12 and up


by Dawn


5M4B disclosure

silverIf you happen to be in my general age bracket, you may find yourself comparing moments in your life with memorable scenes from television shows like “Friends.” I know, odd way to start a review, but stick with me for a minute. Remember when Joey read Little Women? Well, I couldn’t help but reference that (17 year old!!) scene because as I read Chris Wooding’s young adult novel Silver, I had to stop myself from putting the book in the freezer multiple times. Seriously, this book had my heart racing, and I stopped many, many times during my reading, sometimes not even making it to the end of a chapter!

While this is intended for a young adult (12 and up) audience, my reaction is more indicative of my own unease with the thriller/horror genre than anything else. Set at a boarding school, the story revolves around a virus-like infection that spreads quickly, immediately changing the campus environment to a deadly scene. Five particular students are at the core of the tale, and each struggles with issues, both universal and specific, with which many teens will be able to relate. Their individual reactions in the aftermath speak to their personal journeys, and the development of their characters is as important to the story as the scary action.

That action? Well, I hope this isn’t considered too much of a spoiler, but I think it’s important to note that the plot significantly involves zombie-like characters, and much of the violence depicted includes scenes similar to zombie-themed movies. I find that important to note because I happen to be particularly terrified of the whole zombie idea, and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t have opted to read this one had I known that. But, that being said, I powered through with my heart pounding, totally outside of my comfort zone, and… I have to admit that I liked it. There was something a little exhilarating to be scared out of my wits while rooting for these five plucky teens.

My oldest son is about to turn 14 this summer, and I’m going to offer this one up to him, with the forewarning about the zombie-like creatures. I really hope the terror isn’t genetic.



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Always Emily #MMGM

I have been a fan of Michaela MacColl for a while. I loved her first novel. Scroll all the way to the bottom to see links in the recommended posts to two of her other books I enjoyed.
Earlier this year, I decided to reread Wuthering Heights. It was interesting, but I stalled a bit. Reading Always Emily about the life of Emily and Charlotte Bronte in their teen years revived my interest.
Michaela MacColl writes historical fiction that will appeal to fans of the genre. I read it at times, but it’s not my favorite genre, but I always enjoy her books. They are written for an older middle grade through young adult audience (probably 5th to 8th grade), but are so enjoyable for

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Horses of the Dawn: The Escape #MMGM

Kathryn Lasky is well known for her Guardians of Ga’Hoole series, but she’s gone in a completely different direction with her new series, Horses of the Dawn. Like her other series, this is not your typical book in its genre. In the first book, The Escape, the first tribe is formed during the 1500s, loosely following legends of the Conquistadors as they attempted to find gold in the new world.
The book is a “horse book” but it is not at all like the ones I grew up reading. Though loosely marketed as a girls’ book, this appealed far more to my son, probably due to the somewhat violent – but sadly realistic – mishaps that befell the horses from a shark eating the main character’s

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These Broken Stars

I accepted a copy of this book for review because I had already been hearing how fantastic it was, and upon reading it myself, I was not disappointed. I’m almost 100% sure that my 15-year-old daughter will like it too.
These Broken Stars is a young adult novel set in the future with dystopian undertones (class wars, controlling elements) and has some supernatural overtones as well (mysterious things that aren’t quite explained fully). The Icarus is an air ship colony of 50,000 people which is suddenly pulled out of suspension, causing the ship to crash. There’s a mob scene as people take to the escape pods.
Young decorated war soldier Tarver Merensen and Lilac LaRoux, daughter of the richest, most powerful man in the universe,

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5 Book Series my Middle-Grader Loves {Friday’s Five}

My son was always a good reader, but he didn’t always love reading. I can tell the difference between a book that he loves and a book that’s just okay, because he flies through the ones that really grab him. If it’s a series, he goes from one to the next without even coming up for air. Here are 5 series my son loved, and ones you might consider for your 4th – 6th grade readers (Edited — I showed my son this post, and he said, “I’d say up to 8th grade,” and he’s really correct. Any of these series can be appreciated through middle school for sure.)
Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan — This series started it all. He started reading them at

