We're Middle School Students Writing about Reading!

Welcome to our blog--we're always in the middle of a good book here!

Our posts may include book reviews, original fiction, interviews with authors and bloggers, fan-fiction, fan art, and more, so join us in our journey to explore great books and learn about book blogging!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen

My step mom got me into the Jane Austen movies when I was 11, and this year I thought that it would be fun to read the books. I read Pride and Prejudice. This book is set in the time period around the 19oo's. In this book the Bennett sisters have to find a husband so that they can have some of their father's land. Jane, being the oldest and most mature one, meets one Mr.Bingley and they struggle to stay together because of Mr.Bingley's sister. The second oldest, Elizabeth, falls in love with the stubborn Mr. Darcy, who isn't here for love but to help his friend. Mr.Darcy's stubbornness blinds him, and he doesn't see Miss.Bennett (Elizabeth) until she starts to show herself more around him.

Some more drama in this book is that one of the Bennetts' cousins, Mr. Collins, steps in between Mr.Darcy and Elizabeth and asks Elizabeth for her hand in marrage. But since she is waiting for Mr.Darcy, she refuses and Mr.Collins ends up marrying Elizabeth's best friend. But after all the running away and eloping, it all turns out fine in the end.

I liked this book because I could relate to the characters--all of them, in bits and pieces.  Jane Austen did a nice job creating a "mind movie" in the book because I could see what was happening.  I think the book was a lot better than the movies.  I always (or mostly always) think that about books and movies because in the book they give more detail than the movies, and I like most of their plots better. 
I think I'll read another Austen book. My step-mom just bought me Emma and another book by Jane Austen, too.  I got these things for my birthday, which had a Jane Austen theme this year.
I would rate this book 5/5 chocolate bars!


Friday, January 28, 2011

Review of Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu

Review of Shadow Thieves, by Anne Ursu

Something extraordinary is about to happen to Charlotte Mielswetzski.
It's not the very cute kitten that appears out of nowhere. It's not the arrival of her cousin Zee, who believes he's the cause of a mysterious sickness that has struck his friends back in England. And it's not the white-faced, yellow-eyed men in tuxedos who follow Charlotte everywhere. What's so extraordinary is not any one of these things. It's all of them.

When Charlotte's friends start to get sick, Charlotte and Zee set out to find a cure. Their quest leads them to a not-so-mythical Underworld, where they face Harpies that love to rhyme, gods with personnel problems, and ghosts with a thirst for blood.

Charlotte and Zee learn that in a world overrun by Nightmares, Pain, and Death, the really dangerous character is a guy named Phil. And then they discover that the fate of every person -- living and dead -- is in their hands. (Summary from Amazon.com)

I really liked this book. Not only does it have Greek gods, it is funny and well written. One thing I didn't like is how the story seemed to switch from one point to another. It didn't transition very smoothly from one event to event. Also, it reminded me too strongly of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, what with the whole Greek gods concept and venturing into the Underworld... I'm sorry to say it, but the Shadow Thieves just can't fill Percy Jackson's shoes.

On the other hand, it was a very interesting plot. Greek myths kept popping up, and it helped inform the readers about what was happening. A little extra information is always good.

I really liked how the Greek gods all had their own personalities. They were like people! They had such nifty senses of humor!

I rate this book 3 out of 5 chocolate bars!

Happy Reading!! ~Stev

P.S. This might be my last post... I know you will miss me tons! (just kidding)


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Brilliant, by Rachel Vail

A review by Very, Very Fluffy Pants...

I read the book Brilliant, by Rachel Vail, for my first quarter book report.  It was so amazingly good that I had to let the world know about it! 

Brilliant is about a 16-year-old girl named Quinn Avery.  She's everything you ask for and then some.  She's the best mentor you could ever want to her two younger sisters, 15-year-old Allison and 14-year-old Phoebe.  Out of the three girls, Quinn would be the one to win an award, unless the award was for throwing the best temper tantrum, in which case, it would go to Allison.  Phoebe could be described as sweet, and Allison could be described as stunning, and Quinn could be described as brilliant.

