Monthly Archives: July 2017

Chocolate Monday: Co Co Sala

Coco closeThis might be my last post about my DC trip, which I’ll admit makes me a bit sad. While I only spent four days there, they were four really fun days. On our last morning in town, just hours before our plane was to depart, my best friend and I took one more rather purposeful stroll around town. On our very first day, while waiting for our DC friend to wake up, we spent a few hours walking around and doing some light shopping. As part of our walking adventure, we stumbled on a chocolate shop. Sadly, it was closed when we first passed by, but we thought we’d give it one more try before we headed home.

This time it was open, so we headed in to Co Co Sala. It wasn’t until I got back home and actually looked up the company online that I realized it was not only a chocolate boutique but also a full fledged restaurant, complete with some pretty amazing sounding desserts. It’s probably better for my waistline that I didn’t know this because I think we might have just had dessert for dinner one night.

The boutique itself was pretty spartan. There were only a small handful of their signature chocolates on display in the front case. Most of them were dark pieces, so I wasn’t instantly excited about them. The two pieces I was interested in were out of stock. Behind them was a shelf of their Co Co Bars. There were only five to pick from in the store, although their website offers 9. That day my choices were: dark, milk, blonde, Some More (s’more) and Dulcey Pearl. Looking at the website, I really wish the Frankly, My Dear bar would have been in stock because it seems right up my alley.

CoCo full with beadsAlthough I usually love anything s’more inspired, since it was dark chocolate, I decided to try the Dulcey Pearl bar. The three different types of chocolate “pearls” really made this bar appeal to me. I also liked that the descriptive card said it was “An elegant blond chocolate bar reminiscent of dulce de leche.” I love dulce de leche, so I figured this one was a good risk.

Despite being a “blond” bar, this one does not have the overly sweet taste that often comes with white chocolate. I like white chocolate in moderation, but find that far too many of white chocolate bars have an overly sweet, almost artificial taste to them. This bar does not. It does have slight undertones of caramel, but they are only the vaguest hint. Mostly, this bar is just super creamy and quite delightful. I like the added little crisp from the “pearls.” They don’t really alter the taste much, but they give the bar a fun texture. Sort of like eating a “crispy” bar, but without the constant crisp, which allows for a smoother, creamier texture.

CoCo with nameI also think the bar was attractive to look at. Not only was the front of it fun with all of those little pearls and the simple, but attractive logo, but the back was also enticing. Although it was simply a bigger version of the logo, I though the cluster of pearls at the top was cute. The packaging is simple and elegant. I think it would make a lovely gift.

After trying this bar, I definitely wish Co Co Sala had had a few more offerings that morning we popped into the shop. I know the next time I make it to DC, I will definitely pop in not just for another bar (or two), but also to try some of their food, especially their desserts.


Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 9/10
Value: 7/10 (although it is tasty, at $10 a bar, it is still a bit pricey)


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Free Reading Friday: Vengeance Road

Vengeance RoadI am not generally a fan of Westerns. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. I LOVED Deadwood, but I think that might have a bit more do do with my overall love for Timothy Olyphant. I also really like Westworld, but it’s not exactly a typical Western.

I was, however, a die-hard Little House on the Prairie fan as a kid. I can’t even count the hours I spent reading and re-reading all of the books. I still remember trying to grasp how Ma’s waist could be small enough that Pa’s fingers could touch when he wrapped his hands around it. When I was 10 I had no idea what a corset was. I also spent way more hours than any child probably should in front of the TV watching reruns of the show pretty much every day after school. My mom was really strict on what I was/wasn’t allowed to watch and Little House was on the approved list. So I devoured it.

I dressed up as Laura Ingalls for at least three different Halloweens. I also have a picture of me, in the fifth grade in a very 70’s (it was a Goodwill find), very pink, very Little House inspired dress. Thankfully I left the bonnet at home. Probably only because it was yellow and even I knew it would clash. That’s right, I loved the prairie so much that I wore it as part of my every day life. I was sooooooo not cool. But I LOVED me some prairie life.

