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!

Sunday, July 19, 2015


by Sharon Cameron
From the publisher:
"History has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she. 

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse."

This book started out very slowly for me. In fact I kept asking my daughter (who read it before me) if it was worth it to finish it. She said yes, so I soldiered on. Then at about page 80, I was completely hooked and couldn't stop reading. I loved it!! I think one of the reasons it started out so slowly for me is that it was hard for me to understand the world-building. It is a post-apocalyptic book, but it feels like historical fiction. I had a hard time picturing a sunken Paris, especially with a big Eiffel Tower on the cover. However, once the story really got going, I didn't care what kind of world it was. 
Maybe I should mention that I love The Scarlet Pimpernel , so of course I made a lot of comparisons. I appreciated that the author didn't try to do corny things like using the same names as the original and just changing them up a bit. There was a nod to the names Marguerite and St. Just, but that was just enough to give The Scarlet Pimpernel fans a little thrill. 
I loved the characters from the beginning. Sophia is amazing, I LOVE that she is so courageous and loyal. I love the sparks that fly between Sophia and René from the very beginning. 
“I think you are very beautiful," René said, "especially when you are admiring mischief."

"You must think that every time I look at you, then.” 

René reminded me very much of Percy Blakeney from the original book. I liked that Sophia referred to his foppish character as the "magazine René", and I loved watching him change between his real side and magazine side. 
“So you carry needle and thread about in your pockets, do you?” Sophia asked.
“My tailor insists.” 

The action was breathtakingly intense, and there are several times in the book that you will wonder "how in the world are they going to get out of this?!"
The romance is lovely - these two have intense chemistry going on, and yet they are also very funny.
"Your maman was in my room last night."
"And I was not." His tone was glum.
"It is so frustrating not to be able to hit you when I want." 

This is one of those books that you just want to hug when it is over. And after looking up those quotes, I pretty much want to start re-reading it. It does start slowly, but hang in there, it is very much worth it.

Areas of concern:
I don't remember much bad language - maybe a handful of the *d* and *h* words.
Some pretty intense kissing, but nothing graphic.
A really evil enemy who tortures people and has them beheaded on a guillotine.
Intense action.

Suggested ages:
Booklist - Grades 8-12
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 12+

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


by Alex Scarrow
From the publisher:
"Liam O’Connor should have died at sea in 1912.
Maddy Carter should have died on a plane in 2010.
Sal Vikram should have died in a fire in 2026.

Yet moments before death, someone mysteriously appeared and said, ‘Take my hand ...’

But Liam, Maddy and Sal aren’t rescued. They are recruited by an agency that no one knows exists, with only one purpose—to fix broken history. Because time travel is here, and there are those who would go back in time and change the past. That’s why the TimeRiders exist: to protect us. To stop time travel from destroying the world...

Several of my students love this series, so I thought I should read it and see why. It starts out with a bang on the Titanic and then goes back and forth between time and decades throughout. I've read several time travel books, and I think this one is my favorite as far as making sense and explaining the "science" behind it. I thought the plot and the changes in history were well thought out and really interesting. What would have happened if Hitler had won? (Well, it wasn't really Hitler winning, but you'll have to read that for yourself.) And the notion of saving teens from death to have them become TimeRiders that live the same 2 days over and over again watching for changes was kind of brilliant. The characters were likeable and appealing (especially non-human Bob), but I would have liked more background on most of them. I'm going to assume things will eventually come out as the series progresses, though. I think it would have slowed things down to have it all dumped in this first book. All in all I enjoyed it, and I'm hoping it will help students become a little more interested in historical fiction because of the adventures the TimeRiders have. One little problem is that this series is published in the UK with 9 books in the series, but only 4 have managed to make it across the pond so far. I don't know why they don't publish the rest of the series in the US, but I went ahead and ordered the rest of the series (actually I don't have the ninth one yet) online from bookdepository.com. The kids who have discovered this series absolutely love it. I liked it.

Areas of concern:
The use of Jesus Christ, Christ, Jayzus as expletives.
Some cussing, but not over the top.
Violence is rampant, but not gratuitous. The TimeRiders are placed in many scary situations that they have to get out of.
Some scary Gollum-esque nuclear-mutated humans that are cannibalistic (I may have just made up a few words there).

