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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Movie Trailer!

Happy Birthday Harry Potter! 

Warner Brothers has released the movie trailer for HP7.  The movie, based on the last book in the series by J.K. Rowling, will actually be divided into two parts.  The first will hit theaters in November! 

Check out the trailer
here.  And, if you are on Facebook, "like" the Harry Potter Movie page to keep up-to-date on all the latest movie news. 

Are you a fan of the series?  Are you excited for the last movies, or sad that the saga is coming to an end?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Spies of Mississippi (Bowers)

Title: Spies of Mississippi: the true story of the spy network that tried to destroy the Civil Rights Movement
Author: Bowers
Genre: Non-Fiction, American History, Spies
Pages: 128
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

In 1956, J.P. Coleman, then-governor of Mississippi, signed House Bill 880 creating the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission.  This secret government agency was put in place to protect Mississippi's right to govern itself.  What that really meant was that they (the governor and other members of the state government) were protecting their ability not to have to comply with the Supreme Court ruling in the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, or to stop the practice of segregation.

The spy network that resulted from this bill was controlled by twelve men, who encouraged spying on those people (African-Americans) that were involved in the Civil Rights Movement.  Teachers spied on students, ministers spied on churchgoers, newspaper editors spied on neighbors...usually for money, paid directly by the state.  Spies infiltrated NAACP meetings and not only reported back what they learned, many spies were also charged with ruining the lives of those deemed "most important" to the Civil Rights cause.

I had never heard of this piece of American History, and I can promise you that it was not even a footnote in any of my history textbooks in school.  Bowers has clearly done his research, taking advantage of the primary source documents available.  (The commission left behind 134,000 pages of once-secret documents).  But beyond the obvious research, Bowers has made the subject accessible and highly interesting.  Reading the short chapters, one is intrigued and drawn into the history and the personal stories.  And yet, also appalled that this was allowed to go on for nearly two decades.

Books on spies are typically of the Alex Rider, James Bond, Gallagher Girls genre, where spies are the good guys/girls...heroic adventures attempting to right injustices around the world, with really cool gadgets of course!  Or, you can read books about legendary American spies ("George Washington, Spymaster" and "Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent," both by Thomas Allen).  You do not typically read about villainous spies with evil intent.  Or have it be true.

But it is not just the stories of the Commission and the spies that draw readers here.  Bowers has framed the larger story around the personal stories of those most affected by the spy network: those applying for admission to college hoping to finally integrate it; prominent Civil Rights workers; families forced to flee harassment.  This highly readable book, a definite must-read, is a fascinating account of a frightening period in history.

Beezus and Ramona!

Currently playing at a movie theater near you, this classic Beverly Cleary title opened on big screens around the country last Friday.  Based on the book "Beezus and Ramona," the film title was reversed to "Ramona and Beezus" due to the fact that Ramona plays such a central role.  It looks like a cute movie, and I know that I will be taking the daughter to see it at some point this summer.  I hope it is as wonderful as the books I remember reading!  Have you seen the movie?  What did you think?

By the way, did you know that Beezus and Ramona were first characters in books about Henry Huggins?  Cleary then started a series about the girls' family.  "Beezus and Ramona" was the first book, but Ramona became such a popular character that many of the remaining books are all about the feisty little sister.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wimpy Kid NEWS!

Amulet Books announced today the title and cover for Diary of a Wimpy Kid #5.  "The Ugly Truth" will be published on November 9th with a first printing run of 5 MILLION COPIES!  That says a lot about the popularity of the series.  According to an article in Publishers' Weekly, author Jeff Kinney says that he has always wondered whether Greg Heffley (aka the Wimpy Kid) should "grow up or stay in a state of arrested development forever. This book answers that question once and for all."  Hmmm...what do you think?  Grow up or stay Greg Heffley forever?

Also announced, there will be a second "Wimpy Kid" movie.  Based on the book "Roderick Rules," it will hit theaters on March 25, 2011.  Stay tuned for more news, and check out my
previous blog post about my favorite Wimpy Kid souvenir.

Review: City Dog, Country Frog (Willems)

Title: City Dog, Country Frog
Author: Willems/ Illustrator: Muth
Genre: Picture Book, Friendship
Pages:  It's a picture book, you can handle it!
Rating: 5 our of 5 stars!  Though I would give it more, if I could...
As you know, I posted my Summer Reading Suggestions for Kindergarten through High School at the beginning of June.  (You can find the lists here, by the way).  As always, there are books that do not make it onto my Summer Reading lists.  Often, it is because I just don't think they were that good (I'm admittedly picky, somewhat of a book snob if you will).  Sometimes it is simply a matter of the books being too new or not yet published.  If the public library does not have a book in their catalog by the time I post the lists, I often leave a title off the list.