I think my love for those good ol’ Little House days was probably what led me to grab Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman from the stack of books that arrived at my school library right before the start of summer.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the cover hinted at nostalgia and it’s on the Eliot Rosewater nominee list, so I added it onto my already considerably large pile. As is usual, my eyes get a little bit bigger than, well, my time, during the summer. I always think I’m going to get more reading done than I actually do. While I was certainly no slouch this summer (so far I’ve finished 22 books), I still see 4 books sitting on my piano bench and I think realistically I’ll only get through one or two more before classes start.

Despite its wild west exterior, for some reason I was not actually expecting this book to be about the actual Wild West. I really like going into books with no preconceived notions at all. It’s often a delightful surprise.

And it was with this book. From the opening line, “It weren’t no secret Pa owned the best plot of land ‘long Granite Creek, and I reckon that’s why they killed him,” I felt myself being pulled into the old West, a genre I’m not entirely comfortable in, but as I’ve said, have some serious, specific love for.

The first chapter of this book reminded me more than a bit of True Grit, a movie I quite enjoyed. The plot is only similar at the root–a young girl sets off to avenge the death of her father and along the way picks up two men who agree to help her. Both groups track the killer through “Indian country” and violent shoot outs happen along the way. Like the movie, the main characters have to show a lot of “true grit” during their journey. Huh…that really does make them sound quite a bit alike, doesn’t it?

The big differences lie in the ages of the main characters–Kate is 17 and the Colten boys are far nearer her age; Kate isn’t looking to bring her father’s killer to justice and the Colten boys aren’t actually interested in her revenge; and like most YA novels, there is a love story thrown in.

I quite enjoyed this book. It was a tad hard to adjust to the outdated and horrific grammar (“I were supposed to think she were dead”), but since it added so much to the voice and authenticity of the story, I told the English teacher in me to “shut pan” and get on with reading.

One thing I really like about this book is that I think it has a wide appeal. I think freshmen would like it just as much as seniors and boys just as much as girls. It has a good balance of action, adventure, romance and coming of age to satisfy a variety of readers. If readers can get passed the old-fashioned setting (I know this can be a struggle for kids), I think they will find it a highly enjoyable read. I like that it is a great window into a genre which is not as widely known or read.

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Throwback Thursday: Strawberry Shortcake

Old School Strawbery SCWhen I was a child, there was not much I loved more than my collection of Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I can’t even count the number of hours I sat in my bedroom, Shortcake and friends spread all over my floor, creating elaborate stories of their lives. Although I saw all the 1980’s TV specials surrounding the Strawberry gang (Big Apple City being my favorite)* I preferred to have my dolls live out the adventures I came up with for them.

And I had to come up with a LOT of stories because I had a lot of dolls. With the exception of Peach Blush and Banana Twirl, I had every single member of the Shortcake collection. I even had both villains, the Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak (my mom loved to say his name) and Sour Grapes. My favorites were Mint Tulip (a world traveler from Holland) and every single one of the “baby” characters, but especially Lem & Ada because they not only smelled like lemonade, but came from England. Even in my early years I desperately wanted to be British!

I even had two of the large “blow a kiss” dolls, which really did live up to their names. Push on their tummies and they “blew” strawberry scented air at you. Plus, they were fairly cuddly, so I slept with mine.

I loved those dolls.

Sadly, when I moved in with my dad during high school, my mom decided to get rid of pretty much all of my toys. Out went my collection of Cabbage Patch Kids (including original preemies, astronauts, cornsilk hair, twins, and circus dolls). Out went all of my Barbies. Out went two first edition American Girl dolls and several of their accessories (Kirsten and Samantha). And out went my good friend Strawberry and all of her friends.

When I found out the fate of my beloved childhood toys, even though I was in college and married, the tears were real my friends.

