Writing Fun with Chuck Cascio


(Image from Chuck Cascio’s Twitter)

On Thursday, May 25th, local author Chuck Cascio visited the Teen Advisory Board and told us about his adventures in journalism and fiction writing.

We heard about his experiences writing for multiple newspapers and mentoring multiple school newspapers, including Reston’s own South Lakes Sentinel.  He also lead us in a fun creative writing exercise and read us the first chapter of his new book, The Fire Escape Stories Volume One, which is on sale now.

His second book, The Fire Escape Stories Volume Two, also came out recently, and you can purchase it here.

Happy reading!


Book and Music Pairings Volume 3


(Images found on Google Images)

Since many of my more recent lists are shorter, I put off this post for awhile.

Book: The Apothecary by Maile Meloy

Music: Music Inspired By Alchemy: Faustus

Why They Go Together: The story includes a lot of alchemy, so this pairing makes a lot of sense.


Book: Perfect Ruin by Lauren Destefano

Music: Dollhouse by Melanie Martinez

Why They Go Together: Everything seems perfect in Morgan’s world, until she finds the truth.


Book: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Song: I Just Can’t Wait to Be King from Disney’s “The Lion King”

Why They Go Together: Although Macbeth is not an adorable lion, he definitely can not wait to be king.


Book: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Song: Night Faeries by Brandon Fiechter

Why They Go Together: This music will transport you to the magical forest described in Shakespeare’s famous play.


Book: The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

Music: The Elixir of Life by Peter Gundry

Why They Go Together: This music is perfect for an epic fantasy like The Emerald Atlas with mountains, caves, villains, and mysterious books.


Book: Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake

Song: Gothic Ballerina by Derek and Brandon Fiechter

Why They Go Together: This song evokes images of pretty ghosts, just like Anna in Anna Dressed in Blood.


Happy (atmospheric) reading!



5 Paranormal Books Without Vampires, Werewolves, or Zombies

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(Image found on Google Images)

If you’re not interested in Twilight, Vampire Academy, Shiver, World War Z, or the other popular, fun, but sort of cliched vampire/werewolf/zombie books, here are some paranormal books with other types of characters.

1. My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent (Soul Screamers series Book 1)

Kaylee Cavanaugh finds out that she is actually a banshee in this fun, quick paranormal mystery.

2. Die For Me by Amy Plum (Die for Me trilogy Book 1)

A girl moves to Paris and finds that her boyfriend is actually an immortal revenant who can come back to life repeatedly.

3. Firelight by Sophie Jordan (Firelight trilogy Book 1)

Three words (or two if you count hyphenated words as one word): human-dragon shapeshifters.  Although the dragon hunter plotline is a bit cheesy, the dragon part is pretty cool.

4. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (Anna Dressed in Blood duology Book 1)

A ghost hunter falls in love with a mysterious ghost girl.  One of the few paranormal books with a male protagonist, Anna Dressed in Blood has a great voice and is perfect for reading late at night.

5. Born of Illusion by Teri Brown (Born of Illusion trilogy Book 1)

Set in 1920’s New York City, Anna discovers she has psychic powers when performing in her mother’s magic show.

6. The Apothecary by Maile Meloy (The Apothecary trilogy Book 1)

Two children must use a magical alchemical manuscript in order to save the world.  Although the characters could have been less stereotypical, the story was somewhat original and enjoyable.

Happy (supernatural) reading!


5 Books About Books


(Image found on Google Images)

What better to read about than books themselves?

1. Rex Libris: I, Librarian by James Turner (Rex Libris Book 1)

Rex Libris is a librarian-turned-superhero who must control rogue fictional characters in this humorous graphic novel.

2. The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (Books of Beginning trilogy Book 1)

Kate, Michael, and Emma are orphaned siblings who must travel through caves to find a mysterious book that can control time.  The plot is somewhat cliched for a kids’ book, but heartfelt nonetheless.

3. The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman

Timothy Hunter travels through time and space in this artistic adventure.

4. The Center of the Universe by Anita Liberty

Based on the author’s real-life diary, this book chronicles the high school experience in a hilarious way.  It’s a really quick read that’s perfect for summer.

