Wow. Kind of hard to believe I'm the only 1-star rating right now. I wonder if that would be so if Tyler looked more like Bill Gates than Brad Pitt. RWow. Kind of hard to believe I'm the only 1-star rating right now. I wonder if that would be so if Tyler looked more like Bill Gates than Brad Pitt. Review to come....more
I couldn't finish this one. It is super-unique, and I think it could be really good if I stick with it. But 126 pages in, I just can't do it. NothingI couldn't finish this one. It is super-unique, and I think it could be really good if I stick with it. But 126 pages in, I just can't do it. Nothing happens. I would advise readers to read the blurb and skip Part 1 altogether. Full review to come Sept. 8....more
REVIEW: I had to read this one in small chunks because it is so sad and horrible what happened to the prisoners at Br More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: I had to read this one in small chunks because it is so sad and horrible what happened to the prisoners at Breendonk. I toggled my reading with a fantasy romance, which I think helped me get as far as I did in the book. Like the author, I had also not previously heard of Breendonk. It is not as famous as, say, Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen or Dachau. The stories are well-written and emotional, and reading about Breendonk will take its toll. This is not a happy book.
It was so difficult to read this one that I had to stop around halfway through. I decided to call it quits after waking up in the middle of the night and having a hard time going back to sleep. I just couldn't stop thinking about Breendonk and its bathrooms and what it must have smelled like and how real people dropped dead from exhaustion and starvation. I'm truly not a very emotionally sensitive person--it really takes a lot for me to get emotional--so I would think people who are more sensitive would really struggle with what happened at Breendonk.
This book is well-written and emotionally raw. The author clearly cares about his topic and has thoroughly researched Breendonk and the many people who worked, lived, and died there. Deem has done such a fantastic job writing these stories that I just could not read one more page. I couldn't even read about Breendonk, but real people actually lived these situations.
USES FOR TEACHERS/LIBRARIANS:
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS: companion to units on The Holocaust and The Diary of Anne Frank
SOCIAL STUDIES/HISTORY/HUMANITIES: Discuss the history of Breendonk prior to its becoming a reception camp. How was its location and physical surroundings important to the camp's protection from outside forces? Why do students think the prisoners had to uncover Breendonk's camouflage all day long?
ART: Some critics believe Breendonk artist Jacques Ochs harbored anti-Semitic feelings and that those feelings came out in his drawings. How do Jacques Ochs' drawings of Breendonk guards and prisoners show (or not show) his anti-Jewish views?
THE BOTTOM LINE: An important and emotional glimpse into the people and families affected by the horrors at Breendonk. Most pages include photos, illustrations, and/or maps. Well-written, thoroughly researched, and incredibly sad.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. An excellent addition to any HS Holocaust collection.
Presentation and layout: 5/5--clean layout with photos, illustrations, or maps on nearly every page
Quality of information: 5/5--well-researched and emotional
Photos/illustrations: 5/5--high-quality photos from the actual time period
Documentation of sources: 5/5--among the most thoroughly researched and documented narrative nonfiction I've seen. Includes detailed 5-page bibliography. Front and back matter: 5/5--contains Author's Note describing his experience touring Breendonk, Afterward (what happened to Breendonk prisoners/families after 1945), list of deportations (including number of survivors), quotation sources organized by chapter, extensive bibliography, Acknowledgments, illustration credits, index
Engrossing: 5/5--Well-written and easy to follow, but it's an emotionally difficult read. I had to read it in small segments over several days because it was so sad. About halfway through, I could not read any more--it was taking too great an emotional toll on me.
Writing: 5/5--The writer clearly has an emotional connection with what happened at Breendonk. Easy to follow the stories and, at times, difficult to put down.
Appeal to target audience: 5/5--Student and adult readers will find this story emotional and informative.
Appropriate length: 3/5--352 pages--very interesting but for me, too long and detailed. It was overwhelming.
CONTENT: This book is very emotional and not recommended for readers younger than age 13.
Violence: very high--stories of abuse, torture, murder
WHY I READ IT: We have five copies in our library due to the book being on the Panda Booklist in 2014, and the books More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHY I READ IT: We have five copies in our library due to the book being on the Panda Booklist in 2014, and the books were continually checked out by students without my booktalking the title. Clearly, they were recommending it to each other. I asked a couple of students about it, and they said it was really good and that I would like it. They were so right!
REVIEW: If Voldemort and Lily Potter had a love child, that child would be like Nathan Byrn.
I absolutely loved this book. It is a slow build-up and takes its time establishing character and worldbuilding. I also love the contrast of good versus evil and how they are not so clearly divided. I love the dichotomy of Nathan, who tries so hard to stay out of the trouble that always seems to find him. I love the muddied lines between good and evil and the fact that the line between them is drawn by the people with the power (not necessarily the "good" side).
I enjoyed the pacing, but it does take its time building up the story of Nathan. It starts out describing Nathan's daily experiences in the cage, then backtracks to his childhood for a good 100 pages or so before returning to the cage. There's lots of information about his past, his upbringing with his maternal grandmother, his three half-siblings, a white witch from school that he likes/loves, and eventually, returns to how he ended up in the cage. Without this hook at the beginning (where Nathan is in the cage), I think some readers might not make it to the good stuff that happens after the Council gets hold of him. I never really thought it was slow, but I can see where some might believe otherwise.
There is a romance, but it isn't a huge part of the story until near the end. Based on the events at the end of Half Bad, I suspect the sequel, Half Wild will address this further. I'm still not sure about this girl--I have little to go on about her motives or her character. By the time she reappears in the story, Nathan hasn't seen her in three years. That's a lot of time for young people, particularly those with her family, to mature into someone very different.