Such was the case with "City Dog, Country Frog."  Though it was published on June 8th, our public library system did not have it available until just this week when I was finally able to check out this book.  As you know, I get BOXES (and boxes, and boxes--am on a first name basis with FedEx and UPS drivers in my area) of advance copies of books for teens, but I RARELY see advance copies of picture books.  So, I have to be a regular library patron and wait until they are published.

Mo Willems is the talented creator of the Pigeon character ("Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus" among others) and one of my all-time favorites, "Knuffle Bunny."  (He has numerous books published and they are all WONDERFUL, I promise.  My daughter is big fan of his "Elephant and Piggie" books).  Jon J. Muth is an amazing illustrator/author.  His version of "Stone Soup" is one of my all-time favs from my public library/storytime days.

Back to "City Dog, Country Frog."  I am always looking for teen fiction that moves me, that makes me say "Wow!"  And I have to say that lately, I have been in a slump with my reading.  I just seem to be picking uninteresting titles...good, decent, but nothing I love.  When this picture book came in on hold for me, I decided it was time to mix it up.  I am SO glad that I did.  The only thing I can really say about this book is "WOW!!!" 

In spring, when City Dog runs free in the country for the first time, he spots Country Frog sitting on a rock, waiting for a friend. "You'll do," Frog says, and together the two new friends play Country Frog games. In summer, they meet again and play City Dog games. Through the seasons, whenever City Dog visits the country he runs straight for Country Frog's rock.  This is a story of unlikely friendships.  It is not of the same humorous genre of Willems other titles, but you will not miss the hilarity.  The text is spare, but filled with emotion.  The beautiful illustrations are captivating and expressive.  It tugged at my heart and truly moved me.  It is everything I have been looking for in a book recently and I got it in just a few pages.

Parents, this is a must for those of you with young children.  (Read it through once before sharing with your child...some might find it a little sad).  Teachers, this is a must for your preschool-early elementary classroom.  I cannot wait to hear what you think!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Multi-Million Dollar Publishing Deal for Popular Author!

Move over Jeff Kinney, Stephenie Meyer, and Rick Riordan!  Another author has recently signed a publishing mega-deal.  Alyson Noel, author of the popular "Immortals" series, has signed a deal with St. Martin's Press for a new "Soul Seeker" series to debut in 2012.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the deal is a "healthy seven-figures with additional performance bonuses that could double that." The exact amount was not revealed but confirmed to be a “multi-million” dollar advance.  WOW!  And well-deserved!

Noel's "Immortals" series is currently #5 on the New York Times Children's Series list, behind "Twilight," "Percy Jackson," "Pretty Little Liars," and "Diary of a Wimpy Kid"...good company I would say.  Many of our EJH students cannot get enough of the "Immortals" and there was groaning at the end of the school year when it was discovered that the 4th book, "Dark Flame" was not published in time to check out before school got out for the summer.

As you have heard Mrs. Yusko say several times, I am not a huge fan of the Twilight series...I know, I know, something is clearly wrong with me!  However, I am in love with the "Immortals" series.  I picked up "Evermore," the first book in the series, last summer because it was recommended to me by a student.  (No, I would not have picked it up on my own...remember, supernatural romance books typically are not my thing).  I was drawn to Ever and her story, and the tragedy that brought out her supernatural ability.  For those of you that have not read it, I won't spoil anything other than to tell you that Ever's entire family (mom, dad, sister, and even the family dog) are killed in a car accident.  Ever is the only survivor.  And since the accident she can see people's auras, read their thoughts, and know all about their life by simply touching them.  Obviously unnerved by this ability, Ever shuts herself off from the world.  It is at this point in her life that we first meet Ever...and that she first meets Damen. 

Are you a fan of the series?  Do you want to find out about the next book?  Do want to read other books by the author?  Check out her websites and blog!
Author website:

Immortals Series website:

For those of you that have read the series, you will know that her sister Riley factors into the first book.  I have just read an advance copy of "Radiance" which is a new spin-off series featuring Riley and her journey after the car accident.  It was WONDERFUL and I will post my complete review soon.  I have loaned it to a neighbor girl, but if you would like to be next on the list, comment here and let me know!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hunger Games Updates

As we are now less than a month to the release of "Mockingjay" by Suzanne Collins, Scholastic has unveiled a Facebook page for The Hunger Games can find the link here.   While it is a brand new page, and does not have a lot of information that we don't already know, I imagine it will constantly be updated with news and maybe even interviews?

