Sunday, November 27, 2011

Two Short Stories

Two more short stories written by coworker and fellow teacher, Susanna Hargreaves.

John Driscoll

The Screaming Room by Thomas O'Callaghan
John Driscoll Series book 2

Driscoll is trying to get his life back on track after burying his wife. He has sold his home and moved to a smaller place. Just when he thinks he will have time to settle in, tourists start turning up murdered with no seeming connection other than they are at tourist spots in NYC and carefully arranged.

Dark and deranged killers. I really like Driscoll and want the series to continue. However, it doesn't seem that any were published after this second book (published in 2007).

Five YAs

Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

This is the story of a young slave boy named Daniel Arabus. His father fought in the Revolution and earned promissory notes that would buy Daniel and his mother's freedom, but their master and his wife kept the notes. Daniel takes the notes and must find his way to Washington DC to get the money that rightfully belongs to his family so that he can earn their freedom. Great story!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Hunger Games Trilogy Book 2

Katniss and Peeta have returned home to their district as victors of the Hunger Games. Now they must convince everyone they are truly in love and help quell the embers of rebllion.

Cool Zone with the Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume

This is a collection of short stories about the Pain and his older sister the Great One. It was a great book to read with my ESOL reluctant reader because the stories were short, funny, and engaging.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
The Hunger Games Trilogy Book 3

Having survived her second round in the Hunger Games, Katniss is safe with her family in district 12. But President Snow wants revenge and wants Katniss dead.

If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution by Elizabeth Levy

This is a great series of books that cover the same social studies topics our 7th graders learn about. The books are easy to read, illustrated, and interesting to my struggling readers.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Good Older YA!

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

What would you did if you found out you had one year to live? Would you tell your family and friends? Or keep it to yourself for as long as possible? These are the decisions Ben Wolf is forced to make when he gets the fateful news at his annual track physical. Ben chooses to try to make the most of his last year of high school - his last year of life. He drops track and goes out for football. He reads everything he can get his hands on. He challenges his teachers and fights for what he thinks is right. He even goes for the dream girl he might not stand a chance with.

I thought this book was funny, moving, and thought provoking. An great read.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Hunger Games Trilogy Book 1

I finally gave in and read The Hunger Games. I have been avoiding it because I usually do not get into the whole dystopian genre. But I gave into the pressure and am so glad I did! I really enjoyed the book. It as fast paced and exciting. I have already run out and grabbed Catching Fire.

Every year one boy and one girl from each district are chosen to travel to the Capital and fight to the death in the Hunger Games. Can Peeta and Katniss survive? Will they be forced to eventually kill the other? Will one of them do what has not been done before - provide the impoverished District 12 with their first victor?

Two Short Stories

Proof by Susanna Hargreaves

Have you ever wondered what happens to us when we die? We know that energy is neither created nor destroyed, so where does our energy go when it leaves the body? This is a story about the loss of a loved one and finding the proof that there is existence of life after death.

The Ghost From Gilson Road by Susanna Hargreaves

Everyone in the town of Nashua had heard the stories about the ghosts in the Gilson Road cemetery for years. One night a group of friends enter the cemetery to see what would happen. hey were just about to leave when a group of bullies come along and disturb some graves. What happens when the dead cannot rest in peace? How do they communicate to those who can help them and how do they punish those who have disturbed their eternal slumber?

Both of these short stories were written by a teacher I work with. While I enjoyed both stories, I preferred the ghost story because we all know I love all things spooky!


Ghouls Ghouls Ghouls by Victoria Laurie
Ghost Hunter Series #5

In the latest case, MJ, Gilly, Heath, and the crew find themselves in Ireland where they must cross over to an isolated island, little more than a giant rock surrounded by a formidable sea, that holds a castle being protected by a large and powerful demon.

I love this series and this latest installment was not a disappointment!

New to Me Author

The Last Child by John Hart

One year ago, 12 year old Johnny Merrimon's twin sister went missing. Never to be seen or heard from again. Johnny's father took off. Johnny's mother made the quick decent into an impenetrable depression clouded by pain killers. And Johnny has spent every waking minute tracking local pedophiles, searching the woods, and looking for clues.

Now, as another young girl goes missing in the same small town, Detective Hunt is more determined than ever to catch who is responsible and must rely on Johnny's help to lead him in the right direction.

I thought this was an excellent story and look forward to reading more by this author.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

YA Sequel

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

This is the sequel to If I Stay, a very powerful novel by Forman. In the frst book, Mia is in a tragic accident that takes the lives of her father, mother, and younger brother. Mia herself is left in a coma. As she fights for her life, Mia's byfriend and rising rock star, Adam, is by her side begging her to stay. Mia narrates, trying to decide whether to fight to stay alive or join her family.