Quinn is one of those girls who gets straight A's, the one who studies constantly, listens to classical music, dresses like a housewife, doesn't cuss or swear, and has no life.  This is apparently called being brilliant.

I really like this book because it's the story of a boring, nerdy girl morphing into a rebel over the course of a summer.  It's fun, witty, and very well-written.  My favorite part was when Quinn got outrageously drunk. :)

Until next time, I'm Very, Very Fluffy Pants saying, "Spend the weekend with fluffy pants and a book.  They will never fail you."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Halo, by Alexandra Adornetto


Three angels are sent down to bring good to the world: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. But she is the most human, and when she is romantically drawn to a mortal boy, the angels fear she will not be strong enough to save anyone—especially herself—from the Dark Forces.

Is love a great enough power against evil? (Summary from Amazon.com)

Halo is about this angel that comes with her sister and brother from heaven to save the world. Her sister is a healer, and her brother is an ark angel. No one can find out they're angels, but that may become a bit complicated when she gets feelings for a boy. Her friends are what we would call the "popular crowd "--they're sometimes a good influence and sometimes a bad influence. It's kind of interesting when they're bad influences. Bethany is learning what humans are like even though she's been studying them for all of her life.

Angels are more interesting the most people think: they can never run out of energy, they excel in everything, and they don't have any belly buttons. Alexandra Adornetto is a great author. The book is full of suspense and romance, with a bit of comedy wrapped in. She has a great writing style and is very creative. When she is describing a suspenseful moment she doesn't forget to describe the surroundings. I loved the book and I couldn't put it down.

I thought Halo was wonderful because there was hardly a moment when Bethany wasn't either trying to figure something out or in danger. I had so much fun trying to guess what was going to happen next.

Some bad things were that I had a easy time guessing what was going to happen. This book is also kind of big, and sometimes a big book intimidates people who don't have too much free time.

Other than those little things, I love this book.

I rate this book 4 out of 5 chocolate bars.

This book is for 13 or older.

HarryPotterLover7698 :) :) :)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Interview with Bethany Griffin, author of Handcuffs

Bethany Griffin, YA Author Extraordinaire!

This is an interview by Kaylin with YA author Bethany Griffin, whose debut Handcuffs is an amazing story "of an Ice Princess, the boy who wants to thaw her, and everything that happens after they get caught with a pair of handcuffs."  --from Bethany's website

I was in love with Handcuffs.  Are you planning on writing a sequel?  Why or why not, and do you ever think you'd revisit Parker's world or family again? 

No. I think that Parker's story is finished. Now, I did write a few pages of a sequel right after I finished drafting it because I wasn't ready to write about anyone else. But...it didn't say much that was new about Parker or her ex-boyfriend, so I knew I didn't really need to finish it. 

I also absolutely loved the character of Parker.  She's fun, witty, and all kinds of awesome and amazing.  Was she modeled after anyone that you might know?  If not, how do you go about creating a character that is so vivid and has so much depth? 
Well, a bit of her is based on me. 
Speaking of Parker, my friend and I noticed that her boyfriend is always referred to as "him" or "he", but never given a name.  Is there a reason for that?  If so, why? 
Nothing particularly deep. I didn't have a name for him when I started, but the first few scenes that he's in, it's always obvious who he is without a name. I wanted to see if I could keep that up throughout the book, and so, I did! Also, using someone's name shows a certain comfort with that person...and the fact that Parker never says his name shows that she's always a little off balance with him. 
When Parker and her boyfriend are, shall we say, caught in the act, why are they only as far as they are, and not farther?  Would that just have been too awkward to write about, or were you worried about the audience reading, or what? 
I like developing sexual tension. With those two characters, I didn't feel like they needed to be further along than they were for there to be sparks between them. 
Are you working on any books right now?  If so, what are they about? 
Well, right now I'm working on a crazy dystopian steam-punk retelling of an Edgar Allan Poe story. With quite a bit of romance in it. Totally different from Handcuffs. :) 
And last, but not least, what is your favorite color, and what is your favorite way to enjoy chocolate?
Green?  and dark chocolate with raspberry filling. 
Thanks, Bethany, for allowing us to interview you--it's been a great honor.  I'm excited about the Poe retelling, and I think everyone should read Handcuffs!
:) Kaylin

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Book 2: The Sea of Monsters

This is a review of the second book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, which is called The Sea of Monsters.  The author is Rick Riordan.

