This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

This morning, I finished reading yet another of the nominated titles for this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award. The book was This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh. As the title suggests, this book is written in a journal format, and each entry tells readers a little more about our main character, Ratchet. (Her real name is Rachel, but no one calls her that.)

If you’ve worked with elementary or middle grade readers, I likely don’t have to tell you how popular books in diary/journal format are. I can’t keep books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Dear Dumb Diary, or even Dear America books on the shelves. These books are quick, entertaining reads that kids tend to devour. I predict that This Journal Belongs to Ratchet will be no different.

Ratchet is looking for her life to change. This lonely girl–who is homeschooled by her father–wants to make friends, be more like other girls, and finally have something new in her life. Ratchet is sure that having a mother would make everything different, but there’s not much she can do about that. (Her mother died when Ratchet was just a little girl.) Even so, Ratchet works to make things change…hopefully for the better.

Ratchet explores her feelings through a journal. Now, this journal is supposed to be for a homeschool language arts assignment, but Ratchet knows her dad will never read it, so she pours all of her feelings onto the pristine white pages. She uses her writing assignments–poetry, freewriting, descriptive essays, letters, and many others–to describe her frustrations with her father. His obsession with saving the environment and looking insane at every town hall meeting, his insistence on homeschooling Ratchet, never buying anything new, always needing her help in the garage, and his refusal to talk about her mom.

It’s not easy being the daughter of the town joke, and Ratchet hates feeling embarrassed all the time. (Her dad may not care what others think of him, but Ratchet does.) She loves her dad, but she longs for more in her life. Things would be so much better if she just had one real friend, but the kids in the neighborhood always make fun of Ratchet because of her dad…and because both of them are always covered in grease from working on cars.

Things may be on the verge of changing for Ratchet, though. When her dad begins teaching a class at the community center on how to build go-carts, Ratchet begins using the lessons her father taught her to get closer to the boys in the class. They really seem to value her knowledge, and Ratchet feels good about helping them. In the process, she even makes a close friend, Hunter, a boy who used to be part of the crowd that teased her so much.

As Ratchet explores her life, her relationship with her dad, and her feelings about her new friendship, she gradually realizes that maybe it’s not so important to be “normal.” Maybe her dad has been teaching her the important things in life all along. Sure, he’s a little crazy sometimes–and he often makes her mad–but he fights for the things he believes in, he’s true to himself, and, most importantly, he’s always been there for Ratchet. Perhaps her dad isn’t so crazy after all.

Maybe what Ratchet really needs to change in her life is her own perspective. When she realizes just how lucky she actually is, she can do anything she sets her mind to.

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I often tell my students that normal is boring. Well, Ratchet is anything but boring. I don’t know of many kids who can rebuild an engine, change a tire, teach others to build their own go-carts, and be motivated enough to do school work without any help. Ratchet is a fascinating character, and I think many readers will find her journey of self-discovery inspiring and enlightening. I also believe that readers who see themselves as kind of different will see a kindred spirit in Ratchet. And who knows? Her story could even inspire young readers–particularly girls–to learn more about auto mechanics.

I think This Journal Belongs to Ratchet could be a very powerful teaching tool in elementary and middle grade language arts classes. I envision classes reading this book together and then writing in their own journals. Students could take Ratchet’s example, and write their own poems, essays, letters, and even modern-day fairy tales, using their own lives as inspiration.

All in all, I’m very happy that this book was chosen as a 14-15 SCCBA nominee. It’s an entertaining, thought-provoking book that could help readers explore their own difficulties, frustrations, and even victories through writing. I hope the students and teachers in my school feel the same.

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet is the first book by author Nancy J. Cavanaugh. To learn more about this author and future books, visit her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Guitar Notes

I am a firm believer in the power of music. And when I encounter a book that shines a light on that, I tend to devour it. That was definitely the case with Guitar Notes by Mary Amato.

This nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Junior Book Award focuses on Tripp, a young guitar player, and Lyla, a talented young cello player.

