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Egyptian Magicians: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Since the death of their mother, siblings Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the famous Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane. One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a “research experiment” at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes Dr. Kane to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives. Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them, Set,  has his sights on them. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous (being chased by protective magicians..yup) journey around the world and slowly uncover the strange truth about their family.

I know that everyone thinks this is a lesser version of the Percy Jackson series and it may be.  I don’t know.  I am only now reading The Lightning Thief.   I will say that the Red Pyramid is a well told story about two kids who feel like they don’t really fit it anywhere suddenly realizing that they do in fact fit into a world of Egyptian gods and magic. Both Carter and Sadie start to uncover their hidden strengths and talents, some of which they’d rather not have.   I really liked the narrators, especially Sadie, who was funny, cynical and also sweet.  Also, the banter between Carter and Sadie is cute; makes me think of how my little brother and I used to argue (all the time!).
My favorite character of all, however, wasn’t the narrators.  It was Bast.  Bast is the Egyptian goddess of cats who is Carter and Sadie’s protector.  Bast loves the Kane siblings so much that she thinks of them as her own “kittens”.  Her character is a mix between sweet house cat and sassy wild cat.  I just thought she was fun and was always excited when she was in a scene.
I will say that I did think the story was a little long-winded.   A few times I thought, “how long is this book?”.  But, this doesn’t change the fact that I liked the story.
Definitely a fun first installment to the Kane Chronicles series for middle school readers and up.  If you’re a fan ancient Egyptian culture and/or the Percy Jackson series, then you’ll probably enjoy this one too.
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A Title to Hook You: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Fifteen year old Evie is waiting for her life to begin.  She wants to start feeling like a woman instead of a young girl pretending to be a mature woman.

Evie lives in post Word War II Brooklyn with her bombshell mother and war veteran father.  One day her father, Joe, comes home from work and abruptly announces that the family is taking a road trip to Florida.  Evie can’t believe it; she feels as though her life is about to begin.

Evie’s family arrives in an off-season Palm Beach settling in a posh hotel that they pretty much have to themselves. Soon, however Evie’s father’s past catches up with him when gorgeous Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served with Joe in Europe, joins the family on vacation.  Evie quickly finds herself falling for the mysterious and seductive Peter.  Although Evie is excited to spend her vacation with Peter, it quickly becomes clear that her father, Joe, is not as happy as she is.  What Evie doesn’t know is she’s not the only one who may be interested in Peter and that her father and Peter may have more of a history than they’ve let on.  Soon Evie understands that almost everything she believed to be truth was really a lie as her family is entangled in a scandal that forces Evie to grow up much faster than she ever really wanted.

This is Blundell’s first novel, which won the National Book Award in 2008.  What I Saw and How I Lied really captivated me from the beginning; I mean, just the title alone made me snatch this one off the shelve as soon as I saw it!  Also, historical coming-of-age fiction centered around a post World War II America?  Yes please!  Plus, Evie is such a believable character; you really grasp the frustration she feels for being in that middle space between girlhood and womanhood, as well as the longing she feels for adulthood (or what she thinks is adulthood).

Some of the content isn’t suitable for younger teen readers (i.e. some mild sexual situations), but is more appropriate for older teens.  However, think that although the title will get some teens wondering, not all will enjoy it as the story does start out slowly and is set in 1947.  As sad as it makes me historical fiction is not a super popular genre among teens today.  If you know you (or your teen) has enjoyed historical fiction in the past, this one will probably be a good choice.

All in all, a pretty intriguing read.

 

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Tuesday Top Ten: Most Popular Sellers at Our Fall Book Fair

The fall Book Fair is in full swing in my Media Center.  We’ve been open for a full two days, and already I’ve had to order some title restocks, which will hopefully arrive tomorrow or else the natives may revolt!  This week’s Top Ten will list the ten most popular sellers at our fall book fair.

The Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Talented Pop Star by Rachel Renee Russell

Vampire Stalker by Allison Van Diepen

The NightMarys by Dan Poblocki

Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Dowling Hahn

Killer Pizza: The Slice by Greg Taylor

39 Clues Cahills Versus Vespers: The Medusa Plot by Gordon Korman

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Maximum Ride Manga #4 by James Patterson

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Let Me Count the Ways: Smile by Raina Telgmeier

I seriously loved this graphic novel.

