The Key to Everything


The Key to Everything (hardcover)

by Pat Schmatz


This was a one-sitting read for me.  I got into the pool, opened it, sat in the pool for a few hours, closed the book, and got out.  It is a quick read, but you’ll also want to figure out how everything fits together.

The Key to Everything is a middle grade book about a girl named Tash who is in a transitional period in her life.  Her father is in prison and she lives with Kevin, who rescued her from foster care.  Next door is Captain Jackie, an elderly spit-fire of a woman who teaches Tash about life, imagination, and strength.  A fight causes Tash to throw a special key (holding the power of imagination) at Captain Jackie, right before Kevin heads to New Zealand and Tash goes off to camp for a month.  When they return, Captain Jackie’s house is locked up and no one is home.  Tash must solve the mystery of Jackie’s disappearance while finding the power to fight her mortal enemy, being alone.

What I liked about this book was that it was a bit of a mystery, and I didn’t know how these people were connected.  It was also a realistic portrayal of the modern family, with missing or incarcerated parents, gay family members who were discriminated against, and being stubborn when facing conflict.  I like that the people in Tash’s life were all very positive and supportive, showing that it doesn’t matter if anyone is blood-related, family is family.

What I didn’t like about this book was the beginning.  It took me awhile to get into it, because I as confused for the first 30 pages, which is a lot, considering the book is only 198 pages long.  I am glad things came together, though, and not all of my questions were (or needed to me) answered.

Book 71 of 2018



Bob (ebook)

by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass


Bob is an imaginative story about a girl named Olivia (Livy) who goes to Australia to visit her grandmother, and finds a friendly creature named Bob in the closet.  Bob knows Livy, but remembers her differently, having been friends with her 6 years prior when Livy was 5 years old.  Last they saw each other, Livy told Bob to wait in the closet, but never returned for her.  Now, Livy has to get to k now Bob all over again, and finds herself in the middle of mystery she can’t quite wrap her head around since she forgets Bob when she leaves the farm.

What I liked about this book was that I didn’t predict it.  Often with stories for younger readers or middle graders, I predict how the story will end, and I don’t enjoy it quite as much since it doesn’t challenge me.  This is a shorter story, but entertaining beginning to end.  I was interested in Bob’s origin and circumstances, why Livy couldn’t remember him, and how he related to the drought that was causing everyone to lose their farms.  I did not predict the ending.  It is an enjoyable story with mystery, humor, and imagination.  I found myself giggling at Bob’s antics and the witty inner thoughts of Bob and Livy.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it’s not out yet for me to share with my students.  It’s one that I wanted to take to class and put into the hands of someone else immediately, but I’ll have to wait another few weeks.  I know it might take some selling since my group this year gravitates towards realistic and historical fiction, but it is one they will enjoy once they give it a chance.

Book 64 of 40

(Book 30 of 2018)

One of Us is Lying


One of Us is Lying (audiobook)

by Karen M. McManus


One of Us is Lying is a murder mystery that is told from multiple perspectives.  Simon is a jealous, angry boy with a peanut allergy who dies at the beginning when he is poisoned with peanut oil and his epi pen goes missing, as well as all of the epi pens in the nurse’s office.  Four students find themselves in detention when phones are placed in their backpacks and found by a strict teacher.  Bronwyn is a future valedictorian with a perfect record.  Nate is a drug dealer on probation.  Cooper is a star baseball player who is being scouted.  Addy is the beautiful girlfriend of another star athlete.  All four are under investigation for the murder of Simon, and all had reason to hate Simon, but someone isn’t telling the truth.

What I liked about this book was that it kept me going, because I wanted to see how it ended.  I’m one of those people who will watch a horrible reality tv show just to see how it ends (especially if it’s a home rehab show).  I really wanted to see how it ended.  The end was kind of surprising, and it was interesting to see how the pieces fit together.  There was pretty good character development, too, especially with Addy.

What I didn’t like about this book was that I predicted the ending.  I shouldn’t be able to predict the ending.  There were also parts that were kind of slow, so I wasn’t too worried when I missed parts when my kids were loud or I tuned out.

Book 59 of 40

(Book 25 of 2018)

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook


All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook (audiobook)

by Leslie Connor

AR Level 3.8, 11 points


Most people are taught that people in prison are dangerous criminals, and there’s a stigma attached to convicts.  Most of that is just, but not all criminals are dangerous.  All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook is about a boy named Perry who grew up in a minimum security prison.  His mother’s crime is ambiguous for most of his life, but he knows the people he spends his time with are kind, loving, and not at all dangerous, but quite the opposite.  When Perry is taken out of the prison and the warden is suspended, he has no idea why, but he finds himself living with the district attorney in charge of his mother’s case, and he sets out to get her paroled and uncover the secret of her conviction.

What I liked about this book is shines light on people in prisons.  Not everyone who has committed a crime is dangerous or evil, and some are sorry for what they did.  It paints the prisoners as a family, along with those who run it.  I think for children, it might teach them not to judge a book by its cover.  We should judge people by their character.

