I have nothing but love for Rival–lots and lots and lots of LOVE. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this book becaus...moreI have nothing but love for Rival–lots and lots and lots of LOVE. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of this book because I’ve never been involved with choir or anything. I didn’t know if I’d be able to relate with the characters. But then I heard my students raving about Rival and telling me how I needed to read it ASAP. Let me tell you, I connected with and adored Brooke and Kathryn.
Rival is going to make my Top 10 list at the end of the year. I know there are still tons of books to release, but I seriously loved this book. (Yes, I’ve said that a few times already). Sara Bennett Wealer wrote this so we get both Brooke’s and Kathryn’s perspectives currently and a year previously. This kept me hooked and turning the pages because I wanted to know their friendship and rivalry inside and out. Kathryn and Brooke both show their bad sides, but there’s always an underlying vulnerability there to remind you of who they really are and the friendship they had. It’s a wonderful thing when an author creates such layered characters.
Unfortunately, a couple of my students accidentally ruined the ending for me. Both times it happened when they were returning the book and talking about how they just couldn’t believe… Well, I’m not ruining the ending for anyone. All I’ll say is that despite knowing what was going to happen, I was pleased with how it ended :) I was bummed when it ended, but that’s because I wanted to keep reading!
Sara Bennett Wealer has a written a strong debut that is sure to win over many readers. I know a lot of people are comparing it to Glee, and even though I don’t watch that show, I do know that Rival deserves better than that. These characters aren’t in a glee club. They’re serious singers, singing serious songs, working towards a prestigious scholarship. I’m sure those that enjoy that show will like Sara’s book, but I still felt the need to put that opinion out there. Sara is a fabulous author and I CAN’T WAIT to read more from her! I love Rival like I love Sarah Dessen’s books. (less)
Like Mandarin released back in March, and to be perfectly honest, I’m mad at myself for not having read it sooner. This book felt like it was meant for my students; I’ve met quite a few Graces and Mandarins over the past four years.
Grace is living in a small town with her single mother and her half-sister, Taffeta. Living in Washokey, Grace has never felt like she fits in. Many of the girls competed in beauty pageants, but Grace gave that up years ago. Now her mother is focusing on Taffeta with high hopes that Taffeta won’t be a huge disappointment. Grace is also incredibly smart for her age and has been moved up a grade, so she’s starting high school as a sophomore. She constantly feels like an outsider and wishes she could be carefree and beautiful like Mandarin. Grace hears the bad rumors about Mandarin, but she still wants to be like her. She wants to be noticed, to be seen.
Every year the students in Washokey are required to complete a service project. This year, it’s requested that for her service project, Grace helps Mandarin graduate. Can you imagine being a freshmen, but bumped up a year to a sophomore, helping a senior graduate?! If this didn’t make Grace feel more out of place, I don’t know what would. But she considers it and decides to go with it. This is her chance to get to know Mandarin.
I loved this book because it has so many layers. The biggest aspect of the story is about Grace discovering who she is as she becomes friends with Mandarin. She learns how to let go, how to rebel, how to feel comfortable in her own skin, and ultimately how important it is to stay true to herself. Another big focus in the story is Grace’s relationship with her mother. Grace’s father isn’t around and her mother had Grace at a young age. Their relationship is strained because Grace feels she’s misunderstood and can never do anything right for her mom. She’s not full of talent and beauty like her little sister Taffeta. These dynamics shape Grace’s character and her actions throughout the story.
When I was reading Like Mandarin I mostly connected with Grace, but I also felt a connection with Mandarin. Who hasn’t felt awkward and out of place like Grace? Who hasn’t looked at the “bad girl” and even for a moment wondered what it would be like to be her? I remember in 8th-9th grade feeling left out and tired of being “good” all the time. I saw the other girls partying and having fun and hanging out with boys. I remember even telling my mom once that I wanted to be like them. It’s an incredibly awkward age, and for some girls, an age that really determines which direction they’re going to go. Thankfully, I was able to talk to my mom about the feelings I had without being judged. I’m incredibly thankful for the relationship I have with my mom. Grace and Mandarin don’t have that relationship with their mothers. Plenty of girls do well without a close relationship with their mother, but I’ve met quite a few girls who struggle without that closeness. Grace’s service project ends up being more than just about helping Mandarin. This book delves into Grace’s and Mandarin’s feelings and motivations incredibly well.
This is a strong debut novel with an important message without being preachy. School starts in a couple weeks and I already know I’ll be talking about this book like crazy in my classes. I can’t recommend Like Mandarin enough.
Possible book pairings: Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler, Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr, Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen (what’s with all the Sara(h)’s?!)(less)
When I saw Across the Universe sitting in the Penguin booth at NCTE I was beyond giddy. I’ve heard wonderful things about this debut, and I continue t...moreWhen I saw Across the Universe sitting in the Penguin booth at NCTE I was beyond giddy. I’ve heard wonderful things about this debut, and I continue to hear/read wonderful reviews. Overall I enjoyed it, but it didn’t measure up to my expectations. Because I’m having a hard time with this review, I’m going to set it up differently. I’m going to first focus on what worked for me and then what didn’t work for me.
