Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

We all know an Ove. Whether we call them set in their ways, socially awkward, unsocial, or just the older generation. Some people want everyone to respect how things are supposed to be. People today have a tendency to spend a tremendous amount of time judging others with little tolerance of differences. 

Ove, the main character in this book, is a grumpy old sod. As the story unfolds we learn that he has a lot of reasons to be. Regardless, it soon becomes clear he has always been that way. There is more to this man than meets the eye. Fortunately, there is someone for everyone and Ove found his someone who recognizes him for what he truly is.

As the book moves forward, we see an old man that has lost his will to live. But life is full of twists and Ove has a new cast of characters thrust into his world. Despite his best efforts to keep his walls up, they give their best efforts to break them down.

The end result is a heartwarming story of the good and bad in human nature. A story that can teach us a little bit about ourselves and hopefully get us to reflect on who we are and possibly who we want to be in the precious time we are each allotted here on earth. A thought provoking story with a ton of heart. This is a must read for ages mid-20's and above. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Image result for a man called ove

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Picked this one up at a book fair a few months back. Probably best suited for 7th grade and up. It was a quick read. I found myself quickly caring about all of the main characters and curious to learn more about their backstories.

America's children are being affected by a mysterious disease. Around their tenth birthday some children are dying but others are affected differently. They develop a variety of powers. When powers are discovered children are swept off to camps and segregated by color. Children that are too dangerous disappear from the camps. The story follows Ruby, who cleverly manages to hide her true powers for a long time. With assistance, she eventually breaks free of her camp and manages to discover other children that have also escaped. She embarks on a journey of self-discovery (including a mild love story) in a world that has changed dramatically.

I kept telling myself that the book was entertaining, but I wouldn't likely read the next book. However, by the dramatic ending chapter...Bracken had pulled me in. I will likely pick up book two, Never Fade, in the near future to see how Ruby's story unfolds. I watched the movie immediately after finishing the book with my wife and 11-year-old-son. They both really enjoyed the movie. I liked the movie, but their were too many dramatic changes for me and I felt disappointed by the end.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

St, George's Cross and the Siege of Fort Pitt

by Calvin J. Boal

Calvin J. Boal is the author of several historical fiction books. He uses genealogy research to find real people from his family tree to build characters and stories around in his books.

Let me start by saying this book is incredibly well researched. Boal presents an incredibly detailed account of the French and Indian War time period. He documents battles and leaders of both the British and French forces in great detail. If you love the colonial era and are fascinated by the conflicts that shaped North America this is definitely for you. As a United States History teacher, I learned a lot of interesting facts that I will use in the future when teaching this time period. 

The first one-hundred pages started as a fast-moving adventure story featuring young Thomas Doty. Events transpire that allow Thomas to leave his family's Pennsylvania farm on a ship and travel far from home. Shipwrecks, islands, pirates, Caribbean ports, and sabotage contribute to a compelling tale. Thomas eventually finds his way home to face shocking news that leads to another adventure, this time to the Ohio Territory to the west. 

This is where I started to become concerned. Lovers of history and teachers of history will likely continue to enjoy the story. However, the rest of the book is loaded with details. So many, that at times the story of Thomas and those close to him disappears for pages at times. I found myself thinking of my students and wondering if the book had become to text-bookish for them. Boal eventually finds the story again, providing an emotional and well-written ending.

Again, if you love history, this is an author I would highly recommend. His books cover many different time periods or eras and in my opinion he is a very good writer.

Books by Calvin J. Boal are available here


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows

Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows (352 pages)
by J.M. Bergen

A new series for those who love Harry Potter! There is plenty of magic and unsolved mysteries to fuel a handful of books here. Speaking of book series, this is a conversation that has come up with my middle school book club members in the past. Middle Grade Readers love a book series! Almost all of them prefer it to one hit wonders.

