Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.
I have a love/hate relationship with series. I love them because they make my job easier; get a student hooked, and they will read a lot of the books. I hate them because there are so MANY series, and sometimes it seems like my books orders are nothing but continuations. There are problems, such as students losing book two, or someone having book one overdue for a month, so I can't start anyone else on the series. Also, after about four books, fewer and fewer readers continue to pick up a series, so it doesn't seem like money well spent.
Stand alone books are a MUCH better purchase for my library, and I wish that the obsession with series would come to an end. Or, that the books in a series don't necessarily need to be read in order. I recently broke down and bought the Sara Normal Series. Of course, I made the mistake of ordering them from Baker and Taylor, so I have books 1,2,3,5, and 8. Grrr! I had a little orgy of reading them, and I think that each volume could be picked up individually-- you miss a few details, but not enough to detract from the story at hand.
Rivers, Phoebe. Haunted Memories (#2)
May 1st 2012, Simon Spotlight
Sara is just starting school, having moved from California to live with Lady Azura when her father takes a job on the east coast. She's glad that she has made friends with Lily, and fits in at her lunch table pretty well. There is a harvest festival coming up, and several girls are thinking about running for queen. That's the last thing on Sara's mind, since she's just settling in, getting to know cute boy Jayden, and dealing with all of the ghosts she can see in her new house, but someone signs her up. She realizes that she has to run for queen to solve the problems of the newest ghost, Alice, who wanted desperately to be queen but died of polio in 1952.
Strengths: Sara's anxiety at starting a new school is realistically portrayed, as is her interest in Jayden. She and Lily have a nice friendship, and even her pyschic abilities are fun.
Weaknesses: Harvest festival queen? Not something I've ever seen at a middle school, so it irked me a bit, like all books about school elections. Still fun.
Rivers, Phoebe. Mischief Night. (#3)
August 14th 2012 by Simon Spotlight
In the last book, the biggest problem with Jayden was that the ghost of his older brother, Marco, followed Sara around and wanted her away from his brother. In this book, this is a continuing problem, and Jayden gets angry after he goes to a reading with Lady Azura and Sara eavesdrops on his conversation. There is also a problematic ghost in the house; Henry, a young boy, has been released, and is causing all manner of problems. When Sara has a big Halloween party at her house, she is able to put many things to rights.
Strengths: I like how these build on Sara's skills and new powers-- Lady Azura is teaching her how to control the spirits a little bit, and it's fun to read about her everyday life with Lily, etc.
Weaknesses: I'm not getting as much about Lady Azura as I would like. She's too much fun to relegate to a small supporting role! (Of course, I think she gets more to do in book 4, which I don't have!)
Rivers, Phoebe. Moment of Truth (#5)
December 4th 2012, Simon Spotlight
Sara's powers are growing, but she's concerned when she meets Kyle at the local ice cream store. She knows he's a ghost, but other people can see him! Not only that, but her friend Lily thinks that he's cute and once to ask him to the morp (prom backwards, since girls ask boys). Sara asks Jayden to the dance, so she hates to get in Lily's way, but Lady Azura warns her to stay far away from Kyle, since he is a spirit who doesn't know he is dead, and he might become violent when he find out. Sara has to find a way to get him to move on but without crushing her friend.
Strengths: I liked the twist of a ghost that others could see, and there was also a nice bit about Sara wearing a dress that belonged to her mother. Her father's work and dating are mentioned very briefly throughout the series, just enough so that we know they affect Sara, but not enough to weigh down the story.
Weaknesses: Really? Morp? Formal dances at middle schools are another thing I don't believe.
Rivers, Phoebe. Kindred Spirits (#8)
June 4th 2013 by Simon Spotlight
Jayden moves out of town with his parents at some point, so Sara is free to be really interested in Mason, to whom she has an odd attraction. She needs a pleasant distraction, because Lady Azura has allowed two spirits, Eleanor and Dwight, to stay in their home because they are bedeviling a client. They are both looking for something, and turning over everything in the house in order to find it! Sara also begins to think that she can move objects with her mind, but isn't entirely sure. Midnight Manor is once again used, and Henry takes a shine to Buddy, the dog, but is still a pain.
Strengths: I was glad to see Sara have another romantic interest, and liked the twist about him. I also enjoyed Lady Azura dealing with the ghosts, and the fact that Sara was able to help her solve the problem.
Weaknesses: I might be missing a bit about Mason, but the strength of Sara's attraction to him seems a bit much.
I really need to read the books I'm missing, and am really looking forward to #9, Playing with Fire, when Sara is thinking about telling Lily about her powers!
And here's weirdness:Got an e mail from Charles from one of these teacher certification sites that this blog was in the top 50. At number 8, to be specific. I don't know how they do their statistics, but I did think it was interesting that I was that high up when I only have 155 Twitter followers compared to the thousands that other school library blogs have. http://www.teachercertificationdegrees.com/top-blogs/school-library/
I'm not sure it this means I need to work harder or not. Just a little puzzling, especially since most of the other school library blogs don't focus on books. No clue.