Friday, December 31, 2010

my 2010 year in review blog post

I decided a year or so ago to start doing a year end post to kind of sum up my year. Mostly for me so I can look back and see when significant things happened, but also for any of you who just really wanted to know what I did this year :) 
I didn’t find cures for diseases, or win any awards, or get my name in the tabloids, but I experienced things and learned some things about myself. I can’t complain too much.


I didn’t see any Broadway shows (even on tour) or concerts this year. I think that’s a first in many years. This must be remedied in the new year.

I survived The School Year That Almost Killed Me. Not that I didn’t like the kids I had last year, I loved them to pieces. It was just a whole group of things that came together to make it one tough school year. Thankfully I really, simply adore my current group of 7th graders (I just wish more of them would catch on to two step equations) and I don’t have as many demands on my time or sanity.

I got into sort of a funk around September/October. I think I have it pegged to a couple of significant things. I officially retired as a color guard instructor- something that has defined part of my life for a very long time. It was something that needed to be done, I just hate that it ended the way that it did. Also, my eyes were finally opened to some things. Misunderstanding or not, some things could have been handled better. With all things, it’s really hard when you’ve invested so much time and effort into something. Even when the signs are all there it’s hard to walk away.

I decided that one of the mottoes for my life is- I’m too old for this crap.

(edited to add) How could I forget- I had jury duty for the first (and hopefully last) time this year.

On a more positive note:

I went to Florida THREE times. Two of those times were Orlando-once for a family trip and once for a conference. I love to travel.

I visited Hogwarts! And ate at the Three Broomsticks! And drank Butterbeer! And got a Wand! and a Pygmy Puff! I think the Wizarding World of Harry Potter might have been the highlight of my year.

I met some really awesome authors again this year and got tons of books to add to my To Read pile. Hopefully, I will achieve my goal of reading 100 books in 2011.

I played Charlotte in the play Charlotte’s Web. That was my first big role and I loved.every.minute.

I also played Cook in the high school’s production of Alice in Wonderland. While I love being in plays, I had more fun watching kids I had in class act on stage for the first time.

I sang in front of people for the first time...and I wasn’t bad! I didn’t know anyone there but the voice teacher & Mark, I was nervous as heck and didn’t look up much from the page with the words but I sounded decent.

I am thankful for my husband, Mark, who has helped me keep my sanity, helped me laugh when I felt like crying, helped me make decisions and has been my biggest cheerleader since day one.

Goals for 2011:
Read more
Write a lot more
Laugh more
audition for a musical
sing in front of people I know
see at least one show
meet Laura in person this year (Laura, we WILL make this happen this year! I’m coming to Chicago in November.)

I’ll stop there. There is so much more I want to accomplish in the coming year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

What I loved and what I WANT!

These are my favorite books that I read this year, not that they necessarily were published this year. If you read nothing else from my 2010 book list, at least pick these up. Mockingjay is book 3 in the Hunger Games trilogy & Guardian of the Gate is book 2 in the Prophecy of the Sisters series.

In no particular order, these are MUST READS!!

White Cat by Holly Black (this might possibly be my fave of the year)

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Forest of Hands & Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Huntress by Malinda Lo

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink

Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Aaaaaaand, here is my list of books that are being released in 2011 that I am DYING to get my grubby little hands on. I can haz advanced copy plz?

Also, in no particular order, the GIMME GIMME list:

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

Red Glove by Holly Black

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

The Dark & Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Circle of Fire by Michelle Zink

Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr

Awakened by PC Cast

Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz

Lost in Time by Melissa de la Cruz

OMG I almost forgot! The 13th Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

No worries, my TO READ pile is huge and I will have plenty to keep myself occupied while I wait for these :)

What I read in 2010

Well, I didn't reach my goal of reading 100 books this year. There were a couple of months where I only read 3 and I got into a funk around September/October and it threw me off. I am determined to achieve it next year though!

Here is my list of what I did read. With the exception of Deathly Hallows and two books I read with my enrichment class, all books are first timers. I did listen to two audiobooks of books that I read this year and included them because I listened to them after I read the books (and it made them so much better!) I will post another blog of my favorites from this list later.

Total- 75 books- not too shabby.

2010 Book list


Pendragon:The Pilgrims of Rayne~ DJ MacHale (547 pages)

Dark Magic bk4~Cate Tiernan (186 pages.)

Pendragon bk 9: Raven Rise~DJ MacHale (544 pages.)

Awakening bk5~Cate Tiernan (188 pages)

Spellbound bk6~Cate Tiernan (190 pages)

The Calling bk 7~Cate Tiernan(189 pages)

Changeling bk8~Cate Tiernan (188 pages)

The Lightning Thief~Rick Riordan (375 pages)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid~Jeff Kinney (217 pages)

Strife bk9~Cate Tiernan (188 pages)

10 books, 2812 pages


Seeker bk 10~ Cate Tiernan (pages 172)

Origins bk 11~Cate Tiernan (pages 188)

Guardian of the Gate~Michelle Zink (340 pages)

Eclipse bk 12~Cate Tiernan (pages 184)

Reckoning bk13~Cate Tiernan (189 pages)

Full Circle bk 14~ Cate Tiernan (190 pages)

Night's Child bk 15~Cate Tiernan (318 pages)

7 books 1554 pages

cumulative- 17 books 4393 pages


Catching Fire ~Suzanne Collins (391 pages)

Shiver ~Maggie Stiefvater (390 pages)

Stop in the Name of Pants ~Louise Rennison (310 pages)

Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?~ Louise Rennsion (310 pages)

The Forest of Hands & Teeth ~Carrie Ryan (310 pages)

Lessons from a Dead Girl~ Jo Knowles (215 pages)

Living Dead Girl~ Elizabeth Scott (170 pages)

7 books 2096 pages

cumulative- 24 books 6489 pages


Prom ~Laurie Halse Anderson (215 pages)

Need~Carrie Jones (290 pages)

The Dead Tossed Waves~Carrie Ryan (407 pages)

Twilight The Graphic Novel vl 1~Stephenie Meyer/Young Kim (224 pages)

Captivate ~ Carrie Jones (258 pages)

Hero Type~ Barry Lyga (304 pages)

6 books 1698 pages

30 books 8187 pages


An Abundance of Katherines ~ John Green (256 pages)

Linger~ Maggie Stiefvater (362 pages)

Radiant Shadows~ Melissa Marr (352 pages)

3 books 970 pages

33 books 9157 pages


Burned~PC Cast & Kristin Cast (323 pages)

Pendragon book 10:Soldiers of Halla~ DJ MacHale (594 pages)

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles: The First Escape ~ GP Taylor (280 pages)

Happy Birthday Bad Kitty ~Nick Bruel (159 pages)

Hate That Cat~ Sharon Creech (153 pages)

Sixth Grade Glommers, Norks, & Me ~ Lisa Papademetriou (217 pages)

Top Eight~ Katie Finn (308 pages)

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac~Gebrielle Zevin (284 pages)

The Summoning ~ Kelley Armstrong (390 pages)

The Awakening ~ Kelley Armstrong (360 pages)

Charlotte’s Web:a full length play ~ Joseph Robinette (adapted from EB White) (72 pages)

Second Short Life of Bree Tanner~Stephenie Meyer (192 pages)

12 books 3332 pages

45 books 12489 pages


Reckoning~Kelley Armstrong (391 pages)

Blue Bloods~Melissa De La Cruz (302 pages)

Masquerade ~Melissa De La Cruz (305 pages)

Revelations ~ Melissa De La Cruz (264 pages)

Van Alen Legacy ~ Melissa De La Cruz (369 pages)

The Book of Dreams~ O.R. Melling (698 pages)

Liar ~ Justine Larbalestier (376 pages)

Luv Ya Bunches~ Lauren Myracle (335 pages)

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows~ JK Rowling

9 books

55 books to-date


Soul Enchilada~ David MacInnis Gill

Dark Song ~Gail Giles 292 pages

Mockingjay ~ Suzanne Collins 398 pages

September- December

Witches’ Kitchen~

The Hollow~ Jessica Verday

Going Bovine~ Libba Bray

Misguided Angel~ Melissa de la Cruz

White Cat~ Holly Black

Gathering~ Kelley Armstrong

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Life bk 1~ Bryan Lee O’ Malley

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World bk2~ Bryan Lee O’Malley

Middle School- The Worst Years of My Life

White Cat audiobook ~ Holly Black

Forest of Hands & Teeth audiobook~ Carrie Ryan

There’s a Wocket in my Pocket~ Dr. Seuss

Huntress~ Malinda Lo

Bloody Valentine~ Melissa de la Cruz

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland play adapted by Tim Kelly

Re-reads (with class)

Sisters Grimm- Fairy tale detectives~Michael Buckley

Wonderful Wizard of Oz ~ Frank L Baum

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Archvillain by Barry Lyga CONTEST!

I have a SIGNED advanced copy of the middle grade novel ARCHVILLAIN by Barry Lyga that I am giving away. He is the author of Boy Toy, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl, Goth Girl Rising, and many more.
ARCHVILLAIN is the story of Kyle Camden, a middle school kid who just happened to be in a field when a plasma storm hit that gave him super human powers - and sent an alien to earth. An alien who looks just like a kid. Everyone thinks Mighty Mike, with his awesome powers, is wonderful. No one except Kyle knows the truth about his alienness and Kyle is on a mission to stop him, however misguided his attempts are.
Archvillain is the funny first book in a series for middle schoolers.

And I'm giving you the chance to win it. All you have to do is leave a comment telling me who your favorite fictional villain is.
You can also earn extra entries by promoting this contest. For every place that you post a link to this contest I will give you an extra entry. All you have to do is leave me a comment with the link.

If you haven't checked out any of Barry Lyga's books before, do it! They are some of my favorites.

(this contest is also being held on my Facebook page)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Top 100 YA Novels via Persnickety Snark's Poll

My friend Liz posted this on her blog and I am borrowing the idea.
From the PersnicketySnark blog. She took a poll of her readers earlier this year and came up with a list of the top 100 YA novels. Bolded novels are ones I have read

Top 100 YA Novels via Persnickety Snark's Poll

#100 The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (1985) 

#99 The Pigman by Paul Zindel (1969)
#98 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1987)
#97 Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (2010) 

#96 The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks (2009) 

#95 Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols (2009)
#94 Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (2008) 

#93 Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher (2001)
#92 Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (1994) 

#91 The Astonishing life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party (2006)

#90 Glass Houses by Rachel Caine (2006) 

#89 A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle (1980) 

#88 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (2003) 

#87 An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (2006) 

#86 The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (1990)
#85 Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead (2008)
#84 Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (2006)
#83 The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2008) 

#82 Jacob I Have Loved by Katherine Paterson (1980)
#81 The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (2009)

#80 Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen (1998) 

