10 Books About Girls in Middle/High School

One favorite genre of many teens is “chick lit,” or books directed at girls about friendship and other generally “girly” things–although many boys also enjoy these books.

1. All-American Girl by Meg Cabot

In this story, Sam saves the president’s life and goes on a funny adventure involving art classes and friendship struggles.  Although a lot of the characters were very stereotypical, the storyline is funny and cute.  Plus, Reston readers may appreciate some of the references to real-life D.C.

2. Bindi Babes by Narinder Dhami

When three young sisters who are used to being generally spoiled must live with their strict aunt, they attempt to marry her off…with limited success.

3. Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

This book has very little to do with thongs or snogging and a lot more to do with a girl named Georgia and her cat Angus.  A lot of the comments she writes in her diary are highly cringey, but that’s what makes it funny.

4. In The Cards: Love by Mariah Fredericks

Some 8th grade girls have a goofy romantic adventure.  This is the perfect light read for when you don’t want anything too serious.

5. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Anne Brashares

Four girls have separate summer adventures between their sophomore and junior years of high school.  It’s a cute friendship story, and unlike many book-to-movie adaptations, it worked quite well–so once you’re done with the book, the movie is as good or better.

6. ttyl by Lauren Myracle

Three girls communicate over instant message in high school.  Although the format takes getting used to, the story is a pretty candid picture of high school life for girls.

7. Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita

Kaitlyn Burke, movie star, pretends to be a normal girl to see what it’s like to not be famous.  This is one of the most fun Hollywood books I’ve ever read, and Kaitlyn never comes across as annoying or stuck-up.  The other 5 books are just as good.

8. Charly’s Epic Fiascos by Kelli London

Charly runs away from home to audition for a reality show, something many teens dream of doing.  Although she faces many obstacles, she keeps going in this hilarious story about acting with all sorts of unusual characters.

9. He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander

Claudia and Omar must stand up for arts funding in their small school in this funny, dynamic high school story told from alternating perspectives.

10. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonia Sones

This novel in verse describes one girl’s adventures with romance.

Happy (goofy and heartfelt) reading!


10 Books About Computers

Although the books vs. computers debate will go on infinitely, you may want to try this “happy medium” solution: read about computers!  Bonus points if you read it on an e-reader.

1. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow


A teen hacker plays an alternate reality game with his friends, later being accused of a terrorist attack and tortured by the department of Homeland Security.  The sequel Homeland is just as suspenseful and politically relevant.

2. In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

In this book, a girl meets a boy living in poverty when she plays an online MMORPG (Mass Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) and must decide on the right thing to do.

3. Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

A boy training to be a gastroenterologist feels he must choose between college and video games, all the while under pressure from his family.

4. Twinmaker by Sean Williams

Clair and Libby are best friends, so when they find a mysterious online game they decide to try it out together.  Of course, in a futuristic world of teleportation and mentally-integrated Internet access, this game is far more than meets the eye.

5. Sun Signs by Shelley Hrdlitschka

When a girl does an astrology project as a remote-schooling assignment, she discovers that her fellow remote-learning classmates are not who they seem to be.  This book is unique as it is told in emails.

6. Trackers by Patrick Carman

Have you ever wanted to spy on people?  The teens in Trackers do just that, getting into a bit of trouble along the way.  (Note: This book has some corresponding online content that requires online registration.  I never signed up for it myself, so I do not know what it includes or what is required for registration.  The book was aimed at middle-grade readers, so the content is suitable for teens; however, it could be bothersome to some readers.)

7. Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider becomes a spy for MI6 in London and must pretend to be the winner of a computer contest in order to investigate suspicious occurrences.  Although the characterization leaves something to be desired, there is plenty of action.

8. STORM: The Infinity Code by E. L. Young


A group of teens gifted in science run away to Russia to solve a mystery involving black holes.  With detailed descriptions of scientific gadgets, any science lover will enjoy this book.

