Tag Archives: YA books

Feelin’ Groovy

Hello, Sweeteas,

Exciting things are happening at our library this month!

1- We have a lot of new, wonderful books in our library. Too many to list on this post! I will, however, mention and rate a few gems:

Beneath by Roland Smith ****

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby *****

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell *****

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin ****

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman *****

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson ****

Noggin by John Corey Whaley ****

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee *****

The Trap by Steven Arntson ****

X: A Novel by  Ilyasah Shabazz *****

You will find summaries of these books in Lion (DPS Library Catalog). (See Blogroll.)

2- February is African American History Month (also known as Black History Month). We have many outstanding books written about or by African Americans. Come take a look!

3- February 14 is Valentine’s Day. We have several sweet books about tween and teen love. Plus I’ll be handing out candy!

4- The Feelin’ Groovy Scholastic Book Fair will take place in the library February 23-25 during the school day and during student-led conferences. The fair will also be online February 17 – March 1. You’ll receive a take-home flier with information soon. Start asking your family for money to buy groovy books! Remember: all sales benefit the school!

And now for some book news:

1- Neal Shusterman won the National Book Award for his YA novel Challenger Deep about a teenager battling a mental illness.

2- Gene Luen Yang, author of the award-winning graphic novel American Born Chinese, was selected as the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

3- The American Library Association Youth Media awards are in. It’s the first time a Hispanic author (Matt de la Peña!) wins the Newbery! Here’s a list of the winners:

https://kidsbeta.denverlibrary.org/blog/annual-childrens-book-awards

Some of the above books are already in our library, and others will be coming soon!

Happy reading!

“Put on the kettle and make some tea,
It’s all a part of feeling groovy.” — mod band The Jam

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Dragons and Magic Books

Hello, Sweateas,

I’ve been very busy getting the hang of my new job as librarian, so I had to put my writing and blogs on hold for a while, but here I am now, hopefully back on the writing and blogging saddle.

But have I been too busy to read? NEVER!

In the last four months I’ve read 35 books, which is a little over two books per week. My goal is to read at least two books per week, so I’m right on track in spite of being so busy. 🙂

Today I’m praising a couple of fantasy books new to our ebook collection (the Follett Shelf). They are:

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman ***** is the first book in a new and exciting YA high-fantasy series:

In the mythical medieval kingdom of Goredd, dragons have the ability to take human form and live and work alongside humans, in spite of having a very different philosophy and code of conduct. Seraphina is a 16-year-old gifted court musician with a shameful secret: she’s half-dragon, half-human. This fascinating new series contains a lot of political intrigue and medieval action, a touch of romance, and some of the coolest dragons ever. Don’t miss it!

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens ***** is the first book in the fantastic new juvenile series: Books of Beginning:

 Kate, Michael, and Emma are siblings who were taken from their parents when they were very young to protect them from a powerful evil that’s threatening the world. They’ve spent the last 10 years hidden in a series of orphanages. While exploring the last–and strangest– of these, they come upon a magical green book which transports them 15 years into the past. Thus begins an exciting and dangerous adventure that includes an evil witch, grumpy dwarves, zombie-like monsters, and more. If you liked the Narnia books, you will definitely enjoy this series.

Come check out a spooky book at our library this week. We have several fun reads to choose from. And if you’re looking for an awesome high-level creepy book, try my favorite: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. We have several copies. Two other Bradbury Halloween gems are The Halloween Tree and From the Dust Returned. Those you’ll find at your local library.

Happy Halloween!

Ms. Pla

“Give me a good cup of coffee and a book I love, and I’ll be happy.”                               source: riseafterfalling.com

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A Dystopia, a Post-Apocalyptic World, and Time Travel

Hello, sweeteas,

Happy 2014! I’ve been reading a few YA series from our school library that I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Here’s a short blurb for each, plus my rating.

