Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken

Summary:  When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government "rehabilitation camp." She might have survived the mysterious disease that's killed most of America's children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she's on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her-East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can't risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living. (Summary and image from

My Review:  Ruby is not brave.  She's dangerous.  She's terrified of people finding out who she is and what she can do, but she's even more terrified of herself.

The premise of this book grabbed me from the first few pages.  Alexandra Bracken has approached the dystopian genre with fresh eyes -- instead of the typical "start in the middle", Bracken begins where it should, at the beginning.  Society hasn't fallen apart yet, but it's about to, and Ruby and her misunderstood, newly-found powers have a front row seat.

I started this book in the middle of a reading drought.  I'm ashamed to admit that I've been reading the same book for over a month.  It's fascinating.  But I'm just stuck in such a busy rut I can't devote the brain power to finish it.  I picked this up one lazy and grumpy day, thinking I may finish it before summer, and couldn't put it down.  At all.  (I finished it that day.)  I have so many questions I'm dying to get answered - why did the absence of powers affect the children so dramatically?  What in the WORLD does the government think is going to happen to the next generation?  Is there a way to fix Ruby's powers?  When, oh, when, will the next book come out?!

If you're needing a good, quick, fun read, grab this one on your next trip out.  Trust me.

My Rating: Four and a half stars. 

For the Sensitive Reader:  Children are placed in concentration camps.  Although the first two thirds of the book are shockingly cuss word free, there is a profanity-laced speech at the end that makes up for the restraint in the first part of the book.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

Summary: After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. 

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . . 

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages. (Image and summary from

My Review: While his family is being murdered, a diaper-clad toddler wanders out of the open front door and disappears into the night. The murderer's target was always the child, but he wanted the entire family dead to keep things clean. The murderer sees that the only logical place for the child to wander to is the graveyard down the street. As he goes to investigate, he is greeted by a groundskeeper who assures the man that there is no baby in the graveyard. 

The baby wandered into the graveyard. Silas, a frequent visitor of the graveyard, misled the murderer, giving the residents of the graveyard time to decide what to do with the child. Still in diapers and unable to do much more than babble, he is helpless. Mrs. Owens--a long-dead ghost who never had children during her life--immediately takes to the child. When the disturbed specters of the boy's recently murdered parents give Mrs. Owen their blessing for her to raise him, the graveyard decides to consider the matter. It's decided--Mrs. and Mr. Owens will raise the boy, but only because Silas has agreed to be his guardian. After all, Silas is the only one who can leave the cemetery. 

The boy--Nobody, nicknamed "Bod"--has a strange childhood, learning to read off of headstones and being educated by long-dead scholars. He befriends a young girl who often visits the graveyard. He encounters mischievous ghouls and severe werewolves. He knows little about his past, but his guardian and ghost family never forget that there is still a man out there who wants Bod dead. Bod has yet to understand the complexities and the risks of the real world. As he grows into a young man and learn of his past, he begins to realize that he can't always stay in the protected walls of the graveyard. He must confront the man who murdered his family and he must begin to live with the living. 

“You're alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. Once you're dead, it's gone. Over. You've made what you've made, dreamed your dream, written your name. You may be buried here, you may even walk. But that potential is finished.” 

My Rating: Five stars

To Sum It Up: This charming story reads like a fairy tale and Mr. Gaiman admitted to being inspired by Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. Each chapter is its own complete short story while still contributing to the overarching, chronological plot of the book. I have never read any book like this and I absolutely loved it. Graveyards, ghosts, ghouls, and other mythical demons unite to help a lost child. He definitely has an unconventional childhood, yet still learns sacrifice, love, bravery, and friendship. It was simultaneously fascinating, silly, macabre, and heart-rending. I am not ashamed to admit that I could hardly read the final pages through my tears. This book has been optioned for a Hollywood movie. Discover it in print first. 

For the Sensitive Reader: This is a children's book and is fit for that audience. There is the murder of Bod's family and the fact that a murderer is still after him, but the violence is very mild and age-appropriate for this YA book. No bad language. No sex. Pretty clean overall. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Sense and Sensibility A Latter-Day Tale - Rebecca H. Jamison

Summary:  As if it wasn't bad enough to be getting food from Church welfare, I had to meet one of the Ferreros--and a good-looking Ferrero, at that.