What Worked for Me:
First of all, I love the idea behind this novel. In the beginning of the ARC (I’m not sure if it’s in the published copy), Beth Revis states that she wrote this with the school district she taught for in mind. Many of her students had never left the district and many of her students had dreams of leaving the district; they were still trapped, like the people on the ship. I also teach in a small district with similar students, so I could relate to this. Not everyone aboard Godspeed is aware of how claustrophobic it is, but the reader is certainly aware of this. Beth did a fantastic job creating the setting and the sense of not having any space.
I also enjoyed reading the story from both Amy and Elder’s perspectives. Amy is new to the ship and only knows Earth and its ways. Elder was born on the ship and hasn’t felt a need to really question much about his life. All of this changes when the two meet because Amy instantly notices the strange rules, customs and behaviors. Because Amy and Elder grow close, Elder in turn also notices these things and begins questioning Eldest and Godspeed for the very first time. It’s a wonderful way to heighten the story.
Another plus, which goes along with both points I just mentioned, is that I know my students will enjoy reading Across the Universe. When I book talk this with them I’m going to read the letter at the beginning of the book to hear my students’ reactions. I’m sure it will also gain their interest. The first chapter, which is from Amy’s point-of-view, is a great way to hook readers. It goes through the process of being cryogenically frozen– way fun to read! I’m happy with the double perspective because this book will appeal to both my male and female readers, which is always a plus in my world :) My students will enjoy the numerous secrets and their truths, the fact that it’s set in the future, etc.
What Didn’t Work for Me:
Whenever I read a piece of YA, I’m always focusing on the characters. While I enjoyed reading both Amy and Elder, I didn’t feel that either of them really grew as characters. Amy wasn’t really any different at the end of the book than she was at the beginning of the book. She came to grips about her parents and being alone, but that was about it. Elder changed a bit himself as he tried to grow into a leader. I just wish both characters had been fleshed out a bit more. Along with that, the tagline mentions this as a story of love, but I never felt Amy and Elder’s love grow. They had a moment in the middle of the book, and Elder often commented on her beauty and his feelings. Honestly, I thought Amy and Harley’s relationship developed more than Amy and Elder’s.
Across the Universe doesn’t contain any profanity, at least not any current profanity. **Note- I am not saying that I want profanity in books** Elder “swears” by using words like “frexing”. I don’t know if these words were created because the English language has evolved or because the author, as a teacher, doesn’t like the idea of swear words in a book. I can appreciate it if the language as evolved, but in the dialogue, nothing else has changed. This leads me to believe that the words are used to allow characters to swear without actually doing so. Teenagers swear. So if you want your character to be a normal teen that swears, then have him swear. I don’t know if teens reading this will notice and be bothered by it, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.
I know this is a mixed-review, but I hope it will be read for both the positives I’ve included AND the constructive criticism. Like I said, I enjoyed the story and I know my students will also, which is most important.
This is the first novel I’ve read pretty much strictly about faeries, and I’m happy to report that I’ll be looking for more now! I guess I don’t reall...moreThis is the first novel I’ve read pretty much strictly about faeries, and I’m happy to report that I’ll be looking for more now! I guess I don’t really have a reason why I haven’t read any previously, because I’ve read novels that include fey lore and that have characters who encounter faeries.
The Iron Witch grabbed my attention immediately with Donna’s journal recounting her recurring dream about her father’s death. “In my nightmares, I’m always running through twisted woodland. The trees bend close together and whisper beneath the moonlight as I stumble between them, trying desperately to keep my footing. Behind me I can hear quicksilver footsteps and a cacophony of cackling and screeching. I enter a small clearing with the yammering sound of my pursuers still ringing in my ears.” I love Karen’s use of vocabulary! How often can we use words like “quicksilver” and “cacophony”? I for one would like to include those words into a sentence sometime today… :) This opening page allowed me to easily visualize what Donna is writing about.
Even though Donna feels like a freak, she doesn’t allow that to make her weak. On the contrary, Donna stands up for herself and is independent. She and her best friend Navin go to a party, even though she really doesn’t want to go. Navin starts mingling, so Donna goes off on her own where she finds and meets Xan. Something about Xan makes her want to open up and reveal her secrets, and the same goes for Xan about Donna. It’s an intriguing opening to a relationship that made me want to read more. What’s nice about the relationship between Donna and Xan is that it doesn’t blow up into this super-steamy romance right away. Like most teen relationships, it’s awkward and takes time to build up to that first kiss. I do see the potential for a love triangle between Donna, Navin and Xan in the upcoming books though. Navin’s hard to read when it comes to how he feels about Donna spending time with Xan. We’ll have to find out when book two comes out in February 2012!
If you like Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series then I’m sure you’ll enjoy The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney! (less)
Dead Rules is a fun, creative take on what happens to us when we die. As soon as I read that Jana died from a bowling accident, I was intrigued. My im...moreDead Rules is a fun, creative take on what happens to us when we die. As soon as I read that Jana died from a bowling accident, I was intrigued. My imagination went wild until I started the book and found out what happened. (And I’m not giving that away. You’ll have to read it!) The idea of Dead School doesn’t sound thrilling, especially since I’m a teacher and already spend five days a week in school! But Jana discovers that there’s more to Dead School than she realized, which makes the story even better.
