Monday, October 29, 2012


With the success of The Hunger Games Trilogy, dystopian novels are more popular than ever!

A dystopia is characterized as a hypothetical or imaginary society.  It is often a place where people live, often in fear, and are dehumanized.  Common aspects of dystopias include environmental, political, and/or social issues. 

Fictional dystopias often take place in a future that is not accessible in today's reality.  Therefore, dystopian fiction is often classified as science fiction or speculative fiction.  Many dystopian works exist, and it is not a new writing strategy.  Below you fill find a list of dystopian novels that you may be interested in reading.


The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins:
1. The Hunger Games
2. Catching Fire
3. Mockingjay

Chaos Walking Series by Patrick Ness:
1. The Knife of Never Letting Go
2. The Ask and the Answer
3. Monsters of Men

The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld:
1. Uglies
2. Pretties
3. Specials
4. Extras

Books of Ember Series by Jeanne DuPrau
1. The City of Ember
2. The People of Sparks
3. The Prophet of Yonwood
4. The Diamond of Darkhold

Stand-Alone Novels:

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
Matched by Allyson Condie
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
1984 by George Orwell
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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Monday, October 22, 2012


Halloween is just around the corner, so I thought it would be fun to list some popular horror films as well as books to help you get in the spooky mood of Halloween.

Halloween falls on October 31st every year, but depending on where you live you may celebrate on that day, the weekend before, or the weekend after.  Or, if Halloween is your favorite holiday, then you may celebrate all month long!

Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition.  It is believed to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain in which people would light bonfires and wear costumes in order to protect themselves against ghosts.  In the 8th century Pope Gregory III named November 1st as All Saints' Day.  The night before was called All Hallow's Eve which has become Halloween.  Over time, Halloween has turned into a secular event in which children go trick-or-treating and dress up in costumes.  Halloween is a great time to get together with friends and celebrate the fall season.

To learn more about Halloween visit the following links:

Looking for some scary reading suggestions?  Check out the books below!

Children's Books:

Hailey's Halloween by Lisa Bullard
Halloween Night by Marjorie Dennis Murray
The Best Halloween Ever by Barbara Robinson
Bunnicula by Deborah Howe
Vampire Breath by R.L. Stine
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schultz


Carrie by Stephen King
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Cujo by Stephen King
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Don't Turn Around by Michelle Gagnon
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
It by Stephen King
Hannibal by Thomas Harris
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
World War Z by Max Brooks
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Watchers by Dean Koontz
Secrets in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
The Ruins by Scott Smith
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Road by Cormac McCarthy


The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
Haunt Your House for Halloween by Cindy Fuller
Halloween Through Twenty Centuries by Ralph Linton

Want to spice up your Halloween night by watching scary movies?  Check out some of the titles listed here:

The Shining
Shutter Island
The Woman in Black
Sleepy Hollow
The Exorcist: the Beginning
American Horror Story
The Orphanage
The Sixth Sense
The Descent
The Blair Witch Project
The Birds

Children's Movies:

Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie
Goosebumps. Scary House
Casper Meets Wendy
Monster House
The Haunted Pumpkin of Sleepy Hollow
It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

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Monday, October 15, 2012


I just finished reading Philippa Gregory's latest work: The Kingmaker's Daughter.  I loved it!  Then again, I have loved everything I've read by Gregory. 

Historical fiction has always been a favorite of mine, and Philippa Gregory was one of the first authors that hooked me.  It's just so fascinating to read about another time and to imagine what life was like.

I highly recommend reading any of Gregory's work. 

Here is a list of all of her other historical fiction works:

The Cousins' War Series:
1. The White Queen
2. The Red Queen
3. The Lady of the Rivers
4. The Kingmaker's Daughter

Wideacre Trilogy:
1. Wideacre
2. The Favoured Child
3. Meridon

Tudor Court Novels:
The Constant Princess
The Other Boleyn Girl
The Boleyn Inheritance
The Queen's Fool
The Virgin's Lover
The Other Queen

Other Novels:
Fallen Skies
A Respectable Trade
The Wise Woman
Earthly Joys
Virgin Earth

For more information about Philippa Gregory, her books, and her charity, check out her website:

Have you ever read everything by an author, and then had to wait for the next book to be written?  Well I have, and while I wait for the next novel from Philippa Gregory, I will check out some of these titles.

Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles by Margaret George is about Queen Mary who became queen regent of Scotland as a child and queen of France as a teenager.  She is an interesting counterpoint to her cousin, and ultimate executioner, Queen Elizabeth I of England. 