Fast forward a few decades. I had a niece and while shopping for a present for her, I was delighted to see Strawberry Shortcake attempt a comeback. Sure, she wasn’t quite the same ol’ gal, but she still had a cute, if more modern dress and the delightful promise of a room filled with the light scent of artificial strawberry. Although my niece was a bit young for the dolls (she was born in 2003, same as the re-release), I was excited.

new strawberry shortcakeFast forward another decade later and I now had a daughter of my own. Not only that, she was just starting to hit the age I was when I got my first Strawberry Shortcake doll. I couldn’t resist. I had to get her one.

Even though Strawberry and her friends have been updated (their skirts are decidedly shorter I noticed), my daughter still loves them. She loves their brightly colored hair. She loves their yummy smells. She loves that I not only know the names of all of her dolls, but can tell her stories about playing with my own dolls…just like hers.

Strawberry classic in boxLast year when Kenner released the 35th edition Strawberry Shortcake, I thought I would lose my mind. Sure, she wasn’t the actual doll I played with as a child, but she looked just like her. She smelled just like her. With one click of a button, I was able to get a piece of my childhood back. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one nostalgic about her. My aunt, knowing how much of my life I devoted to the dolls, also bought me one. This meant that while I got to keep one, I could give the other to my daughter. Who loves her nearly as much as I did.

My happiness was increased while visiting Comic Con earlier this year. I came across a display of Pop! figures and found not just my beloved Strawberry Shortcake, but Lemon Meringue, Blueberry Muffin, Huckleberry Pie and even the nasty ol’ Pieman. I bought both Strawberry and Lemon (I’ve always been a sucker for lemon scented anything). They are both currently on display in my classroom. My students LOVE that the smell like fruit. That’s right, even the Pop! figures are scented.

I was even happier to find remakes of the original dolls on sale at Toys R’ Us. Although I haven’t bought them for my daughter yet, Christmas is coming and I think Santa might have to leave a pack (or two) in her stocking.

*I actually still can recall some of the lyrics to songs in several of the movies, specifically the movie song from Housewarming Surprise and the song Strawberry and Orange Blossom sing when they first meet each other in Big Apple City. My brain is a strange, strange place.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Back on the treadmill again

I do not like to exercise. I have never liked to exercise. And, no matter how hard people try to convince me that if I just get into the regular habit of it I will start to enjoy exercising, I know this is not true. I know this is not true because people have also tried to convince me that I will learn to like coffee and beer and after a great many years trying all three, I can say with absolute certainty that I dislike all of them. Not equally, but still, my dislike for each is strong.

This means that in my life I avidly avoid coffee and beer and for the last year or so, I’ve been pretty good at avoiding exercise as well. The avoidance of coffee and beer actually has real benefits both for my overall health and my waistline. The avoidance of exercise…well, not so much.

While I’m not actively avoiding exercise the way I am coffee and beer, for the last few months, my excuses for not exercising have really been piling up and are, quite frankly, lame. They are also partially to blame for the fact that over the last year it’s gotten harder and harder, and in some cases impossible, to fit into my favorite clothes. Hell, it’s gotten harder and harder to fit into some of my clothes I don’t even really like anymore. My “fat” jeans are now my every day jeans.

And that’s a problem.

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I’ve tried a variety of crazy diets and even did some probably beyond questionable things to keep my weight down. Thankfully at this point in my life I am old enough and sensible enough to realize that the only “diet” that has ever truly worked for me is counting calories and exercising.

About 15 years ago, I was at the heaviest point of my life. That summer I took a group of students on a trip to London during what turned out to be a horrific heat wave. We’d all packed for the 70 degree weather that historical trends and forecasts were promising, only to arrive to 8 days of 90+ temps. Not only that, but the tour company I booked with had us on daily forced marches. We’d be out and about the city by 9 am and wouldn’t be back at our hotel until about 9 pm. Some of that time was spent on buses that were more akin to saunas, but most of it was spent walking, walking, walking. We were so hot and so tired and probably so dehydrated (they do not have the never ending supply of water in restaurants that we do in the US), that none of us really had much of an appetite.