Jana’s obsession with her boyfriend (ex-boyfriend, now?) fits very well with the comparison to her as a modern Juliet. The problem is that Michael didn’t follow her lead and act the part of a lovesick Romeo. This becomes the driving force behind Jana’s need to make contact with Michael. Mars Dreamcote becomes an important character in the story because, as a Slider, he can help Jana make that contact. Honestly, I was rooting for Mars the entire time I read Dead Rules. And maybe that’s odd because he’s dead. Yeah, that’s probably odd, but he’s such a cool and mysterious character. He’s looking out for Jana even though she, as a Riser, shouldn’t be hanging out with him. The mystery behind Mars won me over and took the story to that extra level.
I can’t write this review without discussing the deaths. At Dead School it’s pretty typical to discuss how you died. And I don’t want to give any of these stories away, but the creativity! Birds and yard darts?! Some simply made me crack up, while others shocked me and caused me to cringe. Any story that gets me to react in those ways is a winner.
It’s difficult to write this review without giving away major plot points. Randy has written a fantastic and original debut that I look forward to recommending to my students and friends. And if I ever go to Dead School, I’m pretty sure I’ll want to be a Slider. (less)
**Update--I read this again as a read aloud to one of my sophomore classes. They definitely enjoyed it :) **
Clarity grabbed my attention on the very f...more**Update--I read this again as a read aloud to one of my sophomore classes. They definitely enjoyed it :) **
Clarity grabbed my attention on the very first page and never let go. “You don’t want to kill me,” I said. “Of course I don’t, Clare. But I have to.” This is how chapter 1, page 1 starts. Yep, attention grabbed. I started this book during SSR with my freshmen, and I was so intrigued that I read the first chapter to my kids when SSR was done. Their response? “Whoa, that’s intense!” and “Are you going to put copies of that on your shelf, Mrs. Andersen?” You bet I am!
It’s so refreshing to read a fun, YA mystery like Clarity. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a real mystery. And yes, Clare has paranormal abilities–she’s clairvoyant–but that’s not the sole focus of the novel. And I like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good paranormal story, but this has just the right amount to mix in with the mystery. I’m predicting that Clarity is going to be a hot book choice among my students.
Clare is easy to relate to and very likable. She’s trying to get over a first love and broken heart, she’s kind of a loner, and she’s crushing on the new detective’s son. Plus, she’s incredibly close with her paranormal brother and mom, which is a big win with me. I understand why most YA protagonists have some kind of issue with their family members, but it’s nice to read a story where the main character is close with her family. Not every teen needs to be far away from her parents or siblings. That being said, Clare isn’t always thrilled with the choices her brother makes and when her mom reads her thoughts.
I can see Clarity being added to YALSA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers; I already know I’ll hand this to my reluctant readers–boy or girl. I definitely suggest you add this to your TBR list!(less)
Let me see if I can describe my feelings for this book using “other words for love.” I ADORE this book. I am DELIGHTED by Lorraine’s debut novel. Othe...moreLet me see if I can describe my feelings for this book using “other words for love.” I ADORE this book. I am DELIGHTED by Lorraine’s debut novel. Other Words for Love has ENCHANTED me. Yep, I’m gushing, but this book begs to be gushed over! (And as an English teacher I’m always looking for ways to expand my vocabulary.)
I was thrilled when this arrived in the mail and immediately bumped it to the top of my reading pile. I knew I’d enjoy this as soon as I started reading; Lorraine’s writing flows with ease. Plus, I connected with Ari as soon as she began describing her best friend Summer. Summer is described as the girl who has it all–stylish clothes, gorgeous hair, good grades, etc. Ari is smart and pretty as well, but she doesn’t always see herself in this way, especially when she’s around Summer. It doesn’t help that Summer ALWAYS has a boyfriend and Ari never does. I connected with Ari because in high school I was constantly wondering when the heck I’d finally get a boyfriend. I had a couple friends like Summer who were often bragging about their boyfriends, which left me feeling, well, rotten and sort of insecure. Ari, though, holds her head high and doesn’t complain. She simply wants to find somone who will love her the way her sister’s husband, Patrick, loves her sister. Don’t we all want that? To find someone who will love us for who we are? This element of the story will hook teenage girls (and adults!) because many of us have felt like Ari.
The dynamics of the many different relationships in this book are wonderful. Ari’s relationship with her mother is good, but definitely strained at times. Ari’s older sister, Evelyn, made a few mistakes growing up. Ari’s mom now looks to Ari as the daughter who will go farther and make something of herself. Talk about pressure! When I was reading, I always knew her mom meant well, but there were times that her mother made me even more grateful for my mom. This tension causes Ari to rely on herself more and become more independent.
Ari and Blake’s relationship is written superbly; it’s very believable as a first-love relationship. They’re completely enraptured with each other, but nervous about making the wrong moves as well. Ari’s hesitations about becoming more serious with Blake are written with care; I remember feeling the same nerves and worries. Ari, even though she’s wrapped up in everything Blake, develops more self-esteem and independence. I kept cheering their relationship on, and even forgot about the telling summary description. Lorraine did such a fabulous job writing Ari’s rollercoaster life, that I know girls will learn from this and respond with high praises. Not all relationships end in marriage, and teenage girls especially need to understand this. Quite a few of my female students have come to me after their long-term relationships ended needing someone to talk to and asking for advice. I’m definitely handing them a copy of Other Words for Love.