Elly Goodwin, a brilliant programmer, is so desperate for a job that she takes one from her ex-fiance--the same man who put her family out of business.  Then she meets Ethan Ferrero, who seems too good to be true.  But Elly is far too sensible to unexpectedly fall in love--especially with her ex's brother-in-law.

But when Elly's sister, Maren, dates the wrong guy, Elly must intercede before Maren's passion clouds her common sense.  Together, Elly and Maren must learn that a mixture of sense and sensibility is the perfect recipe for love.

Fans of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility will love this modern retelling of the classic romance novel.  (Summary from back of the book, image from  Book sent free for review.)

My Review:  Before going any further, I think it's important to note that this is LDS literature.  With that said, it's not over the top LDS lit.  Things are mentioned, spoken about in passing, but not overdone. 

This book truly hit the spot for me.  I've been needing a good fiction-fast-read.  I needed a story where the story-line drew me in and boy did the ride went quickly over the two days I read!  I've always loved the story-line of Sense and Sensibility, and this version is so realistic but stays true to the original plot of the story.  I loved seeing how Jamison carried the structure of the story while making it new at the same time.  And I loved the characters.  Typically I have a harder time to relating to  Maren's character, but even in this story it was believable and understandable her reactions with how Jamison crafted the tale. I think what made this story so satisfying was the depth and complexity of each character and their lives.  They felt like people I know in real life, people I love and can't understand all at the same time.  And the plot felt the same--things happened that didn't make sense, but that's how life goes; you don't always know what hand you'll be dealt or how exactly you'll deal with it.  But, Jamison writes a smooth tale that takes you from start to finish effortlessly.  I truly enjoyed this.

If you're needing a Jane Austen fix, but something a little different you definitely want to pick up this book.  It has the right mix of romance, comedy, realistic plot twists, and conflict to be enjoyable.  If you know the plot of Sense and Sensibility, the ending won't be a surprise, but it's enjoyable nonetheless.

For the sensitive reader:  Only kissing--and this isn't much.

Rating:  4.5 stars

Sum it up:  A well-done spin off of a classic tale.

Friday, August 15, 2014

If You Were Me and Lived in ... Australia - Carole P. Roman

Summary:  Former social studies teacher Carole P. Roman has penned a new addition in her exiting explorations of foreign cultures and customs with “If You Were Me and Lived in … Australia". In her years as a teacher, parent and grandparent, Roman noticed that there were few, if any, books about other cultures for young children. Roman has remedied the deficit and now introduces the new Australia installment in a series that educates kids, parents and teachers, alike. Roman recognizes that children love to discover the differences and similarities of other people and places in far-off lands. In this series, she describes details that kids can relate to. Tailored to children from 3-to-8-years old, her writing is simple but does not talk down to youngsters. Among the topics that are introduced in this journey to Australia are the unusual indigenous animals, the extraordinary Great Barrier Reef, the currency, the beloved game of cricket and the national holiday, Australia Day, as well as the special nicknames people have for one another and the curious taste sensation, Vegemite. “This series is just enough facts to begin a discussion without overwhelming the child and can be expanded or contracted to fit the age group,” Roman explains. "Carole P. Roman has created a marvelous premise for her series of educational children's books: young readers are given the opportunity to realistically envision a foreign country without leaving their homes, libraries, or classrooms....Roman's formula allows for so much lovely variety in each book of this series that it hardly seems like a formula at all...If You Were Me and Lived in ...Kenya is a short, vibrant picture book, brightly illustrated in cartoon style. The text is scant, appropriate, and does not deviate from the central theme." ForeWord Reviews Clarion Review (Summary and Cover image from  I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

My Review:  If You Were Me and Lived in ... Australia follows the same pattern as Carole Roman has laid out in the rest of the series.  It's full of wonderful, basic information regarding the Great Barrier reef, local treats and diet, games, and currency.  However, I felt like there was a little missing from this installment.  Perhaps it's me, but I would have loved to see some mention of kangaroos and koalas, and I missed seeing the Sydney Opera House.  It's just synonymous with Australia for me!