What I didn’t like about this book was how sad I felt for Perry’s mother.  She suffered a lot, and I wanted things to be better for her.  I was glad to finally find out what put her in prison, but it left me wanting to know more about other characters in the story.  Maybe I’ll wait for the sequel.  😉

Book 14 of 40

Beyond the Bright Sea


Beyond the Bright Sea (ebook)

by Lauren Wolk

No AR quiz yet


I was a little cynical about this book, because I read a lot about Wolf Hollow by the same author, and I heard it was a children’s book written for adults.  I have yet to read Wolf Hollow (I brought it home to read this summer), but I let it taint my initial feelings.  Luckily, I read the book and developed a better opinion of Beyond the Bright Sea.

Crow washed up on the shore on one of the Elizabeth Islands near New Bedford, Massachusetts.  She was only a few hours old and in a tiny leaking boat, but luckily, Osh found her and raised her like he would his own, although she always knew he was not her real father.  It was rumored that she was born on Penikese Island, where there was a leprosy colony, so Crow was shunned by the townspeople, except for Miss Maggie, who isn’t afraid to touch her.  One day, Crow discovers she has roots on Penikese, and she discovers who her parents were, as well as what they left behind for her.  This is a story with a good mystery, but it it is also sad and humorous, and you will grow to like Crow, Osh, and Miss Maggie.

What I liked about this book was the way it kept me going.  I started to figure out parts of the mystery, and I was frustrated that I would have to read the entire book for Crow to figure it out, but the author knew better- Crow figured it out shortly after I did as the reader, and I looked forward to unexpected twists after that.

What I didn’t like about this book was that Osh was so sad and hurt by Crow wanting to know about her real family.  Osh, a tough, quiet man, was the stand in for Crow’s family, and he realized that she might not need him now that she learned who her family was.  That made me sad, because I can imagine that my own (step) dad would feel the same if I wanted to spend more time with my biological father.  I could relate to the situation.

Book 9 of summer 2017!

Tell Me Three Things


Tell Me Three Things (ebook)

by Julie Buxbaum


Imagine your mom (your best friend) dying of cancer.  Then your dad remarries someone you’ve never met.  Then he moves you into her fancy home in California, away from your friends and all that is familiar.  Then you have to adapt to a new climate, a new step brother who seems to hate you, a new school, and culture shock.  When you’re on the verge of a breakdown, you start receiving mysterious, but helpful emails from a person named Somebody Nobody, who gives you advice on how to survive at your new school.  Jessie narrows the identity of Somebody Nobody down to 3 people, and the end may surprise you.

What I liked about this book was that the end didn’t surprise me.  I pretty much guessed who it was, and it was who I was rooting for.  This is a cute, romantic story that won’t leave you feeling depressed or angry.  It won’t make you want to throw the book away, and you’ll likely finish it as quickly as I did!

What I didn’t like about this book was that the end didn’t surprise me.  Ha ha… I like and don’t like books that are predictable, depending on my mood.  I didn’t like the idea of being “peened” and the word “peen” to begin with.  That made me feel old and prudish.

Book 58 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Three Times Lucky


Three Times Lucky (paperback)

by Sheila Turnage

AR Level 3.9, 9 points

Have you ever read a book and though, “This would be a great movie!”?  Well that’s Three Times Lucky.  I could see the scenes in my head, and I started casting the movie as I read.  It opens up showing the workings of a small Southern town: kids riding bikes to the local creek (or crick), old pick up trucks being worked on, women in big hats drinking iced tea… and after the credits, you hear the dinging of the door chime in the small local cafe.  It may catch you off guard that a smart-mouthed, quick-witted child is running this cafe.

Mo is the protagonist of the story.  She is the smart-mouthed, quick-witted incoming sixth grader, and her “adoptive” parents, Miss Lana and The Colonel, run the local small-town cafe.  She was found as a newborn afloat in a creek after a hurricane, apparently wrapped and placed on a board during the storm by her “Up Stream Mother.”  Hence her name, Moses.  Mo writes letters to her mother in a series of books, her autobiography.  She has a best friend named Dale (after the race car driver), and he is also a detective in their agency.  There is a murder in their community, and a detective from a bigger neighboring town comes in to solve the case.  Mo and Dale do their part, but things start to go sour for Mo, and she needs to use her intelligence and cleverness to save her family and friends.

What I liked about this book was the quirkiness and humor that Mo brought to the story.  I would classify her as GATE just based on her creative thinking and use of vocabulary.  In fact, most of the characters in this story are quirky in some way, some more than others.  I enjoyed getting to know the characters and their antics, as well as the sense of community in their town of Tupelo Landing.  I look forward to reading The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, the companion novel.

What I didn’t like about this book was that for me, it got off to a slow start.  It took me a few days to get into the book.  It shouldn’t have taken me two weeks to read, but it did, partly because I was so busy, and partly because I couldn’t get into it right away.  I read more than half the book last night and today, and was able to finish.  My advice is to keep going, and don’t get sidetracked by the first few chapters, which are full of character development, but still kind of slow.

Book 1 of 40 (Year 2)