Reading is my ESCAPE from Reality!

“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” 


-- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff

The Great Treehouse War - Lisa Graff


There are a lot of things you should probably know to understand why a bunch of kids decided to climb up a treehouse and not come down.

- First Line


Imagine a never-ending sleepover in a treehouse with 9 of your best friends. Just so you know, the treehouse has a bathroom (but no stove), two floors, a craft station, a platform for deliveries, a skylight, and a zipline. The thing is, the kids are staying in the treehouse and refusing to come down until their parents give in to their demands. While a treehouse sleepover sounds amazing (and who wants sleepovers to end), 10 kids in close quarters can become stressful for even the best of friends.


Winnie originally stays in the treehouse every Wednesday - so her divorcing parents can have equal numbers of days with her. When Winnie realizes she is failing 5th grade and the only time she gets any homework done is Wednesdays in the treehouse, she decides to stay there permanently. But, will her parents ever see reason and stop fighting over everything being exactly equal??


The plot touches on issues like divorce, screen time, tv privileges, and other difficulties between parents and children.  It's an engaging story with realistic characters who love and support each other through everything. The format is a group memoir (written by Winnie) and there are cute illustrations and post-its from the other characters throughout the book.



Kids will love the idea of living in a treehouse with their friends and not having to answer to parents. (There is a plot point that prevents the parents or police from entering the treehouse which verges on ridiculous, but the kids won't mind.)


Recommended to: Grades 3 - 8, fans of realistic fiction, and reluctant readers. Fans of James Patterson's Middle School series will enjoy this one. :)

Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park

Forest of Wonders (Wing & Claw) - Jim Madsen, Linda Sue Park, Graham Halstead



This is an enchanting adventure that kids are sure to love. There is magic, talking animals, danger, friendship, and by the end Raffa realizes that choices (and people) are not always what they seem to be. The plot is unresolved at the end (which makes sense because this is a trilogy), but all three books are already released so it's easy to continue with Raffa's adventure.


Highly recommended to students in grades 4 and up, fans of fantasy, magic, and adventure.


I listened to the audiobook and the narrator did an excellent job.


The Last Passenger by Manel Loureiro

The Last Passenger - Manel Loureiro, Andrés Alfaro


August 28, 1939 - Somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Valkyrie is found, drifting, with a single passenger - a baby wrapped in a blanket and left on the dance floor. 


Present Day - Kate is a reporter who recently lost her husband (Ralph), and she is looking for a distraction. When the editor offers her the chance to follow up on the final story Ralph worked on, she jumps at the chance. But this is no simple mystery. There is an evil presence on the Valkyrie, and Kate may be the only one who can end its reign.


This story involves not time travel, but an overlapping of times. On the ship, Kate sees the current version of the ship, then blinks and sees the ship as it was in 1939. There is a high creepiness factor and a fair amount of blood and violence. I enjoyed the book and may look into others by this author.



Sunshine State 2018-19 Nominees

Once again, I am going to attempt to read all of the nominated books:



Books for Grades 3-5

1. The Ark Plan by Laura Martin

2. The Doublecross: (And Other Skills I Learned as a Superspy) by Jackson Pearce

3. Dragons & Marshmallows by Asia Citro

4. The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff

5. Home Sweet Motel by Chris Grabenstein

6. I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

7. Lemons by Melissa Savage

8. Lights, Camera, Cook! by Charise Mericle Harper

9. Overboard! by Terry Lynn Johnson

10. Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood

11. Spirit Week Showdown by Crystal Allen

12. The Sweetest Sound by Sherri Winston

13. A True Home by Kallie George

14. Ugly Cat & Pablo by Isabel Quintero

15. Wish by Barbara O'Connor



Books for Grades 6-8

1. Click'd by Tamara Ireland Stone

2. A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman

3. Surrender the Key by DJ Machale

4. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

5. The Eureka Key by Sarah Thomson

6. The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore

7. First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

8. Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park

9. Frogkisser! by Garth Nix

10. Ghost by Jason Reynolds

11. The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

12. How Lunchbox Jones Saved me from Robots, Traitors, and Missy the Cruel by Jennifer Brown

13. Restart by Gordon Korman

14. Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan

15. The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks


Sunshine State 2017-18 Reading Recap


My goal this year (4/2017-4/2018) was to read all the Sunshine State nominated books:

- 15 books for Grades 3-5 (Elementary)

- 15 books for Grades 6-8 (Middle School)


Elementary books:

1. Allie First at Last

2. Framed!

3. Maxi's Secrets: Or What You Can Learn From a Dog

4. My Brother is a Superhero

5. Teddy Mars: Almost a World Record Breaker

6. Willy Maykit in Space


Read 9/15:

1. Castle Hangnail  (September 2017)

2. A Dragon's Guide to the Care & Feeding of Humans  (August 2017)

3. The Hero Two Doors Down (January 2018)

4. Night of the Living Worms  (May 2017)

5. Pugs of the Frozen North  (August 2017)

6. Save Me a Seat  (April 2017)

7. The Vanishing Coin   (October 2017)

8. A Whole New Ballgame  (August 2017)

9. The Wild Robot  (June 2017)



Middle School books:

1. Courage for Beginners

2. Framed!

3. Terror at Bottle Creek


Read 12/15:

1. The Girl in the Well is Me   (August 2017)

2. The Girl Who Drank the Moon   (April 2018)

3. How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer   (January 2018)

4. It Ain't So Awful, Falafel   (August 2017)

5. The Mark of the Dragonfly   (January 2018)

6. Moving Target   (March 2018)

7. The Nerdy Dozen   (February 2017)

8. The Nest   (July 2017)

9. Omega City   (March 2018)

10. Randoms   (October 2017)

11. Shadows of Sherwood   (October 2017)

12. The War That Saved My Life   (March 2018)


I am glad that I didn't have to vote for a winner, like the students at school did. It would have been a difficult choice.

The winners (as decided by students throughout Florida) are:


Grades 3-5

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown


Grades 6-8

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star (Young Elites Book 3) - Marie Lu

If you haven't read The Young Elites & The Rose Society, this review may contain spoilers. 



Is being Queen worth losing everything and everyone you ever loved?


Adelina supposedly now has everything she wanted. She is Queen and she's as ruthless and as cruel as ever. Even though she is now queen, she can never have enough power. Her darkness feeds on the power and it's taking over. Adelina has lost so much, but now it seems the whole world is at risk. Her Rose Society must join with the Daggers and make an unforgettable journey to the realm of the gods. If they can't work together, there is no hope.

This was an amazing series and Marie Lu is an impressive and talented writer. I also loved the Legend series. Adelina's journey is heartbreaking and difficult, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The Rose Society by Marie Lu

The Rose Society - Marie Lu

If you haven't read The Young Elites, this review may contain spoilers related to the original story.



How can you be good when everything within you is dragging you into darkness??


After losing Enzo and being rejected by the Dagger Society, Adelina is on a path of vengeance and violence. Her powers are fueled by hate and fear, and they're growing beyond her ability to control. She has found a new group of Elites, but she has difficulty trusting them, and she is constantly doubting who she is and questioning her own decisions. She is now known as the White Wolf, a symbol of power, violence, and death.


This book is even better than the first. As the reader watches Adelina's descent into darkness, we feel for her and in a way even understand the decisions she makes. She has spent most of her life living in fear; who can blame her for wanting to feel powerful and safe. This doesn't take away from the horror of her actions; she is no hero.The real question is, will Adelina ever find happiness or even recognize it if she does.