During school, Percy is stuck playing dodge ball against large seventh graders who turn out to be Laistrygonians. They summon explosive fireballs and attempt to kill Percy, but he is protected by Tyson, a friend, who is unharmed by the monsters' fireballs. Annabeth, demi-god daughter of Athena, saves Percy by stabbing the last Laistrygonian from behind and takes Percy and Tyson back to Camp Half-Blood. They find the camp under attack--and of course, great adventures follow!

I thought the book was strong in the beginning because this is the first time Percy is attacked by monsters with humans around.  I like that Percy's mother has a new boyfriend called Blofis.  We meet the Cloven of Elders, which is awkward, strong, and awesome.  The best part of the book is meeting Zeus' daughter, Thalia Grace--I thought it was exciting to meet her because Kronos, Percy's grandfather, puts her in a great prophecy so he can destroy Olympus.  This made me excited to read the next books. 

One thing I didn't like about the book is some of the characters weren't who we thought they were in the beginning, and this made me feel sort of sad, even though it was great.  Someone who once was a friend betrays us.  Riordan's a good writer, and I really want to read his other series.
     I rate this book 5 out of 5 chocolate bars 
I read this about 2 months ago

 Vampire rating of appropriateness for mild language and a little blood and guts--not good for little kids. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray

The first book in the Gemma Doyle series by Libba Bray is A Great and Terrible Beauty.

Sixteen-year old Gemma Doyle wants nothing more than to go to London and escape hot, dusty, India in 1895. However, after a mysterious vision in which she witnesses her mother’s suicide and is whisked out of the country by her father to avoid scandal, she couldn’t be more miserable in England. Her grandmother sends her to a boarding school called Spence Academy, in hopes of “taming” her. There, Gemma is an outcast, preyed upon by popular girls Pippa and Felicity, and making only one half-friend, Ann, another outcast, because she is poor. So yes, very depressing. Right. Is there a point to this book? Yes. Well, Gemma continues to have visions like the one she had back in India. Creepy omens of death and charming things like that. She finds Kartik, an Indian boy who warms her cryptically to guard her mind against the visions-the “realms” he calls them. And one creepy night, a ghost like child leads Gemma to a cave where an old diary is hidden, about a girl like Gemma, who has visions too. Gemma continues to miss her mother and her father, who, she infers from letters, is succumbing to grief and laudanum. One day, though, changes that. Miss Moore, the art teacher, takes the girls on an unexpected trip into the woods bordering Spence. She tells them about a mystical Order who lives in another world, called the realms. She shows them primitive cave art.

Most of the girls gasp and act horrified, but Gemma is intrigued, because one of the paintings depicts a crescent eye, just like the one on a necklace her mother gave her before she died. On the way back, she catches the mean girl, Felicity, kissing a gypsy in the woods. She agrees not to tell; however, Felicity becomes her "friend" and decides that she, Pippa, and Gemma, should have their own "Order". Through midnight meetings, secrets, and a bit of whiskey stolen from the kitchens, the four girls' friendships take root and bloom. Gemma continues to read the diary from the book and discovers something magical and amazing--a dark and dangerous world, full of secrets Gemma maybe is better off not knowing.

This is a really deep book and very dark, so it may be hard for some people to read. But it sends a very good message and it really makes you think about what is right and what you would have done in her situation.  Libba Bray has a really poetic style of writing, and her style works to create a haunted mood. The characters seem real because they have a lot of flaws.  They come across as real people because they do have their strengths and their weaknesses.  The book says a lot about how the girls are trying to break out of the system of becoming housewives and fulfilling the expectations of a man's world.

This is the first in a trilogy, and all three are really good--read them under the covers with a flashlight kind of books. I rate this book 4 out of 5 chocolate bars.  This first book is rated vampire appropriate for middle and high school students, but the later books in the series are probably death-rated for language, sexuality, and disturbing themes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Guest Review: Shadows Past, by Lorna Freeman

A book report blog post by JJ00154...