There is some odd/interesting use of second person narrative in a couple of sections of the book. I think this is Nathan trying to separate himself from his horrible circumstances, like one of his "tricks" to getting through each day shackled and beaten in a cage. It's very interesting though, that use of second person. I would love to hear other perspectives on it. It could make a very interesting high school class discussion.
I've heard this is optioned for a movie? Yes, please!
THE BOTTOM LINE: A unique, well-paced story that will be easy to booktalk. Give this one to Harry Potter fans. It isn't the same, but it's cool to think of Marcus as the Voldemort of this world. What if Voldemort did have a child?
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have 5 copies that get frequent checkout. Now that I have read it and will booktalk it, checkout is bound to increase even further.
READALIKES:Harry Potter (Rowling); The Last Apprentice (Delaney)
Appeal to teens: 4/5--some may find the pacing slow; probably not a great choice for reluctant readers
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: mild-medium; includes "F***" (but it doesn't say it); says "I cursed at him" or "I threw in some curse words"
Sexuality: medium; one kiss in reality, but naked kissing fantasies and dreams; one witch character loves to flaunt her sexuality; one male witch is teased for having a crush on Nathan (and he might)
Violence: high; there's murder, shootings, blood and gore, poisoning, fights, stabbing, torture
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; poisonings and drugging of prisoners
Yeah, this was just beyond really bad. I hate to say that when I know how much effort authors put into their books, but as of today, all I see is fourYeah, this was just beyond really bad. I hate to say that when I know how much effort authors put into their books, but as of today, all I see is four perfect, five-star Goodreads ratings (no reviews). And that's just not right at all. Just no.
D.C. Trip is about a 3-day high school class field trip to Washington, DC. The chapters alternate between a budding romance between the two teacher chaperones (both single) and some really annoying high school girls who are just dying to sneak out of their hotel room.
The teacher chapters were mildly interesting, if a little weird. The two teachers had an awkward drunken sexual encounter before the start of the school year, and due to their mutual embarrassment, they have not really had much communication since then. The female teacher clearly still likes the male teacher and is trying her best to get his attention. I liked the banter between two teachers with very different teaching styles. As a teacher myself, I have seen the laid-back style clash with a more authoritative style, so this part actually rings true. Would the teachers get together and do the nasty on a school field trip? I suppose that could also happen, but it is highly unprofessional. Anyway, I really never felt connected to these two characters, and pretty much all of their encounters (sexual and nonsexual) are just awkward.
The teacher chapters alternate with the story of three extremely bratty high school girls who are hell-bent on sneaking out of their hotel room. This storyline could be cute--girls scheming while their teachers are gettin' busy--but instead, it is riddled with slut-shaming (the "cuntriad", really?), foul language, and abrupt public discussions of periods and masturbation. Oh, yeah, and they meet the President? And he's totally cool with their sneaking into bars (at age 16) and their running around Washington, DC, alone, in the middle of the night. What???
There was also this really weird full-page tangent about the menu at a restaurant called OMG Thursdays. Complete with those little TM symbols after the names of menu items. I've never heard of this place; those TM symbols suggest that it exists. So I Googled it. I searched "OMG Thursdays" and "OMG Thursdays restaurant" and came up with only a few random Facebook pages and night clubs. So what is the purpose of this vivid full-page description of the restaurant menu? Why spend so much time figuring out the shortcut for the TM symbol? I seriously do not get it.
So though I don't give too many one-star ratings, this one is going down as one of the worst books I've read in 2015. Don't let those 5-star ratings fool you....more
REVIEW: Aww...this book was surprisingly sweet and complex. I bought it on a whim, and it was about a year before I m More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Aww...this book was surprisingly sweet and complex. I bought it on a whim, and it was about a year before I made time to read it. I loved both Chase and Briar. Both had depth and substance that made them likeable characters that I wanted to root for. I really enjoyed the slow build of their romance. They don't even kiss until about halfway through the book, and I thoroughly loved waiting for that. Romance-wise, the story is clean. It's rated as new adult on Goodreads, but this one never goes farther than kissing and some nondescript "making out."
Pacing is excellent. I was sucked into the story immediately and finished it in one sitting. I've had a run of not-so-great books lately, particularly where pacing is concerned, so that was nice and refreshing.
Love that Montana setting! It makes me want to buy my own ranch there.
Some reviews on Goodreads say that Chasing McCree has excessive profanity, but I hardly noticed it until I read those reviews. I searched my Nook copy for language, and sure enough, there are around 30 sh** and 5 fu**. I guess I was really into the story; the language didn't bother me at all! I truly don't think this amount of language is uncommon for YA today. Is it necessary? Probably not. It's unfair to call this one out though without calling out countless others that have far more profanity and are nowhere near as engrossing as Chasing McCree. Look past that, and you'll find a coming-of-age novel about being true to yourself and following your heart.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Well-paced, sweet, and (despite some language concerns) relatively clean. It's engrossing enough to give to reluctant reader high school girls.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it, but I would have no problems getting it. For my current school, however, it's a "no" at this time. As my school is about 65% boys, our romance section is already too saturated (which I discovered when I GENREFIED!).
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: high;~30 damns, ~30 sh** and 5 fu**
Sexuality: mild-medium; some kissing and nondescript "making out"--no intercourse or near-intercourse; no body parts described
Violence: mild; arson, attempted kidnapping, and slaughtered cows
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; brief mention of beer
WHAT I LIKED: I read this book on the recommendation of a teacher at my school. Her 5th grade daughter is hooked on t More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: I read this book on the recommendation of a teacher at my school. Her 5th grade daughter is hooked on this series, and we do not currently have it at our school. I have ordered it, and when it came up for $1.99 on BN.com, I went ahead and purchased it for my Nook.
I do think this series will be popular at my school, particularly with my 6th and 7th grade girls. It isn't great literature, but Harriet is an endearing main character, and the story of unknown-girl-turned-international-superstar is the stuff dreams are made of for many preteen girls.