These two young people use the same school practice room on opposite days. Tripp is playing a borrowed guitar (his mom took his away) and is only concerned with playing for his own enjoyment. Lyla, on the other hand, is feeling some intense pressure to further her career as a world-class cello player. She’s got some big auditions coming up, and she’s supposed to be using the practice room to get her pieces absolutely perfect. Things change, though, when Tripp and Lyla begin leaving notes for each other in their little room…

At first, the notes are kind of snarky. Tripp thinks of Lyla as Little Miss Perfect, and Lyla sees Tripp as something of an oddity. The two trade barbs and, in the process, learn a little more about each other. Pretty soon, they are exploring a tentative friendship and challenging each other to really explore their musical connection. Lyla puts her cello aside for a bit and focuses on learning to play the guitar and writing songs with Tripp. These two young people bond through music, and they find a friendship that might just turn out to change their entire lives.

As so often happens, though, circumstances arise that try to drive these two friends apart. Other friends don’t understand their connection, their parents are rather clueless (and are often doing more damage than they probably realize), and both Tripp and Lyla are facing pressures that feel insurmountable at times. Music, though, continues to bring them together…even when things seem impossibly bleak.

Join Tripp and Lyla on this musical journey that will take them through friendships old and new, family drama, and even a bit of adventure. They will learn so much about each other, themselves, and the music that ties them together, and this bond will see them through good times and bad. Tripp and Lyla will see the true power of music, and they may just share that with everyone around them…

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Guitar Notes really spoke to me as a musician. No, I’m not a guitar or cello player. (I had a brief interlude with the violin, but that resulted in people thinking I was torturing a cat.) I have, however, been a brass player since I was twelve, so I know a little something about how music can fill a person up, bring emotions to the surface, and make everything a bit clearer. That’s what I saw in Tripp and Lyla in this book. I think any musician, young or old, who reads this book will see what I did–two young people finally discovering their voices and realizing how much music really means to them.

Guitar Notes was, at times, an emotional ride. I laughed, I cried, I commiserated, and I even got angry. I couldn’t stand Annie, Lyla’s so-called best friend. I wanted to slap her every time she made an appearance. She was just so bossy. Kind of reminded me of one of my best friends in school. Ugh.

I also wasn’t a fan of Tripp’s mom through most of the book. I get that she wanted him to improve his grades, but taking music away from him to make that happen? No, no, no. If anything, that did more damage, and it’s been proven that music actually improves brain function. (Look it up.) Eventually, Tripp’s mom “woke up” and saw just how much the guitar and Lyla’s friendship meant to her son, but it took way to much for her to finally see the light. Just my two cents.

I highly recommend Guitar Notes to any reader–probably fifth grade and up–who has a passion for music. This book definitely has a place in upper elementary, middle, and even high school classrooms and libraries. I would also urge music teachers to read this book and recommend it to their chorus, band, and orchestra students.

I am thrilled that this book earned a spot on this year’s South Carolina Junior Book Award nominee list. It’s a wonderful book that shines a light on just what music can do in a young person’s life.

Mary Amato’s next book, Get Happy, also has a musical theme, and it will be out in October. Thanks to NetGalley, I’ll be diving into that one soon, so stay tuned!

For more information on Guitar Notes and other works by Mary Amato, check out her website.

The Break-Up Artist

Last night, I finished yet another uncorrected proof from NetGalley. This time, the book is The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel.  It is published by Harlequin Teen and is scheduled to be released on April 29th.

The Break-Up Artist features a girl, sixteen-year-old Becca Williamson, who’s over the whole love thing. In fact, after dealing with the fallout of her sister being left at the altar and seeing how single girls are treated at her school, Becca opens up her own business. She becomes the Break-Up Artist. For $100, she’ll use whatever means necessary to break up couples. Business is good for Becca, but things are about to get a lot more interesting…

Steve and Huxley are the school’s power couple, and nearly everyone is in awe of their relationship. Everyone except Becca–who has her own history with Huxley–and a mysterious “family friend” who wants to break up the twosome. This “friend” offers Becca $300 to break up Steve and Huxley, and, being the good businesswoman she is, Becca agrees. Not only can she make school bearable again for her fellow singletons, but she can make some serious cash and get a little revenge on her former best friend.

Almost immediately, things get complicated. It seems that this couple isn’t as easy to break up as Becca thought. Becca will have to infiltrate the enemy camp (the popular crowd) to really get things going. And Becca eventually makes progress, but is it really worth it anymore? When Becca witnesses some of the fallout of her machinations, she begins to question her role as the Break-Up Artist. Could there really be such a thing as true love, and do Steve and Huxley have that special something? Nothing is clear for Becca, and her own life isn’t making things any easier…

Becca’s best friend, Val, has recently started dating Ezra. Val went from being by Becca’s side almost constantly to being half of a couple who has zero problems with PDA. Becca feels cast aside, and that’s bringing up some bad memories and connections with her sister’s life. What’s going to happen, though, when Val’s boyfriend sets his sites on Becca? Becca knows Val and Ezra aren’t right for each other, but could Ezra be right for her? Is she willing to jeopardize a friendship for a guy?