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Also based on the author’s childhood, Junior transfers to a school off the Native American reservation on which he lives and faces prejudice while also learning to play basketball.  The format is similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, but the story is much deeper and more interesting, while still being a funny, quick read.

Happy (bookish) reading!



5 Short Stories


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If you don’t want to read a whole book, you may enjoy a short story.  Because these stories are so short, I’m giving only a genre and a 1-sentence synopsis.

1. The Landlady by Roald Dahl  (Genre: horror)

A young man checks into a seemingly normal bed-and-breakfast.

2. Tobermory by H. H. Munro (Genre: comedy)

A cat can talk, becoming the viral hero of the 1800s.

3. The Open Window by H. H. Munro (Genre: suspense)

A girl tells a story to a guest.

4. The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs (Genre: horror)

A boy receives a mummified monkey’s paw that can grant three wishes.

5. The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Genre: science fiction/tragedy)

A man attempts to cure his wife’s birthmark.

Happy (short) reading!


5 Non-Boring Classics


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If you want to read a classic book for fun, look no further.  Although these aren’t exactly light reading, they contain some adventure, drama, and humor that will keep you reading.  They can get dry at times and have a lot of unnecessary words, but at least they’re more interesting than large, 1000-page volumes of instructions for obsolete computers.

1. Watership Down by Richard Adams

You thought bunnies were cute?  Think again!  “Cute fluffy animals” meet “[insert really any medieval fantasy book about epic quests and warring kingdoms here]” in this long, imaginative novel.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Victor Frankenstein is just your average college kid, until he seeks to conquer death, creates a monster, and it all goes downhill from there.  It’s all fun and games until he’s faced with deep, dark, deathlike solitude.  If you like horror stories and highly unlikable protagonists, you will love this book.

3. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

This short book about a bird getting reincarnated is very thought-provoking.  If you’re looking for “very deep book to read in half an hour,” this is one of your best picks.

4. Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Macbeth hears it’s his destiny to become king, so he decides to start killing people in order to make that happen.  His wife encourages him.  Things go downhill from there.  The story, despite being a tragedy, has plenty of exciting, spooky moments and drama.

5. A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

The complete opposite of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains all the comedy elements of a good teen novel: relationship drama, a characters-switching-places plot, a troublemaker, pranks, a goofy group of people trying to get something done, and forest faeries.  If that’s not funny, I don’t know what is.

Happy (classic) reading!


5 Dystopian Books You May Not Have Heard Of


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If you’ve read any teen books in the past 5 years, you know that dystopian settings are a very common theme.  You’ve probably heard of bestsellers such as the Hunger Games triology, the Divergent trilogy, and the Uglies quartet.

1. Pawn by Aimee Carter (Pawn series Book 1)

A girl in a lower class gets transformed to look like the daughter of one of the country’s rulers after her mysterious death.  I read this book incredibly fast and although it’s not all that interesting in terms of world-building, the character conflicts alone are somewhat interesting.

2. Perfect Ruin by Lauren Destefano (Perfect Ruin series Book 1)

Morgan must solve the mystery of how a classmate of hers, who wrote a controversial essay, died.  It’s a combination of your average teen dystopia and a murder mystery, with plenty of interesting background details.

3. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina (The Tribe series Book 1)

In the future, people with supernatural abilities, called Illegals, are hunted down by the government for research.  Ashala and her Tribe of Illegal friends live in the Firstwood, a mysterious forest that protects them.  With a plot told a little bit like the movie “Inception,” dream-travel and all, as well as superpowers, political conflict, character development, and creatures reminiscent of dinosaurs, this genre-blending novel is the perfect summer read.

4. The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (The Testing series Book 1)

Although it’s very similar to The Hunger Games, those who prefer an intellectual battle to the death will greatly enjoy this strong beginning to a teen dystopian trilogy.  The main character is unique and relatable, although the side characters leave something to be desired and some of the background information ultimately doesn’t make much sense.  However, what would be the point of a dystopian book if the dystopia actually made sense?

5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This classic dystopian book was assigned to me in English class and I really didn’t know what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised to find a frightening, ambiguous, and oddly readable story about a society in which women are treated as objects and have no hope of escape.  (Note: This book does contain some violence and relationship themes that some readers may wish to avoid.)

Happy (dystopian) reading!