Middle school students have reading interests that run the gamut from Diary of a Wimpy Kid to Twilight. Sometimes as a parent it is hard to know what is age appropriate for your child. Through this blog, I will try to help parents make informed decisions about what is available in our library. I am hoping that this blog will be a resource for our parents, and that we can all work together to make our students life-long readers!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


by Michelle Rowen
From the publisher:
"3 seconds left to live. Once the countdown starts, it cannot be stopped.

2 pawns thrown into a brutal underground reality game.

Kira Jordan survived her family's murder and months on plague-devastated city streets with hard-won savvy and a low-level psi ability. She figures she can handle anything. Until she wakes up in a barren room, chained next to the notorious Rogan Ellis.

1 reason Kira will never, ever trust Rogan. Even though both their lives depend on it.

Their every move is controlled and televised for a vicious exclusive audience. And as Kira's psi skill unexpectedly grows and Rogan's secrets prove evermore deadly, Kira's only chance of survival is to risk trusting him as much as her instincts. Even if that means running head-on into the one trap she can't escape.


I'm a little bit on the fence with this book. I would call it Hunger Games-lite, except that it wasn't light it was very heavy. Possibly a mix between the concept of The Hunger Games and the edginess of Divergent . It was gripping and action-packed, however I never really connected with the main character and was a little lost as to the world building. The Plague was never really explained very well, and the psychic abilities after the plague were a little confusing as well. And it seemed like the author would introduce a new character, use them, then decide they weren't necessary to the plot anymore and kill them off. But all in all it was an exciting ride and I think dystopian fans will love it. And it had an ENDING! Imagine that! 

Areas of concern:
Quite a bit of cussing. It started out pretty bad, then tapered off a little. No use of the *f* word.
Heavy violence and disturbing memories of murder.
Romance with a pretty hefty make-out scene.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for an ARC of this book.*

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Cypher

The Cypher
(Guardians Inc. #1)

ny Julian Rosado-Machain
From the publisher:
"GUARDIANS INC.: THE CYPHER is two stories in one. A glimpse into a multinational company that is in reality the oldest of secret societies, one that spans close to seven thousand years of existence, weaving in and out of history, guiding and protecting humanity from creatures and forces that most of us believe are only mythology and fairy tales.

The other is the story of Thomas Byrne, a young man thrust into secrets he shouldn’t be aware of and dangers he shouldn’t face but, that he ultimately will, for he is a Cypher. The only one who can steer humanity’s future.

The ultimate conspiracy theory is that Magic is real. Kept in check by technology but, every five hundred years the balance can shift and, if it does, technology will fail and those creatures we’ve driven into myth will come back with a vengeance.

To protect the present, Guardians Incorporated needs to know the future."

This book was moderately enjoyable for me, but I'm pretty sure that middle school kids who love Rick Riordan or Artemis Fowl (also only moderately enjoyable for me), will love it.  The series has great potential, so I think it will only get better.  I did find it a little weird that the main character was 16, yet the book felt more like a middle grade read to me.  However, there was a lot of action with magical creatures, and the descriptions of the mansion were awesome.  I want to live there!  Imagine needing to go somewhere, anywhere in the world, and walking out your front gate to find yourself only 2 1/2 blocks from it.  Very cool. I also loved that the main character worked in a library and all of the literary references.  How amazing would it be to have access to hidden treasures from the great authors that no one even knows about?  This book is a quick (quite a small book), mildly fun book with a lot of potential.  Read it and then look forward to book 2.

Areas of concern:  A couple of uses of the *d* word.  Violence with magical creatures.  All parental figures (parents and grandpa) have disappeared. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Life With a Superhero: Raising Michael Who Has Down Syndrome

Life With a Superhero:
Raising Michael Who
Has Down Syndrome

by Kathryn U. Hulings
From the publisher:
"Over twenty years ago, in a small Israeli town, a desperate mother told a remarkable lie. She told her friends and family that her newborn child had died. That lie became the catalyst for the unfolding truth of the adoption of that same baby—Michael —who is, in fact, very much alive and now twenty-two years old. He also has Down syndrome.

When Kathryn Hulings adopted Michael as an infant, she could not have known that he would save her life when she became gravely ill and was left forever physically compromised. Her story delights in how Michael’s life and hers, while both marked by difference and challenge, are forever intertwined in celebration and laughter. With candor and a sense of humor, Life With a Superhero wraps itself around the raucous joy of Michael’s existence with his four older siblings who play hard and love big; how Kathryn and her husband, Jim, utilize unconventional techniques in raising kids; the romance between Michael and his fiancĂ©e, Casey; the power of dance in Michael’s life as an equalizing and enthralling force; the staggering potential and creativity of those who are differently-abled; and the mind-blowing politics of how Kathryn navigated school systems and societal attitudes that at times fought to keep Michael excluded from the lives of kids deemed “normal.”

No other books about the parenting experience outline what to do when, say, a child runs across the roof of a tri-level house pretending he can fly, or shows up in a 7th grade social studies class dressed like Spiderman, or calls 911 when his girlfriend breaks his heart. But, as Michael’s mom, Kathryn has been trying to figure how to be a mother in just such circumstances—sometimes with success, sometimes with dismal failure—for over two decades."

This book is at times laugh out loud funny, heartwarming, thought-provoking and uplifting.  Setting aside Kathryn's potty-mouth, I loved this book!  There is something so wonderful about people with Trisomy 21 and the love and exuberance they have for life.  I learned things about love, inclusion, motherhood and joy from reading this.  Although I know Kathryn and her family and work at Michael's junior high (now a middle school), there is no reason someone unknown to their family can't absolutely enjoy reading this. In fact, getting to know their family through this book would be a treat.  I recommend it to anyone who loves a funny, heartwarming story about a normal family in occasionally extraordinary circumstances.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

All Our Yesterdays

All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill
From the publisher:
""You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice."

This book is unbelievably mind-boggling and intense. As I was reading it I kept thinking, "Who comes UP with this kind of plot?!" Kudos to Cristin Terrill for having such an impressive imagination. I was drawn in from the first page and was so wrapped up in the action that I dreamt about it one night. Reading this book is kind of like putting a jigsaw puzzle together... slowly, piece by piece. Not that the plot is slow (definitely NOT!), but slowly you begin to piece things together in your mind as you make your way through the breath-taking action. The characters were believable and well thought out, and you have complete sympathy and compassion for them. I don't want to say too much about the characters for fear of giving something away, but it is so interesting (and at times heartbreaking) to see the growth and difference in their personalities as the book progresses. I found this a remarkable debut novel by an author that I will be watching in the future.

Areas of concern: The *b* word, the *a* word and the *s* word were all used around 3 or 4 times each. The *f* word appeared 3 times. While I never condone use of bad language, I will say that the *f* word was not used gratuitously in this book, it was used in moments of extreme emotional or physical distress. So while I wish it wouldn't have been used at all, it didn't bother me as much as it does in books where teenagers are just using it as a part of speech. 
There is a lot of violence, as you can tell from the publisher's synopsis. A young woman needs to kill her best friend. Aside from that, there are scenes of torture (not too graphic) in the prison.
There are a couple of kisses. 

Suggested Ages:
Kirkus Reviews:  Ages 12+
(Since this was an Advanced Reader Copy, there was only one review posted that had age recommendations.  Please see the "Areas of Concern" to determine appropriateness for your child.)

Many thanks to NetGalley for the ARC of this book!