Becca is about to learn that love is a complicated business, especially when her role as the Break-Up Artist is becoming harder and harder to handle. Will she be able to break up Steve and Huxley? What will she do about Val and Ezra? And how will she possibly be able to cope when everything starts to unravel? Find out when you read The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel.

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Before I get into the issues I had with The Break-Up Artist, let me say that I did find it to be a relatable, entertaining read.  I sympathized a lot with Becca.  I’ve always been the single girl in a crowd full of couples. As a matter of fact, I’m one of only four single people at work. I’ve even been the girl who was pushed to the side so my best friend could spend all her time with the new boyfriend. I was also the woman who lost her best friend (a guy) because his new girlfriend couldn’t deal with her man having a female best friend.  All of it sucks…but I still prefer being single to being part of a couple. I just wish I had more single friends, so I can totally relate to the character of Becca.

Even though I did like this book, I did have a couple of problems with it that have hopefully been sorted out in editing.

  • The formatting was inconsistent. Why are we indenting some paragraphs and not others? Why are quotes not indented at all, and why do we change speakers in the middle of a paragraph?  It was difficult to follow sometimes, and I found myself rereading several passages to figure out just what was going on. Maybe this happened only in the digital galley, but it still made for a very frustrating read.
  • Let’s have some noticeable breaks in between scenes, please! It’s jarring to move from a school scene to Becca plotting in her bedroom with no indication that our location has changed. Just a space between paragraphs would be nice.  (This was done sometimes, but, again, consistency would have helped.)

If you decide to purchase this book for your personal, school, or public library, please let me know if the final product was more readable than the galley I read. Just a few changes would have made my reading of The Break-Up Artist a thoroughly enjoyable experience. I’m hoping it will be for you!

The Break-Up Artist is the debut novel for author Philip Siegel. To learn more about this author, visit his website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Published in: on April 9, 2014 at 12:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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Better Off Friends

It’s becoming pretty clear that I’m going to like any book that Elizabeth Eulberg writes.  I’ve now read four of her books–Prom & Prejudice, Take a Bow, Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality, and Better Off Friends–and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every single one. Last night, I finished reading Eulberg’s latest, Better Off Friends. This book takes aim at that age-old question: Can a guy and a girl really just be friends?

The two main characters in Better Off Friends, Macallan and Levi, have been friends since they first met in the seventh grade. In fact, they’re best friends. They have a special bond that seems to be unbreakable…even when Levi starts dating one of Macallan’s other friends. (As you can probably imagine, this doesn’t really end well, and Macallan is forced to choose between friends. Quite the pickle.)

As Macallan and Levi exit middle school and enter the exciting world of high school–dances, team sports, serious relationships–their strong friendship is tested. No one really gets the closeness between Macallan and Levi, and that leads to problems with boyfriends and girlfriends.

As this dynamic duo examines just why their other relationships fail, they’ll be forced to face how they really feel about each other. This is not exactly a comfortable process. In fact, at one point, Macallan escapes to Ireland for the summer just to avoid facing her feelings for Levi! Levi, meanwhile, is trying to balance being a guy’s guy with having a girl for a best friend…a girl who he may love as more than a friend.

Life is quickly becoming an emotional whirlwind for both Macallan and Levi. When mushy feelings are thrown into the mix, their friendship undergoes some changes. Sometimes, the two can’t even speak to each other without arguing. At other times, the two are inseparable.  Their newly-discovered feelings for each other–feelings that each one denies at one point or another–are quickly making a mess of everyday life, and something’s got to give soon.

Would becoming a couple change everything that is special about their friendship, or would it make them stronger than ever? Should Macallan and Levi explore their feelings, or are they better off friends? There’s only one way to find out…

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Part of me wanted this story to steer clear of anything romantic. I think guys and girls can be just friends, and I think it would have been refreshing to see that play out. However…

SPOILERS!

That’s not what happened here. Love–and not the platonic kind–got thrown into the mix, and I’ll admit it made for a great read. I imagine every reader will wonder when Macallan and Levi are going to wake up and see that “The One” is right there in front of them. This struggle made for some tense moments, but I held out hope that these two would find some way to eventually be together.

