus.  By halfway into the book I was not able to put it down and have two late nights of reading to attest to that fact.

I loved Shahrzad, she didn't let her hatred totally cloud who she was.  Yes, she went there with a purpose and for most of the book really wanted to follow through with that, but she did let herself discover and question things.

I am SO glad the author wrote chapters from Khalid's point of view.  He was so aloof and uncaring (as he really needed to be) it was hard to get a grasp on who he was until later in the book.  The chapters from his point of view were awesome but also how as we learned more about him, so did Shahrzad so that eventually each of their chapters were very similar. 

The reasons behind why Khalid needs to kill his brides and what he does to try and relieve a tiny little bit of his guilt are both heartbreaking reveals. 

One other thing I liked was how trusting of each other Shahrzad and Khalid (and Jalal) became.  Every action was not looked at with suspicion.  There was a lot of love there and the author did a wonderful job showing them falling in love, fighting it, and then being in love.  I was so glad there was none of the old misunderstanding leads to hurt and break ups, leads to etc... that YA novels tend to do.  This was a more mature relationship once they got into being in a relationship.

UGH!! If I knew there was going to be a book 2 I might not have started this one because I want to read it NOW!!

To Sum Up:  I don't think you will be disappointed in this book, it's just gorgeous and intriguing and romantic.

eGalley requested and received from Penguin via Edleweiss.

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21. No Big Deal

Kidding, HUGE deal!

I was so excited to see CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate on Netgalley today because it is one of my most anticipated reads of the year.  I mean, just look at that cover!!

And the synopsis is killer, makes me tear up just reading it:

In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.
So, I tweeted my excitement.And wow, Katherine Applegate tweeted me back!  Here's the proof:

Yes, that's my name that she tweeted.  No big deal!

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22. Let's Talk About These Star Wars Books

If you get any of the publishing newsletters you probably have seen ads for these new MG/YA re-tellings of the three original Star Wars stories (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi).  I am SO VERY EXCITED ABOUT THESE!!

I am excited for the young girl who first saw Star Wars when she was 6; I am excited for the mom whose sons love Star Wars;  I am excited for the grown up woman who tears up while watching the new Star Wars movie's trailer; and I am VERY EXCITED for the middle school librarian who is going to have three new books to engage readers with!!

First of all, LOOK AT THE COVERS!

These are AMAZING COVERS!  I am in awe at the simplicity, yet they are so striking!

And the authors--Alexandra Bracken, Adam Gidwitz, Tom Angleberger--talk about some serious YA and MG cred!  I am thinking Disney hit these out of the PARK!

I have not read the Sneak Peeks because I don't want to whet my appetite until I have them in my hands and can finish them, but if you want to read the sneak peeks, go here!  

You can bet that I am ordering 3 or 4 copies of each for my library and getting them the day they come out.  


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23. My Thoughts: Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

3 soft chocolate whoopie pies.

Cover Love:
Yes!  I think it's eye catching and raises questions.  Made me want to read this book to see what it was about.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
The cover and the synopsis made me want to read this.  Here it is from Good Reads:
Gone Girl meets 13 Reasons Why in this stylish, sexy, and atmospheric story about friendship packed with twists and turns that will leave you breathless.

They say Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather's shed. They say it was suicide.

But June doesn't believe it.

June and Delia used to be closer than anything. Best friends in that way that comes before everyone else-before guys, before family. It was like being in love, but more. They had a billion secrets, tying them together like thin silk cords.

But one night a year ago, everything changed. June, Delia, and June's boyfriend Ryan were just having a little fun. Their good time got out of hand. And in the cold blue light of morning, June knew only this-things would never be the same again.

And now, a year later, Delia is dead. June is certain she was murdered. And she owes it to her to find out the truth...which is far more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

Sexy, dark, and atmospheric, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls will keep you guessing until the very last page.
Romance?:  Nothing to get excited about, but that's not what this book was about.

My Thoughts:
There is a lot about this book that can't be discussed because it gives to much away.  Just know it is a very psychological book (however if I had read the synopsis a little more closely I might have guessed some of the twists).  So many times I wanted to just read the last few pages so I knew what happened, but I thought it would probably be worth it to keep going through.  (I do that sometimes when I am having trouble staying into a book--lots of time reading the ending will make me more interested in reading the middle to see how it ended up where it did!)

June does A LOT of infuriating things, and several times I wanted to reach into the book and just shake her and say,  "THINK!!"  She was just so easily led around by everyone!  Her memories of Delia are so weird, they truly were like one person.

There was a lot about this book that I found unbelievable, I wonder if the author did a lot of research.  I did find it interesting, fascinating even.  I was such a goody in high school I always like reading about ids who aren't.  But the kids in this book are not just partiers or out having sex, they are doing some really weird stuff.

Overall, it was an intriguing read, I was just left a little unsatisfied with the conclusion.  And a few things that happened before that.

To Sum Up:  If you want a read with an interesting twist, give this one a try.

ARC sent from Simon & Schuster.  Thanks so much!

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24. Currently...

reading:  The Martian.  This came out a few years ago and I wasn't that interested but recently they released the trailer for the movie and it looked so good I decided to pick up the book.  So far so good!
writing: I got a few new pens sets this summer and decided to do a pen inventory sheet.  Love them all!
watching:  If you have Hulu please give the show Miranda a try.  It is British and so very, very funny!
listening:  I loved the X-Files and this podcast touches on all the reasons that made it so great!

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25. Weekend Reading #1

I actually got four books finished this past week which really helped me to get over my slump.  I am hoping to keep the ball rolling!  I started Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell and since I am participating in a blog tour for School for Sidekicks I am starting that this weekend as well.
What are you reading this weekend?

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