Smile is a snapshot of a time in Raina Telgmeier’s life when she had a lot going on: dental drama, middle school, mean girls, cute boys, girl scouts, an earthquake and more dental drama.

It all starts one evening as Raina is coming home from a Girl Scout meeting, trips, falls and knocks out her two front teeth. So begins a long and frustrating journey with braces, surgery, horrible headgear and a retainer with beautiful fake teeth.  Throughout all of this, the dental drama is mirrored in Raina’s personal and social life as she deals with the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, a boy who likes her, a different boy that she likes, and friends who turn out to be pretty mean in the log run.

This is a coming-of-age story in which Raina must learn to actually like who she is inside.  Pretty much anyone who has ever lived through the middle school years will connect with Raina’s character and her struggles.  At times Telgmeier makes you laugh (out loud a lot!), cringe, and leaves you inspired.

For me, this book was more than just connecting with Raina’s character.  I felt like I could have been Raina on so many levels, other than the major dental issues.  Why do I really love this book and feel like Raina are one?  Let me count some of the ways:

1. I, like Raina also grew up in the San Fran Bay Area in the 80s/early 90s.

2. I experienced the 1989 earthquake and remember watching images of the broken Bay Bridge on the news (as Raina does)

3. Raina likes New Kids on the Block too!  She liked Joey McIntyre too!

4. We were both in Girl Scouts (I was a Daisy and a Brownie)

5. We were both a little (or more than) awkward back in those awful middle school years

6. I had mean girl friends who were not so very nice to me (and had to eventually learn that I didn’t have to take it anymore)

7. I was pretty boy crazy and often had googly eyes when “those who shall not be named” were in the same room as me (or if I watched them from a distance…what? You didn’t do that?)

Okay, so there are so many other reasons why I LOVED this graphic novel, but to list more would just be absurd.

Anyway, you get it. I really, really loved Smile by Raina Telgmeier.

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Tuesday Top Ten: My Favorite Sunshine State Books Ever

In case you don’t know what Sunshine State books are, they’re a list of 15 books chosen by media specialists throughout the state of Florida.  Every year there are 15 new books on the Sunshine State list. Its pretty much a list of recommended titles for middle schoolers.  I’ve been reading them for the past few years.

I didn’t post yesterday, because my day was pretty busy.  So, this week it’s actually a Wednesday Top Ten. I’ve mentioned some of the titles before (because they’re that good!) so you know that I highly recommend them if they’re also on this list.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale (LOVE!!!)

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith (Cute)

Mercy on These Teenage Chimps by Gary Soto (hilarious)

Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson (fun)

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix (intriguing)

Schooled by Gordon Korman (cute)

The Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner Duble (historical fiction!)

Shakespeare’s Secret by Elise Broach (National Treasure-ish)

Rules by Cynthia Lord (really good story)

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (soo good!)

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Book Trailer of the Week: The Slayer Chronicles

Heather Brewer wrote one of my favorite series, The Chronicles of Valdimir Tod.  This new spin off series centers around Vampire Slayer Joss, Vladimir’s friend/enemy; hence the title The Slayer Chronicles. I’m definitely planning on reading this one although I’ll admit I’m a bit skeptical of spin off books.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Recently Read

My school uses Accelerated Reader to promote reading, as well as to hold students accountable for what they actually read.   I have an app on my phone that tells me how many AR quizzes have been taken and what books they’ve been taken on.

As of today (the 13th day of the month) 135 books have been read and quizzed on.  Today’s Top Ten will be the most recent books read at my school.  Approved by 6-8th graders in Orlando. :)

Schooled by Gordon Korman

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

Big Nate Strikes Again by Lincoln Pierce

Rules by Cynthia Lord

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Graphic Novel) by M.C. Hall

Secrets in the Shadows by Anne Schraff

The Phantom Menace: Volume 4 (Graphic Novel) 

Someone to Love Me by Anne Schraff

Guitar Girl by Sara Manning

P.S. I’m going to the annual Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME) conference again this year.  Last year I met authors Jessica Day George, Margaret Peterson Haddix and Caroline B. Cooney!  (I’ll find my pics and post them soon)  This year Roland Smith, Gordon Korman, and James Preller will be there!  It’s in October, so hopefully I’ll have pictures to post!