Ruined by Reading

I am the sort who roots for the underdog, uses Apple computers, knows that playing music is better than listening to it, believes chocolate is a food group, loves animals, swims like a fish, and stands up for people and things I believe in.

Kids + Catalyst=Reaction

The Friendship Experiment - Erin Teagan

Maddie’s having a rough year. Her grandfather, who was a scientist just like she wants to be, has just died, and the family is forced to sell his house. If that weren’t bad enough, middle school is starting and her best friend is going to a private school instead of the public school Maddie will attend. To cope, Maddie turns to her first love: microbiology. She swabs for samples, keeps a lab notebook (which includes observations about everything and everyone) and begs for lab time. In the meantime, she must navigate her new school, the smart but oddball group of possible friends, and her family’s medical problems. Clearly, Maddie has never read Harriet the Spy, because it’s about this time that the famous diary plot device rises up and smacks her in the face. It’ll take some maturity, help from family, and an assist from a fungi to make things right. Recommended for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders especially.



Faulty Stars

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko - Scott Stambach

Ivan Isaenko is trapped. Trapped in his mutated body, trapped in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children, and trapped in the world he has built in his mind. He is well-read, self-deprecating, and intensely practical. Never having known any life other than that inside the hospital, Ivan develops a dry, dark sense of humor that rivals Frank McCourt’s. He also concocts routines that help him pass the boredom of his existence and help him to process the continuous horror of being surrounded by radiation-poisoned, mentally deficient, dying children. The only person he can really talk to is Nurse Natalya, who brings in books. His world is turned upside down when an orphaned leukemia patient is admitted in his 17th year. She’s smart, pretty, and a bit of a thief.


The addition of Polina and the inevitable love story that follows will remind many of The Fault in Our Stars. These teens, however, are unattractive, intensely awkward, and starkly alone without each other. There will be no wish-making, no answers, and only a bit of lyricism; just a few stolen moments that might make leaping into the abyss a little less terrifying.


If you liked One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Angela’s Ashes, you’d like this, too.

Amusing Museum

The Time Museum - Matthew Loux

The Time Museum is a fun graphic novel in which Delia, an awkward but smart teenager, finds friends and community in The Time Museum. Delia’s uncle is a time traveler who has put together a museum of everything that ever has and ever will exist. But he needs help in the museum, and so begins his intern search. When Delia arrives at the museum, she quickly befriends a girl from the future and they, along with four other teens are off on 3 trials to see who can win the internship. Along the way, the team encounters angry dinosaurs, possible saboteurs, and anachronisms. The teens must learn to value each other’s contributions and to work together, but these lessons are organically learned and not preachy in nature. Perfect for upper elementary and middle school students, but particularly well suited for 6th grade topics.


Going Batty

Science Comics: Bats: Learning to Fly - Falynn Christine Koch, Falynn Christine Koch

Science Comics: Bats, Learning to Fly is an upbeat stream of information on bats. The information is presented through a plot: a teen is dragged to a night hike and is embarrassed by her parents’ reaction to, and subsequent injury of a bat. The bat is transported to a wildlife rescue station and meets every other type of bat you can think of. The teen shows up at the rescue to volunteer. The plot isn’t boring, however there is just enough of it to carry the information along. The information is presented in short bites, with lots of very informative and accurate pictures. The one issue I have with this comic is the odd look of all the humans. Their noses seem to be lower and larger than usual, giving them a gargoyle appearance. The bats, however look fine. This would work for kids in 3rd grade and up, but the addition of the teen character makes this perfect for an ELL middle school classroom.


Oops, She Did It Again

The Other Einstein: A Novel - Marie Benedict

The Other Einstein is Mileva Maric, who starts out as a shy, mildly disabled, bookish girl traveling to Zurich to start college as a physics and math student. At the beginning, her story is a joy—meeting new friends, fighting back, rather successfully against the established norm that women have no place in academics, and taking advantage of the opportunities a big city has to offer. Soon she meets Albert Einstein, of whom everyone seems to disapprove. A whirlwind courtship follows anyhow, Mileva constantly surprised that Einstein would be interested in her.


And then it happens. The apocalypse. Oh, rather, she sleeps with him, and becomes pregnant, but really, the overall effect is the same. And at that moment the book seems to flip from a more progressive look at a capable woman in science to the typical woman wronged. The pregnancy and the resulting illegitimate daughter manage to ruin Mileva’s hopes, dreams, and marriage. Almost immediately, Einstein’s previously charming persona disappears and he becomes the Mr. Hyde of the physics set, refusing to see his own daughter, taking his sweet time marrying Mileva, taking credit for her work, and eventually, even abusing her. This last third of the book is a slog, and the feel of it echoes Einstein’s complaint, that Mileva sucks the joy out of everything. Starting this book was enjoyable, but finishing was a chore.


And so we toss Mileva Maric on the pile of Cautionary Tales for Literary Women, a capital I for insecurity emblazoned on her chest.

