Sunday, August 31, 2008


Beastly by Alix Flinn is also on the 2008-2009 Lone Star list.

Kyle Kingsbury is popular, gorgeous, and rich, and attends a posh high school in NYC. He is also a classic "mean boy"---vain and rude and an utter jerk to those he deems as being beneath him. After playing a cruel trick on a "weirdo" goth-girl by inviting her to a dance just to humiliate her, he gets zapped into showing his true colors by outwardly becoming the beastly creature he is on the inside. Yep, he's been cruel to the wrong girl----the "weirdo" goth chic is a witch and he has been zapped by her powers. He now must find true love as the beast in order to change back into himself.

So, this is obviously a modern-day retelling of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast....

and it is FABULOUS. From the hilarious chat room messages, to the cold reality of his relationship (or lack thereof) with his self-centered anchorman father to realizing that who you are is not determined merely by the way you look or how much money you possess this book will enchant you.

Guys--since this story is told from the point of view of Kyle/the Beast YOU will enjoy it, too.

Plus, the cover is utterly cool, is it not?

Breathe: a ghost story

Continuing our Lone Star reviews....

If you like suspenseful ghost will enjoy Breathe by Cliff McNish.

12 year old Jack has just lost his dad. Now, Jack is not your average kid--he not only has terrible asthma, but well...he "feels" the history of objects when he touches them. He and his mom have just moved into an old farmhouse to try to start anew after his father's death. Of course, since the house is old Jack is able to feel the history of the house and know, for example, that someone died in the very bed he will be sleeping in. Instead of being all creeped-out (like I would be) he is actually rather comforted by his knowledge of the former inhabitants of the house.

And then he meets the ghost mother.

And things begin to get....ugly.

I won't tell you more than that! You'll just have to read the book to find out what happens...but it is VERY suspenseful and dramatic, I assure you! Come check it out, and be sure to tell me what you think of it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome Back!

Welcome back to school!

(by the way kids, this pic is from an old TV show about school called Welcome Back Kotter. If you don't think it's funny your parents will. Really. Go get them now and they will laugh hysterically. The sweathogs were greatness, but I digress....)

Today was a beautiful day seeing so many faces roaming the halls and waiting to get into the library. :) To my kiddos who are now at the high school--we miss you! To my new ones--welcome! And to my returning kids.....Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.
Thanks to for the pic!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Wednesday Wars

Okay, so the cover of this book did NOT make me want to grab it and read it right away. I really really dislike this cover. The good news? The cover is NOT a reflection of the book.

The story takes place in 1967 with the Vietnam War playing out as a backdrop for Holling HoodHood (not a typo!) during his 7th grade year. As the only Presbyterian in his class, he is left each Wednesday with his teacher as the rest of his class either attends Catechism or Hebrew class. At first he is convinced his teacher, Mrs. Baker hates him because of this, and perhaps she does just a bit...but before too long she has him reading Shakespeare, trying to recapture giant rats gone wild, and eating the most scrumptious cream puffs you could ever imagine--the ones that aren't covered in chalk dust. There are many, many subplots to this book--Holling's peace-loving hippie-wanna-be sister and her angst, Mrs. Baker's husband who is fighting in Vietnam, Holling's dad the architect and their relationship shifts, bullies, and first loves. If you enjoy baseball, Shakespeare, or stories about growing up you will love this thoroughly enjoyable book.

Click here to read an interview with Gary Schmidt about this book.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Alchemyst : the secrets of the immortal Nicholas Flamel

This book, written by Michael Scott, is the 2nd of the 2008-2009 Lone Star books I'm reviewing, and I must say it is one thrilling ride! 15-year-old twins Sophie and Josh find themselves going from ordinary hum-drum lives to living the most surreal adventure imaginable in a matter of minutes. Their lives will be forever changed from this moment on...and the fate of the world is in their hands. The author has an amazing knowledge of "magical" historical characters and uses this superbly. From Nicholas Flamel himself, to ancient gods and goddesses to vampires and werepeople, the battle between good and evil is on--and it isn't always easy to tell the good guys from the bad. It appears that the twins have met their destiny--one that was prophesied in the famed book that Flamel and his wife have been the guardians of for centuries. As the *also* immortal Bette Davis once said, "Fasten your seat belts; it's going to be a bumpy night!"

I highly recommend this book--it's sooooo good you won't want to put it down. Fans of Harry Potter, or those who love books with mythological or otherwordly characters will devour this one.'s the first in a series. My copy has a teaser of the 2nd book at the end, along with notes about all the factual information in the book (yep, some of this stuff is REAL!)

So, get it. Read it. Love it.