Matched Trilogy by Ally Condie****

Cassia lives in a dystopian world where the powers in charge (the Society) make all the “right” choices for its citizens—from what to eat to who to marry to what to believe. But a glitch in the matchmaking process causes Cassia to start doubting the infallibility of the system, and the result is a series of  life-altering events that show her the value and price of love and freedom. (Great for Literature Circles or Book Club discussions.)

Enclave Series by Ann Aguirre ****

The world has been mostly destroyed by war and plague. Deuce was born to a surviving clan living in an enclave deep in the New York subway tunnels. When she turned 15, she was assigned the role of Huntress and paired with Fade, a teenage boy originally from the surface. Deuce and Fade discover that their enclave is in danger of being attacked by Freaks (mutant cannibals), but the elders ignore their warnings. The enclave’s rigid rules end up causing Deuce and Fade to be exiled to the surface, where they must survive and escape from, not just the Freaks, but also the dangerous gangs that roam the city. Exciting read! (At this point, the library only has the first book in the series.)

Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier ****

Gwyneth Shepherd was born to one of two families who carry a time-traveling gene. Everyone thought that her cousin would be the one–and the last– to manifest the trait in her family, so she was trained accordingly by the ancient secret society in charge of monitoring the phenomenon. But it turns out that Gwyneth, and not her cousin, is the one with the time-traveling ability. And as if that wasn’t enough, apparently she also possesses a powerful and mysterious magic. So now she has to go on all these life-threatening, time-traveling adventures with the handsome time traveler (Gideon) from the other family, and at the same time uncover the secrets of the society. Great read! (Only the first book is in the library, but I have placed the other two on the wish list.)

My favorite of the three series? Ruby Red. Very entertaining!

“Arthur blinked at the screens and felt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realized what it was.

“Is there any tea on this spaceship?” he asked.” 

―Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy 

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YA Yummies

Dear sweeteas,

A few yummy YA books you may enjoy (with my ratings):

Reckless and Fearless by Cornelia Funke ****

When young Jacob Reckless discovers a way in and out of an alternate world through a mirror in his father’s study, his life changes to one full of magical adventures. But first his brother’s life and now his own life are in danger.

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey ****

Aliens take over Earth and a few teenage survivors fight back. Page-turner!

Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan ****

A romance blooms between a teenage boy who is cursed with invisibility and the only person—a girl his age—who can see him.

Earth Girl by Janet Edwards ****

The year is 2788. Humans have succeeded in colonizing other worlds. However, one in a thousand people are born with an immune system that does not allow them to survive on other planets. Super-talented eighteen-year-old Jarra is one of them.

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams ****

Cody’s rich ex-girlfriend Lea has disappeared from her boarding school in Vermont. Carrying a letter she sent him the day she disappeared, Cody sets out from Colorado to find out what happened. In the process, he discovers talents he didn’t know he had.

Matched by Ally Condie ****

Cassia lives in a dystopian world where the powers in charge (the Society) make all the “right” choices for the citizens—from what to eat to who to marry to what to believe. But a glitch in the matchmaking process causes Cassia to start doubting the infallibility of the system.

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale ****

Miri and a few of her Princess Academy friends are brought to Asland to help Britta prepare for her royal wedding. But Miri is soon caught in a web of political intrigue that causes her to question her feelings and loyalties. She’ll have to decide who’s in the right and how best to help them.

The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer ****

This is the long-awaited sequel to The House of the Scorpion. Matt, a fourteen-year-old clone, finds himself thrust into the position of drug lord when his original, the fearsome El Patrón, dies. He is now the ruler of his own country: the Land of Opium. He will need to make difficult decisions to protect his friends, save the people his predecessor enslaved, and help restore the ecological balance of the planet.

Happy reading!

GRAMMAR TEA: They’re there for their afternoon tea. I’m figuratively dying for a cuppa. Don’t lose the loose-leaf tea. Less milk and fewer sugar lumps. I’m going to add two sugars too. The caffeine effect affects us all. –from incrediblethings.com

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Spooky Reads

NOTE: MY NEXT POST WILL BE IN JANUARY.

