Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I can scarcely believe I'm writing this post - I'm so excited!  Sunday morning, I checked the statistics of Reading for Sanity's Facebook page, only to see that a goal I had set when I took over, 1000 likes, had been reached.

There were squeals.  There were cheers.  And then there was a heating pad (my back is being stubborn).  Mindy was beyond thrilled.  She's currently roasting at a Water Park, but wanted to let you know that her exuberance caused her to nearly lose her place in her current book!!

And then we decided to either go big or go home.  We couldn't do this without you.  We're still a growing blog, but we are so excited to be able to give back.  Our amazing friends over at have generously agreed to host a giveaway!!

We will be giving away ONE $40 e-giftcard to a lucky RFSer!!  Need I remind you what amazingness Gone Reading offers?  Gorgeous book platters, book-themed decor, t-shirts ... I have to limit myself drooling over the site.  Their dedication to furthering global literacy makes me all the more excited about this giveaway.

Simply follow the instructions below to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


THREE Reading for Sanity readers will be randomly selected to receive one of the following books. *Disclaimer* I have yet to read these.  I'm trying!  In order to be eligible for the book giveaways, please leave a comment below about which book you want.


My!  I think we've got something there for everyone, don't you?  Best of luck, dear friends, and keep reading!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Are My Books .... DOOMED?!

I've had a few conversations lately about the whole ebook vs. real books.  It's an interesting debate - and I find humor in how passionate people are about their stance.  I've heard people swear that actual books will be completely out of date within five years, and people who scoff at the whole ebook trend in general.

As the site administrator of a book review blog, I pay attention to the debates.  I'm not an ebook fan.  I've read a few, and they have some perks, but I greatly prefer a real book.  Lugging over 40 for my family on a recent vacation is a small price to pay in my mind!  (Maybe not in my back ...)

Anyway, I found this incredible infographic and wanted to share.  What do you guys think?  My official stance is "Reading is Reading.  The end."  (Personally, though, hand me that book!!)

Friday, July 25, 2014

Loved The Fault in Our Stars? Perhaps you should read these...

John Green’s The Fault in our Stars has taken the world by storm in recent months. At the library we get at least one request for this book daily, not to mention the frequent inquiries as to other books by Green from those who have already read it. Though we have several copies in our collection the wait list never seems to dwindle.

Perhaps the  most obvious theme from this book is that of teens dying too young of an incurable disease. Yet there are so many other reason that people love this book. One librarian friend told me that she always book talks this title as “the funniest book about teens dying from cancer you’ll ever read”. That statement might generate a few odd looks but I couldn't agree more. The humor in this book is a large part of it’s appeal. Also the title contains a beautiful love story. So below you will find titles that contain terminal illness or death, as well as a few selected because of the love story found within and their witty humor sure to resonate with readers.

At the top of my list would be Esther Earl's biography, This Star Won't Go Out. This was the girl to whom John Green dedicated The Fault in Our Stars, and though the main character, Hazel Grace, is not based on Esther the two do share many similarities. 

Summary: A collection of Esther's writings, This Star Won't Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, was published by Dutton on Jan. 28, 2014, and is now a New York Times Bestseller. Photographs and essays by family and friends will help to tell Esther's story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars to her.
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Titles that are smart and funny, contain a love story, and also feature a teen dying from a terminal illness:

Deadline by Chris Crutcher

Summary: Ben Wolf has big things planned for his senior year. Had big things planned. Now what he has is some very bad news and only one year left to make his mark on the world.
How can a pint-sized, smart-ass seventeen-year-old do anything significant in the nowheresville of Trout, Idaho?
First, Ben makes sure that no one else knows what is going on—not his superstar quarterback brother, Cody, not his parents, not his coach, no one. Next, he decides to become the best 127-pound football player Trout High has ever seen; to give his close-minded civics teacher a daily migraine; and to help the local drunk clean up his act.
And then there's Dallas Suzuki. Amazingly perfect, fascinating Dallas Suzuki, who may or may not give Ben the time of day. Really, she's first on the list.
Living with a secret isn't easy, though, and Ben's resolve begins to crumble . . . especially when he realizes that he isn't the only person in Trout with secrets.
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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Summary: Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics.
Until Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel.
Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia—-cue extreme adolescent awkwardness—-but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives.
And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.
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Before I Die by Jenny Downham