I did have reason to believe things would turn out okay for Macallan and Levi. In between chapters, readers see conversations between these two–mostly reactions to what happened in the previous chapter or hints about what’s about to happen–so we know that, at the very least, they remain friends. That was definitely a comfort when their friendship hit a few low points.

If you’re looking for a fun, often hilarious, romantic, light read, I urge you to give Better Off Friends (and other books by Elizabeth Eulberg) a try. Even though the book doesn’t really answer the question of whether guys and girls can be just friends, it does show that sometimes the best relationships start with amazing friendships.

Published in: on March 27, 2014 at 12:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Attachments

Well, it’s been quite the week. After an unexpected winter vacation, it was very difficult to get back into the swing of things at work. Add to that a colossally bad mood, and my reading just wasn’t what it should have been this week. Today, though, I think I finally got out of my funk. At the very least, my urge to read returned, and I was able to finish reading Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, who is quickly becoming one of my absolute favorite authors. Now, unlike Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, Attachments can’t really be considered YA fiction. I would classify it simply as realistic, romantic fiction, but even the romance is somewhat understated.

Attachments begins in a newspaper office in 1999. Lincoln O’Neill has been hired as an Internet security officer, which basically means he gets paid to read “flagged” emails. You know what I’m talking about–dirty jokes, sexist remarks, profanity, pornography, etc. (Man, I would rock that job. I’m nosy, but I really don’t like interacting with a lot of people.) Well, with most people aware that Big Brother is watching, Lincoln’s job tends to be rather boring…until he gets sucked into the emails between Beth and Jennifer.

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder spend a lot of company time emailing each other. They talk about their relationships, their jobs, their pasts, and just the day-to-day minutiae of their lives…and Lincoln is enthralled by these conversations. Yes, he should probably send them a warning to stop using company email for personal communication, but he can’t make himself do that. That would mean cutting ties with these two women he’s never met but who make his work hours more that just finding something to occupy his time.

As Lincoln learns more and more about Beth and Jennifer, he also seeks to improve himself. He examines his past relationships, his current living situation (still with his mom), his friendships, and his own health. Why, you ask? Well, a lot of it has to do with his desire to be ready when/if he ever meets Beth. You see, as he’s read about her life, he’s developed feelings for her. And when he finally sees her in passing, those feelings grow stronger. (No, he’s still never actually spoken to her.)

Beth, on the other hand, is dealing with her own stuff. She’s been in a committed relationship for a long time, but she’s starting to realize that it may not be the best thing for her. She is kind of obsessed with an unnamed Cute Guy at work (who happens to be Lincoln). At the same time, she’s got her own issues with family and friends.

Can these two crazy kids find their way to each other? What obstacles will get in their way? If they do get together, is there a way to get past their secret obsessions with each other? (I mean, it would be kind of hard to say, “Honey, before we started dating, I was secretly reading your personal emails to your best friend for months. We’re good, though, right?”) What will happen with Lincoln and Beth? Dive in to Attachments, and find out!

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Like Rowell’s other two books, I thoroughly enjoyed Attachments. The characters felt real to me, and I could see so much of myself and my friends, not just in Lincoln and Beth, but in the motley assortment of supporting characters as well.

Some YA readers may be drawn to this book just because of the author, and, to a certain extent, I think that’s okay. Like I said before, though, this is not a work of YA fiction. It addresses some situations that many teenagers just haven’t had to face yet–workplace politics, what happens to adults after college (moving out vs. moving in with parents), being unhappy with a chosen career path, deciding whether or not to have a baby and what happens when that choice is taken out of a person’s hands, and choosing to end unhealthy relationships. (At least, I hope most teenagers haven’t had to deal with this stuff.) I think this book is best approached by readers who have a bit of life experience and who can truly empathize with and relate to the struggles of the main characters.

Published in: on February 23, 2014 at 7:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck

Yesterday, there was a run on my school library.  We got eight copies of the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, Hard Luck.  (I skedaddled to the store Tuesday so that we would be able to have copies available for students first thing on Wednesday.)  Many of my students have been looking forward to this eighth installment in the popular series for months, so I knew I would have to do my part to meet demand.

I did keep one book back to read myself, though.  (After all, you can’t recommend a book if you haven’t read it yourself.) I finished it last night, so here we are with a post today.