Lorna Freeman did it again. She wrote another amazing continuation to the Borderlands series.  Shadows Past is the third book in the series, so characters are only partially introduced.  You have to read the first two to get the whole story.

Freeman has an interesting style of writing.  She mixes combat, politics, romance, and comedy into the perfect concoction of a fantasy storyline with some random comical twists.

The characters include Rabbit, a mage born human (human mages are rare), who controls all four aspects (even rarer): Fire, Water, Wind, and Earth.  Lauren, a mountain cat who takes Rabbit under his wing--or rather his paw.  The King, also Rabbit's cousin, pronounces Rabbit as the Only Heir to the Kingdom of Ivertene.

In this book, Rabbit is invited to stay at the castle of his mom's old fiance.  While there, he gets marriage proposals from the lord of the castle and the princess from the second-most-powerful kingdom in existence.  He also survives several assassination attempts.

Read this amazing novel and find out who Rabbit chooses.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Interview with Brenna Yovanoff, author of The Replacement

This is an interview by ninjakidlogan with Brenna Yovanoff, author of the amazing fantasy book about a boy named Mackie who finds out he's a changeling.  I read The Replacement and it was AWESOME! 

I think the book was very good, even though some parts left me a little disturbed. One strength of the book was that it was really satisfying--it had a good diversity of random scenes and a good narrative flow.  Yovanoff did a nice job with describing things so that you got a lot of mental images while you were reading.  I like the cover, too, because it had a really deep meaning.  Like, you wouldn't get it when you first looked at it, but when you look at it for a little while, you start to discover the reason there is such weird stuff hanging over the carriage--the main character is allergic to the metal, as well as the consecrated ground.

I'm honored to have the opportunity to interview Ms. Yovanoff!

Q1: What is the reason you wrote this book? Was there something in particular that inspired you to write it, or to get the idea?

It turns out that I don't have one perfect answer for this.  The Replacement was an idea I had for years and then one day, it just seemed like the right time to start writing it.  I'm still not sure exactly what prompted the story, but I think it had to do with how normal Mackie is, even though he's different.  The way he feels is often the same way a lot of other teenagers feel, even though they aren't changelings.  I wanted to write about that feeling of being uncomfortably separate, and deciding whether or not it's important to fit in.

Q2: What’s your fave character and why?  How do you go about creating characters that are so interesting and real-seeming?

One of my favorite characters to write was the Morrigan, because she's so strange and petulant and stubborn, but she really does have a good heart.  I like that she's not perfect, but she's always herself.

When I decide on a character to write, I try to think of all the little things that make a person specific.  It's never just how they look or what they say, but all those tiny details that make them special and different from everyone else in the world.

Q3: Have you written other books besides this one?  What were the steps you took to get this one published and to get good at writing?

The Replacement is the first book I've published, but not the first one I've written. Now I'm almost done with my second book, which is about demons and will be out this fall, and hopefully there are a lot more books in my future.

Getting good at writing is one of those things that pretty much has no short-cuts.  It's kind of like getting good at a sport or a musical instrument—you do it over and over and over again, and after awhile, you're better than you were.  Sometimes it seems like it would be easier and more fun if there were a way to magically be as good as I want to be overnight, but then I'd miss out on a big part of the process.  Part of the fun of writing is learning and seeing yourself grow and get better.

Q4: What is your all-time favorite book and why?

My answer to this question changes all the time, but that's not very helpful, so for now I'll try to pick just one. Today, my favorite book is American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. It's big and sprawling and full of amazing characters, and every time I read it, I find some beautiful new corner with something surprising in it.

Q5:What is your favorite color?

Most of the time, I like blue the best, but sometimes I like gray or purple or dark, dark red.

Q6: What is the best part about being a published author, and would you recommend it?

There are so many best things about being a published author! It's so exciting to be able to hold my book in my hands, and to see new places and meet other authors—I've gotten to meet so many people I wouldn't have otherwise.  Most of all, I get to do what I love best every single day, and I get to share my stories with readers like you.  It can be a lot of work, but I would absolutely recommend it!