Where She Went picks up about three years later and is told by Adam. He is a world famous rock star. Has a gorgeous actress girlfriend, house in LA, more money than he can use, and fans around the world. Yet, Adam is miserable. He doesn't know what happened between him and Mia. Why did she leave him?

Where She Went tells Adam's story of his rise to fame, what happened to Mia in that time frame, and what exactly drove them apart as they both try to regain their lives.

New to Me Author

Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva

Liam Mulligan is a hard nosed reporter in Providence, RI, where he works his connections and reports on the many corruptions of the gritty city. But Mulligan's world is shaken as he follows and investigates a series of arson's in the New Hope district of Providence that is killing children, fireman, and others. s Mulligan gets closer and closer to unraveling the truth, his own life becomes in danger.

This was a new author for me (and I believe it is his debut novel). I really liked the old school smart ass, snarky, intelligent reporter feel. You could tell that the author has worked in a newsroom before. It felt authentic in a way. I also loved how the city of Providence was like a character in and of itself.

Another Patterson

Private by James Patterson
Private Series #1

Private is an international private investigation firm servicing the rich, famous, and high profile. The firm is made up of a team of experts at the top of their field and run by Jack Morgan. Currently, the team at Private is being pulled in a lot of directions as they try to find out the truth behind the murder of Jack's best friend's wife, whether NFL games are being thrown for bets, and trying to find out who is stalking and killing teenage girls.

I usually find Patterson's books very fast paced and entertaining so I was excited for this new series. But I had a hard time getting into it. I felt like I was being ulled in too many directions. I wish the NFL thing had been left out and the focus had been on the murder's. However, by the end, I was liking it more and began to understand the connections between all of the cases.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Two More Thrillers from Two Favorite Series!

The Immortals by JT Ellison
Taylor Jackson Series #5

Great 5th installment of the Taylor Jackson series. Love this series!!

Taylor is on her way to celebrate the reinstatement of her Lieutenant status and the reunion of her team, when they get called to a horrific scene. A teenage boy is found naked, dead from an apparent overdose, and with a pentacle carved into his chest. Taylor is quickly thrown into a logistical nightmare when she gets one call after the next. Five crime scenes in total with eight dead teenagers in all. Taylor must manage the multiple scenes while on the hunt for sadistic killers dabbling in dark magic and the world of vampires.

10th Anniversary by James Patterson
Women's Murder Club Series

Newly married Linday Boxer doesn't have much time to enjoy post-wedding bliss with Joe before she is called in on a case. An injured teenager who had just given birth is found left for dead on the side of a deserted road, her baby gone. There is no crime scene and Lindsay must search for clues and weed through the constant lies.

Meanwhile, one of her best friends Yuki is trying the case that can make or break her career. She badly needs a win on this one and Lindsay may have evidence that could cause Yuki's case to completely fall apart.

Another great Women's Murder Club story!

Meanwhile, back in Virgin River...

Forbidden Falls by Robyn Carr
Virgin River Series #8

The church in the center of Virgin River has sat in disrepair for many years. Without a pastor, no one in town had done anything to get the church back up and running. So, Hope McCrea put the church up for sale on Ebay.

Noah Kincaid was a fairly new minister, having changed life and career paths, and was in search of a parish of his own. Having received a good sized inheritance from his mother, Noah buys the church and restores it on his own with the Church's blessing.

While interviewing for the position of Pastor's Assistant, Noah meets the beautiful and flamboyant Ellie Baldwin who, like Noah, is starting life on a new path.

Another great installment of the Virgin River series.

The Aftermath of a School Shooting

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Valerie and Nick made a hate list. They added all the people who bullied them, teased them, and made life difficult for them. Valerie thought they were just blowing steam. She had no idea what Nick was planning until that fateful morning. As Valerie tried to stop Nick from killing more people, she herself was shot in the leg. As she fell to the ground, Nick turned the gun on himself, ending the first nightmare and starting the next. Was Valerie a hero for stopping the shootout before more students were killed or injured? Or did she help Nick plan the killing rampage?

This was a powerful book and well done.

A Sweet and Fun Love Story

Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer

Boston television reporter Julie Mueller is a single mom to a teenage daughter. She is working really hard to reach the next step on her career ladder, while competing with younger co-workers, caring for her ailing mother, and doing it all alone. On her own. Her mother and best friend sign her up for a baking class knowing that her first love, Michael, will be there. Julie and Michael have had a rocky past. Can she stand being in the same baking class with him and the beautiful woman hanging all over him?

