Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews, NetGalley

The Black Kids – Review

Fun fact about this book. I won it in a giveaway, and then a day later got notification from NetGalley that I had been approved for the early release copy I had requested a few weeks prior.

Goodreads summary here

I put all my other current reads on hold to start this one. I watched Christina Hammonds Reed chat about her book a couple weeks ago and was intrigued. It hurt my ego a little that the book was referred to as “historical fiction” since I can vividly remember the beating of Rodney King, the trial, and the outcry. I also remember a Doogie Houser, M.D. episode that focused on the protests. So yeah, I know yesterday is technically history, but when I think historical fiction, I’m thinking prairies or wars or societies without technology, not something I was alive for.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this novel. Ashley, the main character, is a senior and one of the few Black girls at her school. Her best friends, whom she has grown up with, are all white. She lives with her parents and her nanny, Lucia, in a nice neighborhood in LA in the early 1990s.

When the verdict is released, Ashley begins to go through a sort of transition. She starts to reexamine who her friends truly are, and she begins to see the ones she grew up with for who they truly are.

As America faces yet another incident of police brutality with the George Floyd case and the ones that have happened since the end of May and before, it was hard to read this book and realize America hasn’t changed in 30 years. Whites still think they’re better. Police still use excessive force, especially on Blacks. Systematic racism continues to harm our Black communities. It was hard to read.

Even though this book made me feel ashamed of where America currently is, I think this is a perfect book to add to any high school library. I think this will bring about great conversation, and it will help a lot of students (and adults) process through our current events.

Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews, NetGalley

Cinderella Is Dead review

I received this book early from #Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I’ve decided not to do a summary this time and just jump right in to my thoughts.

I first heard about this book from an Instagram live and knew right away that I was going to have to read it and quickly. I got on Netgalley because I just didn’t think I could wait until its release date in early July. It took a while to get approval, but as soon as I got it downloaded, I started reading it.

First impressions – as a parent, I was annoyed with the main character, Sophia. She wants to change all the rules in their land which is controlled by a misogynistic king who has no problem chopping the heads off those who oppose him. Her parents were first concerned with her safety, and disrupting the societal norms would not make her safe. In fact, there is a point when Sophia asks, “Don’t you want me to be happy?” And the response is no, I want you to be safe [alive]. I felt this deep in my heart as a mom of two girls.

As I read, though, I began to come around to Sophia. No dictator or dystopian ruler is ever overthrown without someone risking everything. Sophia is a strong (and sometimes reckless) main character. She cares deeply about the people she loves, and she wants better for everyone, including herself.

The setting and story building are fantastic. It is very easy to visualize what this society looks like. Every time I picked it up to read, I was transported to this world. This book is very well-written, and I am looking forward to reading more by Bayron.

A little side note: So, I once again read a couple reviews on Goodreads before writing my own. One I read complained about how Sophia quickly fell in love with this new girl after saying she was in love with her friend Erin for three years. To that person, I would say, have you ever met a 16/17 year old girl? But besides the fickleness of teens when it comes to love, I felt that Sophia really wrestled with her feelings. She felt conflicted having feelings for this new girl when she still loved Erin. I felt like the author did a great job showing this struggle.

Posted in 2020 Books, ProjectLitBookClub

Let Me Hear a Rhyme Review

I Loved This Book! With the current state of our country, I feel like who cares about a book review? But then I know that I start teaching again in a couple months, and my students know to come to me with book recommendations. Given the amount of books that I read, this blog helps me keep my thoughts straight and helps me remember why I would (or would not) recommend it to my kids.

As I mentioned in my last blog, I have been using quarantine as a way to learn more. I started following a handful of authors which then turned into a (what’s the next biggest thing after a handful?) well, a lot more authors. I found this book and Tiffany Jackson through that. She is also on the Project Lit Book list 3 times…and she has 3 books out! (Fourth one Grown coming out in September!) Her books have also made it on the Missouri Gateway Nominee list. So, while these aren’t the ultimate authorities for great books, it says a lot about an author when they make these lists.