#79 Lord of the Flies by William Golding (1954) 

#78 Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (2006)
#77 Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (1971) 

#76 The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares (2001) 

#75 Feed by MT Anderson (2001)
#74 The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley (1983) 

#73 Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley (1978)

#72 Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009)
#71 The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner (2006)

#70 If I Stay by Gayle Forman (2009) 

#69 Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison (1999)

#68 Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (2008)
#67 Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen (1999) 

#66 City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (2009)
#65 How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (2004) 

#64 Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta (1992)

#63 The Diary of a Young Girl (1947)
#62 Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block (1989) 

#61 The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (1974) 

#60 Fire by Kristin Cashore (2009)

#59 Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (2006)

#58 Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (2007) 

#57 Dreamland by Sarah Dessen (2000)
#56 Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty (2003) 

#55 Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (2003) 

#54 Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (2009) 

#53 The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (1973)
#52 Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
#51 Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (2000)

#50 The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (2000)

#49 Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (1997)
#48 I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948) 

#47 Forever by Judy Blume (1975)
#46 Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margie Stohl (2009) 

#45 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling (2003)
#44 Sabriel by Garth Nix (2003) 

#43 Evernight by Claudia Gray (2008) 

#42 The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (2000) 

#41 Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen (2008)

#40 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (2007)
#39 A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943) 

#38 Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (2009)

#37 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (2000)

#36 Paper Towns by John Green (2008) 

#35 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978)
#34 Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
#33 The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (2008) 

#32 Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (1995)
#31 A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (2003) 

#30 Uglies by Scott Westerfeld (2005)

#29 Harry and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling (2005) 

#28 Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (1985) 

#27 Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (1983)
#26 The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien (1954) 

#25 Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (2001)
#24 Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (2007) 

#23 Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2008) 

#22 Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (2007) 

#21 Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (2009) 

#20 Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen 

#19 The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (1999) 

#18 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (1999) 

#17 Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951) 

#16 On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2006) 

#15 City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (2005) 

#14 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868) 

#13 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling (2007) 

#12 Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (2006) 

#11 Looking for Alaska by John Green (2005)

#10 This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (2002) 

#9 Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (2005) 

#8 The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967) 

#7 The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2006) 

#6 The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen (2004) 

#5 Northern Lights [The Golden Compass] by Philip Pullman (1995) 

#4 Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (1996) 

#3 To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960) 

#2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by JK Rowling (1996)

#1 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (2008)

I've read 42 of these. I own several more that are on this list and they are on my TO- READ list, which is really really long.
I love lists like this so I can see what other people are reading and see which of my favorites made the list.

How many have you read? What books are not included that you like?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Witches' Kitchen

Little, Brown offered a few teachers the opportunity to provide middle school students with galley (or advanced reader copies) of some of their books in order to get feedback from the target group. The first book we received was The Witches's Kitchen by Allen Williams.

Toad wakes up and realizes she is dangling above a cauldron. She doesn't know how she got there, nor does she know if she was always a toad. She is able to get free and tries to find her way out. One problem though- the Kitchen is constantly moving and many things are lurking trying to sabotage her way and turn her over to the Witches. She meets a ragtag group of creatures that help her find a way out and to find out who she is.

The book started a little slow but the action did pick up. However, there were a few times that I felt the action was kind of repeating itself. I don't really feel that there was a lot of character development because while I was rooting for Toad, I didn't really feel like I knew a lot about her. I learned more about Jack and was disappointed in how his story worked out.

While I liked The Witches' Kitchen, I can only hope there is another book with these characters. I guess the ending was a let down considering how much time was spent getting there.


I was REALLY hoping Jack would overcome his evil father and show back up with Toad.

This book was sent to me by the publisher. This has no influence on my review.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mockingjay-no spoilers here!

The wait is over! Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, is finally out!

For those new to the Hunger Games- these books are set in post- apocalyptic times and the US is now known as Panem and is divided into 13 districts. To remind the other 12 districts of the failed uprising attempt by District 13, each district must send two kids to fight to the death in the televised Hunger Games. The winner is set up for life and his or her family no longer has to worry about having enough food,etc. The story follows Katniss Everdeen and her battle to win the games.

Without spoiling- Mockingjay still follows Katniss and her battle against the Capitol. It is much more action packed and violent. There was one time that I gasped aloud because something so unexpected caught me off guard. But, as in the other books, the violence is not glamorized.

There was a lot of talk about Team Peeta or Team Gale as the series progressed. Honestly I couldn't tell you whose team I was on because I could see pros and cons of both choices and as I read Mockingjay I couldn't have told you who she was going to end up or if she was going to end up with anyone at all.

Suzanne Collins packs so much action in this book. One of the things I love about this series is that the main character is a girl who is not afraid to get in there and get dirty. Katniss doesn't sit back and let people fight for her, she's the one who steps up.

And I am going to let you in on a little secret- I DIDN'T PEEK AT THE END! I am terrible about that! But this book fell in with Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows & Breaking Dawn and I forced myself not to look (and it was hard not to!) because I wanted to experience the story as it unfolded. I am so glad I did.

For me this was a great ending to the series. I was not disappointed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Middle School book recommendations

I was recently asked for some recommendations of books for middle schoolers. Since I began teaching middle & high school most of my reading comes from Young Adult fiction. These books tend to deal with tougher issues that high schoolers (and some middle schoolers) deal with. YA books tend to have more language and some subject matters that parents of younger middle schoolers prefer their kids not be exposed to yet. While these books are important, I respect the parents' decision for their own children here.