Even though I’m not a huge fan of our protagonist, Greg Heffley, I related to him more in this book than any of the preceding books. (Normally, I find him to be extremely selfish. That didn’t change much in this book, but his circumstances did.)

Greg Heffley’s life is not going well.  His best friend Rowley now has a girlfriend.  Where does that leave Greg?  Out in the cold. Suddenly, Greg has to walk to and from school by himself, carry his own books, sit with other people at lunch, worry about who to play with at recess, and find something to do after school.  Who knew that losing your best friend would cause so much trouble?!

Middle school is no picnic at the best of times.  It’s even worse when you don’t have a best friend (and you’re not sure how to make more friends).  Eventually, though, Greg thinks he’s found a way to make things a little better.  He’ll leave his fate up to a Magic 8 Ball!  This shouldn’t cause any problems at all, right? Right?!

Join Greg Heffley as he navigates the halls of middle school–girls, cafeteria seating, recess games, making friends–and his somewhat unpredictable family.  Will Greg’s luck ever change?  Find out when you read Hard Luck, the eighth book in Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid series!

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Most people realize that middle school is the time when people begin pairing off.  Well, when you’re not part of a pair, things can get kind of dicey.  I was never part of a couple in middle school (or even high school), so it was very difficult for me to keep from being the “third wheel.”  Many times, my friendships with those in couples tended to fall by the wayside.  That’s why I relate so strongly to Greg Heffley in this book.  (I think a lot of readers may feel the same way.)  Some kids just aren’t interested in becoming part of a couple, and it’s not always easy to adapt when their friends find someone else to spend their time with.  (I know Diary of a Wimpy Kid is supposed to be a very light read, but, in this case, it brought back some not-so-great memories. I probably need therapy.)

Like all of the other books in this series, this book sells itself.  I don’t think I need to do a ton of promotion here.  I put eight copies of this book on the shelf yesterday, and they’re all gone today. We’ll probably have to order a few more soon.  Kids just love these books, and I think I’ve illustrated that adults may just find something to enjoy (or at least relate to) as well.

I’m sure we’ll see yet another DoaWK book this time next year. In the meantime, visit  http://www.wimpykid.com/ for all things wimpy!  Enjoy!

 

Published in: on November 7, 2013 at 10:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cheesie Mack Is Running Like Crazy!

Warning! If you haven’t read Steve Cotler’s Cheesie Mack Is Not a Genius or Anything and Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel, stop now! Go to your nearest library, check out those books, read them, and then come back. Go ahead…I’ll wait.

*plays Jeopardy theme*

All done? Okay then…let’s get to it!

Last year, I had the privilege of hosting an author visit at my school with the wonderful Steve Cotler. (For details about the visit, click here.) During the visit, Mr. Cotler let my students know that they could expect more adventures from his hilarious protagonist, Cheesie Mack. Well, I finally got around to reading the third installment in the Cheesie Mack series this weekend (before my students got their hands on it, and I never saw it again). The book is Cheesie Mack Is Running Like Crazy! I know my students will be just as enamored of this book as they were the first two books in the series. (I seriously can’t keep them on the shelves.) They’ll love Cheesie’s humor, love of lists, fierce battle with his sister Goon (June), friendship with Georgie, and his first days in middle school!

Ronald “Cheesie” Mack is about to enter a new world…middle school. Luckily, he’s got his best friend Georgie by his side, but how can Cheesie and company make an impression on students and teachers who are totally new to them? Cheesie thinks he may have the answer. Run for 6th grade class president!

But there may be a problem. Cheesie’s friend from elementary school, Lana, also wants to run for president. (You may recall that Lana is most definitely NOT Cheesie’s girlfriend!) Cheesie doesn’t want to hurt Lana’s feelings, but he does want to be known as something other than “June’s little brother.” What’s a kid to do? Well, Cheesie comes up with something that will satisfy almost everyone…

During all of the class election craziness, Cheesie also has to deal with his horrible sister, joining the school’s cross-country team, and generally learning to survive middle school. He encounters everything with the humor, wit, and intelligence that have gotten him out of jam after jam. The question is…will it be enough this time?

Find out how Cheesie, Georgie, and a charming cast of characters make it to the finish line when you read Cheesie Mack Is Running Like Crazy! by Steve Cotler!