When I got back from my London adventure (which despite my description above was one of the best times of my life), I was 10 pounds lighter. And I knew exactly why: I’d hardly eaten and I’d walked and walked and walked.

This adventure kicked off my most successful diet ever. For countless months to follow, I lived on no more than 1300 calories each day and went to the gym at my apartment complex at least 4 times a week. It took awhile, but I dropped 50 pounds, which meant I was at my lowest weight since my junior year of high school. It was glorious.

And I kept that weight off for almost five years. Then I got pregnant with my son. After he was born I managed to lose all but 5 pounds of my baby weight, and I was ok with that. I kept that off…until I got pregnant with my daughter. After she was born I managed to lose all but 5 pounds of my baby weight again, so I was still only 10 pounds up. I had to go up a size, but that size was really steady for about 5 years.

Over this last two years it’s been slowly creeping again. I stepped on the scale last week and was appalled to see that while I was yet up to my absolute heaviest, I was only 5 pounds shy of it.

So here I am, back on the treadmill again. Well, actually I’m alternating between the Arc Trainer, the exercise bike, the elliptical and the treadmill, but you get my meaning. I’ve re-opened my My Fitness Pal account so that I can track my caloric intake and my exercise. I’ve set reasonable starting goals for myself: 1600 calories per day and 120 minutes of exercise each week. I’m ignoring the calorie adjustment the program gives me for my exercise and strictly adhering to my calorie goal. In the six days I’ve been working on this, my calorie count has been below 1400 each day and I have 130 minutes (I plan to do 30 more today).

My plan is to lower my calorie limit to 1500 per day and up my exercise to 130 minutes per week starting 8/1. Then in September, I’ll put it down to 1400 calories and 140 minutes. By October I want to keep things at 1300 calories and 150 minutes. Once I’m there I hope I can stick with it until I get things back under control.

I know this will not be easy, but I have to do it. I want to be healthy.



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Teaching Tuesday: School supplies

school supply close upRecently one of my best friends and I got into a bit of a debate about school supply shopping. I’d just come back from supply shopping and I was feeling some rather serious sticker shock. Aside from buying each of my kids two notebooks with designs on them (which cost $2.50 each), everything else I bought my kids was the cheapest version of the supply available. For two kids going into grades 2 and 5, that came to $100 and some changes. Three items on my son’s list (a Trapper Keeper that zips, a set of ultra fine color Sharpie’s and a white t-shirt) totaled $31, nearly a third of the total cost.

This $100 didn’t cover backpacks, lunchboxes, headphones, styluses, or scissors (we are reusing from last year). It also didn’t cover pencils or pocket folders for my son since he already has the required amount at home. That $100 also does not cover the fees I have to pay the school to cover their iPads/books, which will be an additional $150 each.

Target bagsSo, in order to send my kids back to school next week, I will spend about $400. Of course that $400 doesn’t include the money I am also going to have to spend on school supplies…for my own classroom.

I teach high school and for a variety of different reasons, we don’t send out classroom supply lists.* I can give students a list of materials they will need for my classroom, and hope that they get them, but one thing I’ve learned is that both student and parental concern for these issues greatly wane as students get older. Need proof? Go to any open house. Last year when I walked into my son’s 4th grade classroom during open house, it was packed, with many adults standing. At our open house I am lucky to get 5 or 6 parents per class section. I also know that even when I do require them to have materials, since I have no storage for them, my kids will not remember them, so it is just easier for me to keep class sets of markers, pencils, rulers, scissors, Post-Its, etc.

While my administration will provide some of these materials, like all teachers I have to purchase additional supplies on my own. Last year I spent over $300 of my own money on classroom supplies. I’m sure this year will be no different.

