Children’s Book Week – the Librarian reviews

by Meg

This week marks the 99th year of the National Children’s Book Week – and to celebrate, I thought I’d share what kids these days are reading and enjoying.

I got to fulfill one of my life-long dreams this year when I became the librarian for my children’s small school. Granted, it’s nothing glamorous. But once a week, I get to go into a room full of shelves of books (many of which I purchased this year) and try to inspire kids to “Read More!” – then watch their faces light up as they tell me all about the great book they just finished reading. That may not give everyone the warm fuzzies, but I love it.

Today – Library Day – I decided to survey each class and find out what their favorite books/series were from this past year. Each student got a chance to share. And honestly, my favorite part was hearing from certain kids who started out the year never wanting to check out or read ANY books. You’ll see below what made the difference for them. So if you’re a teacher or parent and you’re looking for some books for your kids (but don’t know how to get them reading), here is a  list of books submitted solely by kids.





  • The Harry Potter books (once one got started, they were all reading these – I couldn’t keep them on the shelves)
  • The Serafina books by Robert Beatty (see our reviews of them – also had these checked out every week).
  • Any and all of the Minecraft novels (NOTE: In my opinion, these aren’t the greatest books as far as writing goes; however, there were at least 5 or 6 boys in this class that wanted nothing to do with reading; but as soon as I got these, they started checking them out every week. I’ve gotten to where I will get this kind of stuff if it gets them reading. We now have 12 of these and many are checked out every week in all grades – 1st-6th) – this is just one of many sets.
  • The Red Rocks Mysteries by Jerry B. Jenkins & Chris Fabry – 15 total of these (might find sets on ebay), many of which were checked out weekly. The girls in particular would have “discussions” each week on who got to check out the next one in the series first.
  • Book Scavenger, by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (a super-fun mystery – the most checked-out “new” book I got).
  • Jackie and Me, by Dan Gutman (for the kids into sports).
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The First Five Books – a reading challenge update

from  Meg’s Reading Challenge – follow her on Goodreads here.

Here are the first 5 books I’ve gotten through so far this year in my 40 book reading challenge – and whether or not I’d recommend them (note: they are not all 5-star).

The Outlaws of Sherwood, by Robin McKinley

sherwood3-STARS – This one’s been sitting in my kindle for a while, barely started – so let’s start by finishing! Part of my motivation for reading this was that I LOVED the BBC Robin Hood series (circa 2009); and the other part is that I love McKinley’s Beauty – I read it annually. (Also see AB’s take here.) This version takes a unique twist in that Robin is not quite the archer/hero most tales make him – he’s not that great with a bow (Marian is much better – go woman power!), and his leadership is kind of “thrust upon him.” A fun alternative for sure, esp. for those who aren’t born wanting to blaze the trail. But by focusing more on the outlaws as a whole, I felt like the story dragged on a bit, lacked compelling character development, and by the end, was wrapped up much too tidily. It’s not a bad book (boys who love all things Robin Hood may love it)- just definitely not my favorite of hers.

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco

Continue reading

End-of-Year Reading Challenge Update

By Megan

2017’s Reading Challenge is in the books (ha – ok, maybe pun intended) – so I wanted to share the last few books I read to finish it up along with a few tips I learned about doing a “reading challenge” as well as share my goal for this new year (actual books on my list coming later).

Tips about Reading Challenges:

  1. DO try utilizing Goodreads – this website/app makes it really easy to keep track of books you’ve read/are reading/want to read. I almost always have my phone with me, so if I hear about a book or read something online, I can quickly add it to my “want to read” list – no more forgetting all those “friend recommendations.” They also set up a Reading Challenge that you can customize to any amount you want. And any book you mark as “Read” will go towards your reading goal for the year.
  2. DON’T try to assign titles to all of your reading goals – for instance, I want to read 40 books this year. But this time, I’m not going to write down 40 titles – only 25-30. I get so many recommendations throughout the year, I want to have room to fill in with new ideas.
  3. DO try to read a wide variety of genres – this is always stretching for me, but I loved the variety I got from last year’s challenge.
  4. DON’T shop for books on Amazon or if you have no money. Enough said.