I excitedly give Other Words for Love five stars. This is a beautiful book that teen girls should read and teachers and librarians need in their libraries. If you enjoyed Sarah Dessen’s Someone Like You and/or Judy Blume’s Forever, you are sure to enjoy this debut novel. I’m very much looking forward to reading more of Lorraine’s novels. (less)
This is a book that I was excited to read because of the fresh plot idea and the romance referenced in the summary. After debating between a few books I decided on Hourglass and jumped right in. I was hooked immediately. Once Emerson first confronted a not-from-this-time phantom, questions and predictions started racing through my mind. Is she really seeing them? Why are they there? How will these play into the story? My interest took off from there.
Emerson is living with her older brother, Thomas, and his wife, Dru. I love these characters. They are everything you’d want an older brother and his wife to be in this situation, and any time, really. They’re supportive, understanding, caring, etc. I love their career choice as well. They’re trying to renovate all the old buildings in their town to revive the town. This ends up playing an important part in the story. Also, Thomas is who introduces Emerson to Michael. Michael is part of the Hourglass and says he can help Emerson deal with seeing the phantoms.
Michael is the mysterious, sometimes brooding, protective heart-throb often found in paranormal YA. Emerson has an unusual and powerful connection/attraction to Michael, but Michael won’t do anything about it because he can’t “mix business with pleasure.” This introduces our heart-throb tension. I will point out that Emerson isn’t the typical “damsel in distress.” She has a brown belt in karate and knows how to defend herself. These elements between Michael and Emerson, while a different twist on the usual paranormal storyline, caused some problems for me. I love Emerson’s character and how strong she is. But after a while I grew tired of how often she assured us that she’s tough. We’re so often hearing about how bad it is to write female characters who are weak and need their male counterpart, but in this case I grew tired of constantly being reminded of how tough Emerson is. There’s not much middle ground here. I wanted to see Emerson show more emotion and even some vulnerability. I know this is a conflict she admits to as a character, but it still irked me. Reading Michael in this story really made me think about paranormal heart-throbs in general. Michael is in college, so he’s written as being a bit more mature than the average high school guy. But I still didn’t buy into him being a college student. I know not all guys are immature and want to party and all of that. But Michael, and his friend Kaleb, are simply too adult. The way they’re written, I pictured them as guys in their late 20s. I had no problem reading Emerson as a teenage girl, however. Why is this happening so much in this genre of YA?
The story itself is fun and different. Many people are interested in the idea of time travel, so this book will go over well with my students. There are some holes in the story, but maybe they’ll work themselves out in book two. I just wish that we would have gotten to the actual time travel part of the story sooner. Is anyone else getting tired of all of these 400+ page novels? I appreciate attention to detail and world-building, but I’m still searching for reasons why Hourglass needed to be almost 400 pages long.
I know this isn’t a raving, I give this five stars review, but I did enjoy it. I just didn’t love it. I’d love to know what others who have read this think. I’m also looking forward to what my students this school year will think.(less)
Reading Warped was like eating the best kind of comfort food; it left me feeling cozy and happy. When I was in upper elementary and middle school I lo...moreReading Warped was like eating the best kind of comfort food; it left me feeling cozy and happy. When I was in upper elementary and middle school I loved reading fantasies of all kinds, but especially stories with unicorns. This isn’t a unicorn story, of course, but it still holds the elements of fantasy that I love. There are quite a few fantasy novels out there, but Warped quenched my thirst for what I’ve been missing all these years.
I need to give major kudos to Tessa and Opal’s friendship. Opal is Tessa’s quirky best friend, but what I love most about her is that she never doubts Tessa. How many of you can honestly say that if you told your best friend “Hey, you know that unicorn in my tapestry? Well, it’s actually a guy that just jumped out and landed in my room” she would totally believe you and come straight over? Yep, that’s what I thought. I don’t think too many of us are blessed with a friend who is so loyal and, well, awesome. I know my best friend loves me, but I think she’d come over to make sure I didn’t have a concussion or something… Anyway, Opal is simply awesome and I love how she and Tessa interact with one another.
Of course I’m a fan of Will and an even bigger fan of him and Tessa together! Tessa doesn’t admit right away that she’s attracted to him, but I certainly knew she was! Their banter is enjoyable, but I did feel bad for Will at times. He’s coming from a different century, so while I giggled when Tessa would tease him for things he said or sarcasm he didn’t get, I felt bad because it’s not like he’s dim-witted or anything. However, this dynamic of their relationship made them more believable and lovable. I was definitely rooting for them!
My students who enjoy fantasy will definitely enjoy Warped, but I also suspect that those who like mythology will as well. Maurissa introduces the story with the Norn, otherwise known as the Fates. I like how she weaves them into the story (pun intended? I think so!). Their presence doesn’t overpower the story, but they add an element of suspense and intrigue–especially at the end!
I can’t recommend this debut novel enough. My students interviewed Maurissa in my Students Want to Know feature, and while she did say she isn’t planning a second book, I wouldn’t mind a sequel one bit!
