Posted in Book Reviews

Review of The Serpent King

I have probably mentioned before, but I try not to read any reviews until after I have finished a book and written my own review. I’m interested to see what others thought of this book.

The book flawlessly follows three older teens figuring out life in a small, rural town in Tennessee. Like many YA novels, the author flows between the three teens, so that the reader gets to see life from each of their perspectives. None of the three teens have an easy time in their small town.

Dill’s dad (who is also named Dillard)is in prison for child pornography, which is awful, but his dad was also a “signs” preacher, so it was even more disgraceful, or should have been. (Signs preacher – believes in speaking in tongues, handling deadly snakes, and drinking poison, among other things.) Dill’s dad’s imprisonment has made life hard on his family, and you find out pretty early on that Dill lives in extreme poverty. His family has a mountain of debt from losing the church and medical bills from his mother’s accident. His mother is set on Dill staying in their small town, working at the grocery store, and helping her pay off the debts instead of him going to college or even finishing his senior year of high school.

Travis has it a little better than Dill as far as the poverty level. His dad isn’t in prison either, but Travis probably wishes that he were. Travis is a big guy who is a little obsessed (understatement) with a fantasy novel series. His dad wishes he would play football, but Travis just likes to read his books. This causes a lot of problems between the two of them, probably more serious problems than it should have caused due to his dad’s alcohol habit.

Lydia was my least favorite character for most of the book. She is really in to unique fashion and has a very successful blog that makes her pretty popular in the internet world. However, the people in her community don’t understand her, and so she’s an outcast, a fact that she uses to her advantage to gain sympathy and support on her blog.

So I finished this book two days ago. Usually, I write a blog right after I finish a book so it’s fresh in my mind. But every time I sat down to write my review, I couldn’t quite figure out what to say without giving away too much of the story.

I’m still not sure what to say. I loved this book. Out of all the books I have reviewed for this blog, it has been my favorite. I just really am having a hard time putting it in to words. First, Dill was such a unique character. He was quiet, thoughtful, and wanted to do the right thing. Growing up with his parents and everything that had happened with his dad, he could have had a much different disposition.

The friendship between the three outsider kids is something I see all the time as a teacher. The quirky kids always seem to find each other, and most of the time, they’re better off for it. That is how it is with Dill, Travis, and Lydia. Their friendship helped them feel connected and like that had a place in a community that didn’t really want to give them a place.

I found myself absolutely shocked and heartbroken toward the end of the book. I did not see the events that happened coming, and it was unfortunate that I was reading during SSR time at summer school because I couldn’t cry the way I wanted/needed to. Maybe that’s another reason it has taken me two days to finish this review. My heart still hurts.

This book was a Gateway nominee for last school year. It didn’t make the top three, and the only one of the top three that I have read is The Sun Is Also a Star and I liked this book so much better than that. I will say, if you have no knowledge of charismatic churches or the Bible, you may be lost on a couple passages with Dill and his mom, but not so lost as to miss the nature of what is happening. However, while faith is a big part of Dill’s life, it isn’t the main focus of the book.

How much did it make me cry? *Would have been different if I was home alone instead of in a class of 7th graders.

  • Not at all
  • A little sniffle
  • A couple of tears
  • A steady stream
  • Ugly Cry
Posted in Book Reviews

Inherit Midnight

During summer school, the students have to read silently for 25 minutes each class. So I am going to try to knock out some of the Gateway nominees from the last two years that I missed. I’m starting Inherit Midnight today (Thursday). I’ll be writing down my thoughts as I read this time. Maybe it’ll take me more than a day to get through it.

First stop: Chapter one left me with a lot of questions. I’ve pieced together that Avery is from a well-to-do family, and she is at some sort of boarding school. However, it makes it seems as if it’s more like a prison type school. Not sure yet. After the first chapter, I am not a big fan of the main character, Avery.

Second stop: Still not a huge Avery fan. Her parents are not a part of her life, so she has been raised by her grandmother. I’m at the start of the 5th chapter, and I still do not know why her family is so rich except for the fact they own a company.

Third stop: I think the point is to feel sorry for Avery and the fact that people in her family haven’t been kind to her. But, I’m not having those feelings. I’m sure I will like her by the end of the book, but she isn’t my favorite for sure.