9. Deadly Pink by Vivian Vande Velde

A girl must retrieve her sister from inside a video game.  It’s a quick read and not all that interesting, but the concept of the game is fun.

10. The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

June must take a side in a growing controversy over the use of technology in Palmares Tres, the pyramid-shaped glass city in future Brazil where she lives.  However, the story is so much more than that, and it is one of the most beautifully-written books I have ever read.

Happy (digital) reading!



10 Books About Steampunk

Steampunk, if you are unfamiliar with the genre, is a popular alternate-history genre in which electricity was never developed and everything was steam-powered.  Many steampunk stories take place during the Victorian Era or in the Wild West, although some take place in other worlds or even the future.

1. Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (Finishing School Series Book 1)

Currently one of the most popular steampunk books for teens, this book tells the funny story of a girl named Sophronia and her friends who go to a mysterious girls’ school located in an airship.  Though not the most imaginative steampunk story, it’s funny and has some entertaining characters.

2. The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross (Steampunk Chronicles Book 1)

Finley Jayne, a maid in Victorian London, discovers that she has magical powers and meets a mysterious group of adventurers, then realizing that she must help to solve a mystery.

3. The Girl with the Iron Touch by Kady Cross (Steampunk Chronicles Book 3)

This third book in the Steampunk Chronicles series is as good as the first.  Mila, a robot girl, discovers that she is, in fact, a robot–and, of course, the characters from the first book make it their job to protect her.  (The second book in the series wasn’t all that well-written in my opinion and I suggest skipping it, because objectively, it adds little to the plot of the series as a whole.)

4. The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

Three girls in Victorian London solve a murder.  The book is written in sort of a humorous, modern sense, and it’s a bit historically inaccurate, but it’s funny and lighthearted.

5. The Spiritglass Charade by Colleen Gleason (Stoker and Holmes Book 2)

The sequel to The Clockwork Scarab has even more steampunk action as Mina and Evaline must solve a mystery involving ghosts.  Although many plot elements are continued from the first book, it could almost be read as a stand-alone.

6. Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard  (Something Strange and Deadly Book 1)

Eleanor Fitt meets a group of inventors called the Spirit Hunters with whose help she can fight off the zombies plaguing Philadelphia.  With the World’s Faire, electrical experiments, and an ancient grimoire, it’s pretty interesting.

7. Girl Genius by Phil and Kaja Foglio (graphic novel)

Agatha Heterodyne goes on an adventure involving a lot of scary machines in a steampunk Germany.

8. Mister Monday by Garth Nix (Keys to the Kingdom Book 1)

Arthur Penhaligon has an asthma attack on a class trip and ends up getting transported to the House, a parallel plane of existence at the center of the universe.

9. Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac

In a vaguely steampunk post-apocalyptic American Southwest, Lozen’s family is imprisoned by a group of four mysterious leaders who force her to kill the mutant creatures running wild in the desert.  One of the most clever and action-packed books in the genre.

10. A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard (Something Strange and Deadly Book 2)

The sequel to Something Strange and Deadly takes place in Paris.  The story continues as Eleanor and the Spirit-Hunters continue to fight zombies.  Though not as good as the first, there are some good action scenes and new conflicts.

Happy (steam-powered) reading!


Book and Music Pairings Volume 1

All of these books have been previously featured on my other lists!  I couldn’t come up with songs for all of them, so I picked a couple from each list.

Some of the music relates to the atmosphere of the book, as in background music to listen to while reading, while some relates to the characters/plotline.

I will include YouTube links if you are interested in hearing the music; if you are interested in purchasing any of it you can follow the links attached to the videos.

All of the music selected here is either instrumental or contains only clean lyrics.


Book: The Life and Death of Zebulon Finch Volume One: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus

Song: Fur Elise-1920’s Gangster Style by Ethan Uslan

Why They Go Together: The book’s about a 20’s gangster and is written in very fancy words, like a good piece of piano music.


Book: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

Song: Flawed Design by Stabilo

Why They Go Together: The themes of moral conflict and coming of age in this song fit the story quite well–even though it’s happening in the 19th century.