Right now it has a link to a "Mockingjay" trailer.  You can also find the link by visiting "The Hunger Games" trilogy website; click on "Watch the Trailer" at the bottom of the page.  Check out the trailer and let me know what you think!

And don't forget to comment on my previous posts:
Hunger Games Movie...
Mockingjay Cover Comparison...

Have you entered????

The deadline is fast approaching for the KCLS Read.Flip.Win Contest!  Have you entered yet?  Details about the contest can be found here.  Don't delay...the contest ends July 31st!  And remember that there are two categories: Book Trailer and Book Review. 

While I was browsing their Facebook fan page, I found some links to entries already submitted.  Check them out if you need some inspiration!
Book Trailer for Maximum Ride by James Patterson
Book Trailer for The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: Hothouse (Lynch)

Title: Hothouse
Author: Lynch
Genre: Fiction, Realistic, Death
Pages: 208
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Russ and DJ have been friends forever, as well neighbors.  Their family friendships are based on the fact that both boys' dads are firefighters who work in the same engine company, the "Hothouse."  Nicknamed "Courageous and Outrageous," the dads are known for their bravery and heroic actions on the job, and Russ and DJ have grown up in their shadow.  When the Hothouse is called to a fire, the dads rescue an old woman from the burning house, but they cannot save themselves.  Soon, the town is rushing to memorialize the fallen firefighters, tossing around words like "hero," and throwing parties and raising  money for the families.  But in the end, Russ and DJ are left without their dads.

Told through the first-person narrative of Russ, this is a very real story of family, friendship, and loss.  There are MANY books out there where the main character has to deal with the death of a parent, but I promise you, this is one not to be missed for it brings so much more to the table than just another dead parent.  In the rush to turn the firefighters into heroes, it is possible that the town officials have overlooked important events of the tragic fire.  As details of that night slowly come to light, it is possible that Russ is going to have to face the possibility that his father is not a hero, and is in fact to blame.

Russ is a "guy's guy" and the story of his friendships, especially with DJ, are realistically portrayed.  The mystery surrounding the events of the fire is parcelled out at just the right pace, and will keep you turning the page. 

I read an advance copy of this book, as it will not be published until 8/24/10.  If you would like to read it before then, please comment and I will send it to you.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hunger Games Movie...

As we countdown to the release of "Mockingjay" (almost T -30 days!), Hunger Games fans like myself are becoming more anxious.  I hope that you have been reading some of my suggestions to tide you over, especially "Incarceron," "Ship Breaker," and "The Maze Runner."  You might even enjoy "The Gardener" and "Epitaph Road."  (see earlier blog posts to find my reviews of those titles).

Since "The Hunger Games" became such a phenomenon, there has been buzz about a Hunger Games movie.  I have had numerous discussions with students about the possibility.  To be honest, I thought that it would never fly because the visual imagery of kids killing kids would be pretty powerful and I wasn't sure how it would get through the movie rating system.  I guess this is why I am not in the movie business.  There does appear to be a Hunger Games movie in the works.  See this article from the LA Times to find out the scoop!  Exciting news.

So, the question is...who do you think should play Katniss???

Best giveaway item...EVER!

As many of you know, the Yusko family are wild about all things Wimpy Kid!  We have even sucked the 8-year-old daughter into the fun.  Read all the books, multiple times?  Check!  Seen the movie?  Check!  Met the author?  Check!  When Jeff Kinney came to the Seattle area several years ago, I pulled my son out of school to go meet him at Third Place Books.  (Shhh... don't tell anyone)!  Now 13, my son is still a fan of the series, and I am left hoping that something new will spark his love of reading just like Kinney's wonderful Wimpy Kid, Greg Heffley.

Obviously, we are awaiting the next book, due out in November...aaaah, it seems so far away!  Recently, at the American Library Association conference in Washington, D.C., both kids spent one morning walking through the exhibition floor with me.  We had a great time talking with publishers, hearing their suggestions, and scooping up advance copies of books...which is obviously a big highlight of the event for readers like myself.  (That, and meeting favorite authors, but that was a previous blog post).

However, the "BEST GIVEAWAY ITEM EVER," as deemed by the entire family were the Diary of a Wimpy Kid water bottles that we scored from Amulet Books/Abrams.  And as we are heading out to a soccer tournament, filling our water bottles to put in the cooler, I must agree.  I was originally thinking that we would keep one and I'd give away the other two in a drawing at school in the fall.  Alas, EJH students, you are out of luck because no one will part with theirs, including ME!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I need something good to read!