I am curious where this series is going. There are currently five in the series, and I would love to see Harriet with fellow geek Toby rather than pretty-boy Nick.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The characters. We'll start with Wilbur, who works for the modeling agency that discovers Harriet. His little pet names for everyone and his 6-year old girl t-shirts just about drove me crazy. And he is supposed to be a professional modeling scout? What an idiot.
Harriet's father, whose mental maturity seems to be even younger than Harriet's. He lies to his wife, Annabel, who is practically Harriet's mother, and takes Harriet out of the country for a modeling shoot that his wife is clearly against. All kinds of problems result from his irresponsible choices. Another idiot who desperately needs to grow up.
Love-interest Nick. Where's the appeal, other than his looks? Harriet quickly develops a crush on him based 100% on Nick's appearance. Sure, it's realistic for a 15-year old girl, but couldn't the author have given Nick at least one-tenth of the personality of our Harriet?
Harriet's bestie Nat. She's supposed to be a sympathetic character, but she's really pretty horrible. Though she does stand up for Harriet eventually, it does not excuse her selfish, harmful behavior toward her friends. Nat only invites Harriet to the fashion expo (where Harriet is "spotted" by a modeling agency) because she "needs Harriet for support." From the very start, this sounded to me more like she didn't think Harriet would take attention away from Nat's model aspirations. Harriet clearly didn't want to go, even going so far as faking illness to get out of it, but Nat forces her to go. Then Nat has the nerve to get upset with Harriet, who does nothing at all to try to get the attention of the modeling agency. Even worse than that, to prevent her other (prettier?) friend from going to the expo, Nat actually poisons her food with prawns, which she knows the friend is highly allergic to. God forbid this unsuspecting friend ends up in the hospital or DYING from Nat's narcissism.
There are also credibility issues. I find it very, very hard to believe that:
--An unspecial, "ugly" girl is the new face of fashion? Just like that? No experience? No interest in modeling? Just BOOM! You're a model?
--Cutting off another girl's ponytail at school doesn't warrant suspension or any disciplinary action whatsoever. I don't care what the other girl did, that action deserves serious consequences. Absolutely outrageous behavior.
--The school takes the students to a fashion expo for a field trip. Where's the educational value in that? What are the vast majority of students who have no interest in fashion supposed to get out of it? Were the students supposed to buy stuff? Interview employees? Just walk around?
--The vendors at the fashion market managed to send Harriet's parents a bill for the damage she caused. How did they know her name and address?
--A high school teacher announces that he is leaving the room for 5 minutes and advises students to entertain themselves while he is gone. Of course, this is after he publicly humiliates an honors student who, like most of the class, clearly didn't do her homework. Seriously? No suggestion for the class to read the assignment while he is gone? The textbook room can't wait until class is over? He can't send students to do that errand? Of course, bullying will ensue--it's important to the plot, y'all!
THE BOTTOM LINE: It's okay. Though Harriet and Toby's characters are cute, the supporting characters and unbelievable plot really got under my skin.
WHAT I LIKED: The story begins quickly and is easy to get into, which will help encourage reluctant readers to keep r More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: The story begins quickly and is easy to get into, which will help encourage reluctant readers to keep reading. The plot is easy to follow and suspenseful. For about the first half, I enjoyed the story and looked forward to reading.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: So much profanity. If you have read my reviews before, you probably know that profanity does not much affect whether or not I purchase a book for my school. After working with middle and high school students for many years, I know that my students, even the most innocent of them, have heard profanity at school, in public, and often, at home.
Rather than picking apart every swear word in a book, I look at the purpose of profanity in the story. Does it help define a character? Does it make a setting or social environment more realistic? In the case of The Burning, the answer is a resounding NO. This book has so much unnecessary profanity. F-bombs are all over the place, and all the characters speak as though the F-word is part of their everyday repertoire. Profanity is way overused here and adds absolutely nothing to the plot.
I did not connect with any of the characters. Macy just seems mean to Jackson, who is the only character I sort-of liked. And where are Dom, Sam, and Trev's parents? These three self-described "ghost hunters" are still just high school students. Where do they live? How do they buy food? Who bought Dom's car? Do they have medical and car insurance? So unrealistic that three teens could bounce around the USA solving ghost mysteries without gaining any attention from children's services.
Finally, we get to that abrupt ending. What happened there? Is my ARC missing a chapter? I reread the last chapter and still didn't "get" the ending. It just STOPS.
THE BOTTOM LINE:The Burning has potential, but it does have its issues, too. Better in the first half than the second. School librarians need to be aware of excessive profanity.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Due to excessive profanity and abrupt ending, I have no plans to purchase this one.
READALIKES:Creepover series (Night)
Appeal to teens: 3/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5
Language: extreme--nothing is off the table here (60+ F-bombs, 23 shits)
Sexuality: mild; unwelcome kiss; "pawing" at jeans
Violence: mild; past suicide, arson/murder and attempted murder
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; Macy's brother was killed in a drunk driving accident
I have read almost all of Glines' Sea Breeze series and the first two in the Rosemary Beach series. These books are a More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
I have read almost all of Glines' Sea Breeze series and the first two in the Rosemary Beach series. These books are always addicting, always fun, and Until the End is no exception. In this one, we get to finally see Trisha and Rock's story, plus we get the "what happened next" for all the other Sea Breeze characters.
I always liked Dewayne and Sienna's story the best, followed closely by Krit and Blythe's story. No changes there, both had my favorite endings as well. I loved the way all the stories had happy endings, but the Epilogue gave me chills! It's like Ms. Glines just opened up an entirely new series!