However, from a child's perspective, this is a great addition to the If You Were Me ... series.  I giggled when I saw that the pronunciation guides took into account the Australian accent -- and I found myself reading in an accent for the rest of the book.  I wonder if my kids will start calling me mummy, now ... 

My Rating: Four stars

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dangerous - Shannon Hale

Summary:  Maisie Danger Brown just wanted to get away from home for a bit, see something new. She never intended to fall in love. And she never imagined stumbling into a frightening plot that kills her friends and just might kill her, too. A plot that is already changing life on Earth as we know it. There's no going back. She is the only thing standing between danger and annihilation.

From NY Times bestselling author Shannon Hale comes a novel that asks, How far would you go to save the ones you love? And how far would you go to save everyone else? (Summary and image from

My Review:  Maisie has lived a small life.  She's 15, homeschooled, her best friend is homeschooled, her parents are great, if a little protective, and while she dreams of being an astronaut, she's aware that with one arm, it's a long shot.  That all changes when she wins a three-week Astronaut Camp Experience.

Her fireteam (she and three other sweepstakes winners) wins a grand prize - a chance to see Dr. Howell's innovative Space Elevator in action.  Without realizing it, such a prize will not only change their lives, but the world.

Before I actually review this, I'd like to formally apologize to my Thursday classes ... I was so distracted thinking about where Hale was going to take Maisie and the fireteam, we may have overdone some muscle groups.  And underdone others.  Oh, and then there was that whole Zumba kerfuffle.  I blame Shannon Hale!!

Shannon Hale is simply too talented for fairness.  She launches into the YA/Sci-fi genre with no awkwardness, I felt like she'd been writing this genre forever.  Her story stuck with me (hence the oopsies in class!), moving so quickly that putting the book down wasn't an option in case the characters did something without me.  Her characters are believable, flawed, real, and relatable.  Even her side characters had amazing backstories.  It really felt as though they were real people with real experiences.

I would have happily read an entire series in the thread of The Hunger Games, Divergent, or Legend to get the complete story - that's how hooked I was.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to get the whole story the first time around.  I don't like HAVING to read another book for a conclusion (I'm looking at you, Jacky Faber!).  But were Maisie ever to return?  Yeah, I'd be the first in line to read that.  I'm excited to see what else Shannon has up her sleeve (because, in my mind, we're on a first-name basis now).  She never ceases to amaze!

My Rating: Four and a half stars

For the sensitive reader:  There is quite a bit of violence, some death, and some serious kissing that Maisie stops before it goes too far.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Counting By 7s - Holly Goldberg Sloan

Summary:  In the tradition of Out of My MindWonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family. 

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life... until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read. (Summary and image from

My Review:  Counting by 7s is the first book I’ve read in a long time that has actually got me itching to write a review.   The funny thing about taking a blogging hiatus is that you think you’re going to have all this free time to, I don’t know, count daisies or something, take walks in the sunshine with your children, maybe even squeeze in a nap or two, but life doesn’t usually work out that way.  For a variety of reasons, I’m busier than ever, and while reading for sanity’s sake has always been a priority, reviewing has not.  I’ve mostly been plowing through uninspiring chick lit just to make it through the day, and haven’t had anything remarkable to say, but this book – this book is worth dusting off the laptop.

Willow is a twelve year old prodigy with an insatiable intellect and an intense desire to make sense of the world around her.  She is endearing, meticulous, and straight  up awkward and – as is so often the case with the incredibly brilliant – is nearly incapable of fitting in with her fellow classmates.   I was riveted by her unique, often amusing perspective, and all the rest of Sloan’s well-crafted characters.  Reading them felt like home – a completely different home than I’ve ever experienced, but home nonetheless.  