Now, before anyone gets ready to fly off the handle, I know that even with the supplies I am sending my kids to school with, elementary teachers will also be spending their hard earned money on additional classroom supplies. I also know that elementary students go through a LOT more supplies than high school kids do. I know that some of the supplies I send in will no doubt be put into a classroom “pot” for all kids to use and I am 100% fine with that. I do not begrudge any student or elementary teacher these supplies. I want both the teachers and the students to have these supplies.

I recently read some really good articles/posts about the importance of buying school supplies. The first one I read was here. The other one, which I can’t find at the moment was written by a teacher who heard one parent railing about the cost of school supplies and how it was wrong and unfair, etc. while another parent gave her a gift card to buy supplies because he wanted to make sure his daughter understood the value of education. I agree completely with both of the ideas/sentiments in both of these articles. As a teacher and a parent, however, I’m getting hit with the double whammy here. I am paying for supplies twice and it’s a little hard to swallow.

Luckily, because both my husband and I have jobs, we are able to pay for these supplies, even if it means some cutting back for the next few weeks. However, my kids go to a school where over 1/3 of the students are eligible for free/reduced meals because they fall below community poverty standards. So, while these fees are a small hardship for my family, they are HUGE bills to many other families in our district who I know cannot afford to shell out $31 for three items on the list.

I am a teacher because I value education. I think an educated society is one of the most important things in the world. I know that it is impossible to provide that education without the proper supplies. I know that those supplies vary based on age and experience.

It’s hard to explain my anger over paying for school supplies. It’s not really the cost that angers me. It’s the fact that we live in a society that thinks providing supplies to teachers is NOT important. I am angry that I live in a society that is constantly demonizing teachers and railing about how we make too much money, but also thinks it is perfectly acceptable to expect us to pay for our own supplies. People want us to do our jobs, but they don’t want to give us the supplies and materials we need to do our jobs.

Although I’ve been a teacher for 20 years, I’ve also worked outside of education for 8 years. In those years, I was never once expected to provide my own supplies. My husband works for a publishing company and he is not expected to provide his own supplies. I have friends who are reporters, lobbyists, non-profit organizers, lawyers, doctors…and they are not expected to provide their own supplies.

I don’t think parents should have to pay for school supplies any more than I think teachers should have to pay for them. If we want an educated society, we need to make education a priority. We send a very big message to kids when we make educational cut after educational cut: Education is not important. It is not worth spending money on. And whether we realize it or not, that message is also interpreted as: Kids are not important. Their futures are not important. And what that really means is: Our future is not important.

Those are ridiculous and short-sighted messages to send.

*There are several reasons we don’t do this, the biggest is that unlike elementary teachers who have 20-30 kids in one year, this year I will have about 125 students who will only be in my classroom for 1/4 of their day (we are on block scheduling). My classroom has no built in student storage, so there would be no place to store their supplies other than their lockers, which not all students have/use and even if they did, they would then have to go back to their lockers to get supplies, which would waste valuable class time.

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Chocolate Monday: DeBrand’s Tart Raspberry Tasting Bar

full debrandsIt gets really hard to deny that you have a chocolate addiction when you find yourself asking for chocolate for your birthday.

Who am I kidding? I’m not really trying to hide the fact. I have, in fact, asked for chocolate on several birthdays…and Christmases…and anniversaries…and Flag days…and, well, you get the picture. What can I say, I’m a simple girl. I don’t need expensive jewelry. I don’t want a closet full of shoes. I delight in school supplies and truly tasty cocoa treats.

That’s why this year for my birthday, I took out the recently arrived DeBrand’s chocolate catalog, circled several different items I’d love to have and handed it to my husband. I know to some people this might seem rude, but my husband is generally bad about picking up hints and really prefers me to just flat out tell him what I want. He enjoys getting me what I really want and I enjoy getting what I really want. He does the exact same thing for me. Anytime he sees something he really wants he sends me a link, so that when a birthday, anniversary or Christmas approaches, I go through my Facebook Messages and start ordering.