After going through most of my library I have come up with a list of books that I, as an avid book reader and teacher, would recommend to any kid. I have also linked each book title to its webpage or, when one was not available, to a bookseller. I am not getting any kickbacks from anyone- publishers, booksellers, authors, etc, for promoting these books. I just think they are great books that get kids into reading.

Some of these books have the occasional strong language and some fantasy violence. Neither of which are to the extreme. Nor should they exclude a book from this list.

Harry Potter series by JK Rowling- I think you know the story. An orphan is raised by his aunt & uncle until he discovers he is a wizard and is the only to have survived a killing curse. Even if you've seen the movies, read the books! While I love the movies, the books are so much richer and more detailed.

A series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket- Orphans fight against the evil Count Olaf.

Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis- A fanastical journey through the wardrobe for 4 kids who discover they are royalty in Narnia and are called back when Narnia needs them most.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians series by Rick Riordan- Percy discovers that he is the son of Poseidon and embarks on several journeys to save the world

Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson-five youngsters find themselves trapped as virtual images of themselves and have to battle the "Disney villains & witches after the park closes. A great series for Disney fans. The first is set in Magic Kingdom, the second in Animal Kingdom, & the third (which I've not yet read) in Epcot.

Pendragon series by DJ MacHale- 14 yr old Bobby Pendragon discovers everything about his life is not what it seems when he discovers he is a traveler and must travel to different "territories" in order to battle the evil Saint Dane for control of all of Halla. A great series for boys.

Shadow Children series (Among the Hidden, Among the Importers, Among the Betrayed, etc) by Margaret Peterson Haddix-Families are only allowed to have two children. The Shadow children are the hidden third children.

Giver, Gathering Blue, & Messenger by Lois Lowry- A dystopian society where everything is controlled- to what people wear, to who they marry, to what jobs they have. Jonas is selected to become the next Receiver of Memory and discovers that the restrictions are there to protect people from war, famine, etc, but in the process good things like celebrations have been taken away. He has some tough decisions to make when the fate of a baby comes into question.Gathering Blue & Messenger are companion novels set in similar societies.

Inkheart Trilogy by Cornelia Funke- A man can read characters out of books & evil man escapes from one who wants him to read out more and more. So much better than the movie.

Charlie Bone series by Jenny Nimmo-A kid discovers he has the ability to go into pictures & is sent to a school where he meets a few other students with different abilities. They discover they are descendants of the Red King but not all of them are on the same side.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini (this is the first of the series)- A boy finds a dragon egg and becomes a dragon rider. He is pursued by a man who wants to destroy all dragon riders. MUCH better than the movie.

Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage- the seventh son of a seventh son discovers he has magical abilities.

City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass (the Mortal Instruments series) by Cassandra Clare- Clary discovers the existence of the Shadowhunters who are tasked with protecting the world from evil.

Land of Elyon series by Patrick Carman- a girl spends another summer in a city surrounded by high walls that are there to protect the town from the evil outside. She discovers the truth is much more than she is being told.

The Sisters Grimm
by Michael Buckley- The Grimm sisters are the great, great-something nieces of the Grimm Brothers. After their parents disappear and they are shuffled to different foster homes they end up with the only living relative- a grandmother they thought was dead. She is the keeper of Ferryport Landing and is in charge of the fairy tale characters living there. Buckley does a great job of weaving different characters & stories into these books. I have read the first one with my classes over the years and they love the story.

My Sister the Vampire by Sienna Mercer- A girl moves to a new town and discovers she has a twin....who happens to be a vampire. A cute series for girls.

Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley- At the start of a new school year girl decides she is no longer going to be invisible at school. She makes the decision to dress differently and talk to her crush. She is lab partnered with her crush and when everyone leaves the class she celebrates by popping a gummy bear in her mouth- and chokes to death. She spends the rest of the book trying to figure out how to get her ghost to move on to the next realm. A funny book!

Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (and the soon to be released Mockingjay)- A dystopian story where the US is divided into 13 districts after some unnamed war. To remind the other 12 districts of the failed uprising by the 13th several years prior, the government requires all districts to send 2 kids to fight to the death during a televised contest. The winner is set up in a nice house and their families no longer have to worry about food. Very action packed. One of the best series I've read. The highly anticipated series finale-Mockingjay comes out August 24.
Edited to add:There is violence in here because of the nature of the Hunger Games- they are literally fighting to the death (for example-there are hybrid hornets in a nest that gets cut down over some of the contestants). In my opinion, Collins writes it in a way that fits the story and doesn't glamorize it. I would compare the level similar to that in the later Harry Potter books. Please give these books a shot and read more reviews online before passing them by!

These next few series are some that I have not read but I have had several boys who love them. I had a waiting list for them last year.

Spy High series By AJ Butcher (I've not read these but I have several boys who love this series)

Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz (another I've not read but my boys love)

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud (another that my boys love)

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver

These are not the only books I recommend but I will stop here for now. I love books where the kid is the hero and gets to battle (and usually defeats) evil forces.

Please feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments or comment on books in this list.

Later I will post a list of recommended books for older kids.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

July Reads

I will be better at reviewing books on this blog! I haven't blogged in over a month. I got extremely lazy having more time off in July, but I am going to try to do better.