The only reason this is a 4-star instead of 5-star review is that I thought after all the buildup for Trish and Rock's story, it seemed a little tame compared to the others in the series. Granted, the characters are high school seniors when they meet, but I didn't feel like I really knew the characters like I did in some of the other books. I did love seeing Krit and Green as eighth graders though--how cute!
If you are a Sea Breeze fan, you won't want to miss Until the End. A fantastic end to a fun, addicting series that I am sad to see come to an end.
A bit overlong and the mystery is obvious, but I still really enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time putting it down in places. LOVED the charaA bit overlong and the mystery is obvious, but I still really enjoyed reading this book and had a hard time putting it down in places. LOVED the characters and setting especially! Full review to come Oct 20, 2015. Thank you, NetGalley!...more
REVIEW:School Days Around the World is a good quick introduction to school in different countries. Because the schoo More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW:School Days Around the World is a good quick introduction to school in different countries. Because the school descriptions are not very comprehensive, this is best used as an introduction with very young readers.
Featuredcountries include: Cook Islands, Singapore, China, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Turkey, Germany, Denmark, Venezuela, Honduras, USA, and Canada. I like how the school days focus on similarities and differences rather than one school being "better" or "worse" than another. The children are all excited about their schools and happily tell about their teachers, uniforms, lunches, class size, transportation, and favorite subjects.
I love how the book discusses many different types of schools, not just public schools. There is an international school, a First Nations school, a homeschool, a boarding school, and several public schools.
Brightly-colored illustrations feature smiling, happy children and adults of various skin tones on clean white backgrounds. The upbeat illustrations convey a message that though their schools are different, children around the world enjoy going to school every day.
I must reiterate that this is best for younger students as a read-aloud or as a browsing book. Though it would be a great springboard for research on schools around the world, this book by itself is not intended for research. Obviously, one student's school experience is not going to reflect all the different possible school situations that exist within a country, particularly when you consider schools in rural areas versus large cities. ARE THE DESCRIPTIONS ACCURATE? MY EXPERIENCE IN CHINA...
I currently live about 50 km from Shanghai, China, where the "Lu" goes to a Chinese public school. The description of Chinese public schools in this area is accurate from what I have seen. I ride the city bus to school every day with Chinese children and adults going to school and work. School uniforms are the norm here, and as in the illustrations, lots of children wear a red scarf/bandana tied around their necks. I only see this with school uniforms and never on children just wearing street clothes. The red scarf symbolizes a child's participation in the Young Pioneers, which is sort of like Boy or Girl Scouts.
"Lu" tells us there are 43 students in his class. I asked a Chinese friend about class size in Chinese schools, and she said that 40 is about the average. Further, "Lu" mentions the classical music that plays instead of a bell to signal the passing period. This is true! The school where I work is across the street from a Chinese public high school, and I've heard the classical music many times. Last, "Lu" talks about badminton being his favorite sport at school. I can definitely attest to the popularity of badminton here. After 39 years in the USA, I have never played badminton in my life, but here in China, it seems to be quite popular. Ping pong, too.
I mention my China experience because there are no bibliographic notes in my advance review copy. There is a note in the back that says the children, parents, and schools featured in the book are real, but there no supporting research or resources beyond that. The Chinese school depicted is spot-on, which makes me think maybe the others are as well. Verifying the facts presented could be an interesting research idea for a class...
USES FOR TEACHERS/LIBRARIANS:
HUMANITIES / SOCIAL STUDIES: Research schools in the featured countries. Are the stories in the book an accurate portrayal of schools in that country?
HUMANITIES/SOCIAL STUDIES: Create a new book of schools in countries not mentioned in the book.
HUMANITIES / SOCIAL STUDIES: Locate the featured countries on a map.
MUSIC: Learn the traditional dances at the Canadian and Cook Islands schools featured
THE BOTTOM LINE: Best for younger readers and not as a research tool. A fun way to introduce/discuss schools in other countries.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: This is too young for my school (MS/HS), but I will recommend it for our Junior School Library. Our school has children from all over the world, and I would be interested to hear their take on this book.
READALIKES:School Days Around the World (Chambers); Going to School Around the World (Koosman)
Presentation & layout: 5/5--simple layout, easy to look at, uncluttered, excellent use of space
Quality of information: 4/5--Only features one type of school in each country, which could mislead readers to believe all schools in that country are like that one. For example, the USA children are homeschoolers in Alaska. The vast majority of American school children attend either a public or private school; only a small percentage homeschool.
Photos/illustrations: 5/5--All pages are bright and colorful with smiling, happy children and adults. Children, teachers, and parents have at least three different skin tones.
Documentation of sources: 2/5--only a brief mention that the children and schools featured are real
Front and back matter: 4/5--Table of Contents organized by country, quotation from Malala Yousafzai at front, colorful world map showing each featured country and a smiling face of the child telling about his/her school, glossary of languages at end, multiple extension ideas for teachers and parent
Engrossing: 4/5--Cute, fun title that will foster discussion among young readers
Writing: 4/5--well-written; words used are neither too difficult or too easy for K-3 audience
Appeal to target audience: 4/5--Some students will pick this up for themselves; others will need their teacher, librarian, or parent to introduce them to it.
Appropriate length: 5/5--For target audience, this is short enough to be interesting and long enough to say a lot. I would love to see a version of this for older readers that is a bit more comprehensive.
CONTENT: No worries about content for younger readers.
REVIEW: High expectations, how I loathe thee. After loving Houck's Tiger's Curse series and hooking scores of middle More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: High expectations, how I loathe thee. After loving Houck's Tiger's Curse series and hooking scores of middle school girls on the Ren-Kelsey-Kishan love triangle, I am so sad to say that I am disappointed in Reawakened.
Maybe if this were my first Colleen Houck book, and I had never read Tiger's Curse, maybe then I would have loved this book. I certainly liked spunky loner Lily/Lilliana far more than I liked Kelsey in TC. Amon, the mummy, is a neat character, too, though I never really felt any sort of connection to him.