Summary: Tessa is a 16-year-old with a terminal case of leukemia. After four years of battling the disease, Tessa forgoes treatment in order to more fully appreciate the last few months of her life. Not knowing how to cope with the knowledge of a death that is both certain and soon, Tessa makes a list of things she'd like to do before she dies.
Image and summary from www,

Titles that are smart and funny, contain a love story, and also feature a teen dying (sans the terminal illness):

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate,
political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
Summary and cover image from

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Summary: On a day that started like any other…
Mia had everything: a loving family, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, and a bright future full of music and full of choices. Then, in an instant, almost all of that is taken from her. Caught between life and death, between a happy past and an unknowable future, Mia spends one critical day contemplating the one decision she has left—the most important decision she’ll ever make.
Simultaneously tragic and hopeful, this is a romantic, riveting and ultimately uplifting story about memory, music, living, dying, loving.
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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Summary: Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out how he made the list.
Through Hannah and Clay's dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.
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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Summary: What if you had only one day to live? What would you do?
Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last.
Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Titles that are smart and funny, and contain a love story (sans the teen dying):

Every Day by David Levithan

Summary: Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
In his New York Times bestselling novel, David Levithan introduces readers to what Entertainment Weekly calls a “wise, wildly unique” love story about A, a teen who wakes up every morning in a different body, living a different life.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.
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Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

Summary: I'm telling you why we broke up, Ed. I'm writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened.
Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate,
political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
Summary and cover image from

My Review: Cadence Sinclair Eastman has lived a privileged life. She descends from a long line of well-to-do Sinclairs and spends her summers on a private island with her cousins. Life hasn't exactly been a cakewalk for these children who all come from divorced families but they long for nothing that money can buy. And when worse comes to worse they have each other. Or do they?

The summer Cadence turns fifteen a terrible accident takes place. This accident leaves her with debilitating migraine headaches and steals her memories of that particular summer. Cadence is determined to find out the truth behind the accident but her cousins aren't talking and the rest of the family tiptoes around her, careful not to arouse the painful monster lurking under the surface. Cadence may be alone in her quest but she is tenacious. Will the truth set her free or destroy life as she knows it?

This is a powerful novel. One that explores the influence of money and the destruction of greed. The author divulges Cadences tale with the use of fabulous metaphors throughout. The novel is poetic in a sense with its lyrical pose. It is a mysterious and eerie story, yet the images portrayed are beautiful, bold and bright. This is an extremely thought-provoking tale. It is a book you will want to linger in and savor. Yet it is short enough (just over 200 pages), and full of just the right amount of engaging thrill, that it can easily be consumed in a single sitting.

Rating: 5 Stars

To sum it up: A very well-written teen novel that explores many different sides to teenage life, including friendship, families, greed, lust, love, and secrets. This one will be big.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ten Great Chapter Book Read-Alouds

There's something magical that happens when a book is read aloud. I think back to those titles that were read to me as a child - Hatchet, Ramona Quimby age 8, The Borrowers, Freckle Juice, The Indian in the Cupboard, Charlotte's Web.  During these readings the characters seemed to jump out of the pages and, best of all, I was sharing the experience with others. And now years later these titles still hold a special place with me.

I love reading aloud to my children every night, and now that they have grown (ages 9 and 12) and we have moved from picture books to chapter books, the experience is only enhanced. I see their imagination grow as I read, I see the inquisitive nature in their eyes, and we get the opportunity to discuss very important details aloud within the context of a story.  Here is a short list of titles we have recently read that we would highly recommend to others.

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Summary: August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

Why I love it: While telling Auggie's story a variety of perspectives are introduced. Not only do readers get to hear how Auggie is feeling, but his sister explains life from her vantage point, as do his friends and even the sister's new boyfriend. This is a great book to read with children as it reinforces that differences on the outside do not necessarily equate to differences on the inside. It gives children an idea of what the other person is feeling, imploring empathy.