A Wild Adventure

Serafina and the Twisted Staff (A Serafina Novel) - Robert Beatty

Serafina is back, keeping the Biltmore Estate safe from rats and other evil creatures. This sequel finds Serafina exploring her unusual heritage and looking for a place to truly belong. Along the way, there are heart stopping chases, new friends, and an even more terrifying enemy than before. This time Serafina is fighting against an sorcerer who uses a twisted staff to control the forest’s animals and turn them into fanged weapons. It’s up to Serafina and Braeden to discover who they are fighting—and why—before Biltmore and its inhabitants are destroyed.


The strength of this book is in its wild, engaging pacing, its unique characters, and its ability to describe the Biltmore Estate and important people of the turn of the century without ever sounding “educational.” Serafina’s struggle to understand who she is, how to interact with all kinds of people, and how to present herself is interesting and handled well. Kids who are interested in or feel an affinity with animals will particularly enjoy Serafina and Braeden’s special abilities.


The Wolf Gift: The Graphic Novel - Anne Rice, Ashley Marie Witter

I blazed right through this before realizing that the story was originally Anne Rice's. Great illustrations, totally ridiculous male/female relationships. 

Thrice the Brindled Cat Hath Mew'd--Flavia de Luce #8

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd: A Flavia de Luce Novel - Alan Bradley

Flavia de Luce returns from boarding school, eager to get back to Bishop’s Lacey, but is met with the news that her father is ill and hospitalized. She ventures into town to commiserate with her friend, the pastor’s wife, and ends up on an errand to a woodcarver’s shop. She finds the woodcarver upside down and in dire straits. Thus begins Flavia’s 8th case to solve.


As with the other Flavia de Luce mysteries, the strength of this story is in the unusual characterization of Flavia herself, and in the relationships she has built with the townspeople of Bishop’s Lacey. Most of the series ends with a cliffhanger, and this installment is no exception. I look forward to seeing what is next for these characters.

Better Than a Textbook

Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War - Ari Kelman, Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

But not by much.

Book: Vetted

Crowded in the Middle of Nowhere: Tales of Humor and Healing from Rural America - Dr. Bo Brock

A fun book of vignettes about being a vet in Texas. These stories read very much likee humor pieces in Reader's Digest. Would be a good gift for an older relative who grew up in farm country. People who enjoyed James Herriot's books or Simon Dawson's stories of running a farm would also enjoy this. 

Gritty adventure

Dune - Frank Herbert

Well, I enjoyed that far more than I thought I would.

A leaf falls

Just got an email stating that Leafmarks is defunct. Although I doubt I'll miss it (it was always a clunky interface) there goes another one. 

At the Edge of Summer

At the Edge of Summer - by Jessica Brockmole

Jessica Brockmole’s second novel is a love story centered around two young sweethearts who are torn apart by family circumstances and World War I. Luc Crepet first meets Clare Ross when she becomes his family’s ward following the death of her father at age 15. Luc and Clare share an artistic temperament and quickly begin spending time together. Their age difference, Clare’s grief and life abroad with her grandfather, and WWI all conspire to keep the young lovers apart, however they keep in touch through letters, as they did when Luc was in college. They are brought together again through Clare’s work in an unusual studio when she returns to Paris after the war.


This author’s strength is in the manufacture of letters between the characters. There is less of this in this second novel than in Letters From Skye, which I preferred. All in all, At the Edge of Summer remains a satisfying read.

Blast from the past

Does anyone else have a little snowman that you can click on to make snow at the top of their screen? Because I'm wondering if I click enough times, if it'll turn into a bunny.

Ugh. I am SO disgusted.

Got this in my email today. And am completely disgusted because Shelfari was always better than Goodreads. Ugh.



As you may know, for the past few years, Amazon has supported two online communities of readers: Shelfari and Goodreads. Both services share the same mission - helping readers find new books and share their reading - so it makes sense to merge them. We plan to complete this by March 16, 2016. Our team can then focus on building innovative new features and creating a great experience for readers on just one platform: Goodreads.


We would like to invite you to now move your books across to Goodreads. To make it easy for you, go to and you will find instructions on how to do this. You will be set up and back to reading books in no time!


If you are not familiar with Goodreads, the core features you love on Shelfari - keeping track of books you have read and want to read, and connecting with fellow readers over your shared love of books - are at the heart of the Goodreads experience. You will also be able to enjoy additional services and features including:


  • On-the-go access to your bookshelves and friends updates through the Goodreads iOS and Android apps
  • The ability to use Goodreads on most Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets
  • Personalized book recommendations from the Goodreads recommendation engine based on books you have enjoyed
  • More ways to share and enjoy your love of reading through the Goodreads Reading Challenge, the ability to write rich text reviews, and enter to win books in our popular Goodreads giveaways program, and
  • Connecting with your favorite authors, including using Goodreads Ask the Author feature


If you have any questions about moving to Goodreads, please email and our team will be happy to help. You can also choose to export your data for your own records following the steps at

From your fellow book lovers, 
The Shelfari and Goodreads Teams

For Dog's Sake!

For Dog’s Sake is a quick read with fun, goofy illustrations, and would be a great book for every first-time dog owner. The main purpose of the book is to help the dog’s new humans help keep the dog out of trouble, and so it covers everything from what dogs shouldn’t eat to how to recognize some common ailments and what to do about them. The one thing this book doesn’t include is a training guide, so those new to dogs would be advised to join an obedience class and buy a separate book for training.

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