Hi, sweeteas,

October is the month for spooky reads. Here are a few recommendations:

My favorites by Ray Bradbury:

The Halloween Tree – A fascinating story about a group of boys who take a guided tour through time to learn about the history and meaning of Halloween and to save their friend from the clutches of death.

Something Wicked This Way Comes – An mysterious carnival comes to town, but a young boy and his father thwart its evil plan.

From the Dust Returned – A collection of stories about a family of (mostly) supernatural beings.

The October Country – A collection of very dark stories.

By Roald Dahl:

The Witches (The movie is great, too!)

Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories

Let’s not forget the horror classics:

Tales of Horror and Suspense  and The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Dracula – Briam Stoker

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

A few hair-raising story collections:

All Hallows’ Eve Thirteen Stories — Vivian Van Velde

Halloween – Paula Guran (Editor)

October Dreams – a Celebration of Halloween – Richard Chizmar (Editor), Robert Moorish (Editor)

The Book of Halloween – Edna Kelley (Editor)

And more creepy stuff:

Halloween by Melanie Jackson – A terrifying trick-or-treat adventure.

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn – A creepy and scary ghost story.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – The story of a baby who is raised by the ghosts of a cemetery (awesome read!).

Halloween Night I and II  by R.L.Stine – A scary story about revenge (with a lot of high school drama).

Advanced YA readers: Want to get really creeped out? Read Stephen King’s The Shining or It or The Storm of the Century or any other of his scary novels (or watch the movies!).

Careful now – you don’t want to get too scared (just a little bit and just for fun). Try sharing a scary book with a friend. Better yet, have a sleep-over and take turns reading a scary story aloud. Fun times!

Have a Happy Halloween!

Leonard, social protocol states that when a friend is upset you offer them a hot beverage, such as tea. — Sheldon (from The Big Bang Theory)

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Suspenseful Reads!

Hi, sweateas,

My post is one day late, sorry!

Here are the books (Juvenile and YA) I read in August, with my rating and a brief description of the plot:

1- The Shadows (Books of Elsewhere Series #1) by Jacqueline West ****

Eleven-year-old Olive and her parents move into a Victorian mansion full of antique paintings that are really portals to a strange and dangerous world full of spooky shadows. I loved the talking cats! ****

2- The Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki ****

A brother and sister solve the mystery of a ghost that haunts Graylock Hall, an abandoned mental asylum for young people. Suspenseful and creepy!

3- The Family Hitchcock by Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett****

Seeking an affordable summer vacation, the Hitchcocks swap houses with a family in Paris,  only to find themselves caught in a web of political intrigue and end up fighting for their lives. Action-packed fun!

4- Falling In by Frances O’Roark Dowell ****

Sixth grader Isabelle Bean stumbles into a parallel fairy-tale world where villagers are afraid of a witch who supposedly eats children. Surprising story line!

5- Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage *****

Sixth grader Miss Moses (Mo) LoBeau (along with her best friend, Dale Earnhart Johnson III) set out to solve a murder mystery that affects the lives of the quirky people who rescued her when she was an infant and who became the only family she has ever known. Wonderful and humorous Southern-small-town yarn!

6- Graveyard Shift by Chris Westwood ***

Londoner Ben Harvester’s unique gifts make him the perfect candidate for an apprenticeship with Mr. October, an agent for the Ministry of Pandemonium, a secret organization responsible for tracking down lost souls and guiding them to the afterlife. This paranormal adventure is not very convincing, but it’s interesting and entertaining enough for a read, especially if you enjoy the genre.

7- Out of Mind by Sharon M. Draper *****

Fifth-grader Melody has cerebral palsy and is therefore unable to walk,  talk, or care for herself. She also has a photographic memory and is the smartest kid in her school, except no one knows. She faces these insurmountable obstacles with courage, intelligence, and determination, and –with the help of her loving family and her caregivers– discovers a way to communicate and shine. In the process she learns that people can sometimes be obstacles as well. This novel is simply awesome!