Early on in the story, Willow suffers an earth-shattering loss that leaves her reeling, somewhat homeless, and struggling to find new ways to cope with a life she never imagined.  You’d think that reading a book that deals with such profound heartache would be depressing, but it was rather moving and strangely cathartic, as if, throughout the course of the story, our hearts were shredded and healed together.   I highly recommend this book to any and all readers, as a subtle lesson in acceptance, love, and how to appreciate the beauty of our differences. 

For the sensitive reader:  Read on.

My Rating:  5 Stars

Friday, August 8, 2014

Forbidden Sea - Sheila A. Nielson

Summary: A mermaid haunts Adrianne's dreams . . . is she coming to warn her, save her, or drag her down into the depths of the briny sea forever?

When Adrianne comes face-to-face with the mermaid of Windwaithe Island, of whom she has heard terrible stories all her life, she is convinced the mermaid means to take her younger sister. Adrianne, fierce-willed and courageous, is determined to protect her sister from the mermaid, and her family from starvation. However, the mermaid continues to haunt Adrianne in her dreams and with her song. (Picture and summary from

My Review: You know how you're just reading along and thinking "Hmm…I think I may be too old for this book" and then the next thing you know, you're all "But what happened to the pretty green mermaid!?"

That was totally me.

I've read quite a few books in this new genre that rehashes fairy tales for JFic and YAFic, so I'm no newcomer. I enjoy the retelling of the stories, and sometimes I really like the fun twists. This one does not disappoint. First of all, it's got a really old school fun feel; think more along the lines of Keturah and Lord Death than, say The Lunar Chronicles. And I liked this style, actually, because it's fun to have that old-timey feel when there are mythical creatures and deep-seated lore involved. Also, having it take place on an island gave it a feel of isolation and fear from a secluded population who know that they're just sitting there, waiting to be captured by the mermaid.

The author is a children's librarian and you can totally tell that she knows her way around a good story and is a really competent writer. I've found that sometimes authors feel they have to dumb things down for kids or make the writing more basic than it needs to be. Not in this case. The author writes clearly and accessibly both for kids and adults alike.  It is clear, concise reading, and I also loved that the love story was age appropriate. I'm totally over the whole "I'm 16 and he's my destiny!" scenario that so many books, especially in YAFic, sport today.

And mermaids! How fun is that? I don't think I've read a book about mermaids yet, and we all know there have been quite a few mythical creatures marching around in book land these days.  I liked these mermaids, too. I wish I could tell you more about them, but you're just going to have to read it.  There is so much mythology and lore surrounding mermaids in many cultures, and although this book gives a nod to those, it also takes its own path to create some really cool new mermaid lore.

The story is fun—it's got all the elements of a good story. Strong characters. Plenty of opposition. Nearly impossible odds. A good ending. Really, it's something you should read if you like this kind of thing. My book club just recently read it and we all enjoyed it. It's a fast, fun read, and due to its depth and thought-provoking themes can be enjoyed by old and young alike.

My Rating: 4 stars

For the sensitive reader: This book is squeaky clean.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Did You Win? Did You Win?




Pick the Winner(s)

  • Congratulations, Jocelyn!  Look for an email from us shortly!
  • Thank you to for sponsoring this giveaway.  I know you're going to love your choices, Jocelyn!
Our THREE Book Winners are: 

- Amy @ Song of the Fat Lady 
- Shanny 
 - Wehrle

Please email us so we can get your books to you soon!

Congratulations all!  Here's to another 1,000 likes!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Fave Book Club Recipes

I am part of two book clubs and have been for years. The first book club my sister-in-law and I started and it has been almost ten years. We've had people come and go over the years, but for the past several years it's been the same six people. The second book club was pre-existing when I moved into my neighborhood and I've been part of that one for almost eight years. I love both my book clubs! In both book clubs we take turns choosing a book and then host the meeting at our house, and with all fun things, food is involved. Over the years I've hosted a lot of times, and I have three tried and true really easy, really deelish recipes that I'd like to share with you that I've made lots of times over the years, and not only for book clubs. They're good for any occasion. In fact, feel free to go make one right now! I did not create these or anything (so hold off on all that foodie fan mail!), but they're recipes that everybody loves, whether I'm the one to make them or not. I wouldn't say they're necessarily really unique or different (and certainly not low cal or healthy), but they are recipes that I feel comfortable making for anything because I know they'll turn out well and everyone will like them. Plus they're fast and easy and the ingredients are easy to find in any grocery store. Enjoy!