Now for a quick summary since you can read much better ones all over the internet. Let Me Hear a Rhyme is a young adult fiction book that follows three youths (Jasmine, Quadir, and Jarrell) who are dealing with the death (murder) of their brother (Jasmine’s) and best friend, Steph. It is set in Brooklyn in the late 1990s. The day of the funeral, the trio come across some music that Steph had recorded, and a few days later the boys develop an idea to let the world hear Steph’s music. They have to get Jasmine involved, but the only way she will join in with the scheme is if the boys help her find out who killed her brother.

Like I said above, I LOVED this book. For one, it is set in the late 1990s and the late 90s hip hop references made me super nostalgic for my last few years of high school. I can remember watching the news (probably on MTV) when Tupac and Biggie were killed. I even found myself pulling up the Lauryn Hill album that is referenced a couple times throughout the book and reliving hearing that for the first time. Yes, this extremely sheltered white girl from the midwest loved hip-hop.

My students, even though they weren’t even born until 2006, still talk about a lot of the artists mentioned throughout the book, and I think that will draw some of them in.

Now, that is really just a tiny part of the book. The story is so well-written. I pride myself on being about to figure out YA books within the first couple chapters. And while I was completely right about the romance, there are a couple things I did not see coming, and one of them made me cry. (I actually audibly said, Oh NO! and then started crying.)

The chapters aren’t too long either, and as weird as that sounds, a lot of my students get discouraged when a chapter (or book) is really long.

(I have probably mentioned this before, but my reading class is for students who are struggling readers and scoring at least 2 grade levels below the 8th grade. It takes a lot to get them to read on their own, so finding little things like short chapters helps.)

I highly recommend this book. There’s a mystery to solve, a sweet romance, lots of music references, drama, girl power…

Now to get Jackson’s other books and preorder Grown!

Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews, NetGalley, Uncategorized

☀️ Ignite the Sun ☀️ review

This was my 3nd ARC from NetGally. My 2nd YA one, and I have to say it was FAR better than the last one I read. Of course, they are completely different genres, and it’s hard to compare fantasy to contemporary romance (Although, I don’t think it could be a YA book without some romance, so you aren’t missing out on that with this book.)

This books follows Siria on her journey to discover who she truly is. I really cannot say much about it, because even saying who she truly is would give away a bit of the beginning plot twist.

It is set in a fictional kingdom of Umbraz which is ruled by a dark Queen. And by dark, I mean, the queen has eliminated the sun with her powers. She has ruled for years, and the people of Umbraz can barely remember the sun, they fear it, and rely on Queen Iyzabel to keep them safe.

That’s all the summary you’re getting.

Now for a couple personal thoughts.

One of the things I think could have been better was Siria’s character arc. She does change throughout the book, but I just felt like I didn’t really know her. Honestly, this is true of most of the main characters in the book. They are all very surface level.

On the other hand, the world building was great. Hanna Howard did a great job of helping me visualize her world. The castle descriptions were among my favorites.

This book is set to release in August, and if you like YA fantasy with a female protagonist, I would say you would like this one.

Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews

Fish in a Tree – Review

Soapbox moment

The last fiction book I finished was Four Days of You and Me which you can read about here. In that review I made the comment that adults would not enjoy the book. A few days later, I saw a different YA author tweet about getting the negative review that “adults wouldn’t like this book” and her reply was, “duh, it wasn’t written for you.”

Now, I know this is probably a common thought among YA authors, but good books, well-written books, books with good stories can and should be enjoyed by a wide range of people. I greatly enjoy many of my 5 year old’s picture books and early reader books she gets from the library, and I enjoy reading educational theories which are written at a much higher level than I probably am. YA authors should know that many of the books teens read are because a teacher and/or librarian recommended it. The list of books that make it to the top 10 lists or the different state’s award lists are determined by adults.

We adults that read YA know the books are not written for us, but we definitely will not recommend a book that has no plot, no great characters, and too much focus on what is not important to the teens in our lives.

Now – on to the review.

Summary from Goodreads

My 6th grader read Fish in a Tree this year in her ELA class. She told me that I should read it, and that it was a really great book. After finishing it this morning, I can tell you she is 100% right.

The book follows Ally as she navigates school. She knows that she can’t read and writing is difficult for her, but she doesn’t know why. Instead of asking for help, during times when reading/writing is required she avoids class. Sometimes she tries, but even during those times, her teacher and principal think that she is just trying to make a scene, and she ends up in trouble.

