Created by: Alyse Goldman
Sterling Middle School Librarian
Sterling, VA

I had trouble narrowing down my choices, but here are 10 books, not in any particular order, that I've enjoyed over the past few years. Many of these books now have sequels.

1. Graceling, by Kristin Cashore. Katsa has a Grace, or special talent. Sounds good, until you realize that her Grace is a talent to kill. Her uncle, King Randa, has been sending her to do his dirty work since Katsa was 14. Katsa hates her Grace, hates what she's forced to do, and so she secretly forms a Council, an underground Robin Hood kind of group that rights some of the wrongs in the Kingdoms. During a rescue mission, Katsa meets Po, a young man who's almost a match for her fighting skills. There's a terrible secret in the Kingdoms, and Katsa and Po are plunged into its center. Put yourself in Katsa's life-would you have the courage to go against the government if you were forced to do things you hated, and everyone around you hated you for it?

2. Airman, by Eoin Colfer. I'd never heard of the Saltee Islands when I read this book. These islands are the setting for this story. It's 1890, and flying is just beginning to be possible. Conor Broekhart studies flight with his tutor, and then explores the castle and the island with the King's daughter. Then a plot to kill the king locks Conor into an iron mask, so terribly beaten that even his own father doesn't recognize him. Thrown into prison for treason, Conor plans his escape the only way he knows how-through the air. The scene in the diving bell when Conor fights for his life was terrific. This book is very different from Eoin Colfer's other books, which include Artemis Fowl, but I thought it was better.

3. Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher. When this book opens, Finn is shackled to a track. Coming towards him is a huge loaded wagon running on those tracks. Finn has to 1. make them aware he's there, and 2. convince them to stop, because in the prison of Incarceron there's no place for kindness. You think Finn is a good guy, until the wagon is attacked by Finn's group. In the turmoil of the attack, Finn kidnaps a woman who recognizes the tattoo on his wrist. Finn believes he was born Outside, although everyone knows the there's no way in or out of Incarceron. Incarceron is alive, and is always watching every corner of this prison-that-is-a-world. Meanwhile, Outside, Claudia is desperate to find a way out of marrying the Prince, but she's the Warden of Incarceron's daughter, and she's always known her fate. Tour Incarceron, and you'll be thankful every time you look out a window.

4.The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott. Do you recognize the name Nicholas Flamel? If you do, I know you're a Harry Potter fan. Nicholas Flamel is named in the first Harry Potter book as the creator of the Sorcerer's Stone, which allowed him to live a very long life. Nicholas Flamel is a major character in that book, and I couldn't understand how Michael Scott used J.K Rowling's character until I read that Nicholas Flamel really lived. He was an alchemyst in the 1300's, and a legend started that he really did find the secret to immortality. In this book, the legend is true. Nicholas did discover the secret of immortality, and has been battling gods and other immortals for centuries, protecting his secret. Twins Sophie and Josh Newman know nothing of the legend, until they find themselves in the middle of this battle. Nicholas' bookstore in destroyed by unearthly creatures, and Sophie and Josh discover that they may be legendary twins that have ultimate power. Every creature you've ever heard of, and some you haven't, appear in this book and its sequels. Read them, and you'll be a whiz in your English class!

5. Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. Who doesn't like a beautiful moonlit evening? That is, until an asteroid hits the moon and changes its orbit, bringing it closer to Earth. Huge tsuanmis drown all coastlines around the world, the weather is wild, and suddenly life as we know it is over. Miranda lives in rural PA, and this is her survival story. Think of it-no more school! Yay, until you realize there's also no more supermarkets, or gas, or anything else. Society begins to break down. There's a sequel to this book that tells the story of a family in the city, where survival is even harder than it is in the country. You'll never look at the moon the same way again.

6. Bloody Jack, by L. A. Meyer. Not a fantasy book! This is an adventure story set in the 18th century. Mary Faber is a young girl who watches in terror as the bodies of her parents and sister are taken away and she's out in the street. Picked up by Rooster Charlie's gang, her new home is under a bridge and she earns her keep by becoming a pickpocket. Learn the ways of the street or die, but Mary is a fast learner. After Charlie is killed, Mary becomes Jacky. She cuts off her hair, and goes down to the docks to see if she can sign on as a ship's boy. Because she can read, she's signed on by Her Majesty's ship the Dolphin. Jacky doesn't know it, but if you break a rule in the Royal Navy, punishment is severe, including hanging. If she's discovered to be a girl, it's the gallows for her. But nothing keeps Jacky down for long, and soon the Royal Navy wouldn't know what to do without her. This book sails along so quickly you won't have time to be seasick, and you'll pick up the sequels asap, because each one leaves you hanging!

7. A Countess Below Stairs, by Eva Ibbotson. Anna Grazinsky is born into Russian royalty at the beginning of the 20th century. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, she wants that she can't have. Despite this, Anna is not spoiled. The Russian Revolution puts an end to all that. Her father is killed, and the family flees Russia, giving a trusted servant all their jewels. When the servant fails to arrive at the meeting place, the family is lucky to make it to London and find a home with Miss Pinfold, Anna's tutor. "I must get a job," Anna says to Pinny, but few jobs are available to young women. Anna becomes a housemaid with an aristocratic English family, and she is determined to be the best housemaid possible. Until the young Earl of Westerholme returns, and it's love at first sight. But Anna must keep her secret, and besides, there's Rupert's nasty fiance. . You'll close this book with a happy sigh.

8. Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson. Now for a modern romance-Scarlett Martin's family owns a small hotel in Manhattan. At one time, the Hopewell was a hotel desired by the rich and famous. Now it's a good place to stay if you're looking for a bargain. Scarlett's family does almost all the work themselves, and at age 15, each Martin is given a suite of rooms to care for. Scarlett is given the Empire Suite, along with an unusual guest who seems to think Scarlett is her personal maid. Her brother wants to act, her sister is trying to land a wealthy boyfriend, and her younger sister is a cancer survivor who continues to demand special treatment because of her illness. Her parents are just trying to keep everything together. Can Scarlett save the day? This is a fun read.

9. Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. At first I thought this book wouldn't have much appeal in our suburban area, because it takes place in Red Bend, Wisconsin, on a diary farm. But after I read it, I realized that the setting didn't matter. D. J. Schwenk has a solid family-her father runs the farm, and her mom is the principal of the local elem. school. She has 3 brothers, 2 older, 1 younger. During the summer of her fifteenth year, DJ is carrying her family on her shoulders. Her mom has a bad back, her dad had surgery and can't lift or work much, her 2 older brothers don't call home, and her younger brother won't talk. DJ has a secret dream: in her football crazy family, she wants to try out for the high school football team. It isn't enough that she's coaching the rival team's quarterback all summer; she wants to play. She also wants Brian to like her, not just see her as a football coach. If you love your family but still want to escape sometimes, you'll love this book.

10. Dairy of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney. This book is just plain funny, especially if you are facing your first year of middle school. You were the top of the heap in elem. school, and now you're the bottom of the pile. All Greg Heffley wants to do is survive, not be noticed, left alone. Unfortunately, his friend Rowley is still acting like a little kid, and Greg has a plan to take teach Rowley how to behave like a middle schooler. So how does Rowley become popular, and Greg end up without a best friend? LOL as you read this!
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