Q7: What is your favorite type of chocolate? 

I know that people who really love chocolate usually say they like dark chocolate the best, but my favorite is actually milk chocolate with caramel or toffee chips.  Mmmmm, toffee . . .

Thank you, Brenna Yovanoff, for giving such great answers to our questions!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wings, by Aprilynne Pike

Laurel was mesmerized, staring at the pale things with wide eyes. They were terrifyingly beautiful- too beautiful for words. Laurel turned to the mirror again, her eyes on the hovering petals that floated beside her head. They looked almost like wings. In this extraordinary tale of magic and intrigue, romance and danger, everything you thought you knew about faeries will be changed forever. (Summary from Amazon.com)

This book--Wings, by Aprilynne Pike--is about a girl who finds out she is a faerie. (How cool would that be?) Well, Laurel doesn't think it's cool. Her life is so normal that when she wakes up with a flower on her back.... she ....well... freaks out. So she doesn't tell her parents and thinks it will go away. Except, it doesn't, so she goes to her best friend, who is very good at science. He agrees to help her, and... well... you have to read it to find out.

There's one more thing. There's a mysterious boy (Laurel knew him when she was little) who's a faerie too,  and for some reason Laurel doesn't remember him. So read to find out what happens and why she doesn't remember this boy.

I loved this book; it was great! There was no dull moment, and it had some great humor here and there. There's also some romance, but not too much. I did not love this book for only one reason... It ended. Now there's a sequel, but Wings is just one of those books you just don't want to end. In case you want to know, the next book in the series is Spells.

HarryPotterLover7698 :) :) :) :)

I rate this book 5 out of 5 chocolate bars
This book is for 12 and older readers, mostly.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A freaky good book

I recently read a book called Cirque Du Freak: Tunnels of Blood by Darren Shan.  This is the third book in the Cirque Du Freak series.  I haven't read the other books in the series, but I saw the movie, and I saw this book in my teacher's room, so I really wanted to read it.  I'm glad I did!  It's really good.
It's about this half-vampire named Darren. His master goes into a city to destroy a vampaneze by the name of Murlough. Darren goes on a thrilling adventure to save his friend Evra's life.

One of the strengths of the book is the description.  When Crepsley was fighting with Murlough, it was really action-packed, but the pacing was also really quick, too.

Another strength was that there are very good characters.  Well, Evra--he's the snake boy--he's like a reptile but still a human.  He never had parents, so he was really excited to get into the city because he had never been away from the circus.  He was my favorite character.

The book is amazingly realistic, even though it has characters who are from old stories that people used to tell.  It didn't really have any weaknesses to me.

I think this is a very good book, and I think you would like it.

Review by Jessica

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Why do teens like dark fiction? 8th graders respond.

The New York Times recently ran a "Room for Debate" discussion in which a number of writers gave their opinions about why teens are reading books with dark themes and post-apocalyptic settings.  I introduced this question to my 8th grade class and had them discuss whether they enjoy these kinds of books, and if so, why?  Then I gave them a chance to read the articles and the comments and take some time to think.  The next day, we spent some time writing and discussing the trend and the types of books they would publish if they were in charge.  Here's a sampling of their thoughts.

“[The articles and the comments] kind of made me laugh since most of those people were probably adults arguing about what people like me feel….  If I were asked to write about why teens love dark fiction, I’d say it’s because I think we love the reaction and emotion it causes us to read about…[creepy/violent things] we highly doubt we’ll ever see…and never thought how we would react to it.”  --YamiHeart

“I agree with both the idea of escapism and the idea that we read them because it is happening in our world…there are bad things in our world, but it’s not like a book—there’s no hero.”  --Kathryn

“We aren’t always all dark and scary.  I know that my favorite books, and almost all of my friends’ favorites, are books about real life.  It helps us learn, when we see how other teens (even if fictional) deal with real life problems.” --WhatcyoNameIs

“We want to hear and think new things…we want more adventure than what our normal lives have to offer.”  --Zari