It was the lack of action that really killed this one for me. I mean, yes, stuff happens. It started out with so much potential--a hot mummy awakens, steals a young girl, and whisks her off to Cairo's magical deserts. The front cover is simply gorgeous. There's romantic tension. There's Egyptian mythology and fascinating stories about Osiris and Isis and Seth. But after maybe 100 pages, I started to get bored. At 150 pages, I started skimming. At 224 pages, I just stopped reading altogether. I just wasn't connected.
I am so sad.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Unfortunately, I could not read much more than half of this book. I liked the characters and the premise, but I was ultimately disconnected and bored.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. My Tiger's Curse fans would stage a coup on the library if I didn't get this.
READALIKES:Tiger's Curse (Houck)
Creativity: 3/5--a lot like Tiger's Curse, but without the quick-pacing
Characters: 3/5--I prefer Lily to Kelsey; Amon was okay
Engrossing: 1/5--I couldn't finish.
Writing: 4/5--Colleen Houck is a very talented writer, and I will still read anything she writes!
Appeal to teens: 5/5--No doubt, this will be popular in my library.
Appropriate length to tell the story: 1/5--Way too long for me. I could have hung in there if it were, say, 325 pages instead of 400, but 400 just didn't sound doable after the first 224 pages.
Sexuality: mild; some kissing, innuendo
Violence: mild; fantasy violence and fighting the bad guys
SUMMARY: Just before her 16th birthday, Mira runs away from her two godmothers who raised her in search of her parent More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
SUMMARY: Just before her 16th birthday, Mira runs away from her two godmothers who raised her in search of her parents' gravestones and her own mysterious past. When she gets to Beau Rivage, the town where she was born, Mira finds things are not at all like they seem. Two brothers are at odds concerning Mira--one pushes her to leave as soon as possible, the other drawing her close to convince her to stay.
REVIEW:Kill Me Softly? More like Kill Me NOW. 73 pages in, and I am done. We'll start with Mira. What a brat! For no real reason at all, she lies and runs away from two caring godmothers who raised her from infancy to find some tombstones in a faraway town she's never been to? Then, when she gets there, it suddenly dawns on her that she can't make a hotel reservation at her age? She had planned to run away for eight months before she actually did it; did a hotel reservation never occur to her? And those tombstones she was looking for? Nope, she never Googled her parents' names to see where they might be located; she just thought she'd walk around a strange city to see if she could find them. FAIL.
So Mira gets to Beau Rivage and hangs out in an all-night casino/restaurant so she won't have to walk the streets alone and hungry. So it's perfectly logical that a 21-year old man-boy "rescues" her by offering to put her up in his daddy's expensive hotel and pays for everything, even though he does not know her from Adam. Worse than that, Mira is all of 15 years old. And she thinks this is a good idea? It never, ever occurs to her that this man-boy might want something more from the lovely and incredibly naive Mira. Not even when he tells her to stay out of his Red Room of Pain, or else. Of course his motives are genuine--just look how hawt he is, y'all!
But my frustrations do not end there. Nope, sorry. A few hours after she checks into the hotel, another boy sneaks into her hotel room in the predawn hours and LIES DOWN on top of her. But instead of calling the police or at least screaming bloody murder (or hey, how about returning home?), she gets all huffy with the offending boy and allows him to usher her outside and into the nearest taxi to take her to yet another stranger's house. Now here's where it really gets annoying (because I have hung in there until now). At this apparently posh mansion, there are a bunch of unsupervised, trash-talking teens hanging out, making constant raunchy sexual innuendo and looking and talking like they are straight off the pages of GQ. And after Mira huffs and stomps off (again), she still isn't running for the hills?
So I'm already done with Mira. She has no backbone and chooses over and over to have things "done" to her rather than take control of the situation she created. Poor little passive Mira. Good thing she has a 21-year old rich love machine who she lurrrvveess after 18.2 seconds to take care of her.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Skip it. There are so many fairytale retellings out there today--close your eyes and choose any one of them. No matter what you choose, it's bound to be better than this.
Creativity: 1/5--it had potential but failed miserably
Characters: 0/5--I can't take any more Mira
Appeal to teens: 4/5--fairytale retellings are all the rage right now, plus the cover is really pretty
Appropriate length to tell the story: I don't know--I couldn't get past page 73
Language: high--and for no real reason except for the sake of cursing--these are some seriously foul-mouthed teens
Sexuality: medium-high--the protag is 15, and her insta-love interest is described as 20 or 21. And she sleeps in his room and he reaches 2nd base with her. Ew.
Violence: only got to page 75, but no violence up to then
Drugs/Alcohol: teens drink and smoke cigarettes
REVIEW:Chips and Cheese is yet another brilliant addition to Brian Cleary's Words Are CATegorical series, which is a More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW:Chips and Cheese is yet another brilliant addition to Brian Cleary's Words Are CATegorical series, which is a must-have for any elementary, middle, or even high school classroom or library. Illustrations are bright, colorful, and entertaining. The rhyme is clever and never feels awkward or forced. Even the font helps add to the whimsical style of this fun "learning" book.
I currently work in an international school in China, where many of our students are acquiring English as their second, third, or even fourth language. I've heard many times how English is the hardest language to learn because of all its influences from other countries, multiple exceptions to grammar rules, figures of speech, widely varied word order in sentences, irregularities, contradictions, and a whole host of other difficulties. Heck, even most native English speakers don't use all their grammar rules correctly or know all the various colloquial sayings, dialects, homophones, etc. How many times have you seen your and you're confused in the comments pages of Yahoo News?