Reckoning~Kelley Armstrong (391 pages) the third book in the series. Has a little of everything-witches, werewolves, etc. good stuff.
Blue Bloods~Melissa De La Cruz (302 pages) This series follows kids who discover they are vampires at an elite private school.
Masquerade ~Melissa De La Cruz (305 pages)
Revelations ~ Melissa De La Cruz (264 pages)
Van Alen Legacy ~ Melissa De La Cruz (369 pages)
The Book of Dreams~ O.R. Melling (698 pages) The final book in the Chronicles of Faerie. It dragged a little in spots but worth it in the end
Liar ~ Justine Larbalestier (376 pages) main character is an habitual liar. I honestly didn't know if she was lying after I finished. I need someone else to read this book so we can discuss!!
Luv Ya Bunches~ Lauren Myracle (335 pages) follows a group of girls as they enter middle school. there was controversy about this book bc one of the girls has two moms *gasp* *rolleyes*
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows~ JK Rowling my favorite book of all time

previous reads

Friday, July 02, 2010

May & June reads

I forgot to post my list that I read in May so I'm doubling up. I got to catch up on my reading!

An Abundance of Katherines ~ John Green (256 pages) (love John Green)
Linger~ Maggie Stiefvater (362 pages) (the thrilling sequel to Shiver that's not out until later this month. SO GOOD)
Radiant Shadows~ Melissa Marr (352 pages) (the latest book a series about faeries)

3 books 970 pages

33 books 9157 pages

Burned~PC Cast & Kristin Cast (323 pages) (Loved the story, but they went overboard w/ the language to the point of ridiculousness. and language does not offend me)
Pendragon book 10:Soldiers of Halla~ DJ MacHale (594 pages) (the final chapter in the Pendragon series)
The Dopple Ganger Chroicles:The First Escape ~ GP Taylor (280 pages) (this one alternates between mostly written and some graphic novel storytelling. can't wait for the next one)
Happy Birthday Bad Kitty ~Nick Bruel (159 pages) (a lower grade book about kitties. love it)
Hate That Cat~ Sharon Creech (153 pages) (by the author of love that dog. written poem style)
Sixth Grade Glommers, Norks, & Me ~ Lisa Papademetriou (217 pages) (cute middle grade book)
Top Eight~ Katie Finn (308 pages) (a girl's facebook-type social media is hacked and she has to clean up the mess)
Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac~Gebrielle Zevin (284 pages) (a girl falls and loses her memory. Her journey back during her school year)
The Summoning ~ Kelley Armstrong (390 pages) (book 1. you have shapeshifters, witches, shamans, necromancers, sorcerers. good stuff!)
The Awakening ~ Kelley Armstrong (360 pages) (book 2)
Charlotte’s Web:a full length play ~ Joseph Robinette (adapted from EB White) (72 pages)
Second Short Life of Bree Tanner~Stephenie Meyer (192 pages) (an Eclipse novel focusing on a minor character but gives a lot of background info)

12 books 3332 pages

45 books 12489 pages

Previous reads

Monday, June 07, 2010

Disney Tips

Hubby & I went to Walt Disney World with my parents and 5 yr old nephew. It was a great trip. I visited several websites prior to our trip and almost got information overload. So, to save you some time, I thought I would put together some tips and hints to make your trip better.

1. Stay in a Disney Resort. They will pick you up for free at the airport and take you to your resort. And if you plan so ahead of time, you can skip baggage claim. They will send you yellow tags ahead of time to put on your luggage and will claim your bags for you. They will arrive at your resort a couple of hours later so pack essentials (including swimsuits) in your carry on.
Another advantage of staying in a Disney Resort is the free shuttles to the Disney parks. Also, each member of your party gets a keepsake Disney mug that you can refill for free at the resort food court as much as you want. Soft drinks, lemonade, coffee, tea etc.
Yet another perk is being able to charge things to your room and having your purchases sent to your room instead of wagging them all over the park.

2. Take advantage of the Magic Your Way packages and get the meal plan! We did the Quick service dining where each person got 2 snacks and 2 quick service meals for every night we booked. They are all pooled together so you can get them in any order and use anyone's card to get them. And let me tell you, they are worth it! The first night there we ate in Downtown Disney at Wolfgang Puck Cafe and if we had paid for it, it would have cost $95. The counter service meals include an entree, a drink, and a dessert (you can't get refills in most of these places so order the large drink). You get more than enough food. I printed out a list of eligible restaurants found here and took with us so it would be easier to decide. I was afraid that we would be stuck eating hamburgers & hot dogs all week, but there is so much variety and everything we got was delicious. We had two meals left over the last night bc Mark & I got stuck longer at Universal than we intended but we were able to trade them in for three snacks each. We also had snacks left over so we went to the resort food court and stocked up for the trip home. Snack options are listed here. So much to choose from!

3. Take advantage of the Extra Magical hours at several of the parks. If you stay in a Disney resort you can get to some parks earlier or stay later than the general public. Keep in mind that not all rides and attractions are open during the extended hours (you can find which ones are here ). I planned our park visits according to which days they had extended hours. The first day we got almost right on Space Mountain first thing. You can check the calendar here
for the hours. Also, look for which rides utilize the Fast Pass system and go there first. If the wait is not too long, hop in line. If the wait is long, get a Fast Pass ticket. Fast pass info is here. Everyone who plans to ride will need to use their park ticket to get a Fast Pass ticket.

4. Get the Park Hopper pass. This is one thing that I wish we had done. For us, Hollywood studios was not an all day park and I would have loved to have gone back over to Magic Kingdom or Epcot later that day. Without it, you are free to leave and come back to the same park on the same day but being able to hop parks would have been nice.