“My argument would be that the hype and the popularity of these types of books makes teen read them.  I would publish happy comedies—I like biographies and autobiographies, and also happy books.” --Jafra

“Teens like to escape into a world where there are troubles more vastly dangerous and deadly than dating and bad hair days.” –DJ

“I think teens are attracted to the parallel of the characters; they’re so different, and yet so much alike.  It’s interesting to compare ourselves to them.”  --Kyra

“I thought there were some good thoughts [in those articles], especially about how people read these dystopian books that are filled with drama, adventure, etc…to escape our everyday world.”  --Caitlin

“I would publish scary, exciting, full-of-action types of books.  I would try getting YAs to read my books by making them interesting, action-packed, full of explosions on the covers.” –Abbey

“Our daily lives are boring so these books are like a chance to get away and think, “What if life was actually exciting like this?” It’s fun to put yourself in the main character’s shoes.” –Brynn

“Teens like to think that they could possibly be in a dark situation and be strong enough to get out of it.” –Sophia

“These articles all sort of captured why I read books like these.  We watch too much violent TV.  I would publish funny books with a good storyline.”  --Matt

“Teenagers are bored of their normal lives, so they read books about ‘dark’ places and people….  Usually the characters are very different from me, but I love to imagine myself in their situation.  I would publish books that are mysterious, gripping, and dramatic.”  --swimfreak110396

“I would publish fantasy, mostly medieval.”  --Jarrid

“Because our teenage lives are just so drab and boring and just plain old blech, we want to escape.” –Jess

“People want to imagine what if I was in this?  What would it be like? Teens don’t like reading about things and people that are like them in books because they are trying to get away from that.  But some people who are having hard, difficult, dark times might read them to know they aren’t alone…” –Eva

“Maybe people who do go through a tough life everyday like to read these books because it’s not real.  They can escape into the life that’s not real, and if they are okay at the end, it might give them hope.”  --Emma

“We like to read about the unimaginable, the creative, creepy things excite us more than our old same routines.” –Alexis

“Well, it’s not that all teens are dark and vivid, it’s just that when you do have a lot of things going on, or if your life is just plain boring, you use these dystopian or dark books as a getaway.  You just kinda blend into everything in the book.”  --Amanda

“My opinion is that teens enjoy darker themes because it may be something they can relate to.  If they read a book they can relate to, it may make them feel like people do understand or they’re not so alone.” –Augezt Fire

“It’s a way for us to read about something that’s never going to happen.  Just to think about what it would be like if that actually were to happen.”  --Caleb

“I would focus on war books—sci-fi war books.”  --Logan

“Teens would like to read about things that aren’t real…. I would publish the dark fiction because that seems the most fun to both read and write.” –Skylar

“Teens do like scary stories with darkness and death.  They don’t have to live in this fake world.”  --Jason Huntington

ETA: if you're ages 10-18, you should go fill out this survey about what you like in your favorite kind of Middle Grade or Young Adult books!  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BV3365M

Monday, January 3, 2011

Confessions From the Principal's Chair, by Anna Myers

I read the book Confessions from the Principal's Chair, by Anna Myers.

This book was about a girl named Robin Miller, but everyone calls her Bird. She is in 8th grade and lives in Denvor. She is in a group called Six-Pack. All of the girls work together to torment other kids. After her mom finds out that they have been tormenting a girl that did nothing wrong to them, Rendi (the mom) decides that they are going to move to Oklahoma. After running in with the law, the family of 2 decides to stay in Prairie Dog Town, a really small town in Oklahoma. On the first day of school Bird goes and ends up in the principal's office... Running the school!!!

I really liked this book because it tells how hard it is being the principal. It is the kind of book that I could not put down!! I think if you like books that are first person, then you will enjoy this book. It has girl drama with boys,and dealing with kids who misbehave and do the kind of things she used to do.

My favorite part of the book was when Bird had to deal with the "Purples." The Purples are the mean girls in school, they are the tormenters at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Can Bird turn that school around?

I rate this book 5 out of 5 chocolate bars. :)  HockeyStar88