It isn’t until her regular teacher leaves for maternity leave and a long term substitute teacher arrives that things start to change for Ally. Mr. Daniels, who we learn is getting a degree in special education, sees Ally’s behavior as something more than just acting out. He begins to form a relationship with Ally, and she finds herself trusting a teacher and looking them in the eyes for the first time.

This book beautifully shows how difficult life can be for students struggling with a learning difference. It examines friendships, family, and bullies, and does so very well. This book will definitely be a book that I recommend to students, but it is more for upper elementary and early middle school.

Posted in 2020 Books, Book Reviews, NetGalley

Four Days of You and Me

Amazon.com: Four Days of You and Me (9781492684138): Kenneally ...

Goodreads summary:

Every May 7, the students at Coffee County High School take a class trip. And every year, Lulu’s relationship with Alex Rouvelis gets a little more complicated. Freshman year, they went from sworn enemies to more than friends after a close encounter in an escape room. It’s been hard for Lulu to quit Alex ever since.

Through breakups, make ups, and dating other people, each year’s class trip brings the pair back together and forces them to confront their undeniable connection. From the science museum to an amusement park, from New York City to London, Lulu learns one thing is for sure: love is the biggest trip of all.


I joined NetGalley to help me find more young adult literature for my classroom library, but also because I love to read. And for as cheesy and corny as young adult literature can be, there are some really great books out there. Books that can appeal to both teens and adults.

This is not one of those books. This book is strictly for teens; it is 100% a teen romance. I do not know a single adult who would enjoy this book, but again, it wasn’t written for them.

Teens, probably love-sick teens who think you can only find your true love during the four years of high school, they will love this book.

What I Didn’t Like:

The main character was not likable to me at all. I feel like I didn’t know her. She is a writer and an artist, but there isn’t anything but perhaps a paragraph that lets the reader know why this book she is writing is so important to her. Her friends are all more likable than she is, especially her best friend, Max. I liked his character a lot.

The time shifting. I usually like this writing style, but in this book, it was just confusing.

The fact that this book perpetuates the lies that high school is where you find your best friends and your true love. Teen Romance as a genre probably just isn’t for me.

As a middle school teacher, I couldn’t put this book in my 8th grade classroom. There are multiple sexual scenes that are pretty graphic (in my opinion) for a teen book.

So. many. clichés. I rolled my eyes quite a few times throughout the books. I had never read this author before and kept telling myself that this was probably her first novel. It definitely is not.

What I liked

Max, her best friend, is really enjoyable and a good best friend to a girl who, quite frankly, is extremely self-centered.

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I’m sorry, I really am. I just can’t think of anything else that I liked about this book.

Posted in Book Reviews

the first part last – review

This book has been in our class library for the last two years, and we have had quite a few students pick it up and read it and enjoy it.

When we learned that our city was going on a stay at home order, we were told we could enter our buildings from 8-12 the day before the order started to gather what we may need “for the next two weeks.”

My first thought was that I need books, and I need to read! I gathered about 10 books knowing that I had quite a few from my public library and on my personal shelf at home that I still needed to read, but I wanted to be prepared.

Since so many of my students seemed to like this book, it was one of the first I grabbed. It’s very short – thus being one of the main reasons students pick it for SSR. The copy we have is only 131 pages. It is also part of a trilogy, which I did not know, and I also didn’t feel like I was missing anything. It definitely felt like a stand alone book.

The main character is Bobby and you find out in the first page (and from the front cover) that he has just become a father and is raising his daughter as a 16 year old. You don’t find out until almost the end of the book what happened with the mother.

The author does a nice job of telling both the present time story and what led up to the current events by alternating chapters between “Then” and “Now”. It shouldn’t come as any surprise in a story about teen parents that there is a little talk about sex, maybe one page in the entire book. The focus is definitely more on Bobby and his coming to terms with being a father.

I really enjoyed this book, and it only took me a couple hours to finish it in between my Zoom meetings today. I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars instead of a 5 on Goodreads simply because I wanted more of the story.

Oh, and fair warning, the last 15 or so pages made me cry a lot.