5. Take a water bottle to refill at the water fountains. And take some drink powder to mix in with it (like the powerade or crystal lite powders). Some of the fountains are filtered but most taste like tap water so the powder helps. And it's a way to save your snack credits for food and not use them up on bottled water.

6. Take a part of one day to visit Universal's Islands of Adventure, especially if you are a Harry Potter fan. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter section will be open June 18 and is a must for any Potter fan (my thoughts about that are here.) Admission to that section is included with your Islands of Adventure park ticket (around $78). If you do go, call ahead to schedule your transport (usually the night before) We used Mears. It was $18 each for round trip. One thing to keep in mind, though, their first pick up time from the park is 3:15 and you have to call at least 2 hours before to schedule your return trip. Had I known that ahead of time I might have done things differently since we didn't really want to stay until 3:15. There is a movie theater right outside the park in the City Walk area, so Mark & I watched a movie until pick up time.

7. Make sure to pick up a TIMES GUIDE when you pick up your park map. This will tell you when shows and character greetings are scheduled so you can plan your day accordingly.

Everyone has their favorites but here is a quick list of some must dos that we enjoyed:

Magic Kingdom
Splash Mountain
- my 5yr old nephew wanted to ride this from the moment he saw it. It was a lot of fun. We got a little wet which helped cool us off since it was so hot in the park (just got splashed a little, not soaking)
Pirates of the Caribbean Capt Jack has been added!
Space Mountain-This is a dark and wild roller coaster ride. I think Austin might have been scared at first but he said he liked it when we got off.
Walt Disney World Railroad is a must if, like us, you have a kid who is a railroad fan. It's a nice, cool ride around the park.
Haunted Mansion ghosts sit in your lap!
It's a Small World really cool dolls of the world sing to you as you take an indoor boat ride (but once you read Kingdom Keepers you'll never look at them the same way!)
Mad Tea Party fast spinning cups. The 5 yr old loved it.
Parade They have different parades at different times of the year. We saw the Spectral Magic parade. Very nice.

Hollywood Studios
The Great Movie Ride
you journey through many old movies and become part of the show
Indian Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular a 30 minute show featuring really cool stunts and how they are done
Muppet Vision 3D a 3D show featuring your favorite muppets
Star Tours a Star Wars flight simulator (unfortunately you don't end up in Endor, much to the disappointment of a kid who was on it when we were)
Toy Story Midway Mania A fast pass is recommended but this was a lot of fun. As you move around in your buggy you have to shoot at different things and try to beat your buggy mate (I won over Mark though he had better hit rate than I did)

Disappointments at Hollywood:
Studio Backlot Tour
the special effects with the tanker didn't go off and the rest of the tour, for me, just wasn't as interesting.
Journey into Narnia:Prince Caspian I was expecting more. It was a 15 min retelling of the movie with a few costumes and props thrown in. I hope they add more to this.

Spaceship Earth you travel through the big Epcot ball and at the end a little video is shown of your future using your picture. It's hilarious. Once you finish the ride stop by and have it emailed to you.
World Showcase visit several countries in one day. You can buy a "passport" and have it stamped at the different countries and you can have the kids make a mask and get something added to it at different stations as well
Soarin I didn't ride this one, but my parents and nephew did. They really liked it. They said it was like you were hang gliding

Animal Kingdom
Festival of the Lion King
It is not the Lion King Broadway show but it has some of the music and characters in a fun and high energy show.
Kilimanjaro Safaris a safari vehicle takes you through the savanna so you can catch a glimpse of elephants, giraffes, lions and much more
Conservation station take the Wildlife express train over to see some animals up close. Go early and you might get to see an animal being treated.
I wanted to ride Expedition Everest but no one would ride with me.
Finding Nemo the Musical a stage show retelling of Finding Nemo. The costumes and puppets are great!

Skip Primeval Whirl I thought it was going to be like the Tea cups but in roller coaster form. This ride slings you around way too much, way more than a coaster should. Austin & I both had headaches when we got off.

These are just a few of the tips and highlights from our trip. I hope you found some useful info here that will help you plan your trip

Helpful sites:
Walt Disney World Resorts

disney forum boards

Saturday, June 05, 2010

My journey into Hogwarts

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a huge Harry Potter nerd. I make no apologies for that and am not embarrassed one bit to admit I was GIDDY when I found out that Universal studios was using part of their park for Harry Potter.

Flash forward to this week. Even though it has not had its GRAND OPENING, they began letting people who had bought their hotel packages in for a couple of hours earlier this week. I was not one of those people but I kept hoping. Then they started letting the general public in (you had to buy a ticket to Islands of Adventure, of course, which I had already done).

Since I was staying in one of the Disney Resorts, I booked my transport over to Universal. We got picked up at 8:05 but with the other stops and people taking for.freakin.ever to get on the bus, it was a little after nine when we were let off the bus. Then I had haul tail to get to the park, exchange my ticket voucher for a ticket in, then sprint as fast as I could to the Potter area...still not knowing if I could get in.

Then I heard the magical words- Wizarding World is open until 10. We picked up the pace bc at that point it was 9:25. What I didn't know yet was that once you are in, you can stay, they just didn't let anyone else in after 10.

Walking in, the first thing you come to is the Hogwarts Express. Walking on through Hogsmead, all of the storefronts are decorated with great care. You can't go in every store, most are just for decoration, but there are several to see. And what's great- the receipts have the store names on them! I have some from Zonko's, Dervish & Bangs, Filch's someone on Twitter said- This is so surreal; like mixing fiction & reality.