DeBrand Fine Chocolate is a fairly new find of mine. Last year, after writing a series of college and scholarship recommendation letters for one of my seniors, she got me a 14 piece box of their Classic Collection to thank me. It is a well-known fact in my classroom that I am a chocoholic. Students often bring in exotic chocolates they find for me to try. There is also an ongoing joke about how many different types of chocolate I have stashed in my classroom cabinet (the record, if you are curious, was 10 different types).

I fell in love with pretty much every piece in this collection. Even their mocha cream, which is usually my nemesis in any box of chocolate, was pretty tasty. I was equally amazed at how much I liked the gourmet PB&J piece. I have had exactly one PB&J sandwich in my life (my freshmen year of college) and did not care for it in the least. As a result, despite my love of peanut butter, I usually stay far away from anything PB&J flavored. DeBrand’s version, however, was tasty. It’s really hard for me to name a favorite in this collection as I really liked so many of them. The salted peanut butter, strawberry rhubarb caramel, raspberry and cream, caramelly coconut and vanilla buttercream are all top contenders. If you get the chance, I highly suggest you try this collection. It gets a A++++++ rating from me.

debrand's packagingFor my birthday, however, what I really wanted was to try some of their Tasting Bars. Despite circling several items in the catalog I would have been thrilled with, after all these years, my husband either really knows me or got really lucky, because he got me a nice selection of them. Knowing that I am more of a milk chocolate gal, he got me the Hazelnut Sea Salt Crisp bar, The Very Cherry bar, the Sweet Potato Pie bar, the Pina Colada bar and the Tart Red Raspberry bar.


Even though the Tart Red Raspberry bar is dark chocolate, I have a passion for any kind of chocolate combined with raspberries. My absolute favorite chocolate on the planet (to date) is Godiva’s raspberry cordials. I am still bitter they no longer are sold individually in the display case, especially since they are nearly impossible to find. So even though this bar did not offer the ooey-gooey promise of a cordial, I was hoping it would live up to the TART portion of its name.

Oh my goodness does it!

Debrand's up closeI LOVE this bar! I cannot stress enough how great I think it is. Even though it has the slight bitterness of dark chocolate, it is so flooded with tiny pieces of amazingly tart raspberries that I don’t even care. Just like the Godiva cordial, I can completely ignore the dark chocolate and simply love, love, love on this bar. Ok, so that’s not quite true. There is no denying the dark chocolate. And for those of you who actually prefer dark chocolate, don’t worry, the taste of the dark chocolate is not lost. Not even for a minute. However, it is so perfectly balanced by the raspberry that I, an avouched dark chocolate hater, LOVE it! Just glancing at the picture you can see how this bar is packed full of tart raspberry goodness.

As much as I loved this bar, believe it or not, it is actually not my favorite of the bars I tried. That honor goes to the Very Cherry. Since it is mixed with both dark and milk chocolate, any hint of bitterness evaporates. It is actually the perfect blend for me. However that bar was gone long before I started writing my blog again, so I decided to focus on this one instead.

If you are a chocolate fan and have not yet tried DeBrand, I highly recommend them. I was not quite as impressed with their truffles, but they are HUGE truffles. And they are definitely tasty, just not as tasty as their Tasting Bars, Classic Collection or Connoisseur Collection.

Taste: 10/10
Appearance: 9/10
Value: 9/10 (each bar is $7.25, which is pricey, but they are delicious. And although the label says they are 3 servings a piece, they more easily break into 4 servings. When you compare that to the cost of 4 truffles, these bars are a value).