This was a great story. I have never read this author before, but will look forward to reading more by her.

A Non-Fiction Book Club Read

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

I have to be honest, when I saw this was the July selection for my face to face book group, I groaned. A book about science? About cells? How boring. I am so glad I didn't toss it aside. Becasue this book had me from the beginning. First I was drawn in by wanting to know who Henrietta Lacks was. The heartbreaking story of a women raised in deplorable conditions in the deep south. Married and abused by her cousin. Moved north to Baltimore and the struggles they faced day and in and out. All before receiving the devasting blow of a fatal cancer diagnosis. The the author goes into the science. How the cells were grown, multiplied, distributed, and used for so many amazing scientific and medical discoveries. Skllot tells the science and the stry behind her research in a way that is accessible and interesting to the layman.

In the end, I was so glad I read this book. I knew nothing of the HeLa cells and all they have done for science. It brought up great discussion about the ethics behind medical research and taught me about horrifying research done on African Americans in the 1950's and 1960's. It was a fascinating and enlightening read.

Ah, true love!

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
#1 in the Perfect Chemistry Series

Brittany and Alex are from two totally different worlds. Brittany is the typical golden girl. Popular, gorgeous, from a wealthy family, and dating the star football player. But Brittany has secrets. She has a disabled sister she is constantly caring for and trying to protect, a father who is rarely around, and a mother whose severe anxiety makes life that much more difficult. Alex is from a poor area of Chicago and the member of a Latino gang. He is hot, but dangerous. The unlikely pair are forced to work together as chemistry partners. Set in Chicago, told from two different points of view, Brittany and Alex find true love in each other and in the process save each other's lives.

I really liked this book. I was pretty much glued to it from cover to cover and look forward to reading the rest of the series!


Displacement by Thalia Chaltas
YA - Witten in Verse

Vera's home has never felt like home. Her father dead, absentee mother, and now a sister who has drowned. Vera decides to take off. She ends up in a small California desert town, trying to find her place in the world, find herself, and find "home."

I liked this book. Not as much as Chaltas' first book, Because I Am Furniture, but it was good. I am not sure how many teen girls will see themselves in Vera though.

Friday, July 1, 2011


The Sixth Man by David Baldacci
Sean King and Michelle Maxwell Series #5

This is another great thriller in the King/Maxwell series. Sean and Michelle have been pitted against a lot of very dangerous enemies and have had a lot of close calls. But this time they are up against forces they just can't match: The FBI, Department of Homeland Security, powerful brilliant billionaires with every available resource, and more.


Good Middle Reader

Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes

Martha and her family are getting ready to leave for summer vacation at her grandmother's on Cape Cod when there is a knock on her door. She opens it to find the mother of a classmate who died. Olive Barstow' mom hands Martha a journal entry of Olive's saying how much she wanted to see the ocean and how she would have liked to be friends with Martha.

Martha sets out for the Cape with all of this weighing in her mind. At the Cape, Martha struggles to gain the courage to be who she is as her life changes. She experiences her first crush, her first kiss, a near death experience, the desire (and fear) to be a writer.

This was a great little story and one I think many middle school students would enjoy and relate to.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Great Start to the Series!

A Perfect Evil by Alex Kava
#1 in the Maggie O'Dell Series

FBI Special Agent Maggie O'Dell is called to a small Nebraska town when another young boy is found murdered, sliced, and left by the river. It is the second of such a killing Platte City has seen. There are also eerie similarities to some previous murders that a man named Jeffries was executed for. Platte City Sherriff Nick Morelli, who got the job following his father's retirement, is desperate for help before another young boy is taken and killed.

I thought this was a really good start to the series. I have been wanting to read this series for a long time. Now I can't wait to get to the next one!

Myron and Win back in action

Live Wire by Harlan Coben

Myron and Win are back in action! One of Myron's longtime friends, clients and former tennis star, Suzze Tervantino, has come to him in distress. She is 8 months pregnant and someone posted "Not His" on her facebook account. Now, her husband, part of a famous rock duo, is missing. As Myron sets out to find Lex Ryder, he finds a connection to his estranged brother and sister-in-law.

The latest Myron and Win was a little different. It took some turns that I didn't really like, but I have a hard time complaining about it because Coben is a favorite and Myron and WIn are some of my favorite characters.