Don't forget....the countdown is starts a week from tomorrow....see you soon!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds

Since school is about to start up for us again, I thought I'd start reviewing some of this year's Lone Star books. The first on the review list is Brothers, Boyfriends & Other Criminal Minds by April Lurie. Set in 1977 Brooklyn, the novel opens with, "Three murderers live on my block---two on opposite corners like a pair of bookends, and one right across the street from my house. Not the crazed, ax-wielding kind you might see in horror flicks, but genteel killers who go about business in Armani suits and Gucci shoes, their victims disappearing without a trace. This probably sounds creepy, and you might even wonder if I'm afraid for my life, but up until now I've always felt safe. That's because these men are members of La Cosa Nostra, This Thing of Ours. Most people call them Mafia."
Well, that got my attention! I've been a HUGE fan of anything mobster related since I was a little kid. My grandfather was a minister of a small church. One of the older members of his congregation was living a very quite life in his old age compared to his younger years---he actually had been the driver of the get-away car for notorious gangster Al Capone! After reading a book he had written about his life I became incredibly interested in learning all I could about this organization, if you will. Fascinating stuff. Not pretty, but fascinating nonetheless.

14-year-old April Lundquist lives in a very safe neighborhood in Brooklyn. (I mean, what petty criminal is gonna mess around with the Mob, right?) Things have been fine until the angst of her 9th grade year--her older brother Matt is apparently in love with the daughter of a very prominent member of the family, if you know what I mean, the guy she has been crushing on is maybe crushing back on her and her brother's best friend Little Joe is acting funny around her now, too. What is up with everyone? As if that isn't bad enough, her parents think she is an oddball and just don't get her fascination with Edgar Allen Poe, rock music, and the occasional skull candle. What's a girl to do?

I really like this book---and if boys can get past the hot pink cover I think some of you would like it, too. :) It's really a story of friendship and growing into yourself--figuring out who you are and what matters. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Shark Girl

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham is an excellent read. 15-year-old Jane Arrowood, a happy & beautiful girl as well as an outstanding artist, is happily hanging out at the beach with her family when disaster suddenly strikes. After surviving a harrowing shark attack (that has been plastered all over the news from a bystander's video) the doctors realize they cannot save her right arm and it is amputated above the elbow.
Her story is told in verse, and the sparse use of words is a powerful juxtaposition against the enormity of the emotions they convey.
As Jane grapples with her own feelings of anger and loss, her frustration at having to relearn how to do even simple things like opening jars--and her pain at losing--for a time, anyway--the activities that once defined her as "artist," "cook," and "normal teen" all make for a heart wrenching and powerful novel.
Those of you who are fans of Sonya Sones will love this novel, too! Warning: this book is obviously not all happiness and light. Be prepared with fresh hankies, a snuggly blanket, and a bit of comfort food--may I suggest warm chocolate chip cookies? Enjoy.

Let them eat cake

How's this for a stack of books???
Looks pretty good to me! I was absolutely amazed when I came across this picture---this looks like a stack of real books to me....and, as you know, I am a trained professional. *teehee*
It made me think, among other things such Marie Antoinette and who made this fabulous cake, about the tantalyzing tastiness of some books.
About how you look at the covers and just can't wait to discover what flavors the cake and fillings are within. About how authors have the incredible potential to fill us with wonderment of words.
It's a powerful thing, that.
The spoken and written word is filled with power and possibility.
I used to really long to be a writer of fabulous novels. I imagined what my life would be like...filled with interesting conversations with other wordsmiths, having people read with excitement thoughts that I had created, working in my jammies if I so chose; crafting absolute magic.
I now realize that I was not put on earth for that purpose--at least, it hasn't manifested itself yet. What I DO have the gift and ability to do is to read the works of others and then spread the word about them....captivate readers with my telling of these fabulous books, stories, and poems. Open the doors so that others may join me in the realm of wonderment and adventure that gifted authors have created.
I sincerely hope this blog will help me in that mission. And who knows? Maybe someone whose door I hold open now, will later realize that they have that gift of enticing readers with yummy morsels of writing. That would be a tasty treat indeed!

with shushing action, no less

I gotta tell you....I just LOVE these Nancy Pearl Librarian action figures--complete with comfy shoes and "shushing action." I love them so much I bought one when they first came out. Oh, the fun times we had. But alas, she got bumped from her perch on the top of my file cabinet (truly a place of honor) by a former student who shall remain nameless. Sadly, she was gravely injured in the accident. Yes, that's librarian action figure can no longer shush. In fact, she no longer has that arm. Oddly enough soon after "falling off" it completely disappeared--the arm, that is!

Now that my nameless student has gone on to the high school perhaps I can safely order a new action figure from the w-a-a-a-a-y cool Archie McPhee company. How can you not love a place that sells both zombie & librarian action figures and a wide range of items from bandages to lunch boxes that look like bacon and other meats?
Yes, thank goodness for the classic silliness of Archie McPhee--keep in mind that I was the only girl I knew who loved the 3 Stooges as a child and had a dad with a weird sense of humor to boot! Now go out and get yourself an action figure (or even the DE-luxe version) today!

oh, the lovely Gypsies...