For me, this book started slowly. I struggled to identify with the characters at first and a few of the early chapters dragged. However, around page 100 we were introduced to a secondary character named Professor Reilly. He is quirky and mysterious and before long pieces of the story began to fall in place every time he shows up. The pace of the action picked up and I found myself caring more about Thomas and his side-kick Enrique. We accompany Thomas on a journey of discovering his family's hidden past and then learn about the potential he and Enrique each possess (their relationship develops into a Batman and Robin thing later in the book). A bunch of other interesting characters materialize as the action picks up and classic questions about good v. evil arise.

This isn't the type of book I would pick up at the bookstore, but it was entertaining and hard to put down as I read the second half of the book. To get your copy through Amazon click here. Book two is called Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria and is already out. Visit for more information.                        ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Curveball The Year I Lost My Grip 
by Jordan Sonnenblick

I had read a couple of Sonnenblick books previously, but this is my favorite now. To be fair, I played college baseball and have a tendency to be a little sappy when it comes to sports books and movies. I shed a tear every time I watch Rudy, The Blindside, and a bunch of others.

Life throws us all curveballs. We dream, we plan, we want, we expect, and then life happens and you either go with it or you mire in the misery of what can't be controlled. Peter Friedman had a plan. He worked hard, got good grades, and loved spending time with his family. He shared a special connection with his grandfather who taught him everything he knows about photography. He was living his dreams.

Suddenly, every thing began to change. Peter, a Freshmen in high school, is forced to accept some new realities that he would have never even dreamed of before. Will he embrace new opportunities that come his way and forge a new path or wallow in the anger, frustration, and self-pity that come with unwanted change?

Sonneblick once again creates unique and fantastic characters. Characters you can care about and identify with. In my latest book, Little Land of Loose Ends, I tackled the topic of Alzheimer's Disease with the help of a dear friend. Her family rose to the challenges it presented to her and her family and made the best of difficult challenges. Sonneblick takes on the same topic in his book and I can only hope readers feel I did half as good a job as he did sharing information about Alzheimer's. 

A fantastic read for sixth grade students through Freshmen in high school or adults that love middle-grade works.

Excellent ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐      

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

because of mr. terupt by Rob Buyea

About a year ago another author suggested I read A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. It was a fantastic book.

A year before that, I was at an ELA Conference and picked up a book called because of  mr. terupt by Rob Buyea and put it in my "to read" stack. A couple weeks ago, I was choosing a book to read with my son and saw that John Irving had praised Buyea's book on the front cover. So, what the heck, let's try it.

A new teacher. Seven different students with unique behavior and perspectives. Buyea does a fantastic job of giving us multiple views of the same events from a group of middle school students. The book is fast-moving and fresh. We get to see each student evolve and grow up through a school year. Something elementary and middle school teachers actually do for real each school year.

Students can learn some valuable lessons in this book about how to treat others and the dangers of judging classmates without really knowing them. These lessons revolve around the "mean girl" bully, the new girl, the class clown, the brain, the quiet girl, the follower, and the disengaged student. How does a new teacher figure out how to reach them all? You'll have to read to find out. They are on their way to be drawn together, but "the event" really pulls them closer and teaches them each important lessons. Again, you'll have to read to find out.

A terrific book for fifth or sixth grade classes or for struggling readers in seventh grade. A great addition to all classrooms. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Let's get this started with one of my favorites. This book is not self-published but it is a great read and the book club students loved it!

After Eli by Rebecca Rupp

After Danny Anderson's older brother is killed in Iraq, he and his family struggle to get back on track. Danny's grieving includes the creation of a binder he fills with details about dead people and the reason they died.

A few years later, Danny begins to come out of his fog. He meets a bunch of quirky characters over one memorable summer. These include; Walter the school outcast, Isabelle the beautiful stranger, Isabelle's strange younger siblings Jasper and Journey, and Jim and Emma his new employers and friends of his deceased brother.

Each of the people he meets teach him something about himself and the possibilities that exist around him.

available at:

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Ready to Review!

Welcome to Middle Grade Book Club book reviews! My goal is to bring exposure to self-published authors of books written for the middle grade audience. Please read the review policy for information on getting your book reviewed.