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While I think Cheesie Mack Is Cool in a Duel is probably my favorite in the series, I think this third installment is pretty awesome. I know my students will devour it, and I anticipate requests to have Mr. Cotler visit my school again.

In case you were wondering, it is absolutely necessary to read the first two books before reading Cheesie Mack Is Running Like Crazy! Mr. Cotler doesn’t take a lot of time rehashing old events. He–or Cheesie–just directs readers to the first two books…or the books’ companion website, http://cheesiemack.com/. (The website is pretty cool and only adds to the awesomeness of the entire series, in my opinion.)

Speaking of the series…the fourth Cheesie Mack book, Cheesie Mack Is Not Exactly Famous, will be out in February of 2014. The fifth book, currently untitled, should be out next summer.

Published in: on September 23, 2013 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

This book–the entire series, really–has been in my to-read pile for a while. This week, I finally decided to jump right into the first book in Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls series, I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You. (Great title, by the way.) I had a feeling I would enjoy it simply because I liked Carter’s Heist Society series. So far, so good. This first book, which introduces us to Cammie and her fellow spies-in-training, is a great start to what I’m sure is a wonderful, light-hearted series.

The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is no ordinary school, and student Cammie Morgan is no ordinary girl. From the outside, the Gallagher Academy looks like a private school for girls from prestigious families. Within its walls, however, some of the brightest girls in the country are trained in the arts of espionage, combat, code-breaking, and covert operations. That’s right. It’s spy school. Cammie Morgan, who happens to be the headmistress’ daughter, is a sophomore at Gallagher Academy this year, and this is one year that might just change her entire world.

Now, the Gallagher Academy might teach its girls how to speak a dozen languages, the latest in chemical warfare, or how to use trash to learn all about a person, but there’s one thing that this school never prepared Cammie for. How to talk to boys.

While Cammie is trying to be incognito on a class assignment in town, she gets noticed by a guy. Cammie is used to being overlooked (one of her strengths as a spy), so she’s taken aback by this guy, Josh, who is showing interest in her. But what can she really tell him about herself? She can’t tell him where she goes to school. (Townies have attitude about the Gallagher Girls.) She can’t tell him about her family, friends, or many of the details of her day-to-day life. So what’s a girl to do? Well, this is where being a spy comes in handy…

Cammie gathers intel–in a variety of ways and with some help from friends–on Josh, and she slowly forms a relationship with him. Yes, the relationship is kind of awkward and is almost completely based on lies–at least on Cammie’s part–but Cammie is getting her first taste of what it might be like to be “normal.”

But what will happen when Cammie’s real life as a Gallagher Girl collides with her first brush with love? Will her lies be uncovered? What could this mean for Cammie, Josh, and the Gallagher Academy? Discover how one extraordinary girl tries to navigate two very different worlds when you read I‘d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter!

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I’m kind of glad I waited so long to read this series. The sixth and final book, United We Spy, will be released on September 17th, so I won’t have to endure the long, agonizing wait that usually accompanies a series. I’ll probably start book two, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, next week, and I’ll continue on until I finish what I’m sure will be a wild ride!

For those who’d like more information on this series and other books by Ally Carter, check out her website at http://allycarter.com/. There’s a strong possibility that this series will eventually be adapted for the big (or small) screen, so stay tuned on the author’s website for developments!

Published in: on August 24, 2013 at 8:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Secret Histories

If, like me, you’re a fan of The Lorien Legacies series (I Am Number Four, The Power of Six, and The Rise of Nine), you’re probably eagerly anticipating the next book, The Fall of Five (due out in just two weeks). Luckily, I had a little something to tide me over.

Last month, I read The Legacies, three novellas from The Lost Files. These stories delved deeper into the backgrounds of Six, Nine, and, in a round-about way, the first three members of the Lorien Garde. About an hour ago, I finished reading the second volume from The Lost Files, Secret Histories. These three novellas, like those in the previous volume, add a bit more depth to the entire series.

Two of the novellas in Secret Histories, in my opinion, should have been partnered with the last novella from The Legacies, The Fallen Legacies.  That story introduced us to a young Mogadorian, Adam, who was beginning to question everything he’d ever been taught. His story picks up in the first novella from Secret Histories, The Search for Sam. (Spoiler: Sam does make a brief appearance in this story.) Adam’s journey continues even further in the last novella in this volume, The Forgotten Ones. Basically, this young Mog has switched sides and is fighting on the side of the Garde…but how does he do that when he’s a wanted man among his own people, and it’s unlikely that any of the Garde will trust him?