Artichoke Dip:

1 can artichokes, chopped and drained
1 cup mayo
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Pinch of garlic or garlic salt
1 can chopped chiles

Mix everything together. Put in a buttered an and bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Serve with crackers.

Apple Dip:

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 T vanilla
1/2 package heath bar or skor bar chips

Mix all ingredients together, chill for 2 hours. Serve with sliced apples.

Stuffed Mushrooms:

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms
3 oz parmesan cheese
ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg
drops of worcestershire sauce

Remove stems of mushrooms and thoroughly wash and clean mushrooms. Chop off the woody part of the mushroom stem and discard. Chop up the rest of the mushroom stems into small pieces. Mix cream cheese, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, nutmeg, worcestershire sauce, and chopped mushrooms stems together. Stuff into the cleaned mushroom caps. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Literary Travels

If there's one thing I like to do, it's read.  I also love to travel, and while that's not really accessible right now (this whole thing called life keeps getting in the way!) I'd love to take a literary vacation.  

Check out the amazing info graphic the folks over at posted ... where would you go?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I can scarcely believe I'm writing this post - I'm so excited!  Sunday morning, I checked the statistics of Reading for Sanity's Facebook page, only to see that a goal I had set when I took over, 1000 likes, had been reached.

There were squeals.  There were cheers.  And then there was a heating pad (my back is being stubborn).  Mindy was beyond thrilled.  She's currently roasting at a Water Park, but wanted to let you know that her exuberance caused her to nearly lose her place in her current book!!

And then we decided to either go big or go home.  We couldn't do this without you.  We're still a growing blog, but we are so excited to be able to give back.  Our amazing friends over at have generously agreed to host a giveaway!!

We will be giving away ONE $40 e-giftcard to a lucky RFSer!!  Need I remind you what amazingness Gone Reading offers?  Gorgeous book platters, book-themed decor, t-shirts ... I have to limit myself drooling over the site.  Their dedication to furthering global literacy makes me all the more excited about this giveaway.

Simply follow the instructions below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


THREE Reading for Sanity readers will be randomly selected to receive one of the following books. *Disclaimer* I have yet to read these.  I'm trying!  In order to be eligible for the book giveaways, please leave a comment below about which book you want.


My!  I think we've got something there for everyone, don't you?  Best of luck, dear friends, and keep reading!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Are My Books .... DOOMED?!

I've had a few conversations lately about the whole ebook vs. real books.  It's an interesting debate - and I find humor in how passionate people are about their stance.  I've heard people swear that actual books will be completely out of date within five years, and people who scoff at the whole ebook trend in general.

As the site administrator of a book review blog, I pay attention to the debates.  I'm not an ebook fan.  I've read a few, and they have some perks, but I greatly prefer a real book.  Lugging over 40 for my family on a recent vacation is a small price to pay in my mind!  (Maybe not in my back ...)

Anyway, I found this incredible infographic and wanted to share.  What do you guys think?  My official stance is "Reading is Reading.  The end."  (Personally, though, hand me that book!!)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Loved The Fault in Our Stars? Perhaps you should read these...

John Green’s The Fault in our Stars has taken the world by storm in recent months. At the library we get at least one request for this book daily, not to mention the frequent inquiries as to other books by Green from those who have already read it. Though we have several copies in our collection the wait list never seems to dwindle.

Perhaps the  most obvious theme from this book is that of teens dying too young of an incurable disease. Yet there are so many other reason that people love this book. One librarian friend told me that she always book talks this title as “the funniest book about teens dying from cancer you’ll ever read”. That statement might generate a few odd looks but I couldn't agree more. The humor in this book is a large part of it’s appeal. Also the title contains a beautiful love story. So below you will find titles that contain terminal illness or death, as well as a few selected because of the love story found within and their witty humor sure to resonate with readers.

