Thursday, August 25, 2011

Holy Cow, It’s Almost September! or Five Books to Get You in the Mood for School

Guest Post By Jill-Elizabeth

I don’t know about you, but I can’t even believe it is almost September…where did the summer go? It seems like it was just Memorial Day, like summer was just beginning, like the weather was just starting to warm up to the perfect sit-in-a-hammock temperature. And yet here we are, the end of August, the night coming on earlier every day, the weather cooling down at night to actually require – gasp, shudder – long sleeves!

It’s been a little while since I’ve been in school myself, but I’ve never entirely lost that whole ugh-it’s-September feeling – and not just because I’ve spent the last few years helping get small people ready for their own back-to-school days. I love Fall, don’t get me wrong – leaves changing colors, cooler weather, crisp air that smells like apples. But there’s still something sad about the days getting shorter and the calendar getting busier. I may not miss the heat or the bugs or the chaos of summer, but I definitely do miss the laziness of the days.

But as with everything, there’s always some silver lining. Fall brings school, sure, but it also brings a whole slew of new back-to-school reading. So in honor of that, I bring you a few back to school books for your consideration – and by “school books” I mean quite literally books about schools. Cool schools. The kind that I rather would have liked to attend. At least one will be obvious; the others may surprise you (and tell you more than you’d like to know about the contents of my head). But they’re all great and worth a look!

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling: By now, Hogwarts must be the most famous school in the world, right? I will admit, it made me rather sorry I never got to enjoy the miracle of British boarding school – at least, the miracle of non-Muggle British boarding school. There’s not a lot to say that hasn’t already been said – and if there is someone out there reading this who is not already familiar with Harry and his world, well, I’m not sure where exactly I’d begin anyway. I understand Harry has made a lot of educators talk – some in his favor (“kids actually read these books”), some against (“these books are the tool of the devil”). Personally, I tend to fall wholeheartedly on the former end of the spectrum. And if you know a child in need of reading encouragement, you can do a lot worse than Harry and friends…

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart: Take four special kids (and by “special” of course I mean utterly fantastically unique), add in a “school” program tailored to maximize those utterly fantastically unique abilities and a narcoleptic leader and what do you have? Stewart’s own take on the good-kids-must-defeat-evil-adults genre, of course. The series opens strongly; I was particularly fond of the initial “entrance”-testing, which I’m sad to report I would likely not have passed. Then again, given the troubles the kids find themselves in throughout the course of the book, maybe that is an entirely good thing. I will admit that I found the second and third books a little derivative, but there is still good stuff going on throughout to warrant a read.

The Fiction Class by Susan Breen: It’s not exactly your typical “school” book, but it is a great story for adults looking to get back into the swing of education by taking a class. A fiction class. The Fiction Class tells the tale of Arabella Hicks (poor dear – blame her mother for her name; she does), a frustrated writer who has been struggling with her novel – and her mother – forever, and who teaches a weekly fiction writing class for prospective authors. The book is organized along with the class syllabus; the story shifts between chapters devoted to Arabella’s class and her personal life. Eventually, of course, the two overlap. Much hilarity ensues – along with much frustration, poignancy, and a painful-but-crucial realization or two. It’s proof positive that learning can be fun – and funny.

Midnight for Charlie Bone (The Charlie Bone Books) by Jennie Nimmo: Charlie Bone is like Harry Potter, only not as famous (and not an orphan). But his adventures are equally as enjoyable. Bloor’s Academy is full of creepy management and horrid students, but I still think it’d be rather cool to be a descendant of the Red King and to spend your days trying to figure out exactly what your legacy – and those weird noises and locked doors signified. Charlie and his fellow students find themselves embroiled in the classic war of good-vs.-evil – albeit with some new and intriguing twists. And they still have to do homework. Hardly seems fair, does it?

The Charm School by Nelson DeMille: Okay, this one probably doesn’t belong here because it’s really a cold-war spy thriller from one of the masters of the genre. But still, it IS about a school – the eponymous “charm school” is a training ground for Soviet agents who will be sent to infiltrate the United States. I know it’s not exactly the traditional kind of “school” most people who enjoy attending, but I find the idea of a total-immersion social experience training camp to be rather fascinating. And this one is all wrapped up in a fantastically entertaining (and sometimes more than a little terrifying) package. Who wouldn’t love that? J

A former corporate attorney and government relations/health policy executive, Jill-Elizabeth walked away from that world (well, skipped actually) and toward a more literary life (equally challenging, but infinitely more enjoyable). If you enjoyed this review, please visit her at, the official home of All Things Jill-Elizabeth – that is, all of the teehees, musings, rants, book reviews, writing exercises, and witticisms of her burgeoning writing career.

Autumn leaves and Hogwarts images - Creative Commons license

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Nora B. Peevy said...

Hi Erin,

Nice blog hop entry. I have never read The Charlie Bone Books, but will add them to my to-read list. I've read a few of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy for young adults and those are good books to add to this list. Also, The Blue Girl, one of Charles de Lint's Newford town books, is set high school. It is a favorite of mine.

Hope to see you on my blog this weekend.


shah wharton said...

I concur with Nora and almost all points ;D I haven't read vampire academy yet though. I'm still wondering whether to do so. I don't know if vamp diaries and twilight and harry potter has been enough YA for me? I tend to think that although I really enjoyed them, I'm much more Adult ! Great post again Erin! Shah X

Kelly L said...

I love fall too! I have never read the Harry Potter books - I just purchased all the DVDs and I hope to watch the last movie on the big screen soon..
Following from Boost My Blog Friday -
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Erin O'Riordan said...

Kelly - I'm your newest follower. Haven't read the Harry Potter books? You should. The movies leave so much out. For example, in the movies, Harry never once feeds his leftover toast to the giant squid that lives in the Black Lake.

Shah - It's tough to balance YA and adult reading. There are a lot of terrifically talented YA authors at the moment.

Nora - I haven't read any of those things. I've heard good things about Vampire Academy, though.

Tania B said...

Great list! I will have to make note of some of these books. Thanks. I'm a new follower from the Weekend Hop at A Spicy Boy, A Cat, and My Fat Ass. Please follow me back and feel free to drop by Horseshoes anytime.

Erin O'Riordan said...

Thank you, Tania. I'm now following back.

Love the picture of your "furbaby!"

Jill Elizabeth said...

Thanks again Erin for the opportunity to guest post! So glad to see that I came up with at least one that some of you haven't heard of in Charlie Bone... :) The books are very fun - there are a bunch of them now too. They're more Harry P than Vamp Diaries - fun good-vs-evil, smart-kids-outwit-mean-grownups books that read pretty fast. Thanks for the other recommendations too - I now have some new ones for my TBR list too! I have a couple of Charles de Lint, but haven't gotten to them yet - I've heard great things tho...

Erin O'Riordan said...

Thank you for another great guest post, Jill!

m. christine weber said...

I love autumn! It's the perfect weather to curl up all cozy with a book and hot cocoa. And now I have a yummy reading list to get me started! These are great recommends, some I've read, some I've not. Thanks for posting!


Jill Elizabeth said...

You are very welcome Erin - I'm so glad our post-swaps are working out so well!

And M. Christine - I agree about Fall, it is bar none my favorite season for all those reasons! So glad I could offer some new suggestions to pass the time... :)