Abundance by Sena Jeter Naslund tells the story of Marie Antoinette.  It begins with the ceremony that turns her from a duchess into the dauphine.  The reader follows Marie as she struggles to be diplomatic with her family and subjects while she becomes the product of her circumstances.  You will follow her from her childhood all the way through to the French Revolution.

Captive Queen by Alison Weir is a tale that brings to life Eleanor of Aquitaine and King Henry II.  Eleanor spends a few years as consort to King LouisVII of France, but is unhappy and unable to produce a male heir.  When Henry of Anjou arrives in France, Eleanor begins to see a way out of her sorrows.  After the annulment of her marriage to King Louis, Eleanor marries Henry, the future King of England.  The marriage creates an empire that marks the beginning of the Plantagenet dynasty.
However, Henry and Eleanor's marriage begins a downward spiral fueled by power struggles, betrayals, rivalries, and young Plantagenets. 

Rival to the Queen by Carolly Erickson is a novel about the rivalry between Queen Elizabeth I and her cousin Lettice Knollys.  Lettice Knollys wins the attention of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.  Meanwhile, Elizabeth had allowed Dudley into her own heart and relied on his service, but she was not interested in marriage.  When Elizabeth finds out that Robert Dudley has married her cousin in secret, Lettice must pay the price. 

The Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner takes place in France and Italy.  This is the story of Catherine de Medici, one of history's most powerful and controversial women.  Catherine suffers the expulsion of her family from Florence and is betrothed to Henri, son of Francois I of France.  Once in France, Catherine creates a role for herself through her patronage of Nostradamus and through her own role as a seer.  Then, she is widowed and left to rule a kingdom torn apart by religious disagreements and overly ambitious nobility.  This tells the story of one of the most hated and misunderstood women ever to be queen.

The Queen's Governess by Karen Harper: Katherine Ashley is the daughter of a poor squire who manages to find a place for herself in the Tudor court of Henry VIII.  Katherine becomes the governess to the young Elizabeth and ultimately becomes the lifelong confidante to Queen Elizabeth I.

The King's Mistress by Emma Campion follows Alice Salisbury.  As a young woman she marries Janyn Perrers.  Her married happiness is short lived, as Janyn suddenly disappears.  Alice soon learns that her husband had dangerous secrets, secrets that put herself and their daughter in danger.  She enters the protection of King Edward III and Queen Philippa, and the King soon singles her out for more than just royal patronage.  She must use her intellect to ensure her family's survival.

Queen Hereafter by Susan Fraser King takes place in Scotland.  A young Saxon princess and her family (including Edgar of England) survive a shipwreck and ask for help from King Canmore.  King Canmore promises to help Edgar and the Saxons if he can marry Edgar's sister, Margaret.  This is a story of shifting alliances and tension between fear and trust.

Madame Tussaud by Michelle Moran spans five years, from the start of the French Revolution to the Reign of Terror.  The reader is introduced to a heroine whose talent for modeling wax saves her life.  Marie's museum provides the Parisians with the latest news on fashion, gossip, and politics.  Will Marie be able to balance the love of her life with her friendship with the royal family as France gets closer and closer to war?

The Scarlet Contessa by Jeanne Kalogridis follows Caterina Sforzak.  Caterina is the daughter of the Duke of Milan and the wife of Count Girolamo Riario, but she is considered the bravest warrior of Renaissance Italy.  Caterina was able to rule her own lands, fight her own battles, and took lovers when she pleased.  Her story is told by her lady-in-waiting, and the reader learns of Caterina's past while she struggles to fight off Borgia's army.

At the Mercy of the Queen by Anne Clinard Barnhill is a tale of seduction and intrigue at King Henry VIII's court.  This story is about Margaret Shelton, the cousin and lady-in-waiting to Anne Boleyn.  In order to hold onto the king's waning affection, Anne tries to have him take her cousin as his mistress, believing that Margaret will owe her loyalty.  However, Margaret has fallen in love with a young courtier.  She must choose between betraying the love of her life or refusing to become King Henry's mistress and jeopardizing the life of her cousin, Queen Anne.

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Monday, October 8, 2012


I recently finished reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for our next book club meeting.  I really loved it!  It's well written, has captivating characters, and a plot that keeps you interested.  And, the use of short chapters makes for a quick read! 

Now that I've finished the book, I thought I'd try to come up with a list of similar books.

First,  there are other works by Markus Zusak:

The Underdog
Fighting Ruben Wolfe
Getting the Girl
I Am the Messenger

Then, there are books by other authors.  Some take place during the same time period, some include Death as a character, and some involve a love of books.

