Dangerous Pie

As an English teacher, nothing makes me happier than seeing my students really connect with and enjoy a book that I’ve forced upon them. This book, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, is one of the few books I’ve ever taught that literally EVERY student liked. Unfortunately, I’ve switched grade levels and don’t get to teach this book anymore, but I still recommend it. Constantly and quite forcefully.

Jordan Sonnenblick has a way of storytelling in this book that can have you laughing through tears, putting yourself into situations you hope you’ll never have to face, but that you’re happy to accompany his characters through. In it, we follow Steven through the journey of his eighth grade year. He’s a skinny dork with glasses and braces, a hopeless crush on the hottest girl in school, a total band geek, and a little brother that ends up turning his whole world around. While this book does have a main character with cancer, it’s not a book about cancer. It’s about growing up and going through crap that makes you better for having lived through it.

The fact that this is Sonnenblick’s first novel is amazing to me. I’ve read most of his other books, which are good too… but not quite as magical as this one is. The companion/follow-up to this, Notes From The Midnight Driver, is a close second though. Just the first chapter had me laughing out loud (I guess the death of porcelain lawn gnomes will always be funny).

If you haven’t read any Sonnenblick, you should. And you should start with Drums. This is literally one of the best books I’ve ever read. Enjoy!

Side note to English Teachers: Don’t let the fact that this is modern YA keep you from teaching this book – not everything has to be old to be good. There’s a ton of rich text in this that make it VERY appropriate to teach in a 7th/8th grade classroom, and also a lot of interesting author’s craft stuff (like his unique way of handling dialogue that switches at the very end of the book) that goes right along with Common Core Standards. It’s all kinds of awesome.

From What I Remember…

I’ll just be super honest – my expectations were not real high for this book as I thought this was basically going to be a teenage version of The Hangover. I’m happy to say that I was proven wrong from the very first page, as I was instantly pulled into Kylie’s story.

This book chronicles the events of a few days in the life of a “good girl”at the end of her senior year. Desperate to save her graduation speech when her laptop falls into peril, Kylie puts herself into that same perilous situation and pulls several of her classmates along with her. The story is so exciting and well paced that you don’t even realize it’s close to 500 pages long until you look up and realize it’s 2:00 am and you’re still reading.

If you’ve read my other blog posts, you know I love a good multiple POV story, and this one has FIVE. The numerous points of view were a little distracting in the beginning, but by the time I was really into the story they were a total asset. I love getting to see how other characters are thinking and reacting to various events in a novel. In this case, we get so many opinions of the same events that the story feels more rounded and complex even though it takes place over a short time period of three days.

The authors, Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas, both have backgrounds in film – this would explain why the book has a movieesque feel to it as it moves beautifully from scene to scene. The book would make a great movie, actually. I’d go see it.

This book is definitely for the 10th grade and up crowd, I think. The characters engage in some behaviors that I wouldn’t really condone, but every action has a very real consequence in this story. My only slight criticism of this is that the authors kind of beat you over the head with the homosexuality of one of the characters. I mean, it’s good to have diverse, well rounded characters, but this one seemed pretty stereotypical and over the top.

All in all, From What I Remember is GREAT FUN and well worth reading. Enjoy!



In honor of Halloween (really, a holiday focused on dressing in costumes and gathering mass quantities of candy from strangers is all kinds of fabulous), I have to share with you a few of the books that really got me to like reading. Like, way back in the day.

I never really liked reading until I discovered scary, suspenseful books. My mom and aunts bought me things like Little House on the Prairie and stuff, and it just wasn’t my thing. No offense to Laura Ingalls Wilder or anything, but I am a city girl through and through and couldn’t care less what was happening outside of civilization.

Anyway, the very first book I remember reading on my own and really liking was The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright. It was the first book that had my attention and left me wanting to know what would happen next. I guess my love of mysteries should have been a forgone conclusion based on my early childhood love of Scooby Doo, but this was the first one I ever read. Of course, it scared the crap out of me too… and, as I look at the cover, it looks crazy cheesy now, but man I loved it. The protagonist in this has to stay with her aunt, and the dolls in the dollhouse reenact an unsolved murder that took place years previously. Super creepy. Super good.