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Liv, Forever

Young Adult literature runs the gamut from material that middle schoolers will enjoy to mature titles for older high schoolers and beyond. I think that Liv, Forever, Amy Talkington’s debut novel, will appeal pretty broadly. There is nothing in the content that I recall that might be a bit “too much” for a middle school audience, and yet, the relationships, the universality of trying to change one’s future and trying to fit in, are themes that will resonate with high schoolers as well.
Olivia leaves her past behind when she goes to boarding school in New Hampshire. She is a loner, having survived the foster system and being adopted, even though she doesn’t feel much of a connection to her parents. Her art portfolio got

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Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

Nate is a lovable misfit whose honest voice in Better Nate Than Ever earned him a huge following (or at least a loyal one).
This sequel, Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, begins where Better Nate Than Ever left off. Stop reading now if you don’t want spoilers of the first book, but click through the link and read my review of that one because I’m still recommending it all the time.
For those of you who did enjoy the first book–
Nate is cast in E.T. the Musical because of his unique and spirited audition. This novel gives readers a cool insider’s look at what it takes to get a show off the ground, and in particular what the life of kid actors looks like backstage.

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2013 Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Award Finalists #Cybils

Dawn and I each worked hard all fall in our respective categories, narrowing down many nominees to a shortlist of finalists. We’ve been posting reviews of the nominees along the way, and now our hard work is out there to see. The finalists were posted today. Check out the lists in all of the categories HERE. It’s a great way to find some new books or authors or even genres for your kids.
Now the work is in the hands of the round 2 judges. The winners will be announced on February 14.

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Orca Limelights, Novels for the Artistically Inclined #Cybils #MMGM

Finding books that tap into hobbies and interests is often a way to encourage a child to pick up a book. I love the focus on the arts that the Orca Limelight imprint achieves.
These are all younger young adult selections (are you as stymied as I am by that label??), right on the cusp of middle grade. It seems that most public libraries shelve books for 6th and 7th graders in the YA section, because they don’t want them on the same shelves that 10 year olds are picking from, but then those older middle grade readers end up browsing shelves that have teen YA. There’s not a good solution. But books like these are great for middle schoolers who want to read more

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Historical Fiction for Kids from @Scholastic #Cybils

Each of these new middle grade novels have interesting historical settings and are written by award-winning authors. They also both have fantastic covers, so let’s look beyond them to what’s inside.
Duke is by Newbery Honor author Kirby Larson. Dog lovers and those interested in World War II will enjoy it for sure. The story is told from the point of view of 11-year-old Hobie. He likes baseball, thinks his little sister is too much of a pest, lives to hear the newest episodes of his favorite program — he’s anykid. But he also worries about his father who is serving abroad in World War II. It’s common to his friends and other townspeople, but it is unique to most kids of today.
Soldiers off

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Sport-themed Books Not for Sporty Kids only #Kidlit #Cybils

I am not a sporty person. I am not raising sporty kids. I am married to a sporty guy, but apparently his genes skipped a generation. However, we do all like to read (sporty guy included). These are books that are well written and plotted, so if you are trying to encourage a sporty kid to read, they might give these a try. That said, my non-sporty self liked these a lot. The sports created a cool setting and background or plot element, but were part of the greater themes of friendship, fitting in, self-improvement, or something else.
Strike Three, You’re Dead by Josh Berk is a mystery. I’m assuming – or hoping – that it’s the first in a series, because after the title

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The Mother Problem in #Cybils Middle Grade Fiction #kidlit

One thing I notice is that in books, a lot of kids’ parents are dead. Or they’re missing or on vacation. If they are around, the parents are kind and wise and do things like braid your hair and play board games with you. In books, parents aren’t bad unless they’re stepparents. (That’s not fair, in my opinion. I’ve had several stepparents, and some of them were very nice.) Real parents are nice to their kids.
That is not my experience.

Nell’s thoughts in The Hidden Summer by Gin Phillips, quoted above (page 13), sum up the “mother problem” that is in a lot of middle grade fiction. I loved the observation that the parents are missing, and in fact, this whole story is how

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