Two Very Different YA's

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Aislinn is a high school girl who is just a little different than her friends, she is able to see and hear fairies. They are all around her and some are following her. Keelan, the Summer King, is looking for his queen when he sets his sights on Aislinn. He uses his fairy mojo to attract her, but Aislinn is in love with Seth - her best friend and a mortal. Keelan believes that Aislinn is his true Queen and he needs her to stop the evil Winter Queen at any cost. But can Aislinn give up everything to assume the role?

In the beginning I found this book very confusing a kind of ridiculous. It did grow on me as I went, and I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. Maybe fairies just aren't my thing?

Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse

This is a great short book about a jewish girl named Rifka who helps her family escape Russia post WWI. Three of her brothers escaped Russia before she was born to avoid fighting in the war and now another brother has escaped the army. The family escapes to Poland where the become ill with Typhus. They make it to Warsaw eventually, where money is waiting for them to buy transatlantic steaship tickets, but Rifka has caught ringworm and must be sent to Belgium to heal. The family goes on to America without her and Rifka follows later.

This story shows the struggles many faced trying to escape to America and the challenges of arriving at Ellis Island.

Another Ellison

The Cold Room by JT Ellsion
#4 in the Taylor Jackson Series

In the fourth Taylor Jackson book, Jackson finds herself knocked back down from LT to detective with a new and inexperienced partner and a rigid and bullyish new lieutenant. They are called to a gruesome scene where a female body is discovered having been kept and starved until she was skin and bones then murdered and posed to match a painting. Eerily similar to a European serial killer Baldwin has been chasing for years. Together with British inspector John Highsmyth, they track an international killer who seems to be escalating.

This was not my favorite of the series, but it is a great series and I look forwards to reading the next.

A definite 5!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan returns to her families cotton plantation after graduating college with one plan in mind - to become a writer! All around her black women were in the homes of the Jackson elite. Cleaning, cooking, raising the white children. While the housewives play bridge and socialize. Told through the eyes of Aibileen and Milly as well as Skeeter, this is the story of unlikely friends who join together to fight the injustices done to these hardworking honest women.

This was such a great story. I loved the three points of view and really grew to love these women. While simultaneously seething about the white women who mistreated them. I did not want this book to end!

One for Me, One for Sofia

Ghost Shadow by Heather Graham
1st in the Bone Island Trilogy

Katie O'Hara has a secret. She can see and hear ghosts. In fact, one old ghost from Key West's days of pirates and privateers, Bartholomew, is her constant companion. As Katie delves into a decade old murder to figure out if David Beckett really murdered his fiance, she is taken back in time to the cities oldest families pasts and secrets while at the same time trying to stop a real time murderer.

I liked this book, but it was not my favorite by Graham. I will definitely continue the trilogy though.

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park

Sofia and I read this one together. She thought it was funny. I cringed at some of the grammar, but it was a fun read aloud.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Two Very Different Teen Books

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones

Written in verse, this book tells the story of Ruby a high school student who is forced to more to Los Angelas after the death of her mother. She will now be living with her absentee and seriously famous movie star father, Whip Logan.

I loved this one. It was funny, witty, and moving.

I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle

I wanted to like this one more than I did. It was funny, but also a bit annoying. But I think I just wasn't in the mood for it. I thought something funny would be good while I was under so much work stress, but maybe I should have stuck to music instead of this on audio book. I have yet to see the movie, so I am not sure how it compares.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carolina Moon by Nora Roberts

Tory Bodeen returns to her small town South Carolina home as a successful business woman looking to open her own shop and prove she had made something of her life. As a young girl, Tory's best friend, Hope Levelle, was raped and murdered. Tory was from a poor home with a very abusive father, while Hope's wealthy family owned much of the town. Tory returns to lingering suspicions and continues to struggle in the shadow of the powerful Levelle family.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a good story and I often enjoy stories that take place in the south for some unknown reason.

Tonight on the Titanic by Mary Pope Osbourne
Magic Tree House Series #17

Sofia and I loved reading about the Titanic on the 99th anniversary of it's sinking. Sofia of course had never heard of the Titanic. She found the story interesting and as she said "a little sad."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Creepy and Gruesome Thriller

The Bone Thief by Thomas O'Callaghan
John Driscoll #1

New York homicide Lieutenant John Driscoll is on the hunt for a madman. A serial killer preying on women, deboning them, taking the head, hands, and feet, and then leaving the skins behind to be found and identified. It is a race against time as the number of victims increases. This is a debut novel introducing John Driscoll's character. I really liked the character and thought it was a great, if gruesome, story. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Three More to Top off March

Paradise Valley by Robyn Carr
#7 in the Virgin River Series

Rick Sudder has seen a lot of hardship in his young life. At only 20 years of age, he had already lost his parents, gotten a 14 year old Liz pregnant, lost the baby in a still birth, and served in the war. When Jack, a surrogate father to Rick, receives the call that Rick had been series injured in a bomb explosion, he and Liz rush to Germany to be by his side. Meanwhile, Walt is having a difficult time coming to terms with Murial, his new love, being back on the movie set with the rich, handsome, and famous co-stars. And Cameron is desperately trying to win the love of Abby, who is pregnant with his twins.