Must sees & dos:
1. Stop by the Butterbeer cart and get a Frozen Butterbeer. It is a butterscotch-y flavored drink and is slushy. Also, pay the extra and get a keepsake mug (at least the first time) . Also, buy a Pumpkin juice for the bottle if for nothing else (it tastes a little like pumpkin pie and I am not a huge fan)
And take a picture of your first Butterbeer mustache!

2. Zonko's and Honeyduke's are connected on the inside. Go in and pick up a chocolate frog and many of the other Potter world goodies (canary cremes, Bertie Botts, etc) then walk through to the Pygmy Puffs. They are 12.95 and completely adorable. When you go to buy it, you have to name it first. Then they make you ring this huge bell and announce to the whole store the name of your puff. I named mine Lulu :)

3. Even if you don't want to buy a wand, go to Ollivander's show. It takes maybe 10 minutes. They let in about 25 people at a time. Ollivander chooses one or two people to see if a wand will chose them. He hands them a wand & tells them to make a bell ring once, then hands them another to do another task, then when handed the third wand the person is lit up,air blows around them, music swells (like what happens when Harry gets chosen by his wand). It's cool to watch. Then you proceed into the Owl Post & Dervish & Bangs where the wands, postcards, and other goodies are for sale. (If you want to skip the show, you can head straight into these shops.)
When you buy postcards they stamp them with the owl post postmark, but as far as I know, you can't mail them from there.

4. Go through the Hogwarts castle and ride the Forbidden Journey. (SPOILERISH) You take a walk through the greenhouses then the castle where you see the portraits moving and talking. When you step in to Dumbledore's office, he comes out to greet you and welcome you as muggles to the castle. (it's a video but it looks really good). You move on to the Defense against the Dark Arts classroom that Lockhart used in Chamber of Secrets where you hear people entering at the top of the stairs then Harry, Ron & Hermione come out from under the cloak and tell you essentially that if you don't move along you will be subjected to a History of Magic lesson from Prof Binns. Honestly, I was trying to take it all in that I missed most of what was said.
The Sorting Hat warns you about the ride (the regular same old dont ride if you're pregnant, ill etc but said in Sorting Hat rhyme) Then you get up to the ride itself. You sit four to a car side by side, separated by little walls. Your feet dangle and a harness comes down to strap you in. Then you are helped by Hermione & Floo powder out to the grounds of the castle. The ride itself is tamer than most roller coasters but you are still moved around, up & down, leaned back etc. as you "see" the grounds around you and follow Harry on his broom as he flies around. They way they projected this is amazing. It's part video and part animatronic (dragons, spiders, dementors, etc)
Go here to read an in depth review.
It was one of the coolest things I've ever done.
(cell phone pic- not the best quality) Dumbledore greeting us

Harry, Ron & Hermione
The Sorting Hat

When you finish the ride you end up at Filch's Emporium to buy even more stuff. Here I got a Hedwig puppet and a Gryffindor Potter shirt. You can also buy your picture from the Forbidden Journey ride, but like all of these types of photos, it is way overpriced.

Before you go through, you have to store all of your belongings in a locker. Even cameras unless they are thin enough to fit in the pocket behind you. We actually had to leave right before we got on the ride and put our camera up. We were escorted by a cast member so we were able to get right back on. It's free for the first hour and a half which was enough time for us to go through it. Since it wasn't at full capacity, I don't know how long it'll take to go through.

There are two other coasters that I was not able to ride. They shut those down soon after 10.

All of the workers in this section were dressed in Wizard robes or other school gear. You might also catch a quick show from the Durmstrang & Beauxbatons students.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter is not a huge area of the Islands of Adventure park but it is an absolute MUST for Potter fans. Admission to Wizarding World is included with your Islands of Adventure admission ticket (which is around $78). There are plenty of other things to do in the rest of the park.

I look forward to going back in November!

(more pictures are posted here)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Winner of Hero Type!

Thanks to all who commented! I used to plug the names in and the winner is:

Amber Gilmer!

Amber, I will be in touch and getting the book to you soon!

I'll have more contest throughout the summer. Keep reading.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Heroes - and a book contest

I have a signed copy of Hero Type by Barry Lyga to give away. In thinking about how to do that, I got to thinking about what makes someone a hero. I remember several years ago filling out my Myspace profile page and putting that very question in the "heroes" section-what makes someone a hero?

Is a hero someone who saves a life? Someone who excels in sports? Someone who is in the military or on the fire department or a law enforcement officer? Someone who stands up for his or her beliefs?

What happens when our heroes do something to get themselves knocked off their hero pedestal? Golden boy Tiger Woods has been criticized recently for his behavior and one of the things people are saying is that as role model he should have known better. Was he a hero before this happened?

I want your thoughts. I have a signed copy of Hero Type to give away. I will randomly choose the winner using one of the randomizing websites. This contest will close on May 23 at 11:59pm central time. I also have post cards from The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy & Goth Girl, Goth Girl Rising, & Boy Toy that I will include in this contest.

Here's how you can win and earn extra entries:

1. Comment on this blog post telling me what, in your opinion, makes someone a hero. You get one entry for your first comment only.

2. Post a link to this contest on your blog, facebook, twitter, etc. and send me the link (you can send me the link in comments, or send it to sandilu (at) hotmail (dot) com- please put "hero type contest" in the subject line.) You will get one entry for every place you post.

This is open to anyone. People outside the US are welcome to enter as well. I look forward to reading what you have to say!