Book: Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata

Song: The Vengeful One by Disturbed (Note: I did not include the official music video due to some simulated violent images that viewers may wish to avoid.)

Why They Go Together: From the line, “justice falls upon you at first Liiiight” and forward, this song perfectly describes the motivation of the main character of Death Note.


Book: HIVE by Mark Walden

Song: Villain by Skarlett Riot

Why They Go Together: This dynamic rock song by Skarlett Riot would probably play in the background if this book were a movie.


Book: The Lumberjanes

Song: Princess Pat as recorded by The Learning Station

Why They Go Together: Nothing suits a story about a Girl Scout-like camp like a classic Girl Scout camp song!


Book: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Song: Little Red Riding Hood by Derek and Brandon Fiechter

Why They Go Together: This fairytale-style music with a creepy twist is the perfect background for this terrifying journey through the forest.


Book: The Secret Circle by L.J. Smith

Song: Salem’s Secret by Peter Gundry

Why They Go Together: Peter Gundry composes a wide range of witch-themed music, which suits the atmosphere of this book perfectly.


Book: Blue is For Nightmares by Laura Faria Stolarz

Song: Hiding in the Dark by Peder B. Helland

Why They Go Together: This music is very creepy, evoking the feeling that you aren’t alone.  Incidentally, the characters in this book experience the same thing, only in real life.


Book: Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

Song: Russian Winter by Derek and Brandon Fiechter

Why They Go Together: Vassa in the Night, despite taking place in modern times, is based heavily on Russian folklore and has a plotline which definitely suggests a song in the minor key such as this one.


Book: Death Cloud by Andrew Lane

Song: “Sherlock” Season 1 theme (The Game Is On)

Why They Go Together: The book’s Sherlock story has a very similar feel to the episodes of the show, with dramatic chase scenes and other action bits not always included in Holmes adaptations.


Book: Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams

Song: A Dangerous Mind by Within Temptation

Why They Go Together: This song illustrates the suspenseful, tense plot of the story.  To say any more would give away major details. : )


Book: The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

Song: Ghosts of Twilight by Derek and Brandon Fiechter

Why They Go Together: Any book about ghosts in London needs an eerie Gothic soundtrack.


Book: The Iron Prince by Julie Kagawa

Song: The Forest Queen by Peter Gundry

Why They Go Together: This atmospheric music will take your imagination straight to an ancient fairy kingdom.

Happy (musical) reading!



5 Books About Faeries

Joining the many vampires and werewolves in YA books these days are faeries.  If you want to take a trip to Avalon or an enchanted forest from your living room, check out these five great books.

1. Tithe by Holly Black

In this story, Kaye finds out that she is actually a green-skinned, pointy-eared pixie!  She then finds out about the unrest in the faerie world and meets a ton of new friends.

2. Wings by Aprilynne Pike

When a blossom starts growing out of Laurel’s back, she discovers that she is a faerie who must protect the gateway to her home world.

3. The Iron Prince by Julie Kagawa

On her 16th birthday, a girl learns she is a princess from another world, and that the already-in-disagreement Winter and Summer Courts of the faerie world are threatened by the rising Iron Court.

4. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Half-faerie, half-human October Daye must return to her private investigator job after spending 40 years in a pond transformed into a koi fish.  (Note:  This book is in the adult section of the library but has content similar to many teen books.)

5. Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan

A boy meets a small faerie in his backyard and is dragged into a mysterious faerie world full of royal intrigue and demons.

Happy (enchanting) reading!


Family Fun at the Chantilly Library Comic-Con

So, as a TAB member interested in what our awesome local libraries have been doing, I decided to go to the Library Comic-Con at Chantilly High School today!  I definitely recommend the experience.