Okay, that may seem like a ridiculous title for a blog post, considering I currently have SIX BOXES of books stacked up by my front door (and believe me, they are big boxes and taking up lots of space).  Half of the books are brand new from publishers, and the other half are advanced copies that I picked up at the American Library Conference in June.  Surely there is something good to be found in there, right?

Well, the problem is, I can't seem to pick them right now.  All the books that I am picking are just not winning me over.  Now, to be fair, I just gave bags of books to 6 different neighbor kids, and am mailing some excellent suggestions to Ms. LaBrie and Mr. Kaneko.  Perhaps the OUTSTANDING books were in the ones that I picked out for them.  Each of the kids that borrowed books has a variety of reading tastes, from science fiction, vampires, historical fiction, adventure, realistic, and love stories.  And I found many interesting titles for each of them.  Now, to await their reports and critiques!

But for me, I so want to find that one AMAZING book that I feel so passionately about.  The reviews that I have been posting lately are all from books that I read in June, before my Best Fiction (BFYA) meeting in Washington, D.C.  Or they are books that I've already read and gone back to ("Ironman," "Power of One"...see previous blog posts).

For example, I've been reading the same book for 4 days now and am only halfway through.  It sounds great, the premise is interesting, I like the main character...but it is clearly just not keeping my interest.  Hmmm, follow my own advice and stop, or keep going?  There is also the book that I abandoned after 35 or 40 pages.  Again, it sounded so interesting, a fun adventure story perfect for summer (and short!), but I spent the majority of the time wishing the one character would tell the other one to "SHUT UP!" that I just had to stop.  Either that means it is brilliant writing and the character was supposed to annoy me, or it's just not worthy of my time.  (When I put the book down, however, my husband thought I was already done with the entire book...ha, ha, I'm not that much of a speed reader.  Just abandoning the madness)!

It can't be all dark and dismal, right?  While I was still on vacation, I did read some galleys (advanced copies) from those boxes (before I mailed them home).  There were winners, and I guess I will just get to posting those reviews.  Case in point: "Forge" by Laurie Halse Anderson (loved it!!); "Girl, Stolen" by Henry (quite good).

So now I am looking for reading suggestions from you...what do you like?  What should I read?  What have you read and loved this summer?  Perhaps I need to stop looking for AMAZING and settle for good summer read?

Review: Raven Summer (Almond)

Title: Raven Summer
Author: Almond
Genre: Fiction, War, Fate, Friendship
Pages: 198
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Okay, I'll be honest with you, this is a tough book for me to review.  Mainly because I'm not quite sure who the intended audience is.  Set in England, in the recent past (very recent--it is during the war in Iraq, which is still going on), Liam is playing in the neighborhood when the call of a bird leads him into a field where he discovers a baby. Liam brings the baby home to his parents, who involve the police in locating the infant's parents.  When none are found, the baby is put into a foster home.  Liam and his parents travel to visit the baby (named Allison), and there Liam meets the family's other foster children: Crystal, a bit of a wild girl; and Oliver, a refugee from Liberia. 

It is Liam's interactions with Oliver and Crystal that drive the plot of this short story.  Why is Oliver so afraid to return to Liberia?  What horrible tragedies of war has he experienced?  What are children capable of? 

I was actually intrigued by this book, which received several starred reviews.  Almond is a popular and award-winning author, and I have enjoyed his other books, especially "Kit's Wilderness" which won the Printz Award (the Newbery Award equivalent for teen literature).  However, I was also perplexed by this book.  Who is the audience supposed to be?  The message is clearly about the effects of war.  I think it is a good read for adults...lots to think about.  But are teens going to be interested in this, regardless of how short it is?  Is there teen appeal?  I don't think that the cover actually does it any justice in this department.  The above rating reflects my opinion on the perceived popularity with teens.  What do you think? Have you read it?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: Riding Invisible (Alonzo)

Title: Riding Invisible
Author: Alonzo
Genre: Fiction, Adventure, Survival
Pages: 240
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

15-year-old Yancy has been growing up in the shadow of his older brother older brother with a major anger management problem.  Though his parents have been trying to get help for Will, and the family, the situation is escalating.  Will torments Yancy and is threatening to kill Yancy's horse Shy, describing his intended action in graphic detail.  Fearing for the life of his horse, and his own, Yancy takes Shy and runs away.  In case he gets "killed on the trail," Yancy details his journey in a journal.

"Riding Invisible" is that journal, a mix of graphics and dated entries chronicling Yancy's runaway adventure.  With only a backpack, a flashlight, his horse, and the journal, Yancy takes to the California desert hoping to find safety. There, he discovers what it is like being homeless, and meets Tavo, a farm laborer from Mexico who "rescues" him. 