What a summer! Not only have I read 2 Elvis books, but I've read 2 awesome books dealing with Gypsies, or the Romani or Rom, as they are also called.

So... I've always had a fascination with Gypsies. Maybe it has to do with the air of mystery, the life of adventure, song, dance and vivid colors. Or, maybe I owe it all to a certain boy I dated in high school who was of Romani descent....anyway, whatever it is, I have been and continue to be entranced by these nomadic and interesting people. They've gotten a bad rap throughout history--through equal parts fear of the mysterious and the deep divide on beliefs regarding work, owning things, etc., especially when compared to the Puritan group who settled in the new world. They've been persecuted forever--including by the Nazis.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner is a fabulous book that draws you into the lush and decaying world of France just as the Revolution is bubbling over. In it, a Gypsy boy named Yann who is gifted at throwing his voice and works for a magician becomes an unlikely hero after he meets the shy young heiress named Sido whose father is an utter aristocratic and hard-hearted fool. When the powerful and villainous Count Kalliovski decides to make Sido his pawn only Yann can oppose him. This book absolutely has it all--adventure, war, romance, a red necklace that shows up on the lovely necks of the recently murdered, mysterious characters of questionable descent, wealthy fools and wise paupers. I highly recommend it despite the fact that they put a blonde on the lovely cover when it should have been a brunette ;)

The Gypsy Crown by Kate Forsyth was originally published in Australia as a six-book serious called The Chain of Charms. This book takes place in 17th century England.

Cousins Emilia and Luka travel with their Rom families to town where they hope to earn money for the dowry of another family member. Baba has warned them this will bring trouble--she has "read" it, and indeed, that is exactly what comes to pass. Family members are jailed and set to be hanged by the Puritans who despise Gypsies, but Luke and Emilia escape and go on a quest to save the rest of the family. I love the adventure and the historical aspects of this book--as Booklist puts it:
"Carefully woven into this exciting adventure story is the fascinating and horrifying recounting of the Puritanical religious fervor that cast a net of persecution over anything or anyone secular, including the joyous, rambling Rom. This chilling period in English history is documented in a final chapter, but it is illuminated as only fiction can through the exciting, mud-splattered, often violent adventures of Emilia and Luka."

This one is highly recommended, as well....but if you go looking for it just note that my cover is vastly different from the one pictured here!

Now, check out the cool photo of some actual Rom!
old photo

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

AP classes.....have you done your reading yet?

(image: thanks to

This post is especially for my students going into 9th grade. For those of you who are planning to be in the AP Language Arts class, please tell me you've finished your reading & your annotations.

Okay, least reassure me that you have finished the Wizard of Oz and are now diligently working on your science fiction choice....

Um...have you at least bought the books?

Seriously, you are down to less than 3 weeks. The assignment is tough. The class will be more so. It is a weeder--meaning, they make it intentionally difficult to make the people who are not serious about it leave.

The clock is ticking, my dears.....get started if you haven't already. And if you have? Well then, get finished! On the off-chance (judging by those of you I have spoken with recently) that you are finished, then good job! Go buy yourself a sno-cone to celebrate!

Best of luck to all of you!
Mrs. S

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Breaking Dawn---no spoilers, promise!

Yep, I was one of those crazy fans that showed up to get my book at midnight last night. I got to our local Hastings (sadly the ONLY book store in my town) about 11:20. While the crowd wasn't as large as I expected, there were quite a few people there--some in prom dresses, others like myself wearing a t-shirt and denim and trying not to look a hot mess at that hour, and still others wearing more goth-like garb. It was wonderful to see so many of my former students (you guys rock) playing Twilight trivia (congrats Hunter!) and eagerly awaiting the midnight hour....
After visiting with some friends the hour finally approached and we all took our spot in the long lines....did I say there weren't many people there? Ha! At this point they seemed to materialize out of thin air! After buying this book, I only stopped to buy some caffeine and then it was time to take my reading place on the couch. I finally made myself go to bed around 4:30 this morning---with about 1/4 of the book left to finish. I have a confession to make here...I did peek at the end and I never do that....but I couldn't help myself. Despite my droopy eyes I couldn't put the book down until I knew.....well, I wouldn't want to spoil anything here....It's now around 1:30 in the afternoon and the book is satisfyingly finished and I've taken a bit of time just to hold it inside me, ruminate on it, and just enjoy the fabulousness.
What can I say--I loved, loved, loved this book, and it is more mature than the others in the series. I would highly recommend it for 8th grade and up. I will absolutely blog about this book as soon as I feel like enough time has been given for it not to spoil things for the majority of Twilight fans....enjoy!