All posts by C. J. Milbrandt

About C. J. Milbrandt

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#amreading Blues

In Spy School (the first in a lengthy series), Ben is recruited by the CIA and shipped off to spy school in order to learn how to be an agent. Which may have been the worst decision of his life. Fun and often funny, this is essentially a mystery, and the stakes are higher than your average kid ever has to face. Al Capone Shines My Shoes is the second book set among the families of the guards who live and work on Alcatraz, Moose needs to “get square” with Al Capone. A slice-of-life, small-town kind of story about a tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Loved seeing Natalie again (Moose’s sister, who would have been properly diagnosed if autism had been understood back then). She’s a brave girl and someone who shouldn’t be underestimated. The Maze of Bones is a series starter that will pass round-robin style through a bunch of different authors. When a wealthy aunt dies, relatives gather from all over the world in order to hear the reading of her will. Some take their money and run, but some accept her posthumous challenge.

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#amreading Purple

Island of Ogres is an interesting addition to the Zenta and Matsuzo series, especially since much of the story does not take place from their point of view. The outsider perspective from another quick-witted ronin allowed us deeper into the mystery. I needed a “Q” for the A-Z Reading Challenge, so I reached for Queen Clarion’s Secret. On an exceptionally windy day, a fairy named Prilla sees Queen Clarion do something unusual and tries to follow. Losing track of her, she shares her concern with a few friends, who help her try to track down the missing royal. I’ve started picking up books in this series as well. Ambush wraps up the Pillage trilogy. Wherever Beck goes, trouble follows. And sometimes, it’s not even his fault. Obert Skye is now on my favorite authors list.

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Currently Reading

Then and Now. I only show you three books at a time on my weekly #amreading posts, which has led to quite the backlog. So the books I’m posting about are titles I read a year or so ago. (Not much sign that I’ll catch up to myself, either.) That’s why I asked Elza to create some spiffy new templates so I can share my current read … and what’s up next!

No surprise, these are all titles that fit on my January BINGO board. : )

#amreading Families

Sunny Side Up is a graphic novel. Sunny goes to stay with her grandfather in a Florida retirement community. The reasons for this visit unfold through a series of flashbacks about her older brother, who’s fallen in with a bad crowd. (Rule-breaking, drinking, drug use, violence, etc.) So Sunny’s mostly stuck with a bunch of old people and their weird habits. In Almost Super, Rafter and his brother Benny are Baileys, and they’re about to come into the family legacy. On Leap Day, every Bailey who’s turned twelve inherits their super power. Which they use in their ongoing battle against the Johnsons (insert fist-shake). But their big moment doesn’t arrive in quite the way it should. Rafter and Benny are determined to get their due, even if it means taking on the Johnsons (insert fist-shake) alone. The Track series wraps up with Lu‘s story. Albinism and armor. Mistakes and making up. Hurdles and hard truths. Lessons learned and lightning striking twice. Amazing series. I loved these kids, their families, their coach, and their courage.

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New Year – New Reading Goal

Doing it Different. This year, I’m switching up how I choose the books I’ll read. I’m a big fan of reading challenges, and I regularly participate in three:

  • A to Z Challenge (Great Middle Grade Reads)
  • Series Challenge (Great Middle Grade Reads)
  • Reading Bingo Boards (Middle Grade Carousel)

The only problem is that I’m always choosing books because they fit the challenge. And waiting to read many books I’m eager for … until they fit a challenge. I’m tired of putting them off! So this year, I decided to scan my shelves and compile a list of 100 Middle Grade Books that I will (finally) read in 2021. Many are recent releases. Some are part of a series or trilogy I started. And all of them are books I can’t wait to pick up!

Since many of these books are long(ish), I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal much lower this year: 100 books. If I clear that goal early, great! I’ll nudge it up in increments until the end of the year. Will I diverge from the set list? Of course! Those 100 titles are all middle grade books, but I also read in other genres (mostly historical and paranormal mysteries). AND I’ll still be working toward an A to Z Challenge & playing Bingo each month. Lots of wiggle room & diversity.

Want a peek at my book list? I’ll be sharing it in bits & pieces in upcoming blog posts (and probably on Twitter, too.) Follow along!

Here’s to a new year! May every title be star-worthy!

#amreading Challenges

Ever done an Alphabet Challenge on Goodreads? Finding books that start with “X” is a challenge all on its own. In The X’ed-Out X-Ray, a trio of friends encounter another mystery after winning tickets to a Penelope Gwinn (a.k.a. Penguin) concert. Her diamond necklace is stolen, and Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose think they may have seen the culprit. In the third installment of the Track series, we learn about Sunny, who’s weird in his own wonderful way. But also sad and angry and lonely and honest and real. And another A-Z Challenge pick: Zepha the Monster Squid. Having accomplished his first Beast Quest (Bk 1-6), Tom was supposed to receive a marvelous suit of armor as his reward. But before the king can bestow it, it’s stolen, and the pieces are scattered. Tom must now gather the pieces, a task made difficult by a whole new set of Beasts he will have to conquer. I’ve begun collecting the Beast Quest titles whenever I go thrifting.

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#amreading Diversely

Morning Girl is a picture of life on an island in the south, where life is simple. The people have few needs, strong feelings, and traditions that pique a reader’s curiosity. Perspective shifts between two siblings, known as Morning Girl and Star Boy. Patina is the second installment of the Track series, in which we learn more about Patty’s story. Her struggles at a new school. What it’s like being raised by her godparents. The traditions she carries on with her little sister. And her reasons for running. In Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World, Justin’s had just about enough of living with girls, and he doesn’t see why he should be expected to do “women’s work.” When his grandfather visits, he invites Justin to come back with him to the ranch, where he learns a bit about his family’s history, which changes his perspectives a lot. Contemporary (written in the 1980s), but sprinkled with historical accounts and information about black cowboys in America.

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