Books, books, books! Get your TBR ready!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to present at a conference in the Houston area, Setting the Trend. This conference has doubled in size in three years with about 700 showing up, both attendees and presenters. I did two sessions (which I’ll share here!) and one of those was a booktalk. I was overzealous and had a list WAY over what I could talk, so I thought I’d share the presentation with you. Each book has a recommended grade level (including mature readers) and if it was a diverse title, it is also listed.

And since I’m still reading, I also did a quick vlog on two great middle school/junior high books that should be a in MS/JH collection. You can find the link to this review here.

So, if you’ve read these, I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did! If not, I hope you will enjoy them when you read them!! You can find some individual book reviews on the blog, but there are some I hadn’t reviewed but still really enjoyed.

Here is the breakdown of the titles I booktalked. Enjoy!

Get Your Summer Booklist (and sketchnotes!) On!

Bitmoji ImageAs the school year ends, it’s time to kick back a little and enjoy the summer!  If there is one thing librarians and educators have too little time of, it’s reading during the school year.  The same can be said about students as well.  Most of the school year, they are required to read textual information, for the most part, instead of having time to read what they want do without any following assignments…pure bliss!  SO…what better way to start the summer than by creating booklists!  The beauty of creating a list is that they can be HOWEVER 👏 YOU 👏 WANT 👏 TO👏.  You want it by genre? Go for it!  How about alphabetically, by popularity, by recommendation…hey even by color if you want to!  If you meet with a book club or a group of bibliophiles,  share them (as they also make for great TBR lists too!)

I’ve uploaded a new Youtube vlog post with FIVE different sketchnoting themes you can draw to put a creative spin on your lists.  They come with instructions for both paper AND digital, using the Adobe Draw App. I’ve also included some tools to make it easy 😊  BONUS: they are EASY sketchnotes too, so you won’t feel overwhelmed.  So, be a little creative with your booklists, learn something new (if you’ve never sketchnoted/bujo’ed) and enjoy yourself!

Continue reading “Get Your Summer Booklist (and sketchnotes!) On!”

YABAM!! And a vlog was born :)

Yes, it’s true!  I’ve just started a new weekly vlog on Youtube that’s all about young adult books, tricks and tips, ideas, programming and SO MUCH MORE (you should see the list I’m creating!!)  I’ve only got two up (see below) and they’re going to be short and sweet.  That includes booktalks, which I’m doing this next time!!

This all started in my head when I began to think, “How can I be more concise with by blog?  What can I do to bump it up?  And the word “vlog” appeared out of the sky, with a chorus singing in the background (lol!)  But really, I was just hoping to share the love quicker and easier 🙂

So if you want to stay updated on the vlog posts, you can always subscribe and spend a few minutes with me a week 🙂  Here’s the link if you’re interested and fear not!  I’m still going to blog too.  That’s in my blood!


Add these to your TBR list NOW!

First of all, I remember the first time I saw those three letters in email conversations and always wondered, “What does TBR mean?”  So I asked 🙂  And if you, like me, don’t know what it is, here’s the answer –  “To Be Read.”  We ALL have that list, be it by our bedside, our coffee table, or our desk (hey, even the dining room table or your device!)  and I wanted to share a few titles I’ve recently read that should be on that list!

grim loveliesGrim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd.  2018, HMH Books for Young Readers

Modern day Paris is filled with witches, goblins, Pretties, and beasties.  But these witches wear Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Prada.  Ruled by the Royal Court, they have been given designated parts of Paris, including the humans (Pretties) living in them.  Mada Vittora is the most powerful and influential of the witches and she has made beasties to serve her, including Anouk her servant, Cricket the thief, Luc the apothecary, Beau the chauffeur and  Hunter Black, the mercenary.