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Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

Summary: Rump has never known his full name—his mother died before she could tell him. So all his life he’s been teased and bullied for his half-a-name. But when he finds an old spinning wheel, his luck seems to change. For Rump discovers he can spin straw into gold. Magical gold.
His best friend Red Riding Hood warns him that magic is dangerous—and she’s right! That gold is worth its weight in trouble. And with each thread he spins, Rump weaves himself deeper into a curse.
There’s only one way to break the spell: Rump must go on a quest to find his true name, along the way defending himself against pixies, trolls, poison apples, and one beautiful but vile-mannered queen. The odds are against him, but with courage and friendship—and a cheeky sense of humor—Rump just might triumph in the end.
Why I love it: This is the story Rumpelstiltskin as you have never heard it before. It is funny but address serious issues of betrayal and bullying and making the right choice. A great imagitive tale.

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Holes by Louis Sachar

Summary: Accused of a crime he did not commit, Stanley Yelnats is sentenced to Camp Green Lake for rehabilitation. Almost immediately Stanley realizes digging a large hole each day is not just punishment. The Warden is looking for something special.

While digging Stanley thinks about his family's history. Through these flashbacks, two additional stories are told. These plots weave together to form a complex and wonderful novel. Will all the plots fit together? Will the Warden find what she is looking for?

Why I love it: Stanley is a character to root for and it is always more fun to root for someone in the company of others. The mystery is also more fun to solve as a team. Read it and then watch the movie as both are great!

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Summary: Nine year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution or the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country.
All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.
Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.

Why I love it: A poignant tale but one so powerful. This book shares the story of WWII from the view point of an innocent Nazi child. This title provides the opportunity to discuss the horrible injustices done to the Jews during World War II, as well as the importance of religious freedom.

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Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Summary: For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world.  Enchanting?  Absolutely! Exciting? You bet.  Safe?  Well, actually, quite the opposite . . .
Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea that their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven.  Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies.  However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives.  To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most.

Why I love it: This is a fantastic fantasy series sure to appeal to Harry Potter fans. It is unpredictable and wonderfully imaginative. The reader is quickly drawn into the world of Fablehaven.

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 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Summary: The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of War and Peace. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar. Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends, and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship-and forgiveness-can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.

Why I love it: This is just a sweet story about a tween girl finding herself in the midst of family dishevel. It just feels authentic and is one that my children will remember long into the future.

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 The BFG by Roald Dahl
Summary: "Well, first of all," said the BFG, "human beans is not really believing in giants, is they? Human beans is not thinking we exist." Sophie discovers that giants not only exist, but that there are a great many of them who like to guzzle and swallomp nice little chiddlers. But not the Big Friendly Giant. He and Sophie cook up an ingenious plot to free the world of troggle-humping — forever.
The BFG — Big Friendly Giant — is no ordinary bone-crushing giant: he is far too nice. How he and his tiny friend, Sophie, conspire to put an end to the loathsome activities of the other Giants is marvelously told by a writer and an artist who "are uncanny in their understanding of what children like to read and see".

Why I love it: I adore the Big Friendly Giant. He is just a good guy. Read the summary aloud and you'll discover on your own why this one is so fun to read aloud. It will be sure to win you laughs galore!

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The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Summary: Moral allegory and spiritual autobiography, The Little Prince is the most translated book in the French language. With a timeless charm it tells the story of a little boy who leaves the safety of his own tiny planet to travel the universe, learning the vagaries of adult behavior through a series of extraordinary encounters. His personal odyssey culminates in a voyage to Earth and further adventures.

Why I love it: An imaginative classic with a great message. Everyone should read this one at least once. So why not share it with your children?

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Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Summary: How can a fairy's blessing be such a curse?        
At her birth, Ella of Frell was the unfortunate recipient of a foolish fairy's gift—the "gift" of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it's hopping on one foot for a day and a half, or chopping off her own head! But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. Against a bold backdrop of princes, ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, and fairy godmothers, Ella goes on a quest to break the curse—once and for all.