I think it will be interesting to see how Adam’s story will play out in The Fall of Five, especially considering how he changed–both physically and mentally–throughout The Lost Files.

The novella sandwiched between Adam’s stories in this book, The Last Days of Lorien, follows a young Sandor on his home planet of Lorien. (You may recall that Sandor is Nine’s Cepan. Well, he didn’t start out that way.) As a young man, it seems that Sandor was a bit of a troublemaker who didn’t really buy into all of the doom-and-gloom prophecies that told of the end of Lorien. (Yeah…he was kind of wrong about that.)  Sandor’s shenanigans, however, may have landed him in the one place that could–in the end–save his life and ensure the future of his entire race.  Just how did Sandor, a kid too daring for his own good, end up as a guide to one of the precious Lorien Garde? All is revealed in this fascinating story.

After reading the six novellas in The Lost Files, I’m even more eager to read The Fall of Five. Is it necessary to read all of these stories to keep up with what’s happening in the next book? Honestly, I don’t know. I do hope that Adam plays an important role in what’s to come. If that’s the case, then it would definitely help to know more about him. Do with that what you will.

Published in: on August 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Slide

It’s been a while, dear readers. I freely admit that I’ve neglected this blog for the past couple of weeks, and my only excuse is that I needed a break. Whenever Knight Reader feels more like an obligation than a fun hobby, I like to take a step back and spend some time focusing on other things. Yes, I still read during my brief hiatus, but I didn’t feel the need to blog about those books (mostly picture books and mindless romances). Also, I’m gearing up for a new school year, and I needed to just do nothing before I dive back into the school library grind. (My fellow school librarians can no doubt relate to how hectic the beginning of a new school year is.) Now, feeling a bit refreshed, I’m ready to get back to sharing books with people. Thanks for bearing with me.

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I never know what I’m going to get when I download free ebooks. Sometimes, these free books are less than stellar. Other times, though, I’m pleasantly surprised. The latter scenario was true of my latest read, Slide by Jill Hathaway. It was a free Kindle download last month, it seemed interesting, so I thought I’d give it a try. It was a pretty good read, and it definitely kept me guessing. Readers who like a fast-paced mystery with supernatural undertones will likely agree.

Sylvia “Vee” Bell is not what one would call a normal teenager. Sure, she has many of the typical problems–parents, popularity (or lack thereof), siblings, boys–but she has to deal with something that most people don’t. The “experts” call her condition narcolepsy, but they really don’t know the whole story. They don’t know that when Vee falls asleep/passes out, she doesn’t just lose consciousness. She “slides” into the minds of others. She sees what people don’t want seen. She learns things she doesn’t necessarily want to know.

When Vee slides into one mind, however, she sees something that turns her blood cold. She sees her sister’s best friend, Sophie, dead. Her wrists are slit, her bed is covered in blood, and someone–the eyes through which Vee is viewing this scene–is writing a suicide note. Vee, of course, is the only person who knows that Sophie was murdered, but how can she prove to everyone that this is not the obvious suicide that they seem to think it is…especially when she doesn’t know whose mind she slid into.

As Vee searches for answers, she uncovers uncomfortable truths about her friends, her sister, and even her own father. But how do these long-kept secrets have anything to do with what happened to Sophie…and what is continuing to happen in Vee’s community? Who is ultimately responsible for the terror in her town, and is there anything Vee can do to put a stop to it…before she’s the next victim? Unravel the mystery when you read Slide by Jill Hathaway.

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While Slide was an engaging, gripping book, it’s not one I would have picked up had it not been free. (Kudos to whoever decided to make it a free download last month. You reached at least one new reader.) Now, I kind of want to see how the story progresses in the next book, Impostor. Maybe it’ll be a free download soon.

Slide is not a particularly deep book, but it does explore family dynamics and how secrets and jealousy can tear relationships apart. It is a mystery that will keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very end. (I’m pretty good at picking up on clues, but even I didn’t really expect things to end they way they did.)

If the premise of Slide intrigues you, I urge you to give Lisa McMann’s Wake series a try. These three books (Wake, Fade, and Gone) are very similar, in my opinion, to what occurs in Slide, but they’re a little more fleshed out.

For more information about Slide and author Jill Hathaway, visit http://www.jillhathaway.com/index2.php.

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