April books

I didn't read nearly as many as I had wanted to, but summer break is only three weeks away so maybe I can get more read :)

Prom ~Laurie Halse Anderson (215 pages)
Need~Carrie Jones (290 pages)
The Dead Tossed Waves~Carrie Ryan (407 pages)
Twilight The Graphic Novel vl 1~Stephenie Meyer/Young Kim (224 pages)
Captivate ~ Carrie Jones (258 pages)
Hero Type~ Barry Lyga (304 pages)

6 books 1698 pages

cumulative 30 books 8187 pages

Prom is about a girl who has no intention of going to Prom but when the sponsoring teacher runs off with the prom money, Ashley is roped into helping. Along the way, she learns about herself.

Need & Captivate follow a girl who goes to live with her step-grandmother. She is being stalked by a man who turns out to be a pixie and discovers that a few other people in her town have secrets of their own. She becomes involved in a battle between the weres (as in werewolf, weretiger, etc) and the Pixies, and finds out her biological father is not human.

The Dead Tossed Waves is a follow up to the fabulous Forest of Hands and Teeth and picks up several years later. The story centers on Mary's daughter as she deals with the undead. I don't want to give too much away, but go read these two books! I cannot wait for the third installment.

Twilight the Graphic Novel - I am an unapologetic Twilight fan and I like graphic novels. The illustrations in this are well done and the story itself is preserved. My only complaint is that it is only the first half of Twilight and I didn't realize that until I had already bought it.

Hero Type is reviewed in the previous post. A boy goes from zero to hero after saving a classmates life then back to zero when he is seen throwing away some Support the Troops ribbons. A great story about standing up for your beliefs and thinking for yourself.

March books
February books
January books

Hero Type by Barry Lyga

Hero Type Hero Type by Barry Lyga

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Kevin Ross saves a classmate from a serial killer and goes from a nobody to hero overnight. But his reasons for being in the right place at the right time are not exactly something he wants everyone to know and he doesn't exactly feel like a hero. His time at the top doesn't last long when he is seen removing some 'Support the Troops' ribbons from his car and he goes from hero back to zero. Suddenly, he is viewed as someone who doesn't support the troops and hates America.

My Thoughts:
I love Barry Lyga's writing style and characters. Hero Type takes place in the same school as Goth Girl Rising & Boy Toy and characters from those books make brief appearances.
One of the things I loved the most about this book is that I agree with Kevin and I love that he stands up for his beliefs. I think it is important for people to think for themselves. I support the troops and love America, but I don't have to have ribbons on my car or say the pledge at every gathering to prove it.

Like Kevin says, "I guess what I'm saying is that I wish people would think for themselves. Don't just do what everyone else does- use your own brain and figure things out for yourself. If you want to put a ribbon on your car because it's important to you, then great-just don't do it because everyone else is doing it or because you're afraid not to. Because freedom of speech is pretty pointless if everyone keeps saying the same thing." (Hero Type, pp 136-137)

View all my reviews >>

Friday, April 02, 2010

where has my wit gone?

I am re-reading old blog entries from one of my very first blog sites. Reading them, I see that I used to be kind of witty.
What happened?

I think it was as I have said before, people I know in real life are reading my blog now and I tend to self edit too much. And I have gotten so much busier and stressed out so writing has taken a back seat.

I also think I wrote more because I knew people were reading and commenting. I get so few comments on this blog (Thank you for commenting, Laura! You're awesome) This brings up the question-why do I post- for others or for me?

Then there is Twitter which has taken blogging and shrunk it down to 140 characters or less.

Maybe I'll re post a few of them better ones here to help get my creative juices flowing again.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

March books

Catching Fire ~Suzanne Collins (391 pgs)
Shiver ~Maggie Stiefvater (390 pgs)
Stop in the Name of Pants ~Louise Rennison (310 pgs)
Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?~ Louise Rennsion (310 pgs)
The Forest of Hands & Teeth ~Carrie Ryan (310 pgs)
Lessons from a Dead Girl~ Jo Knowles (215 pgs)
Living Dead Girl~ Elizabeth Scott (170 pgs)

7 books 2096 pgs

cumulative- 24 books 6489 pgs

Catching Fire is the follow up to Hunger Games. This continues the story of Katniss after the her participation in the Hunger Games. Her rebellious actions might during the games might have set some things in motion in the other areas. OMG this was action packed and a few twists and turns. and that ending! I cannot wait until August for the third book!

Shiver is a book for werewolf lovers. A teen was attacked my wolves as a child and has had a fascination with them ever since, especially one that watches her from the woods behind her house. There is more to this wolf than meets the eye.

Stop in the Name of Pants & Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? are the 9th & 10th books in the Georgia Nicholson series. They are written like a diary and are "vair vair" funny. Too bad this series is now over.

The Forrest of Hands & Teeth is one I have heard about but just recently bought and read. It is the story of Mary who lives in the US but after some event that has turned most of the population into zombies. Her community is surrounded by a fence to keep the zombies out and they live in fear everyday of infection. When an outsider gets in and just as suddenly disappears Mary knows something is not being told to the community. I loved the book, but had a few questions about what initially happened and what the Sisters knew. I look forward to reading the follow up.

Lessons from a Dead Girl is about a girl who was abused by her best friend when she was younger and tormented by her later on. It is a sad story about kids abusing kids.

Living Dead Girl is a story about a girl who was abducted then abused for five years. The story is written from her perspective and is a disturbing look at emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

To see what I've read previously, go here