8- A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie by Matt Blackstone****

Rene Fowler is a 14-year-old boy who suffers from obsessive-compulsive behavior and the traumatic memories of his father who abandoned him and his mother when he was a young boy. The story of Rene’s struggle to fit into the chaotic world of high school is told in first person, so the reader is constantly inside Rene’s messy, noisy, anxious, and exhausting interior world. Being in Rene’s head is one wild ride!

That’s it for the month of August. I’ll post again by October 7.

Happy reading!

No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odor to the nostrils.~Henry Ward Beecher

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Life: Funny, Sad, and Full of Wonders

Hi, sweeteas,

I have three books for you this month:

1- Guys Read — Funny Business Edited by Jon Scieszka *****

This book is a collection of humorous stories written by well-known and loved authors such as Eoin Colfer, Christopher Paul Curtis, Kate DiCamillo, Jack Gantos, Jon Scieszka, and others. You will love these tales of mischievous boys, a homicidal turkey, alien body snatchers, and more.

It’s easy to relate to the funny characters in this collection, whether we’re male or female, young or old. My favorite story is “Your Question for Author Here” by Kate Di Camillo and Jon Sciezka, where a middle school boy and a famous writer get to know each other through letters. The boy asks the author questions about writing and the author answers them while encouraging the boy to become a writer, too. Here are a couple of the questions and answers in the story:

1-”Why do you write?”

“To be found, understood, seen; and to find, understand, and see others.” [paraphrased] “I like lightning and//thunder, flashlight and the BAM://looking, being found.” “Every book I write helps me to understand myself better and to love the world more.”

2-”What got you started writing?”

“I decided to change my life, to work as much good in the world as I was capable of working.”

I love these answers because they match my own reason and mission for writing and teaching.

Read this collection. It’s funny and great and it’s not just for boys.

2- Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby  ****

This YA novel is set in the American Midwest during the Depression. It explores the themes of loss, identity, and belonging. The main character is Portia Remini, a gypsy girl with a talent for storytelling, who’s left to live with her aunt while her father sets out to hunt for work. Eventually the aunt gets tired of Portia’s antics and sends her to McGravey’s Home for Wayward Girls, which is nothing but a glorified slave camp.  The owner of the home is a creepy and abusive bachelor called Mister. Portia manages to escape from Mister and join a traveling circus that features an interesting group of “freaks.” There she makes herself useful in the kitchen and as a storyteller. Her hope is that the traveling will help her find her father.

There’s a constant creepy current of tension in this novel: Will Portia find her father, or will Mister find her instead? If Mister finds her, what will he do to her? Will she ever find a home and a family where she can belong? However, it’s the characterization that makes the story such a good read. The characters are well-rounded, complex, and captivating. I wanted more danger and a more detailed resolution, but I enjoyed the book nevertheless.

3- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. *****

This absolutely fabulous YA novel is about teenagers with cancer. That said, it’s one of the best YA books I’ve read. The writing is simply brilliant. I don’t want to say much about the plot because I won’t be able to do it justice. Let me just state that the story is sad, funny, and poignant. That it’s about love, being alive, and living a life full of meaning and purpose. That you’ll love the characters and suffer and rejoice with them. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll celebrate. You’ll mourn. And you’ll do a lot of thinking. In fact, reading this book will probably make you a better person. It could even change your life. That’s the real power of a great book.

That’s all for this month. Visit the library and enjoy your last weeks of summer reading!

Much love!

“Coffee is a beverage that puts one to sleep when not drank.” ~Alphonse Allais

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Strange People and Strange Worlds

Hi, sweeteas,

I’m back! I trust you guys are enjoying an awesome summer break. God willing, I’ll be sharing book blurbs and recommendations by the 7th of every month. If the plan changes, I’ll let you know.