At the top of my list would be Esther Earl's biography, This Star Won't Go Out. This was the girl to whom John Green dedicated The Fault in Our Stars, and though the main character, Hazel Grace, is not based on Esther the two do share many similarities. 

Summary: A collection of Esther's writings, This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, was published by Dutton on Jan. 28, 2014, and is now a New York Times Bestseller. Photographs and essays by family and friends will help to tell Esther's story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars to her.
Image and summary from

Titles that are smart and funny, contain a love story, and also feature a teen dying from a terminal illness:

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Summary: Ben Wolf has big things planned for his senior year. Had big things planned. Now what he has is some very bad news and only one year left to make his mark on the world.
How can a pint-sized, smart-ass seventeen-year-old do anything significant in the nowheresville of Trout, Idaho?
First, Ben makes sure that no one else knows what is going on—not his superstar quarterback brother, Cody, not his parents, not his coach, no one. Next, he decides to become the best 127-pound football player Trout High has ever seen; to give his close-minded civics teacher a daily migraine; and to help the local drunk clean up his act.
And then there's Dallas Suzuki. Amazingly perfect, fascinating Dallas Suzuki, who may or may not give Ben the time of day. Really, she's first on the list.
Living with a secret isn't easy, though, and Ben's resolve begins to crumble . . . especially when he realizes that he isn't the only person in Trout with secrets.
Image and summary from

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Summary: Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.
Image and summary from 

Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Summary: Tessa is a 16-year-old with a terminal case of leukemia. After four years of battling the disease, Tessa forgoes treatment in order to more fully appreciate the last few months of her life. Not knowing how to cope with the knowledge of a death that is both certain and soon, Tessa makes a list of things she'd like to do before she dies.
Image and summary from www,

Titles that are smart and funny, contain a love story, and also feature a teen dying (sans the terminal illness):

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate,
political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
Summary and cover image from

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Summary: On a day that started like any other…
Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the one decision she has left—the most important decision she’ll ever make.
Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.
Image and summary from

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Summary: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
Image and summary from

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Summary: What if you had only one day to live? What would you do?
Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last.
Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Titles that are smart and funny, and contain a love story (sans the teen dying):

Every Day by David Levithan

Summary: Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
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Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Summary: I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.
Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate,
political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
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My Review: Cadence Sinclair Eastman has lived a privileged life. She descends from a long line of well-to-do Sinclairs and spends her summers on a private island with her cousins. Life hasn't exactly been a cakewalk for these children who all come from divorced families but they long for nothing that money can buy. And when worse comes to worse they have each other. Or do they?

The summer Cadence turns fifteen a terrible accident takes place. This accident leaves her with debilitating migraine headaches and steals her memories of that particular summer. Cadence is determined to find out the truth behind the accident but her cousins aren't talking and the rest of the family tiptoes around her, careful not to arouse the painful monster lurking under the surface. Cadence may be alone in her quest but she is tenacious. Will the truth set her free or destroy life as she knows it?

This is a powerful novel. One that explores the influence of money and the destruction of greed. The author divulges Cadences tale with the use of fabulous metaphors throughout. The novel is poetic in a sense with its lyrical pose. It is a mysterious and eerie story, yet the images portrayed are beautiful, bold and bright. This is an extremely thought-provoking tale. It is a book you will want to linger in and savor. Yet it is short enough (just over 200 pages), and full of just the right amount of engaging thrill, that it can easily be consumed in a single sitting.

Rating: 5 Stars

To sum it up: A very well-written teen novel that explores many different sides to teenage life, including friendship, families, greed, lust, love, and secrets. This one will be big.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ten Great Chapter Book Read-Alouds

There's something magical that happens when a book is read aloud. I think back to those titles that were read to me as a child - Hatchet, Ramona Quimby age 8, The Borrowers, Freckle Juice, The Indian in the Cupboard, Charlotte's Web.  During these readings the characters seemed to jump out of the pages and, best of all, I was sharing the experience with others. And now years later these titles still hold a special place with me.

I love reading aloud to my children every night, and now that they have grown (ages 9 and 12) and we have moved from picture books to chapter books, the experience is only enhanced. I see their imagination grow as I read, I see the inquisitive nature in their eyes, and we get the opportunity to discuss very important details aloud within the context of a story.  Here is a short list of titles we have recently read that we would highly recommend to others.