I’m a huge fan of novels written in verse and Kimberly Marcus’s debut novel Exposed did not disappoint. Marcus makes her writing look effortless; it r...moreI’m a huge fan of novels written in verse and Kimberly Marcus’s debut novel Exposed did not disappoint. Marcus makes her writing look effortless; it reads and flows with ease. One of the best aspects of stories written in verse is that the author has to be so picky about word choice. There isn’t as much room to explain and develop the story as there is in prose, so it forces the author to put even more thought into the words she uses to convey her meaning and tell her story. (At least I’m assuming this.)
Although early on I correctly predicted why Kate started avoiding Liz, that didn’t keep me from wanting to continue reading the story. I was so hooked that I read this book in about two hours. Of course the verse makes reading faster, but the story was that engaging. There were parts that made me anxious, that made me cringe, that made me cry. I’m positive that my Ellen Hopkins fans will love this novel. Exposed also made me think of Patricia McCormick’s Sold, written in verse as well, because it was just as engaging.
Quite a few YA novels are written about teens that love photography, but Marcus took this character’s love of photography to another level. Liz captures her subjects at their most vulnerable and intimate moments. Liz also captures their insecurities and makes them beautiful. She’s a talented artist. The photography is taken to another level because not only are these things exposed by Liz, but like film, secrets and lies between family and friends are exposed and brought to light. It’s about impossible to further explain this without spoiling major elements of the plot, so I’ll leave it to you to discover and enjoy on your own :)
Kimberly Marcus doesn’t leave anything hidden in this stunning debut. I strongly encourage you to pick this novel up–it’s an addicting and powerful read. (less)
I know “hate” is a strong word, but I positively hate it when I can’t get into a book and end up not finishing it. Unfortunately, I’ve been running ac...moreI know “hate” is a strong word, but I positively hate it when I can’t get into a book and end up not finishing it. Unfortunately, I’ve been running across quite a few books in that category this year. And since I’m not going to fully review them since I didn’t finish them, I think I’m going to post why I simply couldn’t get into them.
My alumni book club and I went to the launch party for Courtney Allison Moulton’s debut novel Angelfire. She did a great job at the launch, we all bought books and had them signed, and agreed we’d read her book for book club. We had a couple books lined up before hers, so we’re just now reading Angelfire for our next meeting. I started reading it on Thursday or Friday (it’s been a busy week, so I can’t remember) and gave up yesterday.
Whenever I’m reading a book and feeling a little dicey about it, I try to give it at least 100 pages before I finally make up my mind. I decided to stop at page 108. Granted, this is a 453 page book, so maybe that’s not enough of a chance. But let me explain it first.
The biggest problem I’m having is that it doesn’t feel like any kind of plot is being developed. Ellie has discovered that she’s been reincarnated hundreds of times as a Preliator, or reaper killer. She also knows that Will has been her Guardian for 500 or so years. And after 108 pages, that’s it. She fights and kills reapers. So… What’s the point? Why should I keep reading? What’s her major problem besides realizing at 17 that she’s been reincarnated and has to kill reapers with the help of Will? Maybe I’m missing the point, but how can I be 108 pages in and not really know where the story is going? This explains the weird dreams she’s been having and that’s about it. I need to feel like there’s more to the story to keep me reading. I’m a teacher with tons of papers to grade and lessons to plan. I’m a grad school student with intense classes and reading to complete. I’m a blogger with other books on my shelf waiting to be read and reviewed. I don’t want to sound mean, but I need a reason to keep reading a book. And Angelfire simply wasn’t providing it :(
Besides the plot, I couldn’t get over the writing style. It’s pretty choppy and there isn’t as much internal dialogue as I prefer from a first-person point of view. I really don’t have a good feel for who Ellie is as a protagonist and I should by now. And then there were the typos… I’m an English teacher and I can’t ignore them. I know they happen (I make them in my posts too!), and I catch them pretty often. A few here and there I can ignore and they don’t change my opinion of the book. But I was left wondering how much attention this book received before it was published.
I have an extra copy of this book in my classroom already and a couple of students have read it and loved it. I think that’s fantastic, because I know not everyone feels the way I do. And I’m sure some of my boys who enjoy fantasy will like Angelfire because of the violent and bloody fight scenes. So this book definitely has appeal, just not for me.
If you’ve read Angelfire, I’d love to know what you think. Does it get better soon? If so, let me know and maybe I’ll give it another chance this summer. If you feel the same way, I’d like to know that too.(less)
The Pull of Gravity is sweet, honest and touching. It has moments that will make you laugh out loud and even become teary. Those teaching Of Mice and...moreThe Pull of Gravity is sweet, honest and touching. It has moments that will make you laugh out loud and even become teary. Those teaching Of Mice and Men will want to read this and add it to their library, if not their curriculum. John Steinbeck’s novel isn’t part of our curriculum in my district, but I will be including The Pull of Gravity in my classroom library.