Another good installment in the Virgin River series. Not my favorite so far. I felt the ending was quite abrupt. However, it is always good to catch up with some of my favorite characters in one of my favorite fictional towns!

Night of the Ninjas by Mary Pope Osbourne
Magic Treehouse Book #5

In this installment, Sofia and I traveled with Jack and Annie to Ancient Japan where we met a Ninja Master who helped Jack and Annie learn to Be Nature and escape a nasty Samurai. This wasn't our favorite so far, but still enjoyable! Actually, any book read with Sofia is enjoyable!

Meet Einstein by Mariela Kleiner
Illustrated by Viviana Garofoli

I received a free copy of this lovely book through Shelf Awarness. I love the illustrations and Sofia and I loved reading about Einstein in this fun and colorful book. I can't wait to share it with my special education students when they do their unit on famous inventors and scientists!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Loving Baldacci!!!

First Family by David Baldacci
Sean King/Michelle Maxwell #4

Sean King and Michelle Maxwell are back in action. Sean is called by an old acquaintance who happens to be the first lady's sister-in-law. When him and Michelle arrive at the house to meet with her, they are ambushed with gun fire. When the smoke clears they find the woman dead, two of her three kids drugged, her husband knocked unconscious, and her oldest daughter missing. The case escalates as the FBI, secret service, and First Family are pulled in to this thrilling story.

I love this series!!!

Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann

Cryer's Cross, Montana is a tiny town with a one-room school house where Kendell and her best friend/boyfriend Nico grew up and are now seniors. Recently, sophomore Tiffany disappeared. Seemingly vanishing into thin air. No one in Cryer's Cross can figure out what happened but fears are compounded when Nico disappears in similar fashion.

I really liked the idea of this book and liked the characters but it wasn't quite scary enough and I think that the story behind the story could have been fleshed out more. It came to kind of a quick conclusion.

Dust for Dinner by Ann Turner

This is a leveled reader about a family in Oklahoma who lose everything - the crops, their animals, food, and their farm - due to the dust bowls of the 1930's. They are forced to pack up what they can and head west to California. This was great for my kiddos who could not read Out of the Dust with the rest of the class.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Finished up the trilogy plus another YA

Red Lily by Nora Roberts
In the Garden Trilogy #3

In the third installment of the Garden Trilogy, Haley is restless and lonely. She is surrounded by this new family at the Harper House, good friends, a job she loves, and a gorgeous toddler, but something is missing. Haley is longing for love and romance and trying to decide what to do about her feelings for Harper Ashby. At the same time, Amelia's ghost is stirring up trouble again and this time she is targeting Haley. Can Mitch., Roz, Haley, Stella, Harper, and David figure out what happened to Amelia before it is too late?

Stop Pretending: What happened when my big sister went crazy
by Sonya Sones

Written in verse. Cookie's big sister had a mental breakdown and it landed her in a psychiatric facility. The family Cookie once knew and loved is now virtually unrecognizable. At the same time, her friends have pulled away and other kids have begun to tease. No one wants to be friends with the girl with the crazy sister. But Cookie loves her sister and is heartbroken.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Taylor Jackson

Judas Kiss by JT Ellison
Taylor Jackson Series #3

Taylor Jackson and Fiance John Baldwin have just returned from a romantic getaway in Italy and are thrown right back into thier work. Baldwin is off to Quantico and Taylor is off to a new crime scene where a young well off seven months pregnant mother is found brutally beaten to death in her own home with her young toddler running around the house covered in her mother's blood. The husband seems like the obvious choice, but something is off with that theory. Taylor's life becomes increasingly complicated when secrets from her own past are revealed and a menacing world wide killer out for revenge on Baldwin gets too close to Taylor.

Another good one from Ellison. I love this series.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

We continue our time-traveling

Mummies in the Morning by Mary Pope Osbourne
Magic Treehouse #3

Sofia was taking the Magic Treehouse quizzes online and discovered this title. We read the first two chapters of it online and she was so anxious to know what Jack and Annie would find in the pyramid, that Issac had to run out to our local bookshop and grab a copy of this one. She is so into these books. On to our next adventure....