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Skyward Book Review

Ugh. The biggest book of the possible Trumans for 2020-2021 school year. Of course, it was a science fiction book. Gag. Sorry, it’s just not my favorite genre. I just can’t get into the space stuff. And spacecrafts and jargon I don’t understand.

This was going to be torture. I picked it up the week before Christmas break and read the first chapter. I told my co-teacher, that the first chapter reminded me of the beginning of Hunger Games, when Katniss is out hunting for her family. That’s basically how this book starts, with the main character, Spensa, out hunting rats.

I put it down over Christmas break to knock out three smaller books from the list since the voting was quickly approaching. I picked it back up on New Years.

And something crazy happened. I found myself enjoying science fiction. I never wanted to put it down, but, you know, work, family, basketball coaching; I had to put it down.

Spensa is an interesting character. Her father has been label a coward due to actions as a fighter pilot in the Battle of Alta, and we quickly learn that this label attaches to Spensa as well. All she has ever wanted is to be a pilot, and shockingly she gets her chance.

I was captivated by this book and was reading it during SSR (silent, self-selected reading) at school when one of my most liked characters died. I slammed the book shut, and scared a few of my students. I told them I didn’t want to read it anymore. Surprisingly, the students who struggle with reading were the ones who encouraged me to keep going. (I was never going to quit it, but it was nice to be encouraged to read.)

I am not going to give away any spoilers. Just know that this is the first book in a series, so if you like it as much as I do, you’re dedicating yourself to multiple books.

My favorite part of this book is a character that you may not suspect. This character gave a LOT of comic relief in a book with a lot of sadness and frustration with a society that seemed to be fighting a losing battle.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone who likes dystopian novels. That’s what it felt like to me. Also, while you can sense there may be a budding relationship, there isn’t a ridiculous romance that happens.

Voting ends tomorrow for the Trumans. I ended up only missing one: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. If it makes the top 12, I’ll read it, but I am welcoming the break from YA books…at least until the list of 50 comes out for the 2021-22 school year this May.

Posted in Book Reviews, Possible Truman Nominees 2020-21

Double Review – Squint and Nightbooks

I listened to both of these books over the last two days. These two books will definitely be on the list that I recommend for the Truman list for 2020-21.

It isn’t easy for me to listen to books, but given my current travel situation, I didn’t really have an option. I cannot read while moving. But both of these audiobooks were performed well, and both kept my attention the entire time.

I’m going to skip over the summaries this time because tons of other people have written summaries, and I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t been said without giving away major parts of the plots.

Reasons I loved Squint:

1. The main character was REAL. He had real, common middle school struggles (plus one not-so-common problem). He could have been any one of my students. A little awkward. Super creative. Self-doubting.

2. The minor characters are fantastic. They are well-written and exactly like middle school students. I need to do a little more research on the authors, but I would not at all be surprised if one or both of them taught middle school at some point.

3. The comic that the main character writes is really great.

4. I just really loved this story. It was definitely a feel-good book, even with a couple sad moments. I think middle school students will really love this book. Since I listened to it, I can’t speak to how it was written, or how long the chapters are (since a lot of my students get discouraged if the chapters are too long). But I think it will keep their attention, especially with the comic book references. I can’t think of anything I didn’t like about this book.


Reasons I loved Nightbooks

1. It was so scary! Okay, so not in an adult, Criminal Minds type of scary. But definitely middle school scary.

2. The characters were soooooo well developed.

3. I knew what would happen with the main character, but I had NO IDEA what the witch’s backstory was going to be. I love when a young adult book surprises me, and I don’t figure it out in the first few chapters.

4. The scary stories that are written by the main character, Alex, were super creepy.

The only negative I have with this book is that it wasn’t the most ideal book to listen to. In the parts where the main character is telling one of his own creepy stories, there isn’t any indication that it isn’t part of the main story. So if you are sort of half-listening, it can be confusing. The other part that was hard because of the audio is when the main character is reading a book with extra writing in it. It was really hard to tell from the audio what parts were the main story, the book being read, or the extra writing in the book. Confused? Yeah, me too, a little.


So, if you’re looking for a feel-good young adult novel, pick up Squint. If you’re wanting to be creeped out, Nightbooks is perfect.