ALSO, IF YOU ARE A WRITER, CHECK OUT MY NEW BLOG: THE WRITE TOWN: WWW.THEWRITETOWN.WORDPRESS.COM

This month’s titles, blurbs, and ratings:

1- The Whisper (sequel to The Roar) by Emma Clayton ****

In The Roar we learned that The Wall that was built to separate the infected from the healthy in a depleted post-apocalyptic world, is nothing but a plot to keep the poor away from the rich. In the action-packed and environmentally-conscious sequel, The Whisper, telepathic twins Mika and Ellie must use their abilities to overthrow Mal Gordan (an evil tyrant bent on creating an army of mutant children to secure world power and eternal youth), liberate the brainwashed children, tear down The Wall, and change the world. This novel is full of action and is not as violent as other YA bestsellers. Great Read!

2- Bruiser by Neail Shusterman ****

Bruiser is the strange story of a young man who literally takes on the emotional and physical pain of everyone he cares about. It’s a thought-provoking novel about true friendship, the meaning and purpose of pain, and the sacrifices that we must make for the good of those we love. Shusterman does it again — great read!

3- Chime by Franny Bilingsley *****

Seventeen-year-old Briony Larkin hates herself and believes she is an evil witch. Her stepmother — who has died mysteriously — convinced her that she is the cause of all her family’s tragedies, including her twin sister’s mental/social disability.  But when cheery, handsome Eldric comes to live with the family, things start to change.  Slowly Briony discovers who she truly is and what has really happened to her. The story explores the consequences of emotional abuse and the complexities of family relationships. Briony’s voice — her anguish and her confusion — rings true from beginning to end.  I enjoyed the love story, the creative use of language, and the sheer creepiness of the world. Awesome read! “Filled with eccentric characters—self-hating Briony foremost—and oddly beautiful language, this is a darkly beguiling fantasy.” — Publishers Weekly

4- Divergent by Veronica Roth ****

Enter the new and improved Chicago, where society is divided into five factions, the members of which are dedicated to developing their most dominant virtue: selflessness (Abnegation),  peacefulness (Amity), honesty (Candor ), bravery (Dauntless ), or intelligence (Erudite ). Sixteen-year-olds are tested to identify their dominant virtue, but then are allowed to choose the faction to which they will devote all their lives. But Beatrice is a divergent; her test results don’t match any  faction. And after making a choice that surprises everyone — including herself — she begins a journey of self-discovery that leads her to face (and oppose) what’s really happening in her “perfect” world. There’s a lot of violence in this novel, but it’s an interesting read.

5- The Drowned Cities by Paolo Pacigalupi ***

This story is set in the same dismal world as Ship Breaker, but it follows the struggles of different characters. Mahlia and Mouse are two kids trying to survive in a war zone not far from the Drowned Cities that were once Washington D.C. Mahlia helps Tool, a genetically enhanced half-man, recover from his fatal wounds, and as a result, an unlikely allegiance is formed between them. Together they set out to rescue Mouse, who has been forcibly recruited by a band of violent marauders. The novel is very well-written, with lots of action, a fascinating setting, and interesting/damaged characters, but I had one problem with it: I didn’t like Mahlia, the main character, all that much. Still, those of you who like violent war stories will really enjoy this novel.

That’s all for this month. Visit the library and enjoy your summer of reading!
 
Much love!
 
“If you are cold, tea will warm you.  If you are too heated, it will cool you.  If you are depressed, it will cheer you.  If you are excited, it will calm you.”  ~Gladstone, 1865

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Reading Frenzy!

Hi, sweeteas,

This past two weeks I’ve been experiencing a sort of reading frenzy. Here are some of the books I’ve read. I’ve added a rating as well.

Juvenile:

A Tale Dark and Grim by Adam Gidwitz (gory retellings of fairy tales with Hansel and Gretel as protagonists) ****

School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari (four unusual children are sent to a wacky school to get cured of their phobias) ****

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (a royal family lives in a castle that has a mind of its own and is trying to protect them) ****

The Moon Over High Street by Natalie Babbitt (a boy chooses between the opportunity to have a life of ease and the freedom to follow his dreams) ****

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (the humorous summer adventures of a young boy in a small town) *****

YA:

There once Lived a Woman Who tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (a collection of creepy fairy tales similar to scary urban myths) ***

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (an imaginative magical adventure set in an alternate present-day Britain) ****

I Shall Wear Midnight by Sir Terry Pratchet (with the help of the wee free men, witch Tiffany Aching faces another dangerous challenge and ends up getting a boyfriend) *****

I love the Tiffany Aching books. Sir Terry Pratchet is a master fantasy storyteller, and the antics of the wee free men (tiny dwarf-like magical creatures) are always hilarious. Don’t miss this wonderful series!