First, I decided at the last minute to attempt a really casual cosplay of the BBC version of Sherlock Holmes.  Fortunately, I had a purple shirt that I wore in a similar outfit for a con last year, so I was able to vaguely emulate this look, collar and all:


(this image and all others found on Google Images)

Being your average teen, I looked a lot more like this, and nobody got the reference, but it was really fun anyway:


(This is a really cute look by the way, just not very detective-y.)

Next, I went to Chantilly High School and started checking out what was there.  I’m glad the event was fairly small, because I was able to check out nearly everything with time to spare.  I also think this made the event a lot more family-friendly, because although the AwesomeCon floor in D.C. is a pretty cool place for kids and parents, the Washington Convention Center is kind of daunting.  It was really cool seeing all the kids and parents who dressed up together, and I saw little wizards and Jedis everywhere.  There was even a kid and his stuffed tiger who were Calvin and Hobbes!

One of the best parts of the event was all of the artists selling their art.  The hallway was similar to an Artist’s Alley at a larger event, with artists selling fan art, original webcomic-based work, novels, jewelry, baked goods, and plushies.  There were even chain mail keychains kind of like this, something you don’t see every day:


After a bit of art browsing, I went to see the great speech given by keynote speaker Gene Luen Yang.  This speech was part of the reason I came to the con, because I greatly enjoyed Yang’s graphic novels Level Up, Boxers, Saints, The Eternal Smile, American Born Chinese, and The Shadow Hero.  So I guess you could say I was a bit familiar with his work.  In his speech, Yang told the story of his journey through the comics world, including his first Xeroxed comics in 5th grade and his first published books.  He also discussed his experience in computers and the importance of diversity in books for kids and teens, a topic definitely welcome in a diverse community like Reston.  As a fan of graphic novels, books about hacking/computers, and stories in which school kids have cool adventures, I had to get a copy of the author’s newest book, Secret Coders.  Apparently, the story incorporates actual facts about computer science and coding, which is a great way of combining STEM and the arts.


Afterwards, I played a casual game of Dungeons and Dragons with some other attendees, trying on the role of a High Elf Wizard fighting evil gemstones.  (For those of you familiar with DnD, this was my first time playing a Wizard after playing a Rogue the two times before, and I like the Wizard gameplay a bit better because of all the spells!)

Of course, the event being a ComicCon, I also got some comic books.  Most of the comic books were really inexpensive, about $1 each for most of them, and some of the sample comics were free.  For example, I got free samples of :

-Uglies author Scott Westerfeld’s new graphic novel, Spill Night

-a couple Boom! Box Comics short stories (Lumberjanes, Giant Days)

-a Babymouse/Lunch Lady sneak preview (courtesy of the Chantilly Library)

-a comic about Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s high school years mixed with something related to Plants vs. Zombies.

I appreciated that the con offered a number of fun, inexpensive items aimed at teens and younger kids, unlike the $200 fantasy art anthologies common at larger events.



Lastly, I went to the last few minutes of a Magic: The Gathering workshop, where I learned about the differences between green, white, red, blue, and black magic.  If the pictures above are any indication, the art in this game is pretty awesome, regardless of plotline or gameplay.  Apparently, green represents nature, white represents order, red represents emotion, and black represents deep stuff like rebirth…I’m not sure exactly what blue means.  I guess I’ll need to ask one of my Magic-obsessed friends when we try playing one of the two free Magic decks the presenter gave us listeners at the end.  That was definitely a cool plot twist, although considering the already-vast amount of free stuff I shouldn’t have been too surprised. : )

Anyways, if they do this again next year, I will definitely be attending!  All in all, the day was full of fun and the presenters did a great job of organizing the event.




10 Books For Fans of Sherlock Holmes

After I saw the BBC show “Sherlock,” I decided to make it my mission to read any and every mystery ever.  I’ve started reading some of the original Sherlock Holmes stories, which are an obvious choice, although I’ve listed here some books that are similar. (Death Cloud, The Clockwork Scarab, and Eye of the Crow are Holmes adaptations; Down the Rabbit Hole includes many Holmes references; The Agency and The Name of the Star take place in London; and My Own Worst Frenemy, Fake ID, Terrier, and You Killed Wesley Payne have more awesome detective action.)

