Our middle school Book Club and Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty


Goodreads Blurb

“Never go into the deep parts of the forest, for there are many dangers there, and they will ensnare your soul.”

Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.

But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one.

Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.



This was our first novel we read for our Book Club at the middle school where I teach. I picked this one because my mom, the librarian, highly recommended it and so did my best friend who taught 5th grade last year.

I introduced the book and the book club by finding the book trailer online and showing it to my classes one day. We just got a green screen at our school so I’m really excited about them being able to make their own book trailers! They LOVED the trailer. I was a little apprehensive at first because I thought the book looked and sounded a girly and that the boys would lose interest right away after hearing the title. But then I showed them the trailer and they went nuts over it! Middle schoolers really like creepy books for some reason! When I polled the book club at our first meeting most of them put that they enjoyed Horror and Sci-Fi books better than any other genres.


I completed the book last night. I was trying to stay ahead and have questions ready for discussion! I absolutely loved the setting of the book. It’s set at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina back when George Vanderbilt built the estate. It talks about how they had electricity back then and I think that’s going to be a great talking point for book club because people didn’t really have electricity in private homes until the 1930’s, not the late 1800’s.

I also thought Serafina’s heritage was quite interesting. I think it’s the first story I’ve ever read or even heard of about a “catamount”. It was different than the usual werewolf trend. My favorite parts of the book were about all the animals! I loved Gidean, Braeden’s doberman, the baby mountain lions, and the momma mountain lion. *wink wink*

I’m hoping Braeden will be more in the next book. I liked his character. And I want to know more about him! And I’m pretty sure there’s going to be more to Mr. Vanderbilt, his uncle. Something just feels a little off. Maybe I feel that way because Serafina was suspicious of him in the beginning. And why did he have all those tunnels built? There has to be a reason, right? Or maybe he just wanted a super cool house.

I think I will buy the next book Serafina and the Twisted Staff. I want to keep both copies in my classroom library since all of my kiddos are loving it!

After reading this book I want to take a road trip to North Carolina to visit the Biltmore. You can still do tours there! And from what I hear they do all kinds of tours. They have a servants wing tour, a roof tour, a basement tour, etc. The Vanderbilt family actually stays in the estate every year for Christmas as a tradition. My in-laws live on the East Coast in Maryland and Virginia and they vacation in North Carolina on the beach every summer. We’ll juts have to take a little detour for the day and then come back!

We had 40 kids turn out for our first book club meeting! Isn’t that awesome? And that was after we had just talked to the 7th graders about it. The 8th graders will get more info about it this week during their library time so maybe we will have more at the next meeting.


1984 by George Orwell


Barnes & Noble Blurb

.Written in 1948, 1984 was George Orwell’s chilling prophecy about the future. And while 1984 has come and gone, Orwell’s narrative is timelier than ever. 1984 presents a startling and haunting vision of the world, so powerful that it is completely convincing from start to finish. No one can deny the power of this novel, its hold on the imaginations of multiple generations of readers, or the resiliency of its admonitions—a legacy that seems only to grow with the passage of time.


It’s taken me awhile to get this review up. I felt like I needed to sleep on it a few nights and chew it over. Even at this point, (a week later), I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. I loved it and didn’t like it so much.

I’ll start with the aspects I didn’t like.

  1. The main character, Winston, or maybe even Orwell himself really hated women. In the book every a woman is referred to he talks about how much he hates them or how weak they are. At one point he calls his neighbor ugly, and talks about the fact that she has kids probably made her ugly. And then he talks about his love interest in the same way. He talks about how he just wants her because all of their feelings are so pent up, but that her mouth is too small and her face isn’t cute but he likes her bosom. He’s more attracted to her youthfulness than her as a person.
  2. I also just couldn’t tell if there was anything redeeming about Winston. Sometimes he seemed strong willed and sometimes he just seemed selfish and cruel. Did he actually ever care about his family? What really happened with his mom and his baby sister? Did he ever love Julia? Or was he just infatuated with her sexuality and youthfulness? Winston just left a bad taste in my mouth.
  3. The ending. The ending really confused me. And maybe it was meant to! I don’t know. Did O’Brien actually kill Winston at the Ministry of Love? Or was that just Winston succumbing to the ideals of Big Brother and losing his will-power?


Things I did enjoy about the book:

  1. I loved, loved , loved comparing all of the Dystopian aspects of this novel to all the popular Dystopians that are out today. For example, there are factions in the book (or Parties) like in Hunger Games and Divergent. There’s the presence of the telescreens every like in Hunger Games. And of course the fact that it’s basically a Communistic government where the people fear the government and they fear their neighbors. There are no close relationships in this type of world. Fear is the driving factor.
  2. I started to like Winston a little more in the end. But then he fell apart and it turned out he was just as weak willed as everyone else. I thought he would have defended Julia to the end but O’Brien broke him in the very end. I didn’t understand their relationship at all. Even when he was torturing Winston, Winston still looked up to him. Maybe because he was a Party member? Jealous of status maybe? I’m not sure. I didn’t understand it.

I wouldn’t call this a favorite book but I’m glad I read it. I’ve been trying to read more classics since last year. I’m still working on Pride & Prejudice.