Why I love it: A strong female protagonist stops at nothing to overcome obstacles leading to her happiness. Plus this is such a fun tale and the book is so much better than the movie.

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Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Summary: This is quite possibly the most exciting adventure ever to be written about milk since Tolstoy's epic novel War and Milk. Also it has aliens, pirates, dinosaurs and wumpires in it (but not the handsome, misunderstood kind), also a never-adequately-explained-bowl-of-piranhas, not to mention a Volcano God.

Why I love it: Seriously one clever book. You never know where the next page will take you, making reading aloud oh-so-fun!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Just As Long As We're Together - Judy Blume

Summary:  Rachel is Stephanie's best friend. Since second grade, they've shared secrets, good and bad. Now in seventh grade, Alison moves into the neighborhood. Stephanie hopes all three of them can be best friends, because Stephanie really likes Alison. But it looks as if it's going to be a case of two's company and three's a crowd. Can the girls' friendship be saved? (Summary from and image from

My Review:  This was a reread for me. I remember reading this as a young adult, but the story was so vague it was like reading it for the first time again.  Judy Blume has a way of writing that is not bound by time.  What was real for teens 15-25 years ago is still the same angst and frustration that teens have now.  Her characters have such strong voice, distinct personalities, and have erratic enough actions that they truly feel real.  And for a teenage girl looking for validation and acceptance through a book, this is priceless. 

Stephanie is an interesting character.  She manages to be witty and bitingly funny, but at the same time lacks serious intra-personal skills.  She seems to understand those around her and their motives, but hardly her own.  Or maybe that's the reverse.  Maybe she understands herself perfectly, but cannot relate to those around her enough to function.  And her friend Rachel is a perfect complement to her dysfunctional relationship skills.  Both are so smart, both are so caring, but they can't seem to communicate with each other when they need it most.  And isn't this true to form for teens?  It seems when you need your friends the most, you're often in a heated conflict.  And this is how isolating and traumatizing teenage years unfold. 

Alison is an interesting twist to the story.  While she adds a layer of '3's a crowd' to the story, she is probably the least believable character in the book.  At least for someone who doesn't live in LA or near NY.  But what makes the story meld so well, is how these types of conflicts--both inner and with each other--are universal for teenage girls. 

This is definitely a book I wouldn't recommend to a 6th grader, but for those who have children or students struggling with divorce and tumultuous friendships, this may be the right fit.

For the sensitive reader:  There is a lot of talk about periods, it mentions divorce and cheating parents, hints at speculations of teenage promiscuity, and some swearing.  It is probably obvious, but there is also realistic teenage disdain for parents--meaning, there's lots of attitude.

Rating: 3 Stars

Sum it up:  A coming of age story for what seems is now a typical teenage girl.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What's In My Stack?

Because it's summer, I'm going share what's in my bedside stack. I hope I get through before the school year sneaks up and steals all my free time!

1. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
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2. Tender to the Bone by Ruth Reichl
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3. Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys
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4. Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
5. Summer Reading - Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap by Richard Allington and Anne McGil-Franzen
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5. Why Don't Students Like School?  by Daniel T. Willingham
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6. Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
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7. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
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Monday, July 14, 2014

Rules - Cynthia Lord

Summary:  This 2007 Newbery Honor Book is a humorous and heartwarming debut about feeling different and finding acceptance. Now in After Words paperback!

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She's spent years trying to teach David the rules from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public"---in order to head off David's embarrassing behaviors.
But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?   (Summary and image from

My Review:  I'm loving these books that offer students that chance to jump in someone else's shoes.  It's truly awesome that not everything is Sweet Valley High or Baby Sitter's Club for YA (at least girls) any more.  (Not that I have a problem with either of those--I'm just glad it's not the only thing.)  There have been so many times I've been talking with my daughters and wanted to share with them how different life could be.  For my oldest, this is the only way I can truly get through to her: read a book that opens her eyes.  And isn't that what reading is all about?  I love it!

Catherine wants to love her brother, but it's hard when it feels like all he does is mess up her life and make things difficult. Her parents lean on her a lot for help.  As an older sibling, I can attest that it's frustrating to always be the back-up babysitter or help when you feel like it's technically not your responsibility.  And yet, it is.  There are times it's just hard not to get bitter about it, as everyone wants to be 'normal'.  But what is normal?