That said, I can't thank Brian Cleary enough for gifting the world with this series--it takes complex language concepts like parts of speech and poetry terminology and breaks them down in an entertaining way. If your school or library does not have this series, I strongly suggest you talk to your school librarian or department chair to see if they can be ordered. Beautifully illustrated and entertaining, this series is an excellent way to introduce language concepts to any student of any age.
USES FOR TEACHERS/LIBRARIANS:
ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARTS: Read aloud with students to introduce parts of speech, figures of speech, poetry terms and concepts. Also, check out The World of Brian P. Cleary for lots of interactive language, math, and science games, as well as a Word of the Week and a Poem of the Week. An excellent resource for elementary students!
SCIENCE and MATH: Check out Brian Cleary's other series--Math Is CATegorical (mathematical operations--addition, subtraction, multiplication, fractions, etc.), Food Is CATegorical (fruits, grains, beans, etc.), and Animal Groups Are CATegorical (insects, amphibians, mammals, birds, etc.)
MUSIC: Use to tap out rhythm or to examine rhyming words.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Don't miss it--an excellent, entertaining, and easy way to introduce alliteration.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order for both our libraries (elementary and middle/high). A must-have for any library.
READALIKES:If You Were Alliteration (Shaskan)
Presentation & layout: 5/5--simple layout, easy to look at, uncluttered, excellent use of space, even the font is fun!
Quality of information: 5/5--Includes alliteration examples for single-letter, double-letter, and triple-letter alliteration. Also mentions alliterative sounds from different letters such as c/k or ph/f.
Photos/illustrations: 5/5--All pages are bright and colorful; love the monsters as characters!
Documentation of sources: n/a--not necessary
Front and back matter: 5/5--contains review of alliterative sounds at the end; also biographical information about author and illustrator, link to author's website
Engrossing: 5/5--Very easy to read and understand. Perfect for teachers, browsers, and reluctant readers of any age.
Writing: 5/5--Fun, clever rhymes that are never awkward or forced
Appeal to target audience: 5/5--especially useful for grades 2-7 and ESL students.
Appropriate length: 5/5--32 pages; each page is short--entire book can be read in minutes, which makes it extra-perfect for classroom use
CONTENT: No worries about content for younger readers.
REVIEW: Tired of YA dystopia and bad boy romances? Give this one a try! I've never thought of myself as a fan of West More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Tired of YA dystopia and bad boy romances? Give this one a try! I've never thought of myself as a fan of Westerns, either in TV, books, or movies, but I think I may be getting there. Vengeance Road is just refreshingly different. I loved the Arizona setting, the conflicts with the Apache, the horses, the open desert sky, the saloons, the hunt for gold...I don't know if I would have wanted to live back then, but I sure did enjoy reading about it.
I really liked Kate's stubborn, tomboy personality, which matches Jesse's stubborn, cowboy ruggedness perfectly. The romance was slow-building (he did think she was a boy for awhile!), and I loved seeing how Kate and Jesse tried so hard to not fall for one another. Too cute.
Some readers will struggle with the slang "Western" language used in spoken and inner dialogue. Since Kate tells the story from first person perspective, the entire book is written in slang (example: "goin" instead of "going" and "I's" instead of "I was"). As with Blood Red Road, readers will get used to it eventually. Some, however, will take longer than others.
There were some slow parts, and there is a twist toward the end involving Kate's family history that seemed kind of random and sudden. None of that was a big deal though--I still really enjoyed the book overall.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Unique, wild western fun. Don't miss it!
REVIEW: I am so excited that Abbi Glines is writing a new series for young adults! I am a huge fan of Abbi Glines' Ne More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: I am so excited that Abbi Glines is writing a new series for young adults! I am a huge fan of Abbi Glines' New Adult books--I've read and enjoyed several books from her Rosemary Beach, Sea Breeze, and Vincent Brothers series. And now, I'll be adding The Field Party series to that list.
While I didn't think this one was as strong as Ms. Glines' other novels, I really did enjoy it. The characters of West and Maggie are well-developed, and each character had a distinct voice.
There is a lot of "mine, mine, mine" and possessive relationship behavior in Ms. Glines' books, and Until Friday Night is no exception. I love that Maggie is aware that this behavior is unhealthy and is concerned enough about it to take a stand. As the daughter of an abusive and possessive father, Maggie knows full well the consequences of dysfunctional, possessive romances.
Though this deals with high school characters, Abbi Glines' adult fans won't be disappointed. As with her new adult books, there is some sex, but it is definitely less descriptive and without the "dirty talk" of the other series. I think upper-high school readers can handle this just fine, but I personally wouldn't give this to a ninth grader in the library.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Another hit from Abbi Glines. Fans won't be disappointed, but the relationship arc is similar to her other books.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I am not planning to get this one at this time. It's not because the book isn't good; it's because our contemporary romance section is too saturated as it is.
Appeal to teens: 4/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: medium-high; includes F-bombs
Sexuality: very high; sex, loss of virginity, promiscuity, oral sex
Violence: mild; past domestic violence
Drugs/Alcohol: medium; teens drink beer at post-game field parties
Other: (view spoiler)[suicide by hanging (hide spoiler)]
WHAT I LIKED: I loved the firefighter theme of this book. It's something I haven't seen much in YA literature, and I More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: I loved the firefighter theme of this book. It's something I haven't seen much in YA literature, and I know that firefighters really do have a brotherhood that goes beyond blood. The author clearly knows a lot about firefighter culture and the family bond that exists among them.
I also enjoyed the complex relationship between Reece and his father. Nothing is easy for these two, and their dialogue is incredibly realistic. I enjoyed seeing their relationship evolve over the course of the novel.
The characters of Reece and his father. I love Reece's introspective thinking and how he calls things as they are. Reece's dad John is particularly complicated. He's made many mistakes with Reece and has to get past his pride, anger, and grief in order to overcome them. Author Patty Blount skillfully makes the reader feel both Reece and John's emotional struggles. John and Reece's characters are among the most realistically drawn I've seen in quite awhile.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:: The arson mystery. I figured it out by like page 50. And I hardly ever figure out the mystery in a book, so this one is clearly way too easy to work out.