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Free Reading Friday: The Trials of Apollo, the Dark Prophecy

Trials of ApolloMy son became obsessed with Greek mythology in second grade. I’m not sure exactly what sparked it, but I think they did a short mythology unit in class. That combined with the copy of Terry Deary’s The Groovy Greeks (part of his Horrible History series) I gave him sparked an interest that is still thriving three years later. He actually loved the Groovy Greeks and Deary’s Top Ten Greek Legends so much that he’s read each of them a few dozen times.

He also loved them so much that I knew we had to get more books about Greek myths for him. My husband bought him a copy of D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths, which he loved when he was a child. Each night before bed they read them together. Once they finished the book, my son took over and started rereading all of the tales himself. I had to find more.

Although I’d never read any of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books, I’d been a teacher long enough to know that my students loved them. My kids RAVE about Percy Jackson and his adventures. They love Percy so much that even mentioning the movies made of the books send them into fits of rage because the movies “ruined” the books. I’ve actually had kids so passionate in their rants about how the movies destroyed these beloved books that I had to ask them to calm down, take a few breaths and have a seat before letting them talk again.

Many of my students read the books in elementary school, so I went to our local library and got a copy for my son. In hindsight it was a bit reckless of me. I keep a pretty tight watch on what my kids read/watch/listen to as I try to walk the dangerous tightrope of keeping them too protected and letting them grow up too fast. I only just allowed my son to read the 4th Harry Potter book (despite my undying love for them) because he’s a pretty sensitive kid and I was not sure how well he’d handle how dark the books get.*

But for some reason, I just handed over the Percy Jackson books without so much as a nod. It wasn’t until a few of my students expressed surprise that I was letting him read them so young that I also checked out a copy and started reading. That’s right, he was on the last book of the series when I was on the first. Granted by the time he got to book 5 he was almost done with second grade, but he was still only barely 8.

Like my son, I fell in LOVE with the series. While I thought in hindsight I should have probably made him wait a little longer, I was glad we had them to talk about. I immediately launched into the Heroes of Olympus series and part way through the book realized my son would need to be a bit older to read them.**

When I finished that series I devoured the Kane Chronicles, which I liked, but not quite as much and which I did let my son read in third grade.

I was thrilled that just as I’d finished all of his other books Magnas Chase: The Sword of Summer came out. I don’t know much about the Norse gods, so I was very excited for this series. And I do love it. It actually might be my favorite series so far. I am really excited the next book will be out in early October.

To tide me over though, I started his latest series, The Trials of Apollo, which he is writing concurrently with Magnas Chase (that man is talented). The latest book in his Apollo series is The Dark Prophesy.

I may not love Apollo quite as much as I love Percy Jackson or Magnus Chase, but I still find this series very fun to read.

It probably doesn’t hurt that this particular book is set in my hometown (Indianapolis) and his depiction of the city, including naming a favorite eatery of mine (Cafe Patachou-which has the best chicken salad and cinnamon toast in the city), is accurate. My son just finished the book last night and he loved the fact that he has walked along the same canal as Leo and Apollo (although he was on a Pokewalk) and has ridden the same zoo train they do (he was, in fact, obsessed with it as a small child). Riordan’s descriptions of the town are pretty darn accurate and made the book even better for us.

I like that this series seems geared at a slightly younger audience than Magnus Chase. Don’t misunderstand, I love that Riordan has the Magnus series, which is geared more to late middle and high school students. However, my son, isn’t quite ready for Magnus. There are moments in The Dark Prophecy that I am not quite sure he is ready for either, but they either went over his head or he’s more ready than I thought because he didn’t mention anything. There are subtle discussions of Apollo’s romantic relationships, but nothing too mushy or mature.

I like that Riordan has included Emmie and Jo and that they get to teach Apollo a bit about love and sacrifice. I think this it is good to show kids strong, healthy relationships and families, especially ones that don’t fit the cookie cutter mold. Kids develop empathy through reading and Riordan’s books always do a wonderful job of showing characters who not only need empathy, but also show great empathy. I love that this book deals a lot with the idea of second chances.

And, Leo is back. I like Leo

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