But through this process of helping her mother, she meets a new friend, Jason, who she accidentally befriends.  And then a neighbor moves in, the kind of friend she's always wanted to live next door.  What makes this book refreshing is Catherin's realization that normal is a farce we dream up--or maybe even better than that.  Normal is so broad it is all inclusive.  What's my normal and your normal are not the same, but they are both normal.  Wouldn't this be nice for everyone to come to terms with?

I highly recommend this book.  It's a must read for children and teens--heck, even adults! 

Rating:  4.5 stars

Sum it up:  A great YA book that grows perspective on what it's like to have a brother with Autism.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Universal Truth

This happens more than I'd like to admit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Great Deals on E-Books

One thing about me - I love my Kindle and I love e-books. Not here to start a war. I would never give up print books in a billion years and my favorite books I buy in both formats, but I love the portability and convenience of e-books. And I also love the lower prices of them.

For any other e-book fans, I wanted to share the best ways to get free or deeply discounted e-books. With all of these sites, you subscribe to receive a daily email that shows you free or cheap books based solely on your preferences. You don't get spammed with genres you don't care for. It's awesome.


The Fussy Librarian




Bookbub is the largest of these types of sites. If you only subscribe to one, it should be Bookbub. The Fussy Librarian is cool because when you subscribe, you can control your level of sensitivity to language, sex, and violence, designating if you're okay with anything, okay with mild stuff, or want absolutely none of it at all. No more shocking surprises mid-book! All of these sites feature both best-selling authors and indie unknowns, but since each site rigorously screens what they recommend, you should never end up with one of those cringe-inducing indie books that should have never been published. It's a pretty sweet way to maximize your reading budget and introduce yourself to some really great books.

Remember - even if you don't have an e-reader, you can get an app for your smart phone, tablet, or computer so you have access to everything. The Kindle app was the first thing I downloaded when I got my phone.

The one GIANT drawback to these sites is that EVERY DAY I see a book I want to read. And when it's $0.99 or free, I can't pass it up. I just can't keep up with my to-read list. And if that's my biggest problem, life is pretty good.

Monday, July 7, 2014

On the Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta

Summary: I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.

Taylor is the leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs - the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.

And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother - who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

The moving, joyous and brilliantly compelling new novel from the best-selling, multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca. (Image and summary from

My review: Taylor keeps people at arms length - probably because she was abandoned by her mother at a 7-11 on the Jellicoe Road as a child. A young woman named Hannah took Taylor in and Taylor's home ever since has been the boarding school on Jellicoe Road.

It's the beginning of her final year of school and Taylor is elected head of the house. She is responsible for all the younger girls. It's an honor she could see coming, but didn't want. And other students don't respect her authority in the rivalries with the Townies and Cadets (the local kids and the military school kids who also live nearby). 
Like many damaged children with a painful past, Taylor is mature for her age, highly-independent, needy, yet pushes people away. 

Then her mentor and parental figure Hannah goes missing. The principal assures Taylor that everything is fine, but Taylor knows Hannah would never leave without saying anything. In Hannah's home, she finds a clue - a manuscript that Hannah has been writing for years that Taylor was never allowed to read. As she reads the story, she realizes it isn't fiction - and it holds the secrets to more than Hannah's disappearance. This journey of self-discovery finds Taylor unravelling the secrets of Hannah, Taylor's mother, Taylor's father (whom she never knew), the hermit who killed himself in front of her, and a brigadier she suspects might be a serial killer. 

 In this shining coming-of-age story set in the wilds of Australia, Taylor is well aware of her broken past and her broken heart. It isn't until she no longer runs from them that she realizes she is more whole and more loved than she ever imagined. 