My favorite character is the unique and completely honest Jaycee Amato. Her witty dialogue and comebacks with Nick had me giggling multiple times throughout the book. She’s the one that introduces Nick to Of Mice and Men by reading it to him as they head out on their journey to fulfill the request of The Scoot, their dying friend. They’re looking for Scoot’s father (without telling their parents), and the chances of finding him are slim, but Jaycee is prepared and optimistic. You’ve gotta love a girl who can plan an entire secret trip and stay optimistic while doing so. :)
The trip itself is fun to read because so many aspects of the story unravel and come together there. Besides Nick and Jaycee looking for Scoot’s dad, we watch Nick take chances (on love and his family) and become more independent. And even though Scoot isn’t on this journey with him, we get to find out more about his life and character. Plus, there’s all of his great Yoda and Star Wars references. Steinbeck and Yoda together?! AWESOME! If you’ve read John Green’s Paper Towns (I’m thinking of Quentin’s journey to find Margo), you’re sure to enjoy The Pull of Gravity.
A great element to the story are the emails Nick receives from his dad. Nick and his dad lack a strong relationship because his dad has pretty much checked out as a father. The emails appear in between some chapters and give us insight that we otherwise wouldn’t have. We know why Nick is upset with his dad, but I wish these feelings were more developed before we read the emails. I also wish we could have read more of his emails simply because they’re a cool element to the story.
I definitely recommend reading this. Girls will enjoy the relationship between Jaycee and Nick. Boys will love the Star Wars references and will easily relate to Nick. Teachers and librarians will, of course enjoy the story, but will also appreciate the ties to Of Mice and Men and Gae’s wonderful writing! Congrats on your debut, Gae, and I eagerly look forward to more of your books!
I added Enclave to my list of books to read because Ann Aguirre is a debut author and it’s dystopian. It’s a quick read that’s dark and enjoyable. On...moreI added Enclave to my list of books to read because Ann Aguirre is a debut author and it’s dystopian. It’s a quick read that’s dark and enjoyable. On the cover it says it’s a good choice for fans of The Hunger Games, but I honestly didn’t feel the connection between both books. Enclave reminds me more of Carrie Ryan’s The Forest of Hands and Teeth and parts also reminded me of Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go. I’m not a fan of Carrie Ryan’s book, so I guess it’s odd that I liked this book as much as I did.
The characters are developed well, which I always appreciate in a book that’s beginning a trilogy or series. Deuce has lived a sheltered life underground, with the desire to become a Huntress. She’s paired up with Fade, who was an outsider, but welcomed to the enclave because he was able to survive outside it. I enjoyed their interactions because Deuce is able to learn more about the world outside the enclave, which in turn uncovers some truths about her life inside the enclave. Fade is able to provide this knowledge. Fade’s definitely a leader, but he doesn’t dominate over Deuce which would have made her appear weak and fragile. This is a book with a tough female protagonist that knows how to protect herself and survive. I’m not the biggest fan of Stalker, although I am curious about his role in book two.
The Freaks are an interesting part of the book. I thought of them more like zombies than anything else. I’m not a fan of zombies (Team Unicorn all the way!), so again, I’m surprised that addition of Freaks didn’t change my feelings towards the book. Thinking about it now, this book would pair well with the movie I Am Legend. Thankfully, Ann Aguirre didn’t make the story revolve around the Freaks. Enclave is more about survival in a “new” world and self-discovery.
There’s a great balance of action and character/world building. The ending wraps up nicely and thankfully isn’t a cliffhanger. If you’re looking for a different kind of dystopian (this is apocolyptic) and connecting with strong characters, definitely pick this up. My book club chose this book and we’re discussing it on Friday. I’m looking forward to what they have to say! (less)
If you know anything about me, I’m a YA-loving teacher who’s always on the look-out for great guy books. I am so stinking happy that I read Stupid Fas...moreIf you know anything about me, I’m a YA-loving teacher who’s always on the look-out for great guy books. I am so stinking happy that I read Stupid Fast because it is destined to be a winner with my boys! I’ve already had some success with Stupid Fast because before I even had a chance to read it, one of my freshmen boys asked to read my ARC. I had to say yes because he’s one of my reluctant readers. He isn’t reluctant anymore! He tore through this book and was so proud when he gave it back to me; he finished the book and wanted to read another. As a teacher or librarian, does it get any better than that?!
I’m not surprised my student enjoyed Stupid Fast as much as he did. It’s hilarious! Felton wants to be a comedian, but he doesn’t think he’s funny enough. Um, he’s wrong. I can’t tell you how often I was cracking up over his comments. It was about impossible to not laugh out loud during SSR. I would have snorted if I tried any harder to keep it in and that would have just been embarrassing. Felton is wonderfully awkward which fuels his humor. For instance, Felton has to take over his friend’s paper route and one of his stops is at a nursing home where he has the unfortunate experience of seeing old ladies in their underwear. “Oftentimes, the old ladies were wearing old lady robes or morning dresses or whatever, and the clothing wasn’t tied right or it had slid down wrong, and I got to see their Old Lady Underwear with an Old Lady in it, which made me very sad. What also made me sad was the very fact that nursing homes even exist because they’re hot, stinky prisons for innocent old ladies who have lived too long (like that’s a crime).“ He’s just so honest in his observations that you can’t help but giggle. And I love that while reading, it felt like Felton was talking to me. So wonderful.