Fourth stop: End of chapter 7 and it’s finally getting interesting. 64 pages in. I am constantly telling my students when they start a novel, you have to give it about 50 pages. A lot of them want to give up after the first chapter. Imagine if we all did that how many of our favorite books would we never have read?

Fifth stop: Okay, I’ll admit, this book has an interesting concept. Avery’s grandmother is the matriarch of a very well-to-do diamond company. She doesn’t think her children and grandchildren understand hard work and how privileged they are, so she sets them off on a series of tasks to prove they understand this and their heritage. Whoever wins the series of tasks gets control of the entire company. The ones that lose, or the ones that decide to quit, get a measly $100,000. I’m finally starting to have positive feelings for Avery, although I still don’t like her.

Sixth stop: pg. 166 – This family is a little crazy.

Seventh stop: pg. 204 – Okay, I’m hooked now. It took me half the book, but now I kind of want to make my students read the entire hour so that I can keep reading.

Eighth stop: pg 281 – I finally like Avery. Not in a complete warm-fuzzy type of way, but I can get behind her as the main character. There isn’t much left in the book, and I’m concerned that the author is going to try to tie up a bunch of loose ends too quickly to really develop them.

Ninth stop: pg 326 – This book, while the story is good, and it is keeping my interest, is really unbelievable.

Tenth stop: pg 356 – Last stop before I finish the book. I sort of saw this coming, but it’s been adventurous.

Finished. Okay, I will say overall the book is well-written, the story is interesting even if it is hard to fathom some of the things the family ends up doing. If you’ve read any YA book with a female lead character, you can probably predict most of what will happen. I will say that the last couple chapters did surprise me. On Goodreads I gave it a 4 out of 5 instead of a 3 simply because the ending wasn’t entirely predictable.

Oh, and I didn’t cry at all.

Posted in Book Reviews

Tell Me Three Things

Day 1 (5/16/19) I’m going to do this blog a little differently. I’m going to write it as I read the book. When something strikes me, or a quote is just begging to be underlined (but I can’t because it’s a library book), I’m going to hop on here and jot it down.

My Facebook friends wanted me to read “The Waffle Book.” Sometimes when I finish a book, I post a few books to my Facebook friends and let them pick the next read, unless there is a book I am just dying to read. The last two times, Tell Me Three Things has been an option, and everyone just called it “The Waffle Book.” It lost last time, but this time, the majority chose the waffles.

When I started reading this morning, I realized that I have started this book before. I’m guessing it was last summer when I was in the middle of grad school, and 11 of the 15 books I had on hold all became available from the library. I probably started it right as another set of classes was starting, and then didn’t get to read for fun at all.

The premise of the book – 16 year old girl (Jessie) loses her mother about 2 years prior to the start of the story somewhat suddenly – stage 4 ovarian cancer. Her dad, a pharmacist, falls in love with a woman he has met online, and they get married. He moves them from Chicago to LA where the woman is involved in film making and extremely rich. Jessie has to start a new school her junior year with completely different people than what she is used to. During her first couple weeks at school, she gets an email from an anonymous person calling themselves “Somebody Nobody” or SN who volunteers to help her navigate her new school.

Three chapters in – “Batman guy”/Ethan is the email guy. Has to be. It is so crystal clear that this is how this book’s romance is going to happen.

Nine chapters in – I find this concept interesting, that some random person at her school has sought her out to be her guide. I’m curious to find out the emailer’s reasons for hiding behind this anonymous email.

Page 74 – the first mention of waffle! “My favorite word, on the other hand is ‘waffle.’ Both a delicious breakfast food and a verb.”

A couple quotes I liked:

“I never asked her. Why didn’t I ask her? One of the worst parts about someone dying is thinking back to all those times you didn’t ask the right questions, all those times you stupidly assumed you’d have all the time in the world. And this too: how all that time feels like not much time at all.”

“By the transitive property you would think I’d be cool here, but no. Then again, I casually reference things like the transitive property, so maybe there are other, more valid reasons for my lack of popularity.”

Day 2 (5/17/19) So, I finished the book last night. I needed closure. I’m actually a little upset with myself that I finished it so quickly and didn’t get to write out all my thoughts like I wanted to. Now, I just will give my overall thoughts.

The book was well-written and I very much enjoyed the first person narrator’s voice. It was interesting to hear her thoughts and listen to her process her grief about her mom. The conversations between Jessie and SN are sweet and fun to read, but they aren’t overly mushy or too over the top.