Amanda's voice. Amanda's character nowhere near as interesting as Reece and John. I wish the novel was only told in Reece's voice--it would have been stronger and more emotional. I got to where I just didn't care about Amanda's problems or the romance between her and Reece.
Insta-love. I'm never a fan. Even though Reece liked Amanda before he joined the force, he tells her he loves her awfully quick.
The front cover. Since so much of the story focuses on Reece and his father, I think putting a pretty girl on the cover is misleading and will limit the audience to mainly girls. That's too bad--realistic fiction for male readers is needed, and with Reece's voice and the arson/firefighter theme, Nothing Left to Burn could help fill that need. But that front cover will limit the audience to mainly girls. Again.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I'm split evenly on this one--it's like the author got the hardest stuff (character development, dialogue, complex relationships) right, but the simple stuff (the identity of the arsonist, the front cover, Amanda's character) didn't get as much attention. It's too bad, really, because Patty Blount is clearly a talented writer.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I don't have any intention of getting this one, mainly because I believe the front cover is misleading. This book should have a boy or maybe a building fire or fire truck on the cover, not a pretty, pensive girl. The publisher is really missing the mark with that front cover.
WHAT I LIKED: After a slow start, I got into the story and read most of it in one sitting. Trouble From the Start is More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: After a slow start, I got into the story and read most of it in one sitting. Trouble From the Start is your typical summer beach romance. I like the beach setting and the fact that Avery enjoys working and doesn't worry about high school drama too much. She doesn't like the rumors that start to circulate about her, and even though she's about to graduate and leave high school behind forever, she takes action to set the story straight. I like that she stands up for herself and goes out of her way to look out for other people. I also found Avery's desperation to get a boyfriend and be kissed to be very realistic for her character, especially given her best friend's constant PDA with her "perfect" boyfriend. More on that in a minute...
The romance unfurls in a realistic way. It's understandable that Fletcher would push away someone like Avery, and I like that it takes them a long time to call themselves a couple. But I do have to wonder how long this relationship will last--Avery seems so parental sometimes. I would think Fletcher, who has essentially been on his own for years, would get tired of her attempts to get him to eat his vegetables and answer her questions. He really does try to steer clear from her, and I respected him for that. Also, the defeat he feels in relation to his own graduation status is realistically portrayed, and I liked how that part of the story played out.
Yay! Involved parents! I liked Avery's parents and especially her little adopted brother Tyler. I love reading YA books that feature parents who are actually involved with their children. They eat meals with their children and talk to them about their day. They know what is going on in their lives. Love that.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Though I enjoyed reading it, but I won't remember it in a week. Avery is a "goody two-shoes" character who seems both too old and immature at the same time. Yes, this is realistic for this in-between age, but for some reason, I just didn't like Avery very much. One minute, she's a bossy, know-it-all, would-be parent to her little brother (and sometimes, Fletcher); the next minute, she's worried about what her parents think of her or that she's going to be in trouble for some small thing. Avery's back and forth behavior may be realistic for the age, but I had a hard time liking Avery. I wouldn't want to be friends with her--I'd always feel like I was doing something she deems as "wrong."
Though the viewpoint alternates between Avery and Fletcher's voices, I found the two voices to be so similar that I sometimes forgot who was speaking. I felt little chemistry between Avery and Fletcher and often wondered why Fletcher would have any interest in unspecial Avery at all.
This is another book with "Annoying Best Friend" syndrome. Avery's best friend Kendall constantly makes out with her boyfriend Jeremy in front of Avery. She talks about how lucky she is to have such a great boyfriend, and it seems like Jeremy is just always around when Kendall is there. Is it any wonder that Avery feels like a third wheel? Gag. I wouldn't want to spend more than two minutes around these two lovebirds, either.
Lots of "sighing" going on in this book. It happened enough that I noticed it.
THE BOTTOM LINE: It's okay. Read it if you like good girl-bad boy summer romances.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I have some of Rachel Hawthorne's other books, but I have no plans to get this one for my library. We already have too many bad boy + good girl romances as it is.
Creativity: 2/5--so many good girl/bad boy romances right now!
Appeal to teens: 3/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5
Language: mild; a few hells, slut
Sexuality: mild; some kissing, slut-shaming, best friend has sex (not described or even discussed), chest-lust
Violence: mild; abusive parent
Drugs/Alcohol: medium; teens get drunk at parties, mention of drug-addicted parent
REVIEW: I'm just going to say it right now...this book deserves attention. I won't be surprised to see it on 2015 Bes More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: I'm just going to say it right now...this book deserves attention. I won't be surprised to see it on 2015 Best-of booklists or even the Goodreads Choice Awards in December. In A World Just Right is well-written, suspenseful, emotional, and beautiful. Jonathan is a sympathetic character right from the start; he's a brilliant-but-scarred loner who experienced unimaginable tragedy at a very young age.
I don't want to say much about this book out of fear of giving away too much. While I thought it dragged a bit in the middle, there are some surprises throughout the story that I really enjoyed. I finished the book this morning while riding a city bus, and I had to try SO HARD not to cry at the end. For that reason and so many others, I am adding In a World Just Right to my own "Best of 2015" list. I am absolutely positive it will also appear on many others.
THE BOTTOM LINE: An impressive debut! Beautifully-written with sympathetic characters and a very unique premise. Despite a few slow spots in the middle, it's one of my favorites of 2015 so far.
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I am so getting this book! I talked about it with several of my library classes this week, and my students are excited to get this title for our library. And for a romance about 18-year old characters, it's relatively clean.