A great addition to the trilogy. On to book 3: The Midnight Star


"The walls began to pulsate more quickly, and that was when Tom knew there was something behind him. Something dark, malevolent, and voracious, watching him intently."
The Last Passenger - Manel Loureiro, Andrés Alfaro


Alice by Christina Henry

Alice - Christina Henry


"One day, long ago, she'd gone seeking an adventure and found terror instead. That day had changed the course of her life, and left her hands awash in blood. It was not her fault, but this was how it must be. She understood that now."


Poor, trusting Alice. She went with her best friend on a supposed adventure and ended up in an insane asylum. She doesn't remember what happened, only before and after. Before, she was a sweet innocent girl who lived in the New City, and after, she was found wandering the streets of the Old City with blood on her thighs muttering about a rabbit. Now, she has the chance to escape the asylum with Hatcher (who was living on the other side of the wall for 8 years) and she is about to embark on an even stranger adventure, dark, bloody, and frankly a bit disturbing.


This is not the Alice you remember from the Disney movie, some of the characters are here: Alice, Cheshire, the Rabbit, the Caterpillar, but they are not as you remember them. This book is full of violence, human trafficking and, rape. Women are treated as objects at best and as sex toys or killing toys at worst. Sections of the Old City are owned by ruthless gang lords, and women are never safe there. But, this is also a story of justice and revenge. Believe me when I say Alice & her friend Hatcher (from the asylum) are no slackers when it comes to giving people what they deserve.


So, should you read it? Well, if you like dark, creepy, retellings which are more horror than fantasy, and if you won't be disturbed by the violence, then go for it. If you are the tiniest bit squeamish, then I suggest you pass.

Lost Boy by Christina Henry

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook - Christina Henry, Samuel Roukin


There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. Once I loved a boy called Peter Pan. Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter's idea of fun is sharper than a pirate's sword. He wants always to be that shining sun that we all revolve around. He'll do anything to be that sun. Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever. Peter will say I'm a villain, that I wronged him, that I never was his friend. Peter Lies.


What if you heard the story from another character's point of view? Would it change who you thought of as the hero??


If the story was anything like this, then I would say yes. This is the true story of Captain Hook. In this version, Peter is a trickster with no conscience who only cares about staying young, having fun, and getting what he wants. Before he became Captain Hook, Jamie was a strong, determined young boy, even though he was more than a bit naive. 


Peter brought Jamie to the island so they could stay young forever, together. And no one had better stand in the way of Peter getting his way. Is Peter magic? Is it the island? And what will happen when Jamie finally figures out the truth?


OK, so we all know the end, but we don't know how they get there. And that is where this story hooks you. 


It is bloody, violent, sad, chilling, and even sentimental at times. I loved the narration. Samuel Roukin (British accent and all) set the scene and had me immersed in the world of the lost boys.


Highly recommended - if you don't mind violence. The concept of "never growing up" isn't as appealing as it once was...


It's not such a wonderful thing

To be young.

It's heartless and selfish.

- Jamie

"The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell us more truths than those with open faces."
The Rose Society - Marie Lu



"Once upon a time, a girl had a father, a prince, a society of friends. Then they betrayed her, and she destroyed them all."
The Rose Society - Marie Lu

- Adelina Amouteru

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon - Kelly Barnhill


Yes. There is a witch in the woods. There has always been a witch.

- Opening lines


Magical babies are dangerous babies, Glerk tried to remind himself, day after day. When he wasn't cradling Luna. Or singing to Luna. Or whispering poetry into her ear as she slept.

-Chapter 5


A story can tell the truth, she knew, but a story can also lie. Stories can bend and twist and obfuscate. Controlling stories is power indeed.

- Chapter 38


Knowledge is powerful, but it is a terrible power when it is hoarded and hidden.

- Chapter 38


The village has always known about the witch, and about the sacrifice. Once a year, the Council of Elders takes the youngest baby and leaves it in the woods to appease the witch. But... the witch (Xan) has no idea why they leave the baby, so she takes it to the village across the forest and gives it to a loving home. Except for Luna... The witch accidentally feeds Luna moonlight (instead of the starlight she usually feeds the babies). The moonlight makes Luna magical. Luna grows up with Xan, Glerk (the swamp monster), and Fyrian (a Perfectly Tiny Dragon who thinks he is a Simply Enormous Dragon).


