January 11, 2015

My faves!

2014  has already come and gone and I have yet to share with you my favorite reads of the year. For those who don’t follow me on social media, the answer as to why is simple: I was dying of the plague.

Okay, not really. I REALLY had the flu. And not just one. I had TWO different strands. So for my Christmas vacation, I spent 16 days in bed. Sleeping. Barely moving. Barely reading—which is the real tragedy.

But now that we have enjoyed a full two weeks of 2015, let me share with you my favorite reads of 2014.

First, I met my Goodreads goal of 115 books. As a matter of fact, I didn’t meet it—I spanked it. By year’s end I read 144 books (mostly YA and mysteries). I really like rounded up numbers, so I am bummed I didn’t reach 145, but hey, since I spanked my original goal, I will take it.

Of those 144 boys, below I am sharing with you 15 of my favorite tween/YA reads in no particular order.


‘The Impossible Knife of Memory’ – Laurie Halse Anderson
     I did not speak to a single person who read and did not LOVE this book. I am no 

‘The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavendar’ – Leslye Walton
     I have to say that I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this. It was a bit different, but I thought the
     storytelling was beautiful.

‘The Selection Series’ – Kiera Cass
     This series was described to me as The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games. That is a 
     great description. I read all three via audiobook and really loved it.

‘We Were Liars’ – E. Lockhart
     Seriously one of the best YA novels I have ever read. The love I have for this book in 
     my heart is great.

‘Isla and the Happily Ever After’ – Stephanie Perkins
     It is so hard to not love a Perkins novel, and this one is no exception. A solid end to the
     cycle Perkins created with ‘Anna’ and ‘Lola.’ You will feel good about life by novel’s 

‘This Star Won’t Go Out’ – Esther Earl
     I definitely needed tissues with this one. This non-fiction read is not just for lovers of
     TFIOS. It is for all readers. I won’t be surprised if I see this on future school reading

‘Rain Reign’ – Ann M. Martin
     This book. The feels. I loved it. One of my favorite reads ever.

‘Counting by 7s’ – Holly Goldberg Sloan
     See above. This book gave me so many feels. It is fabulous. It is heartbreaking. It 
     needs to be read by you.

‘Love Letters to the Dead’ – Ava Dellaira
     Such an interesting idea for a novel, and the execution was wonderful. I found myself
      deep in the story and could not put this down.

‘Liv, Forever’ – Amy Talkington
     Definitely in my top 100 YA books of all time. I loved the story. And that cover. But 
     really, the story is so interesting and well executed.

‘Cruel Beauty’ – Rosamund Hodge
     I borrowed this book from a student who said I HAD to make it a part of my life. She 
     was right. If you enjoy mythology, you will enjoy this. If you enjoy a love story, you 
     will enjoy this. Such an interesting plot.

‘Belzhar’ – Meg Wolitzer
     I cannot say enough about my love for this book. It is right up there with ‘We Were 
     Liars’ for fave reads of 2014. I have told everyone to read this—and you should too. I 
     read it because of the Plath element, but it was such a small part of such a wonderful 

‘Nest’ – Esther Ehrlich
     This book. Needs to be in your TBR pile. Oh my, I am getting teary eyed thinking 
     about it. Make sure to have tissues too.

‘Rebel Belle’ – Rachel Hawkins
     And once you need a break from all the sadness in the books above, grab this. Hawkins
     does not disappoint in this novel. There is snark. There is action. There is a girl kicking
     butt. No tissues…except to wipe away the tears of laughter at the clever dialogue.

‘Better of Friends’ – Elizabeth Eulberg
     My list would not be completed without a Eulberg book. She is one of my fave YA 
     authors, and this book deserves a spot in your TBR pile as well.

What did you read in 2014 that you loved?

Share below and let’s talk about books.
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator

October 7, 2014

Review: Rain Reign

This book has won my heart.

Title: ‘Rain Reign’
Author: Ann M. Martin
Pages: 240
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Available: NOW at your local library or bookstore
Source: Netgalley

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.

Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

My Thoughts:

This book gave me so many feels—I love Rose. And I love Rain. These two together make for a strong story that will stay with readers long after the book is done.

First, let me say that Martin is a genius in this story. She brings to life Rose, a high-functioning Asperger’s child in first person. I cannot imagine the research and constant concentration to pull this off so flawlessly. And it is flawless.

I could tell very quickly that Rose was Asperger’s; I’ve taught teens with Asperger’s. The classroom interaction between teacher and Rose, classmates and Rose…spot on.

Now, let me first deal with the plot. This is not a story about an Asperger’s child. This is the story about a girl and her dog. The special bond these two have. The challenges of growing up without a mom. A father who is frustrated with himself. And an uncle who loves his niece.

The above elements are all of the things that made me love this book. The pacing of the novel will keep readers engaged. There is a nice balance between Rose and Rain, her life at school, her life at home. All elements that young readers can connect with in their own way.

The bond between Rose and Rain is unmistakable. They count on one another. There is a natural camaraderie, and for those who own dogs and treat them as family, you know what I mean. Martin’s interaction with these two on the page is natural, and it makes me want to hug the book.

Then there is the challenge of growing up without a mom. Readers are unclear of what has happened to Rose’s mom; all we know is that she left. The absence of the mom figure is felt on just about every page—and this contributes to the love I have for Rose as a character. This is not something she dwells on. She simply visits her mom’s box of memories when she feels like she needs to, and that is that. But as a mom myself, I felt as if Rose really needed her mom there, to hug her, to help keep her safe.

Rose’s father is not a center point in this novel, but his presence is enough to make him worthy of a few notes. First, he is not a bad man. He is a man who is lost without his wife. He is trying to raise a daughter on his own. And not just any daughter; one whose mind works differently. Readers will experience his frustration throughout the novel, but most especially when Rain goes missing. A part of me wondered, “Did he do it on purpose?”

Oh the uncle—I loved him. He is just what Rose needs in her life. He reminds me of the purpose of grandparents: to give parents a break. He understands Rose in ways that no one else does. He is patient toward her. He helps her with her homonym list, something that fascinates her. Throughout the reading, I knew if he was on the page, Rose was okay. It was when Rose was left alone or with her dad that I grew afraid for her.

And then there is the storm. A hurricane of epic proportions is not the center of the story, but it is a catalyst for Rose. It is the reason Rain is lost; the reason Rose learns the truth of how she came to own Rain; it is the element that will help her make a brave decision.

One other thing I loved about this book: Rose is fascinated by homonyms (mentioned above), and when there is one on the page, readers will know because the homonyms are placed in parentheses. At first I thought this would be distracting to readers, but then I realized it allows readers to have a window into how Rose’s mind works…while learning about homonyms themselves.

Do I recommend this book?

Absolutely!!! There is not a reader that I do not think should read this book. This needs to be read by everyone. I foresee this being on summer reading lists for next school year.

Have you read a realistic fiction novel lately that you just loved? Share below; let’s talk books.
Happy Reading!

-      The Hodgenator