But after one evening spent with the royals, Mada Vittora is found dead, and the beasties only have 48 hours until they turn back to their original forms.  But news of the death gets out through scryboards, crows, and the Haute (magical community), and Viggo, Mada Vittora’s boy, is set on revenge.  The only thing left for the beasties to do is seek asylum and help from Vittora’s enemy, Mada Zola.  But can she be trusted?  She is a witch…

This is a beautiful, dark, and fantastical book that creates a Paris that is dangerous, alluring, and grim.  The main character, Anouk, juxtaposes the setting with her purity and naivete, which the reader sees slowly dissolves as reality sets in.  The author left nothing and everything to the imagination from the spells cast to the tongues the witches use to cast the spells, to the history of the Haute and more.  Read this NOW, or at least put it at the top of your TBR pile!  Highly recommended for JH/HS

new kid

New Kid by Jerry Craft. 2019, Harper Collins

There is nothing Jordan loves more than drawing.  What he wants is to go to an art school, but his parents decide he needs to go to an Riverdale Academy Day School, which is a far cry from his Washington Heights neighborhood.  His first day there as a sixth grader, Jordan sees that he’s one of very few students of color and feels more out of place that ever.  He wants out.

But his parents tell him that time and patience can change things and so he must stick out the bus rides that have five stops before he gets to school, the bully who won’t stop bothering him, the teacher who seems biased, and trying to understand why pink shorts are so cool.

Eventually,  Jordan finds himself enjoying his new school and friends, but now doesn’t know where he fits in – is he Washington Heights Jordan or Riverdale Day School Jordan?

Jerry Craft does an amazing job presenting, in graphic novel format, a struggle that many kids find themselves in.  This is such a perfect book for junior high (and high school!) not only for its content and graphic novel popularity, but also in the characters, which are highly relatable.  Highly recommended for JH/HS.




shadow stateShadow State by Elyse Brayden.  2018, MacMillan.  

Brynn Caldwell is  an excellent student.  She excels in academics, paticularly science, which isn’t so unusual because her mother is a top science in a major pharmaceutical company and her father sits on the National Symphony Orchestra, a genius in his own right. But all it took was one bad semester….

Brynn suffered from acute depression and her grades, and friends, and her boyfriend abandoned her.  She is also having unusual flashbacks of being tied up in a room, a man’s voice…something she swears she’s never experienced before.

And now, her mother is being feted at a gala for creating a breakthrough medication, Cortexia, that allows soldiers coming back  from war with PTSD, to deal with their symptoms better through altering memories, feelings and emotions in a suggestive state.  But someone is out to sabotage the company and the drug, and it all involves Brynn…

Fast-paced YA action thriller at its best!  The premise for the novel lends itself to a mystery, although readers may be able to piece together the clues, but it still has an explosive ending.  Highly recommended for HS.


soul keepersThe Soul Keepers by Devon Taylor.  2018, Swoon Reads.

Rhett just watched himself die.  At first he was in a state of shock and confusion, but then Basil Winthrop shows up and tells him the Harbinger is about to pick them up and not to dawdle.

And what is the Harbinger?  It is a massive sea vessel that contains the souls of the dead that need to be ferried as well as place to protect them.  The crew members, known as syllektors, are VERY aware of psychons, who eat souls to stay alive.  The most dangerous missions are when Rhett and his small group of crewmates must collect souls, and possibly run into these monsters.

But Rhett is different, he was told by Urcena, the most dangerous leader of the psychons, that he is the Twice-Born Son.  And she wants him to find his power.  Once he does, she will come for it and him.  And the battle for the protection of souls begins.

This fantasy relies heavily on good vs. evil, but the best thing about it are that these aren’t angels and demons.  There is no heaven or hell.  There is the Harbinger and there is nothing.  The author did an amazing job of creating a world based on age old theme of good v. evil in such a fantastic, phantasmagoric way.  Recommended for HS.

Book Trailer Toolbox Update

booktrailer toolbox upgrade

It’s been two week since the Texas Library Association conference was over, and there were SO MANY great sessions!  My presentation on book trailer tools was accepted and I got to present on the last day at the nearly last hour of conference.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of people attend my session and they got the tools they wanted as well as shared some I added!  Now, it’s time to share with my virtual community 🙂

Because these are lists of curated tools, I thought I’d use Destiny Discover Collections as a presentation tool.  Anyone can access them and if you have Destiny, you don’t have to save the URL (bonus!) The site address is:

I hope you can use these lists, but even better, I hope you share them with students and teachers for all types of digital projects!!