Of course, my love of a good mystery didn’t end with the thrilling conclusion to The Dollhouse Murders. It was only the beginning. From there I moved on to books by Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, and R.L. Stine. Christopher Pike was my favorite, hands down, and the one I remember liking a whole lot was Remember Me. Of course this cover is way dated and looks exactly like it did when I read it in the 90’s, but I’ve noticed some of Pike’s books with updated covers showing up in stores recently, which is great because I hope they turn another generation of students into avid readers. Reading these horror/suspense/mystery books from these authors turned me into the kind of reader that could finish a book or two in a weekend. For me, that was a real accomplishment.

I guess you could draw a few different conclusions from these early influences on my reader psyche:

  1. No wonder I’m a messed up human being. These books look scary!
  2. You could say these books influenced me to be an English teacher. Part of my passion as a teacher is to help students find books they LIKE to read, and these are the books that made me like reading.
  3. Maybe this is why I’m looking into writing a YA mystery series? :)
If either of these sound like books you’d be into, check them out! Happy Halloween, and enjoy! 

Are you on Goodreads?

If you’re a Goodreads member, add me as a friend! I always keep up with my reading lists on Goodreads – what I’m currently reading, what I’ve already read, and what I’m hoping to read soon. It’s way easier than trying to write stuff down, and the mobile app is great. (I swear my iPhone changed my life for the better, and this is just one of the ways! Haha.) Seriously though, I’d love to connect with my fellow readers on Goodreads. I love to see what you’re all reading and what you think of it. I’m also always interested in your recommendations… What books should I be adding to my “to read” list?

Anna and the French Kiss

I have always, always, always wanted to travel, and since I took six years’ worth of French classes, Paris has been at the top of my travel list since I was in eighth grade. So, of course, I couldn’t resist a book with this title, with this cover. I mean, come on. AND it kept showing up on all kinds of lists of top YA books.

All I want to say is that I could not have loved this book any more. In fact, I spent most of the book being completely jealous and so very happy for Anna. When I first read it, I wrote this for my Good Reads review:

I want to live inside of this book, which I think is the highest compliment I could pay to it. Love, love, love it.
I couldn’t even think of anything else to say. I was speechless! I’m planning on rereading this several times, and when I do, finally, get to go to Paris, I will be living out some of Anna’s adventures. :)

Visit the author’s webpage here: http://www.stephanieperkins.com/ and make sure you check out the companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door, too. It was very good as well, just not quite as magical for me because of the whole Paris thing. Enjoy!

Simone Elkeles


I have literally devoured three Simone Elkeles books in the last 48 hours. She is very quickly becoming one of my favorite authors, and with a book cover like this (HELLO could that be any hotter) I don’t know why it took me so long to discover her.

I started reading her books with the Perfect Chemistry series last weekend. I absolutely fell in love with the Fuentes brothers. What I loved most about this series was that each book was connected by the Fuentes family, but each book featured different main characters. One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to book series is that inevitably the romance will be on again, off again in the interest of creating conflict and drama. In this case, though, that wasn’t an issue as each book centered on a different couple.The other thing I appreciate about this series is the alternating point of view – there’s nothing better than getting both main characters’ take on things. Because of the language and sexual content, I don’t recommend this for readers below 10th grade.

The books I read this weekend were from the How to Ruin series. I love, love, love them… They made me wish I’d be forced to go to another country and meet some family I didn’t know  I had.

I think my favorite thing about this series is their protagonist, Amy. As much as I like alternating points of view, I also value a good, strong protagonist with an interesting view on life. Amy describes herself as a pessimist, but I don’t really think she is. She’s sweet, funny, smart, sarcastic, and hopelessly romantic even in spite of herself. Amy grows and matures so much throughout this series that I think she’s a wonderful role model for teenage girls. Language and sexual content in this series is still there but is less of an issue than it was in the Perfect Chemisty series. I recommend these for 8th grade and up.

