The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows (Jacqueline West)

Olive and her family have just moved into the creepiest house on the block. It feels weird, looks weird, and smells weird. Still, the family (known to have a hefty dose of weird themselves) moves in and begins to settle.

The weird thing is, the walls are covered with paintings...creepy, beautiful, sinister, and classic-looking paintings. Odder still, the paintings are fixed fast to the walls. Before long, Olive discovers that there is way more to this new house of hers...and its paintings...than meets the eye.

The Sea of Monsters (Rick Riordan)

This is the second installment in the Percy Jackson series. Percy's friend Groves is in big trouble, and it will take everything he and Annabeth can do to save both their friend and all of Camp Half-blood.

The camp is in utter chaos when one of their long-standing defenses begins to fail. Everyone will be killed unless Percy and Annabeth can retrieve the golden fleece from Polyphemos (a giant Cyclops), which just happens to be in the middle of the Sea of Monsters (commonly known as the Bermuda Triangle). One disaster after another awaits them in this portion of the sea, but it is their friendship that keeps them pressing on. A new characters introduced in this book is Tyson, a young Cyclops. It is difficult to determine whether he is friend or foe, and as Percy figures that out, he reveals some interesting pieces of his character and his relationship with Annabeth.

The Lightning Thief (Rick Riordan) [Percy Jackson Series: #1]

Percy Jackson is just a regular kid. Just a regular, middle school kid. Sure, weird things happen to him. Water does strange things when he feels strong emotions. Or does it? Maybe he imagines it.

Actually, Percy J is sort of a son of Poseidon. It's kind of a long story, but Papa Poseidon and human Mama Jackson go their separate ways and Percy never knows his father. And it's all fun and games until a lightning bolt gets stolen. A rather important lightning bolt. Zeus's lightning bolt, to be exact. Zeus thinks Poseidon took it, Poseidon blames Hades, Hades blames everyone, and the world is going to implode unless that bolt can be recovered.

Percy Jackson and his friends are the kids for the job. They trek all over tarnation trying to locate the bolt and then return it back to Zeus in order to stop World War III, and all along the way it seems that everyone and everything are trying to stop them.

This is the first installment in the Percy Jackson series. The series is wildly popular with kids, and in its movie form as well. I can see why! Incredible suspense, Greek mythology, and classic good vs. evil all make for strong elements in young adult literature. I found it interesting that the author is a middle school English teacher. That explains how he nails middle school humor and logic so well.

Gone With the Wand (Margie Palatini)

Margie Palatini is one of the funniest children's authors there is. I fell for her at Piggie Pie, and have long since been her biggest fan. She manages to write in such a witty, funny way that makes kids roll around on the carpet laughing and it gives us grown-ups a good chuckle too. I love the way her stories are just plain funny, and I love the way kids love her books. 

Gone With the Wand is the tale of a fairy godmother who was having a "bad wand day." Suddenly her wand wouldn't work, and through the help of another fairy friend, she makes a valiant attempt at finding another line of fairy godmother work that would crank up her wand magic once more. There are some zany adventures that will crack your kids up before this fairy godmother gets her very own "happily ever after."

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella (Stephenie Meyer)

If you're a true Twilight fan, you've read all of the books in the series at least twice. Maybe three times. :) You've waited in line to catch the midnight openings of each movie, and probably giggled a little bit at the concession stand when you're getting your souvenir cup and the dude asked you, in a very cryptic way, "Which character do you choose?"

But do you have the foggiest idea who Bree Tanner is? Maybe you do, maybe you missed her brief encounter with the Cullens at the end of Eclipse. I actually did remember Bree Tanner but I didn't think about her very much. She seemed...inconsequential.

Bree Tanner is a 15-year-old runaway who had the distinct misfortune of being turned into a vampire solely for the purpose of serving as a soldier in Victoria's army of newborns. The title tells us that she has a short second life, because we already know that at the end of Eclipse, Bree Tanner is killed by the Volturi. (Spoiler-gasp.) She dies. We know this when we begin reading the 192-page novella that helps us better understand Victoria's strategy and process of creating this army of newborn vampires. Victoria, you see, is rather peeved that Edward killed her mate James (Now we are taking it old school, all the way back to Twilight.) She has tried and failed in other methods of trying to get her revenge on Edward by killing his beloved Bella, so this pack of newborns is her latest and greatest attempt. She wants Bella dead, and she thinks that if she uses a bunch of fresh, incredibly strong- even for vampires- run by her puppet/gopher boy Riley, then she can avoid Edward's pesky ability to read minds and therefore anticipate her attack on Bella.

So complicated. Isn't it ohsowonderful and ohsoexhausting?! I love these books.

So anyways, back to Bree. As it turns out, Bree was far from a mindless, blood-thirsty newborn vampire like the others Victoria was creating. She's likable, witty, intelligent, and scared to death, and as you get to know this young Bree Tanner, you begin to hope beyond all hope that somehow the ending that has already been written will change, that somehow her demise won't come as you've already read it in Eclipse. Poor Bree Tanner.

Her Second Short Life is fantastic, and really helpful in adding yet another dimension to the Twilight series. Her Second Short Life also proves yet again that no Twilight character is inconsequential.