With characters like Xan, Glerk, Fyrian, and Luna, how could this story fail? The characters are amazing and the world is magical. People have been recommending this book to me all year, but I kept putting it off. I don't know why, but the cover just didn't appeal to me. Once I started reading it, I loved it. 


Recommended to: Grades 5 & up. Fans of magical stories or fairy tales.

Reading progress update: I've listened 232 out of 465 minutes.

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook - Christina Henry, Samuel Roukin


Jamie what are you thinking?? That trickster Peter cannot be trusted, even if he is your best friend.




This is a Peter Pan told from the viewpoint of Captain Hook (before he became Captain Hook) and it's quite good so far.

Everfound - Audiobook

Everfound - Neal Shusterman


"We can lie to ourselves, saying we believe one thing, and sometimes we convince others it's true, with the hope that by convincing others, we can convince ourselves. Wars are often waged not because of what we believe, but because of the things we want others to believe."


Book 3 in the Skinjacker series. I love the series, the characters, the ups & downs, basically everything about it. I am now a huge fan of Neal Shusterman. This is the second series I'm reading by him and I'm now ready for the next one.


This book is amazing. It takes the characters on surprising and unexpected paths that end up in quite unusual ways. No characters are just plain evil or good. They all take personal journeys and look at the world in different ways. I felt for all of them at different points in the book and I cringed at their actions at other points.


Recommended: Grades 7 & up. Fans of fantasy or dystopian novels.

Everwild by Neal Shusterman - Audiobook

Everwild  - Neal Shusterman, Nick Podehl

If you haven't read Everlost, then you probably shouldn't read this review. But more importantly, don't read the synopsis of this book (Everwild) on Amazon as it gives away an important plot point that the book doesn't reveal until at least the 65% mark.


Everlost is populated by children who died and didn't find their way to the light. They are basically ghosts, who can't be seen or interact with the living world (with one interesting exception). Places (dead spots) and things also cross to Everlost, but only those that are truly loved by someone. The children in Everlost are called Afterlights, because they have a glow about them. Afterlights will sink to the center of the earth if they stand in one place for too long, unless they are on a dead spot. In the first book, we learn that large dead spots are rare, but can be found in places that were considered important to a lot of people, such as the Twin Towers in NYC. In Everwild, Allie, Nick, Mary, and Mikey continue their journeys, although their paths have changed. Some secrets have already been discovered about Everlost, but still more questions remain unanswered.


Shusterman is a magnificient writer and I love losing myself in his worlds. There is no black or white, no flat good and evil. The "good" characters make mistakes or wrong choices, and the "evil" characters have motives that might have started out as good. There is a constant struggle within each character to understand their own feelings and deal with all the crazinees Everlost throws at them. Over the course of this novel, all of the characters (even the secondary ones) develop, grow, and change. There is an overarching theme of "how do we stop the evil trying to destroy the world" and yet each character has their own feelings, hopes, and dreams to deal with.


The instant I finished listening to this book, I began the next (and final) book in the series. This shouldn't be a surprise considering my similar reaction to the first Shusterman series I read (Unwind).


I'm recommending this book to grades 7 and up. Some of the actions of the characters are a bit callous in their disregard for the living world, but there are also beautiful parts that stuck with me. Fans of the Delirium or Divergent series will enjoy this one.

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Reading is my Escape's Read 2018 book montage

The Man in the Iron Mask
Truly Madly Guilty
The Reptile Room
The Wide Window
The Miserable Mill
The Austere Academy
The Hero Two Doors Down: Based on the True Story of Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend
The Ersatz Elevator
The Vile Village
The Hostile Hospital
The Nerdy Dozen
The Carnivorous Carnival
The Iron Giant
The Slippery Slope

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2018 Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge
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