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 4/5--a bit overlong; some slowness in the middle
Language: very mild; a couple of hells
Sexuality: mild; mainly kissing. Fake-Girlfriend Kylie sleeps in same bed with Jonathan, but nothing is described. A sensual massage, but again, it's pretty mild.
Drugs/Alcohol: mild; a couple of references to beer, wine, and whiskey
REVIEW: Wow, I loved this book, particularly in the development of Sam's character and the character of her OCD. The More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
REVIEW: Wow, I loved this book, particularly in the development of Sam's character and the character of her OCD. The human brain really is an amazing thing, and I love how sensitively the author handles Sam's obsessive-compulsive behavior. The reader might not like or agree with the things Sam does, but then again, neither does Sam. She knows her obsessions are wrong. She knows she shouldn't act on them. But that's the beauty of Sam's character. She's sympathetic even though she does at times act on the obsessive thoughts that many would label as "crazy" behaviors.
I love Sam's family, particularly her mother and psychiatrist. Without the support of these strong ladies, Sam would have a very difficult time functioning in daily life. She would give in to her obsessions a lot more often than she does. With so many YA novels today focusing on dysfunctional families, it's always nice to see supportive parents that are dedicated to helping their daughter's quest to be "normal."
I loved the secret poetry club angle and how that helped Samantha "get out" her feelings and take steps to overcome her fears. The poetry club quickly becomes Sam's safe place, and I loved how the club members supported each other through some really tough stuff. I wasn't sure if I liked the "twist" that occurs, but by the time I finished the book, I decided it worked well for the story and helped to further develop Samantha's character.
The romance is light and works well for the story. Sam develops a crush for a boy named AJ, who acts as a kind-of leader for the poetry club. I love that Sam doesn't understand why AJ acts so aloof toward her and how it takes her some time to remember what had happened between them years before. Another nod to the development of Sam's complex character.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A needed addition to today's contemporary YA fiction. There are few books that deal with OCD so sensitively and realistically as Every Last Word. Character development, particularly the character of Samantha and her OCD, is stellar. It's almost as if the OCD is itself a character. Well done!
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: On order. This will be very easy to talk up with my students. I always tell my library classes about what I am currently reading, and several students asked when we would get this book. Get it for students who like contemporary fiction with a dash of romance and a heaping spoonful of realism and hope.
READALIKES:Counting by 7s (Sloan); OCD Love Story (Haydu); The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B (Toten)
Appeal to teens: 5/5
Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
Language: medium--includes fewer than 10 sh** and F-bombs
Sexuality: medium--kissing/touching, off-the-page loss of virginity
Violence: mild--some bullying/name-calling
WHAT I LIKED: I am trying very hard lately to broaden my reading and reviewing horizons. I tend to choose more YA rom More reviews at Mrs. ReaderPants.
WHAT I LIKED: I am trying very hard lately to broaden my reading and reviewing horizons. I tend to choose more YA romance and dystopia books, and I want to branch out to include other genres that I am less inclined to read. When I saw this book compared to Kinney's classic Diary of a Wimpy Kid, I gave it a whirl.
The idea for the Middle School Rules series is a really good one that is desperately needed among sports books for middle grade readers. According to the blurb, the Middle School Rules series intends to "inspire greatness in the next generation by highlighting the importance of being your best, overcoming adversity, and reaching your dreams through discipline and hard work." I think this is a fantastic goal for a series that spotlights professional athletes and how they weren't just born professional athletes. There is a huge amount of hard work that goes into playing for professional sports leagues, and books that tell these stories are hugely needed for our young sports fans.
I do think there is an audience for this book. Reluctant readers who love football could be talked into trying this one, especially if they have heard of Brian Urlacher, which is likely. I'm just sad that the writing isn't better. Just because a book is for reluctant readers doesn't mean the writing has to be super-simplistic.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Despite the comparisons I've seen to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, this is nothing like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It's not funny. The artwork looks more like free clipart than anything original. There's more telling than showing in the simplistic, uninspired writing style.
On my review template for School Library Journal, there is a section that asks me if "the story has a dominant theme, is it too obviously superimposed on the plot?" I've reviewed for SLJ for three years, but I never really understood that question until I read The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher. Holy, yes, the theme too obviously superimposes the plot in this one! Now I know what that question means!!!
The obvious theme here is "Work hard and don't make excuses," and the author takes every single opportunity to remind the reader of this theme. While I liked the sibling rivalry and that Brian's mom starts out as a single mother (she remarried when Brian was seven), Brian feels too much like a "golden boy" in the events that occur. He feels mad or frustrated or jealous, but those things just inspire him to work harder. I felt beat over the head with the "no excuses" meme. I get why the author adds this to the story, but it's just so OBVIOUS. I think even young, reluctant readers will tire of the whole "winners never quit" thing. Every time young Brian experienced adversity, he remembered that "winners never quit!" When he takes licks at school for something he didn't do (completely unfair since they had no proof at all), Brian just channels his anger into his football game that night. Winners never quit! No excuses! It just got old so quickly. And there you have it, folks: a "theme too obviously superimposed on the plot."
THE BOTTOM LINE: I like the idea, but the execution is overly simplistic and preachy. Winners never quit! No excuses!
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We don't have it, and I have no plans to order it.
READALIKES:Kickoff! (Tiki and Ronde Barber); Football Hero (Tim Green); anything by Matt Christopher
Appeal to tweens: 3/5--particularly reluctant readers who love football
Appropriate length to tell the story: 3/5
Delicious creep-tastic ghostly goodness! Picture "Hotel California" meets The Overlook Hotel in The Shining. This book will be SOOOOOO easy to booktalDelicious creep-tastic ghostly goodness! Picture "Hotel California" meets The Overlook Hotel in The Shining. This book will be SOOOOOO easy to booktalk! Full review to come in late-October!...more