This is definitely a feel-good, romantic YA book. There are some moments that bring out the feels, so I’m glad I read the majority of the book in the privacy of my own house instead of during SSR time at school.

Easy read (obviously since I read it in less than 24 hours).

How much did it make me cry?

  • Not at all
  • A little sniffle
  • A couple tears
  • A steady stream
  • Ugly Cry
Posted in Book Reviews

Three Dark Crowns


Three dark queens/are born in a glen,/sweet little triplets/will never be friends/Three dark sisters/all fair to be seen,/two to devour/and one to be Queen. -Kendare Blake

I have NEVER read a book like this. Okay, let me take that back. I have read plenty of young adult fiction involving queens who have to take the throne one way or another, yes. But…but…they have to kill each other?!?! The madness!

I will admit, the first chapter was 25 pages, and since I usually read in 15 minute increments during SSR time in my reading classes, I wasn’t thrilled with the long beginning chapter. I will also admit that I was extremely confused through most of the first chapter, but like I tell my students, for a novel, you have to give it 50-60 pages before you decide it isn’t for you. (This is so hard for them since they live in a society of instant gratification.) So, I trudged through, and by the end of my three reading classes, I had the first three chapters completed – 56 pages – and I was hooked!

Each chapter focuses on one of the three triplet queens and the people who have raised them. They are raised separated from each other until the year they turn 16 although they do spend the early years of their lives together. It is during the year between their 16th and 17th birthdays that they are to kill each other. Each queen also possesses (or is supposed to possess) some sort of magical quality – controlling the elements, resisting poison? (I feel like I’m still a little confused about this one), and controlling/creating/growing things in nature (the naturalists, as they are called, can cause things to bloom, but also have special connections to animals).

For 100 years, the poison queens have ruled. However, the current poison queen – Katharine – does not seem to be the one who will conquer the other two queens. We learn within the first chapter that she is weak and nothing like the previous queens. Throughout the book, the reader is clued in to the fact that those who help to raise the queens are the ones really in charge.

I never like to write too much when giving a book review because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone. I feel like I could write 1000+ word blog about this book. It was definitely a pleasant surprise. It was a Gateway nominee for this school year, but it did not even make the top three. So, as I started reading, I didn’t have very high expectations. Once I got through the necessary introduction/set up of characters and background information, I was hooked. There were characters I hated, and I’m hoping by the end of the series they will meet their rightful end. I am also hoping that the three queens will gain a little more confidence and take more control of what is happening in their lives. Right now, they all seem to be push overs.

I highly recommend reading this book. It will definitely take some endurance through the first part of the book as there is a lot of set up. But, I think the author knew this would be a series, and she uses the majority of the first half of this book introducing the three characters and the people who surround them.

I DIDN’T CRY DURING THIS BOOK! I did audibly gasp on the last page though.

Posted in Book Reviews

When We Collided

I will admit it. I have about 10 books at home that I am set to read, but I picked this one first 100% based on how much I enjoyed the cover. I read the back cover and decided that this would be a nice easy read after finishing my grad school classes last week.

The book is one of 15 on the list for the Missouri Gateway Nominees for the 2018-19 school year, and while it didn’t win the top spot, I can definitely see why it made the list.

When We Collided is not just a sweet little girl meets boy love story. Following what seems to be a current trend in young adult novels, each chapter is told from one of the two main characters’ points of view. Vivi is completely full of life and seems to live for the moment. Jonah is a quiet guy whose family has just experienced a tragic loss in the past year. The characters overlap early on in the book and the reader is taken on their journey.

You don’t find out for while what is really going on with Vivi, although within the first chapter you know that she is not taking one of her daily pills. She is doing this secretly, taking her pill away from her house and throwing it out into the ocean.

Jonah, we learn, is very committed to his family and their well-being. He carries the responsibilities of making meals for “the littles” and keeping them entertained.

Vivi brings sunshine and happiness into Jonah and his family’s lives, but there is always this feeling that something is not what it seems with her. I’ll stop here with my summarizing before I give anything away.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. The writing was well done, and the use of 1st person point of view really helped to understand the two main characters. I found Vivi a little hard to follow sometimes, but stick with her, it is supposed to be like this.

How much did it make me cry?

  • Not at all
  • A little sniffle
  • A couple tears
  • A steady stream
  • Ugly cry´╗┐