I sought out this book after reading some quotes from it on Goodreads (I'm a sucker for quotes). I started it and was confused and not very into it. I stopped reading. Then I started again and I was hooked. There are two stories being told - one is a manuscript written by a teacher named Hannah, presented in italic font, and the other is the main story told from the perspective of Taylor. It took me longer than it probably should have to figure this out. You instantly sympathize with Taylor. What mother abandons a ten-year-old kid at a gas station? It's no wonder Taylor has trust issues, even if you want to slap her a once or twice. The two stories are both artfully told and intersect beautifully. It's the type of story that the reader pieces together before the narrator tells us, upping the anticipation and the power of the convergence. It really is powerful and worthy of its awards. My eyes were wet for the last quarter of the book and it ended better than I ever imagined.

My rating: Five Stars. This is my favorite kind of book. Introspective, smart, hopeful, and real.

For the Sensitive Reader: Several swear words (no F-bombs); teen intimacy, though not graphic; some drug references though none of the main characters use drugs; some violent deaths via gunshots told through memory. If it were a movie, it would be a conservative PG-13.

To Sum It Up: A poignant coming-of-age story that is as timeless in its themes as it is the setting. Starts out slow, but as the mystery grows then unravels, you won't be able to put it down. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell

Summary:  The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. This widely acclaimed bestseller, in which Malcolm Gladwell explores and brilliantly illuminates the tipping point phenomenon, is already changing the way people throughout the world think about selling products and disseminating ideas.  (Summary from and image from

My Review:  The Tipping Point is a compilation of all the reasons why something goes big, viral, becomes a fad or sensation.  This being Gladwell's first book, it's not surprising that this isn't his best writing.  I found Outliers much better writing and subsequently a better read--just wanted to give you fair warning.

I find I'm becoming a junkie for these nonfiction 'how the world works' books.  Just what does it take for something to take off and become mainstream?  If you've ever wondered what all those moving parts and integral pieces are, give this a shot.

Aspects to the book I found difficult to get through were how some of the stories seemed to go on and on without a clear connection to how they pertained to the message.  Other times it seemed Gladwell was tooting his own horn with those he interacted with (no one likes a braggart).  In the end, I found the book informative, but also written anecdotally, so it wasn't always clear how much was researched and how much was 'life experience'.  I won't knock qualitative data--I believe it in it wholeheartedly, especially for the soft sciences where art is necessary--but this seemed like such a mix between qualitative and quantitative research the lines are blurred.

I'd recommend this to those who like to know how the world works, avid reads, and people interested in nonfiction.  Otherwise, this might not be the book for you.

Rating: 3 stars

Sum it up: Want to know how to go from unknown to bestseller?  This is your book.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Red Madness - Gail Jarrow

Summary:  One hundred years ago, a mysterious and alarming illness spread across America's South, striking millions of victims.  No one knew what caused it or how to treat it.  People were left weak, disfigured, insane, and in some cases, dead.  Many were left to worry--would they be pellagra's next victim?

In this compelling book, award-winning science and history writer Gail Jarrow tracks this disease and highlights how doctors, scientists, and public health officials struggled to stop the epidemic, sometimes risking their own lives in the process.  Illustrated with 100 archival photographs, Red Madness also includes a glossary, timeline, further resources, author's note, bibliography, and index.  (Summary from back of the book and image from

My Review:  There is much controversy over the Common Core State Standards, and while I'll probably always mourn the loss of teaching fiction freely, there has been a boom of fantastic nonfiction because of it.  This is one of those books--it's fascinating!

Imagine every year you get a horrible diarrhea, drop weight, get weak, develop an embarrassing rash on your hands, feet, face and chest, and on top of it all know that if you start feeling crazy that you're probably close to death.  This is real.  This did happen.  And it took years for the U.S. to get a handle on it.  This book takes you through the process of finding answers, allowing you to feel the frustration, and slow unveiling process of discovering the truth. 

My criticism of this book is my fear that this will lose students in the drawn-out process to getting the answer.  There are lots of mixed messages, which the author intended because she wanted the reader to experience the frustration and process of finding the answers to the disease.  While I understand the process and why the author chose to do this, I don't know if middle school students will keep with it.  The ages recommended for this book are 10-14. 

All that said, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to plenty of people. 
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Sum it up:  A fascinating throw-back to a time when nutrition and disease were still rather unknowns to us.


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