1. Death Cloud by Andrew Lane (#1 in Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins series)

Imagine Sherlock Holmes as a 14-year-old kid.  That’s basically what this book is about.  Although Lane’s characterization evokes the impulsiveness of characters like Alex Rider a little more than I’m comfortable with, young Sherlock develops into somebody a little more recognizable in the sequels.  (Which are better than the first in my opinion, but you do need the first book to understand the rest.)

2. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason (#1 in Stoker and Holmes series)

This story features Sherlock Holmes, but focuses much more on his niece and her best friend, who is related to vampire author Bram Stoker.  The girls spend their time solving mysteries and staking vampires, which is awesome in itself, not to mention the story has a cool steampunk atmosphere, time travel, and multiple perspectives.  At its heart, though, the story’s greatest strength is its characters and plot.

3. The Agency: The Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (#1 in The Agency series)

Another story with great characterization is The Spy in the House.  Unlike many girls in Victorian era books, Mary Quinn isn’t rich and doesn’t live in a fancy house, so she feels a lot more honest than some portrayals of girls in the time period.  She also has an admirable sense of justice and is incredibly smart and resourceful, like any girl detective.

4. Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams (#1 in Echo Falls series)

The best part by far of this Holmes-inspired book is the realism.  Ingrid, the 13-year-old protagonist, must solve a crime…while still going to soccer practice, attending theatre rehearsals, and doing math homework.  She also has friends and enjoys fun stuff like riding her bike and sleepovers, like any other young teenager.  Of course, she practices deductive reasoning in her spare time, which sets her apart a little bit.

5. Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock (#1 in Young Sherlock series)

This book follows Sherlock Holmes when he’s about 9-12 years old, making it more of a middle grade book, but it’s definitely written with as much detail as most teen books.  The story gets a bit heavy in parts, which makes it all the more meaningful, plus there’s amazing imagery and, of course, some cool deduction stuff.

6. My Own Worst Frenemy by Kimberly Reid (#1 in Langdon Prep series)

In this story, 10th-grade scholarship student Chanti Evans must solve a mystery at her new prep school.  Unlike many teen mystery characters, Chanti is funny and relatable, with the same sorts of teen issues normal girls have.  If you’re looking for a light-hearted mystery book, you will love My Own Worst Frenemy.

7. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (#1 in Shades of London series)

This book combines London’s mysterious atmosphere with a hilarious narrator and ghosts.  Yes, ghosts.  A little out of the “realm of reality” that Sherlock Holmes is in, but the London location makes it somewhat reminiscent, not to mention the plotline has a somewhat historical basis.  There’s a bit of romance and friendship in there too, as well as a somewhat diverse cast of memorable characters.  Having gone to London the summer before I read it made it even better, because the author knows the location somewhat well.

8. Fake ID by Lamar Giles

Reston readers may be excited to hear that this bestselling book takes place in Virginia!  Southern Virginia, yes, but Virginia nonetheless.  Plus there’s some government intrigue D.C.-area teens will love.  I can’t say much more without giving away the plot, but trust me:  You will likely be up all night reading this book.

9. Terrier by Tamora Pierce (#1 in Beka Cooper Trilogy)

What makes Terrier unique is that it combines a mystery with plenty of fantasy elements and fascinating characters.  The main character, Beka, has a special connection to animals and must investigate a crime involving magical artifacts.  The book is written in a diary format and includes an appendix with plenty of world-building information, perfect for fans of both fantasy and mysteries.

10. You Killed Wesley Payne by Sean Beaudoin

Dalton, a sarcastic, witty, and kind-of-cheesy protagonist, goes to a new school in order to solve the murder of a popular student.  With completely hilarious and over-the-top high school tropes and a goofy appendix/glossary explaining Dalton’s personal jargon, Beaudoin is one of few authors to incorporate serious world-building into a supposedly realistic story.

Happy (mysterious) reading!