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli is set in Nazi occupied Poland before the Warsaw ghetto uprising.  The story is told through the eyes of a young orphan.  He's a boy who lives in the streets of Warsaw, stealing food for himself and other orphans.  He wants to grow up to be a Nazi some day, but one day comes to change his mind.  When the trains come to take the Jews from the ghetto, he begins to realize it may be safer to be nobody at all.  This is a novel of heartbreak, hope, and survival.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein tells a story of friendship, war, and espionage.  A British plane crashes, and its pilot and passenger are best friends.  When Verity is arrested, she does not think she stands a chance at survival; she is a spy captured in enemy territory.  She is told to reveal her mission or to face execution.  As she tells her story, Verity discusses her past, her friendship with the pilot, and why she left the pilot behind.  Will this be enough for her to be safe from the enemy?  This is a story of danger and survival that will show you how far friends will go to save one another.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff:  Fifteen year old Daisy leaves New York City to stay with her aunt and cousins in England.  Soon after her arrival, her aunt leaves on a business trip.  The next day, bombs are dropped in London.  As the war continues, the farm becomes more and more isolated.  However, the war is all around, and Daisy and her cousins must stick together in a world that is unknown.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt does not take place during World War II, but it does include Death as a character.  Death comes to claim Keturah while she is lost in the forest.  She is able to charm him with her story, and Death allows her 24 hours to search for her true love.  She searches while the village prepares for a visit from the King, and Keturah is thrown into a major role as mysterious events take place.  Death's presence is felt throughout all of this until Keturah confronts him again.

Ashes by Kathryn Lasky takes place in Berlin where thirteen year old Gaby witnesses the beginning of Hitler's rise to power.  Gaby's favorite activity is reading.  While Hitler continues his rise to power, she turns to her books for comfort.  The world around her changes, and their family friend, Albert Einstein, flees the country.  When Gaby's books come under attack, she begins to fear that she may have to leave behind the life she has cherished.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks brings together books and war.  In 1996, Hanna Heath, a book conservator, is given the opportunity to analyze the Sarajevo Haggadah that was salvages from a destroyed Bosnian library.  When she discovers a series of tiny artifacts in the ancient binding, she begins to unlock the books mysteries.  The reader follows the book's journey from its salvation back to its creation.  In Bosnia, during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect the work from the Nazis.  During the Inquisition-era in Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning.  In the 1480s, in Seville, the reason for the Haggadah's illuminations is finally discovered.  Hanna's work will test her belief in herself as well as in the man she loves.

Night by Elie Wiesel tells the story of Elie as a teenager, when his family was taken from their home and sent to Auschwitz and then Buchenwald.  This book is the record of Wiesel's memories of the loss of his family and his own innocence.  This work shows man's capacity for inhumanity to man.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink is the story of a German teenager who has a love affair with an older woman.  Michael Berg becomes ill on his way home from school, and he is rescued by Hanna.  In time they become lovers until she inexplicably disappears.  When Michael next sees Hanna, he is a law student, and she is on trial.  Michael watches her refuse to defend her innocence, and he begins to realize that she may be hiding a secret that she finds more shameful than murder.  This is a story of love, secrets, horror, and compassion set in postwar Germany.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield centers around the reader and storytelling.  It tells the story of author Vida Winter who decides to let Margaret Lee write the truth about her life.  However, Margaret needs to verify the information since Vida has a history of telling farfetched tales.  Vida Winter has spent years creating various life histories for herself, all of which are inventions that brought her fame but kept her violent and tragic past a secret.  Now that she is old and ailing, she wants to tell the truth about her life.  Margaret demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts of their pasts.  The Thirteenth Tale is a tribute to reading, a book for the reader in everyone.

Incantation by Alice Hoffman takes place during the Spanish Inquisition instead of World War II.  Sixteen year old Estrella has been brought up as a Catholic and discovers her family's true Jewish identity.  Tragic consequences arise when their secret is betrayed by Estrella's best friend.

Maus by Art Spiegelman is told in the format of a graphic novel.  It is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, and his son, a cartoonist.  The use of the cartoon format takes away the sense of familiarity.  Maus is a story within a story.  This work tells the story of survival of Vladek but also of the children who survive the survivors.  It examines history and its meaning for everyone.

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Monday, October 1, 2012


Help celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Freedom to Read by reading a frequently challenged book during Banned Books Week! 

Banned Books Week runs from September 30th through October 6th.  Books have been banned and challenged for a wide variety of reasons such as violence, language, religious viewpoint, and many others.

For more information about banned books check out this website:

Below are some of the most frequently challenged books in the last 10 years.

TTFN by Lauren Myracle
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
Gossip Girl by Cecily Von Ziegesar
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Lush by Natasha Friend
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Forever by Judy Blume
Captain Underpants Series by Dav Pilkey
It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families by Robie H. Harris
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Meyers
Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture by Michael A. Bellesiles
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George