Teen guys will be drawn to Stupid Fast because it involves sports. Quite a few of the sports-related novels I’ve read are a little more on the serious side and really revolve around the sport. Much of Geoff’s debut focuses on Felton’s experience with football, but his book goes deeper than that. While Felton is discovering himself as an athlete and friend, he’s also uncovering secrets about his family. This part of the story is really touching. He can’t understand why his mom has suddenly become depressed and he doesn’t know what to do about his weird and annoying little brother. Even though I felt bad for Andrew, Felton’s brother, I found myself laughing at their banter and insults towards one another. Felton is left in a position where he’s the “adult” because his mom has become an absent parent. What teenager is going to handle that well? This is where the honesty of this story really shines. We get to watch Felton mature and try to find a way to correct this situation, while navigating through his new role as jock and boyfriend.
If you want to read something fantastically funny, pick up Stupid Fast. If you want to read something honest and refreshing, pick up Stupid Fast. I can’t recommend this debut novel enough. Geoff Herbach has really impressed me and I CAN’T WAIT to read more of his work! (less)
READ THIS BOOK! Would it be okay to stop there? Because seriously, WOW! I’m still reeling and it’s been probably 8 hours since I finished. I can’t get...moreREAD THIS BOOK! Would it be okay to stop there? Because seriously, WOW! I’m still reeling and it’s been probably 8 hours since I finished. I can’t get Tris and Four out of my head! How much longer until Insurgent comes out? I know I’m rambling and maybe not making much sense, but Divergent is so amazing it will do that to you.
When I initially heard about Divergent it was being compared to The Hunger Games. I was impressed but skeptical because it seems like all dystopian novels are being compared to that trilogy. While Divergent definitely lives up to the hype, I wouldn’t exactly compare it to The Hunger Games. I’m sure if you like that trilogy, you’ll enjoy Divergent. Tris, like Katniss, is a strong female protagonist that male and female readers will like and probably relate to. Other similarities are uncovering secrets, being separated from family, survival, problems with government, etc. The story lines are so different, though, it’s hard for me to really think of them as comparable. Hopefully that makes some sense.
One of my favorite aspects about this book is that we get to know Tris so well via the initiation tests. We learn her physical and emotional strengths and weaknesses. We watch her utilize her strengths and try to overcome her weaknesses. It’s not very often that a reader gets to know a character so thoroughly. We get to know her trainer, Four, pretty well also; not quite like Tris, but close. I think that’s why I’m still thinking about both of them–I developed strong connection with these characters.
Learning the ways of a faction that’s new to her, Tris does enjoy some victories through initiation, like being the first jumper, but she suffers through so many losses and obstacles. This, however, makes the story that much more compelling. The faction she joins is so different from what she grew up in, that it’d be impossible not to suffer and face challenges. She wants to be brave, battles with being selfless, and constantly thinks of what her mother or father would say about her actions. I can’t imagine just up and leaving my entire upbringing behind, to learn a brand new way of thinking, acting, and living. As Tris goes through all of this, I cheered, cringed and cried.
I realize this review is lacking some meat about the story. I want to delve into the big plot points, but they’ll end up being spoilers. Take my word for it, this is an awesome book that’s so worth reading.(less)
This is a book that despite a few things that bothered me, kept me reading and intrigued. I enjoyed the dynamics of the sister wives Rhine, Cecily and...moreThis is a book that despite a few things that bothered me, kept me reading and intrigued. I enjoyed the dynamics of the sister wives Rhine, Cecily and Jenna. Rhine is a strong character that breaks the mold of the damsel in distress that continues to reappear in many YA novels. Don’t get me wrong, she’s certainly in distress. I mean, she’s been kidnapped and forced to marry a man she doesn’t know or want to know. But she isn’t whining away and refusing to take action. Instead, Rhine schemes to escape from her husband Linden and his father, the creepy and cruel Housemaster Vaughn. She also refuses to consumate her relationship with Linden. Overall, Rhine is a character that’s easy to like and read.
My favorite aspect of the book was the relationship between Rhine, Cecily and Jenna. We don’t really get to see how Cecily and Jenna are on their own or when they’re with Linden, so in order to know them we have to rely on their interactions with Rhine. Cecily is the youngest of the trio, barely a teenager. Honestly, this really disturbed me–especially when she becomes pregnant. I’m assuming Lauren wanted this reaction from the reader because it really portrays how desperate everyone’s life has become. Cecily is also incredibly demanding and bratty, but this comes with her immaturity and inexperience. Her behavior, while tiring to read at times, did add some humor and complexity to the story. Jenna is detached from those around her because of her history. Despite this, she is who Rhine becomes closest too. She’s the oldest and closest to dying, so she’ll risk more in order to help Rhine uncover some secrets and try to escape.
One of the things I didn’t like is how much was left unresolved. I understand that this is the first in a series, but it felt like I was reading a really long prologue. Rhine is determined to find and reconnect with her brother, but we never receive any kind of hint or clue or anything as to if that will even happen or how he is. Housemaster Vaughn is described as being cruel and sinister. Rhine discovers some scary, troubling things in the basement involving Vaughn which I know plays a bigger role in the overall story. The problem I have is that nothing is developed, it’s only alluded to in order to build suspense. And it worked, because I kept predicting how it might affect the story. I was disappointed when I didn’t learn anything new by the end of the book.