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Summary: August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Why I love it: While telling Auggie's story a variety of perspectives are introduced. Not only do readers get to hear how Auggie is feeling, but his sister explains life from her vantage point, as do his friends and even the sister's new boyfriend. This is a great book to read with children as it reinforces that differences on the outside do not necessarily equate to differences on the inside. It gives children an idea of what the other person is feeling, imploring empathy.

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Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

Summary: Rump has never known his full name—his mother died before she could tell him. So all his life he’s been teased and bullied for his half-a-name. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. For Rump discovers he can spin straw into gold. Magical gold.
His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous—and she’s right! That gold is worth its weight in trouble. And with each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse.
There’s only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end.
Why I love it: This is the story Rumpelstiltskin as you have never heard it before. It is funny but address serious issues of betrayal and bullying and making the right choice. A great imagitive tale.

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Holes by Louis Sachar

Summary: Accused of a crime he did not commit, Stanley Yelnats is sentenced to Camp Green Lake for rehabilitation. Almost immediately Stanley realizes digging a large hole each day is not just punishment. The Warden is looking for something special.

While digging Stanley thinks about his family's history. Through these flashbacks, two additional stories are told. These plots weave together to form a complex and wonderful novel. Will all the plots fit together? Will the Warden find what she is looking for?

Why I love it: Stanley is a character to root for and it is always more fun to root for someone in the company of others. The mystery is also more fun to solve as a team. Read it and then watch the movie as both are great!

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Summary: Nine year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution or the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country.
All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.
Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

Why I love it: A poignant tale but one so powerful. This book shares the story of WWII from the view point of an innocent Nazi child. This title provides the opportunity to discuss the horrible injustices done to the Jews during World War II, as well as the importance of religious freedom.

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Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Summary: For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world.  Enchanting?  Absolutely! Exciting? You bet.  Safe?  Well, actually, quite the opposite . . .
Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven.  Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies.  However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives.  To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most.

Why I love it: This is a fantastic fantasy series sure to appeal to Harry Potter fans. It is unpredictable and wonderfully imaginative. The reader is quickly drawn into the world of Fablehaven.

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 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Summary: The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar. Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends, and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship-and forgiveness-can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.

Why I love it: This is just a sweet story about a tween girl finding herself in the midst of family dishevel. It just feels authentic and is one that my children will remember long into the future.

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 The BFG by Roald Dahl
Summary: "Well, first of all," said the BFG, "human beans is not really believing in giants, is they? Human beans is not thinking we exist." Sophie discovers that giants not only exist, but that there are a great many of them who like to guzzle and swallomp nice little chiddlers. But not the Big Friendly Giant. He and Sophie cook up an ingenious plot to free the world of troggle-humping — forever.
The BFG — Big Friendly Giant — is no ordinary bone-crushing giant: he is far too nice. How he and his tiny friend, Sophie, conspire to put an end to the loathsome activities of the other Giants is marvelously told by a writer and an artist who "are uncanny in their understanding of what children like to read and see".

Why I love it: I adore the Big Friendly Giant. He is just a good guy. Read the summary aloud and you'll discover on your own why this one is so fun to read aloud. It will be sure to win you laughs galore!

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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Summary: Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behavior through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

Why I love it: An imaginative classic with a great message. Everyone should read this one at least once. So why not share it with your children?

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Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Summary: How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?        
At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy's gift—the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse—once and for all.

Why I love it: A strong female protagonist stops at nothing to overcome obstacles leading to her happiness. Plus this is such a fun tale and the book is so much better than the movie.

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Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Summary: This is quite possibly the most exciting adventure ever to be written about milk since Tolstoy's epic novel War and Milk. Also it has aliens, pirates, dinosaurs and wumpires in it (but not the handsome, misunderstood kind), also a never-adequately-explained-bowl-of-piranhas, not to mention a Volcano God.

Why I love it: Seriously one clever book. You never know where the next page will take you, making reading aloud oh-so-fun!!


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