Suggested Ages:
Kirkus Reviews - Ages 12+
School Library Journal - Grades 8+

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Rain Reign

Rain Reign
by Ann M. Martin
From the publisher:
"Rose Howard has Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners."

Rain Reign is a book that spoke to my heart. I have a grandson who is on the autism spectrum, and so many of Rain's behaviors were reminiscent of my little man. My grandson starts school in the fall, and those of us who love him can't help but be worried about how he will be treated by his peers and his teachers. He is brilliant and sweet and loving, but he also fixates on things, can be incredibly annoying and has scary meltdowns. I can only hope that his school is as good and loving with their Special Ed kids as we are to ours here at Blevins. Add to that story the information that I had 2 dogs in my life that I loved and enjoyed for 29 combined years, and you can see why this book touched me. I even got very teary-eyed towards the end when Rose, the main character, shows great courage and growth. I really recommend this book, with the caveat that it would be best as a class read (reed) or family read (reed). The main character IS a little annoying, and all of the homonyms/homophones in parentheses get a little distracting, so I'm afraid many middle schoolers won't stick with the story. Use it as a read-aloud at bedtime when your child is snuggled up on their bed with their dog cuddled up next to them. Or use it as a classroom read-aloud to help your students understand and empathize a little more with those who have challenges or disabilities. 

Areas of concern:
An alcoholic and neglectful father who has no idea how to raise his child, but tries his best (which isn't very good).
A scary storm that devastates the area.

Suggested Ages:
Publisher's Weekly - Ages 9-12
School Library Journal - Grades 4-7

Our Students' Favorite Books, Part 2

Here are some more of our students' favorite books from this past school year:

Dystopian/Science Fiction (one of our most popular genres - be aware that most dystopians have a lot of violence)

1.  The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
2.  Divergent series by Veronica Roth (how have I not reviewed Divergent?!  I have certainly read it.  I'll have to post a review later.)
3.  The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
4.  The Matched series by Ally Condie
5.  The Angel Experiment series by James Patterson
6.  The Legend series by Marie Lu
7.  The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore
8.  The Selection series by Kiera Cass (very clean and less violent than others)
9.  The Testing series by Joelle Charboneau
10.  Escape from Furnace series by Alexander Gordon Smith

Please be aware that these are the most checked out by the students, and not my recommendations.  Dystopian/science fiction books tend to be incredibly violent and some have tons of bad language.  If your younger middle school students are interested in this genre, but you don't want them reading all the violence and language, here are some that I would call "starter" dystopian that have more implied and less graphic violence, and less bad language:

The One Safe Place by Tania Unsworth
The Sky Jumpers series by Peggy Eddleman
The Elemental series by Anthony John (there is another Elemental series, so don't mix them up)
The Pivot Point duology by Kasie West
The Book of Ember series by Jeanne DuPrau
The Tomorrow Girls series by Eva Gray


1.  The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (and any other thing Rick Riordan writes)
2.  Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
3.  The Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan (and the others Brotherband Chronicles)
4.  The Warriors series (and all the off-shoots) by Erin Hunter
5. The Eragon series by Christopher Paolini
6.  The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott
7.  The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
8.  The Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull
9.  The Keeper of the Lost Cities series by Shannon Messenger
10.  The Familiars series by Adam Jay Epstein

Paranormal/Supernatural  (another of our most popular genres - be aware the there is usually quite a bit of violence in these, and that the romances can get pretty steamy)

1.  The Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand
2.  The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare
3.  The Tiger Saga by Colleen Houck
4.  The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer
5.  The Wings series by Aprilynne Pike
6.  The Paranormalcy series by Kiersten White
7.  The Chronicles of Nick series by Sherilyn Kenyon
8.  The Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy
9.  The Starcrossed series by Josephine Angelini
10.  The Holders duology by Julianna Scott

With the exception of The Chronicles of Nick series and The Skulduggery series, I have read at least the first book in all of these series, but most of them before I started this blog so I haven't reviewed them here.  I may have to go back and re-read and review because some of them got a little edgy with the violence and romance.  Be careful with this genre.  The ones I remember being pretty clean are The Unearthly series, The Tiger Saga, The Wings series and the Paranormalcy series.  Those are always the first ones I suggest to my students.