As reviews for Wither have popped up, I’ve seen many readers comparing this to The Handmaid’s Tale. I haven’t read this book, but since hearing about it and looking it up, I’d like to read it and make some comparisons. I’m adding this ARC to my classroom library tomorrow and plan on buying a finished copy when it releases because I predict it will be popular with my girls. I had a few hang-ups, but overall I really enjoyed reading Wither. And I love the cover! I found myself flipping back to it while reading because seemingly small details on the cover held more significance the more I read. I enjoy Lauren DeStefano’s writing and I look forward to book two.
Horror novels and horror movies aren’t my thing. I love suspense and thrillers, but all the gore and nastiness of the horror genre freaks me out. Desp...moreHorror novels and horror movies aren’t my thing. I love suspense and thrillers, but all the gore and nastiness of the horror genre freaks me out. Despite all of that, I was excited when Kendare Blake signed up to be interviewed by my students because I know many of them enjoy horror novels and movies. I passed a couple copies around for them to read prior to the interview, and was happy to hear so many rave reviews from my students. They couldn’t stop talking about this debut which really grabbed my interest. Honestly, I was getting a little jealous that I couldn’t read one of my own copies! On Friday, one of the boys who borrowed Anna Dressed in Blood, returned it after school and told me it’s the best book he’s ever read. That did it for me. It was the end of the day, so no other students could claim my copy.
Anna Dressed in Blood is gripping and edgy. It’s full of humor and a little bit of romance. And of course, there’s gore. Kendare Blake, however, balances all of these aspects perfectly. Cas Lowood has a gruesome job that I would never want to be involved with. Killing ghosts isn’t pretty or neat-n-tidy. Considering I’m someone who doesn’t like horror, I was nervous about whether I’d like this book. Yes, the details of the ghost killing and such is gross, but it’s not overdone with needless detail and extra amounts of blood. Plus, Cas has an excellent witty attitude and sense of humor, which is usually incorporated to break the tension. I also appreciate that the gore isn’t on every page; it’s evenly balanced and paced throughout the novel. The romance in the novel builds slowly which I appreciate because it isn’t the primary focus of the plot. The humor and romance mixed well with the mystery and suspense, which is why I couldn’t put this book down. The story just keeps moving which had me completely engrossed. There are plenty of scary scenes, but a scene towards the end with Cas and his mom was probably the creepiest.
The cast of characters in Anna Dressed in Blood really takes the novel to another level. Cas is wonderfully sarcastic, but he’s also one who keeps to himself. Avoiding the living isn’t as easy in Thunder Bay because he meets Thomas and Carmel, who won’t leave his side and stop helping him. I wasn’t expecting characters like these to be included in the story, but I enjoyed them. They bring out a different side of Cas which makes him more dynamic. Anna, of course, really steals the show. She’s beyond scary, but there’s something more to her which I’ll let you figure out when you read the novel. Let me just say I have soft spot for Anna, even if that sounds crazy.
Anna Dressed in Blood is unlike any other novel I’ve read; it really brought me out of my comfort zone. I can’t wait to finally have the opportunity myself to rave about this book in my classes!(less)
Amy Fellner Dominy has written a debut novel that’s full of heart. A few of my girls in class read this before me and kept telling me how much they loved it, so I was eager to read it this summer. Within the first couple pages it became obvious why the girls enjoyed this one so much. Ellie is independent, funny and admirable. I know that OyMG is going to be a popular title with my girls this coming school year.
OyMG is a book that I’d love to incorporate in our curriculum. I can see it working with our diversity unit as a supplemental title for students to read after To Kill a Mockingbird. It would also work with my seniors when they’re working on their senior exit presentations since that entire unit revolves around an important 7-10 minute presentation. I see a lot of potential for this title because it addresses so many topics and issues–religion, speaking up for yourself, individuality, public speaking, etc. Plus, this could easily work with 8th grade middle school students. I love when I find a book that I know kids in different age ranges will enjoy. The girls in class who were raving about it are going to be seniors this year.
The writing and style really worked for me. Ellie’s witty comments were perfectly timed and written. The highly emotional scenes were flawlessly timed and poignant. The scenes between Ellie and her grandfather put me on an emotional roller coaster! At times I just wanted to hug them. Not too much later I wanted to lecture either Ellie or Zeydeh or both of them! They’re both wonderfully layered characters that you can’t help but connect with. And the chapter endings? They kept me turning the pages. I think almost every chapter left me thinking “What’s going to happen next?” One of my favorite chapter ending sentences is this one on page 77 “Beneath the Star of David, my heart shivered.”
Ellie is working through a lot in this book, i.e. trying to win a scholarship and dealing with religion and identity. While she’s going through this, she still has love on the brain. Amy Fellner Dominy balanced this really well. I never criticized Ellie for thinking about Devon or how she looked even though she had the other stuff going on. Ellie’s reactions and thoughts are very realistic and her relationship with Devon is age-appropriate. I do have to say that I love Megan’s saying “Respect the Sizzle.” That is the cutest thing and so catchy! I can easily imagine my friends and I saying that sort of thing when we were Ellie’s age. It’s true, right? There should definitely be sizzle when you meet that certain someone.
OyMG is realistic without being harsh. It’s well-written with lovable characters. It’s a book I highly recommend you read!(less)