Next on my YA book pile:

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

The Whisper by Emma Clayton (the sequel to The Roar)

Chime by Franny Billingsley

How do I choose the books I read? I visit bookstores that carry a wide, quality selection of juvenile/YA books, and I write down the titles of the books that appeal to me. I also pay attention to the books my friends and students recommend. Then I request the books from my local library. If I start reading a book and discover that it doesn’t interest me, I put it aside and start reading another. There are hundreds of wonderful books out there, so I always find something I like or love.

BECAUSE I’LL BE TAKING A CLASS AT CU-DENVER DURING THE MONTH OF JUNE, I WILL NOT BE BLOGGING UNTIL JULY. TALK TO YOU THEN!

Much love!

P.S. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is going to be made into a movie! Yay!

Mothers are those wonderful people who can get up in the morning before the smell of coffee.  ~Author Unknown

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Like Brother, Like Sister

Hello, sweeteas,

Today I’ll be writing about a series I absolutely love: the Enola Holmes Mystery series by Nancy Springer. I know I have mentioned it to you before, but after re-reading the first  installment and because we recently celebrated International Women’s Day, I feel that it’s important to encourage you again to read this not-as-well-known-as-the-Harry-Potter-or-Percy-Jackson-books-but-equally-fabulous series.

There are six books in this historical mystery series, and the first one is titled The Case of the Missing Marquess. Enola (“which, backwards, spells alone“) is the young sister of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes and his very proper, older brother Mycroft. The setting is Victorian England, which means that Enola is living in a time period and a society where women are treated as less important and less intelligent than men. (Is that no longer the case, I ask?) Enola’s mother mysteriously disappears on Enola’s fourteenth birthday, and her brothers, whom she has not seen in 10 years, show up and decide to send her off to boarding school (the horror!). But intelligent, emancipated Enola has other plans. Her mother has left her a little book of ciphers and plenty of money, so Enola disguises herself and courageously heads to dangerous London, where she hopes to search for her mother, while hiding from her brothers.  Fortunately, Enola’s brothers consistently underestimate her, so she’s able to outsmart them and figure out how to track her mother, while solving  the famous kidnapping mystery of Viscount Tewksbury, Marquess of Basilwether (like brother, like sister). The story has a lot of action and suspense, as well as clever and funny situations. Last, but not least, the author’s exceptional use of imagery, dialect, and historical facts make it a convincing and delightful read. 

Enola’s adventures continue in the subsequent installments:

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady

The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets

The Case of the peculiar Pink Fan

The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline

The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye

The plot lines are great, but the best part about the series is Enola’s voice:

It feels very queer to think of one’s mother as a person like oneself, not just a mum, so to speak. Yet there it was: She had been weak as well as strong. She had felt trapped as I did. She had felt the injustice of her situation just as keenly. She had been forced to obey, as I would be forced to obey. She had wanted to rebel, as I desperately yearned to rebel, without knowing how I ever would or could.

But, in the end, she had managed it. Glorious rebelion.

Confound her, why had she not taken me with her?

It’s Enola’s smart, heartfelt, and witty voice — a voice you can identify with — that makes you want to keep reading, not just the first book, but each of the five successive installments. The books never disappoint, and it’s such a treat to read how Sherlock slowly learns to accept his talented little sister as his equal. Enola herself evolves as a person throughout the series, so that, by the end, she has become an independent young woman and a force to be reckoned with.

Read these books, guys. They are awesome.

Much love!

P.S. See you at The Hunger Games!

A morning without coffee is like sleep.  ~Author Unknown

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