I guess my one major observation about Elkeles books that I wish was different is that every romantic relationship is contentious. They’re explosively passionate, which is great fun to read and dream about having, but they almost border on love/hate relationships, which doesn’t seem healthy. Don’t get me wrong – all of the romances contained in these books are great reads – I just hope that at some point in the future I’ll read a book of hers that has a little less arguing, drama queening, and general strife. Check out more from Elkeles at http://simoneelkeles.com/!

Side Note

I’m drinking coffee out of one of my favorite mugs, a giant Starbucks mug from the flagship store in Seattle. I’d love to be there today, reading and writing in the original Pike Place Market shop.


TFIOS For The Win

So I actually read this book back when it came out, but I’m playing catch up on my blog. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and probably the only book in which I was actually rooting for underage characters to have premarital sex (and that’s a long story that you’ll only get if you read the book – and I’m not saying if it actually happens or not). I laughed, I cried like a hormonal teenage girl, I wanted to go inside the book and hang out with the characters, and I actually felt like I understood the world a little bit better when I finished reading it. Some of the teenage girls I have taught actually argue with me about who would win the heart of Augustus Waters if he were a real-life guy. (I would, hands down. I don’t care that I’m too old for him.)

As a teacher and mentor of teenagers, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to high schoolers. It opens up so many lines of discussion and so many opportunities to explore faith and life that it’s a really valuable, and highly enjoyable, reading experience. I don’t as readily recommend Green’s other books for content reasons, but I have read and enjoyed them myself, and have had great talks about them with a few students.

The bottom line is that this book, TFIOS, is an instant classic that will be around forever and should be read by all. Keep up with John Green on his tumblr: http://fishingboatproceeds.tumblr.com/ and buy his books anywhere!

Funniest Books I’ve Ever Read…

 A few years ago, I read Louise Rennison’s Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I didn’t realize it was part of a ten book series. Then, this summer, I happened to notice a film version of it available for rent on Netflix. I put it in my queue and prepared myself for yet another disappointing book-inpired movie. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the movie version was, and it inspired me to check into Rennison’s other books. Imagine my surprise when I found another nine books featuring the Angus protagonist, Georgia Nicolson! It was pretty exciting. (I know I’m a book nerd, ok?)

I put all of the books on hold at my local library and waited until I had them all to start reading. Then, when they were all finally in, I tore through all nine books following Angus… in a matter of ONE WEEK. Several times, as I was reading in the evenings while my husband was watching TV, I would seriously laugh out loud at the sheer hilarity of the books. I’m seriously considering buying all of the books so I can reread them whenever I need to have a good laugh.

A note about content – some of the titles sound a bit risque sexually… but the content is not. Though all of Georgia’s friends are preoccupied with boys and the constantly rate themselves on a “Snogging Scale” (snogging is British for kissing), the girls never do anything beyond kissing with their boyfriends, and there’s very little inappropriate language in the books. Out of all the young adult series I’ve read, this one is pretty clean.

Basically, in the series, (don’t worry – no spoilers – this is VERY general) Georgia Nicolson and her group of friends navigate their way through a year or so of school at Stalag 14, an all-girls high school. The group calls themselves the Ace Gang, and they are absolutely hilarious together – constantly trying to pull little pranks, getting in trouble, and torturing the school’s staff. Georgia’s family is crazy (maybe certifiably) and full of funny situations, and Georgia’s love life is, well, complicated but constantly interesting and exciting.

I’d recommend this series to teenagers… mature upper grade middle school girls through high school and adult readers (especially if you work with or have teenage girls). Here are all ten books of the series, in order:

1. Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging

2. On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex god

3. Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas

4. Away Laughing on a Fast Camel

5. Dancing in My Nuddy-Pants

6. The He Ate My Boy Entrancers

7. Startled By His Furry Shorts

8. Love Is a Many Trousered Thing

9. Stop In The Name Of Pants!

10. Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me?