2017 Books reviewed:

Here are 10 books that I read this year that I haven’t reviewed yet – some might be good ideas for your own reading challenge lists (or your kids’ lists!). A good number were juvenile/Young Adult books because I am now a volunteer school librarian, so … it just kind of happens. 🙂 Continue reading

Reading Challenge Update with a little bit of everything (by Meg)

I know. I haven’t posted an update in a while, but I promise I’ve been reading and keeping up with this challenge. In a way. I’m on track with my book count – but I do keep switching out books. I know, this is kind of cheating, but I mean, all of you people keep recommending more good stuff that I have to read. So anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading since the last updateScreen Shot 2017-09-12 at 10.42.43 PM

First off, I ended up reading a bunch of AB and Natalie’s recommendations, like …

  • Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey – Loved this. The perspective into someone struggling with dimentia coupled with a whodunnit was brilliant, IMHO.
  • Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin – With the exception of the ending** this was a powerful retelling of the Prodigal Son. I was on a bus full of teenagers on their way to camp … trying not to cry my eyes out (and hide this fact from said teens). The part where Cooper finds the map from his father is worth the entire novel.
  • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstoreby Robin Sloan –  The perfect vacation read, esp. for millenials in love with their technology … while also bringing in the love of real books.

I also finished a few that I’d mentioned in previous posts but hadn’t reviewed: Continue reading

The Secret of Spellshadow Manor, by Bella Forrest

spellI’d like to say that I’ve never succumbed to the lure of clickbait. Usually I’m a strong person on Facebook. Clickbait? That’s for simpletons. But … well, there was this kind of ad post with a cool-looking book cover for The Secret of Spellshadow Manor that said “If you loved Harry Potter, you will LOVE this new series! Get the kindle deal today only!” And unfortunately, I’m a huge HP fan, and, well, anyway it was a great kindle deal. I mean, yeah, the author is known for a ton of cranked-out vampire mysteries, but this could be her Shining Star … right? Continue reading

What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty

Review by Meg 

When I was a college freshman, I wrote a “10 year” letter to myself – to be read when I was 29. It was full of the usual stuff – who my friends were, what classes I was taking, the guy that I currently had a crush on, etc. I put it away in my keepsake box and proceeded to forget about it. Then, when I was 28, right after having my first child, I found it – and decided 9 years was good enough to wait, and re-met my 19-year-old self. By this point in my life, it was mostly funny to read, maybe mildly embarrassing (I liked THAT guy – Really? And thought I might MARRY him??). But that whole instance brings up an interesting question: Do you know what your life will be like 10 years from now?

What Alice Forgot begins with Alice waking up (with a very sore head), thinking she’s 29 years old, madly in love and about to have her first baby – only to be told that she’s actually 39, has 3 kids, and is about to get a divorce. Shealice has absolutely no memory of the last ten years of her life, and cannot imagine how on earth she got to where she is now. Continue reading

Snapshot: 3 quick reviews on 3 celebrity memoirs

By Meg
I didn’t mean to binge on celebrity memoirs the past few weeks, but as I’ve requested various ones from the library the past 3-6 months, they all became available for me AT THE SAME TIME. And of course books that you wait 6 months for cannot be renewed … so blitz through them I did. All were enjoyable to a degree, but one definitely rose above the crowd. So here are 3 really quick reviews (with star ratings)  of memoirs by Carrie Fisher, Cary Elwes, and Megyn Kelly.

PDbookThe “meh”moir:
The Princess Diarist,
by Carrie Fisher. ***

I’m always interested in people’s diaries, so reading Carrie Fisher’s actual entries in her handwriting was fascinating. But for the most part, this was the story of an older teenager with a crush on her much-older, married co-star having meaningless sex with him during the weekends of their filming of the first Star Wars movie. She admits her own immaturities; but with the excess of the vulgarities and her lack of ultimately pointing to anything beyond her memories, I came away from this read (which took less than a day to finish) just feeling kind of “meh.” I’d hoped for more. Continue reading