What History Books Don’t Teach: Two Great NF Books!

History teaches us a lot, and students are taught how the past has changed the present in classes like American and European history. Students learn about different wars, different generals, and different campaigns. But what textbooks don’t teach are the great stories hidden between the lines of history. The next two books I’m reviewing are exactly that…amazing stories about heroes and survivors of World War I and II and the accomplishments and trials they went through.

grand escapeThe Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb.  Arthur A Levine Books, 2018

World War I was fought so much differently from technology they had to the rules of war.  The planes flown during WWI weren’t much more than a frame and canvas with an engine.  But men, both young and old wanted to join to help fight for their cause, whichever part of the divide they supported.  And when they were taken as prisoners of war, they faced the conditions in prison camps as found in other wars.  

In 1899 and 1907, delegations across the globe came together to set out rules on the treatment of prisoners.  These rules included that if an enemy surrendered his arms or couldn’t defend himself, he could not be killed or wounded.  Anoterh rule were prisoners were to be treated as fairly as the government of that country as they would their own.  But golden rules don’t last long in warfare.  

Holzminden was one such prison camp.  Located in Germany, the commandant was cruel and heartless.  Those who were in this camp were considered “trouble makers” who tried time and again to escape their confines.  Commandant Karl Neimeyer bragged that his camp could not be escaped.  This became a challenge for the prisoners there, especially a specific group of prisoners from around the country.  They learned how to hide their work and tunnel under the compound to escape.  What was even more ingenious was how they were able to secure uniforms, create documents, and work together to ensure their secret was safe. 

Bascomb has become one of the leading YA non-fiction authors for good reason.  He uses his skills as a researcher and author to tell the soldiers’ narratives from the beginning of their ordeal until well after the war was over and the bond of brotherhood that was created during this time.  Images, maps, artifacts and written letters are incorporated very nicely into this  book to keep readers engaged and intrigued.  Excellent all young adult readers, JH-HS.  

                                                          Paired Fiction Novel: code name










greatest treaureThe Greatest Treasure Hunt in History: the story of the Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel.  2019, Scholastic Focus.  

Many atrocities against humanity occur during war, especially World War II.  Hitler stood at the forefront of these atrocities that are remembered to this day.  Stealing a person’s identity through torture was only one part of what Hitler did.  He also made sure to steal their identity through theft of their cultural, religious, and national artifacts and monuments. 

Because this war would be fought in countries that were hundreds of years in the making, the United States and England worked together to create a small team of men to help preserve as much as possible the heritage and culture of priceless works of art and architecture from the ravages of war and to find those the Nazis stole and bring them back.  

War in Europe claimed many lives and damaged many cities and towns.  The Monuments men, made of up museum curators, artists, sculptors and architects, were asked to come after the battle to see what treasures the Nazis pillaged and assess damages to famous and monumental buildings that had withstood the test of time.  

The Nazis stole from museums such. as the Louvre, and from private collections, such as the Rothschild family collection.  They stole priceless work from Rembrandt to Michelango; Da Vinci to Rembrandt and many many more.  And each time theft occurred, the Monuments men could only hope they found the pieces safe.  But not all they found came back in one piece and many are still missing today.  

Edsel’s novel is narrative non-fiction in its truest sense.  The reader follows different characters in the book on their journeys, whether it be in Italy or elsewhere.  They get to see and experience everything the characters did, including landing on a beach during D-Day to walking the streets of Florence and seeing it ripped apart.  What makes this book richer are the images of priceless treasure that was stolen, maps that showed where the Monuments men found them, and the letters they wrote home to their families.  Excellent for young adult readers JH-HS.  

                                                     Paired Fiction Novel:lovely war


Can You Handle this 2019 YA Book Challenge?

(Okay…it’s two months late, but that only adds to the challenge) Here’s my 2019 YA book challenge (but you can definitely adapt it to ANY reader!) There are twenty-five challenges that’ll make any booklover more well-rounded. An additional challenge? Create a unique hashtag for your library and get those who do this challenge (or any challenge for that matter!) to post selfies of them with the number they’re on and the bookcover to prove it. Challenge accepted?