Alonzo has created a cast of very real characters.  Yancy is a likable narrator, with very real worries.  Even if your brother is not a sociopath, you can relate to his family's dysfunction.  When he escapes, taking matters into his own hands, he wants to be strong.  But when he describes his family, you know that he is scared and feels invisible.  You will root for Yancy to save himself...and Shy.  But he cannot do it alone.  And when he meets Tavo, who takes him in and finds him work on a horse ranch, you begin to have hope that Yancy will find family and understanding at last.

As a parent, I could also understand the pain of Yancy's family.  How do you deal with one child so clearly in need of help and yet help your other child also?  It is a tough balance and there are no easy answers.  And that is what I like about this book.  If you read "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, you will definitely enjoy this book, by a debut author.  However, I hope that you will pick this book up because you want a story about a wonderful character on the runaway adventure of a lifetime...and for his life.

Nominated for the 2011 Best Fiction award (BFYA), this is one strong title!

So many books, so little time...

Or rather, I should say, "So many reviews, so little time!"

I have fallen behind on my review posting duties.  I promise that I am reading, but I am currently VERY behind (by my standards) in letting you know about the books.  I blame a variety of things: first it was the World Cup.  How could you not get sucked into the drama?  I am still crushed by the defeat of Netherlands. 

Now my distraction is the Tour de France and my addiction to the coverage on Versus.  I heart Phil Liggett and Paul by play just sounds better (and more authoritative) when there is an accent!  And watching the competition for the Yellow Jersey is compelling.  I was rooting for Lance to get the stage win today...guess it just wasn't in the cards.

Mix in a few soccer and baseball tournaments and you will hopefully understand why I haven't kept current on my reviews (and you will also realize that we really are a sport-crazed family).  So, if you are interested in the books that I've read, please be patient and keep posted!  I will catch up. 

Until then, here is the list of books I've recently finished.  If one sounds interesting, and you would like to read it or hear more, comment/email and I will let you know!
Riding Invisible (Alonzo)    
Livvie Owen Lived Here (Dooley)    
Mindblind (Roy)                  
Forge (Anderson)
Girl, Stolen (Henry) 
Hothouse (Lynch)             
Things a Brother Knows (Reinhardt)  
Raven Summer (Almond)  
Not That Kind of Girl (Vivian)
Real Live Boyfriends (Lockhart)
Dark Song (Giles)             
You (Benoit)      
Long Walk to Water (Park)
Interrogation of Gabriel James (Price)      
Girl with the Mermaid Hair (Ephron)

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: Girl with the Mermaid Hair (Ephron)

Title: Girl with the Mermaid Hair
Author: Ephron
Genre: Fiction, Realistic, High School
Pages: 312
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Sukie Jamieson is obsessed with her appearance. She checks her reflection in windows, spoons, car chrome—anything available. She is constantly taking her own picture with her cell phone so she can see what she looks like.  When her mother gives her a full-length mirror that once belonged to her grandmother, Sukie is thrilled. But she doesn’t listen to her mother’s warning: "This mirror will be your best friend and worst enemy.”  Sukie sees much more than she bargained for in the mirror.  But what will she do with the knowledge?

To be honest, I heard people talk about this book and how good it was.  It wasn't on the top of my list, but I brought it home this summer hoping to finally read it.  While it was a decent book, I did not LOVE it.  Sukie's obsession with her appearance dominates much of the book.  The last 1/3 of the book salvaged the story for me...I actually enjoyed the story at this point and wanted to know what was going to happen to Sukie and her family.  I'm not sure that teens are going to put up with Sukie and her shallowness for that long though.  But I could be wrong, this book did check out several times in the spring.  I'd be interested to hear from anyone that has read it.  Perhaps I have been too critical?  Let me know!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In Honor Of...Nelson Mandela's Birthday

Nelson Mandela has long been a hero of mine, and is one of those people that I would love to invite to dinner.  His life story is amazing and inspiring.  Since today is his birthday, and I spent the day (after watching Tour de France coverage of course) watching "The Power of One" (starring Morgan Freeman, Stephen Dorff, and even Daniel Craig).  This movie, set in South Africa in the 1930's and 1940's, is based on the book of the same name by Bryce Courtenay.  An excellent historical fiction novel, about a time/place that we don't often study or read about.

I am constantly amazed (shocked, really) that students I talk to do not know who Nelson Mandela is.  Perhaps they will now after watching World Cup coverage?  If you are looking for a good biography of Mandela, there are MANY to be had.  One that I recommend for junior high students is "Mandela" The rebel who led his nation to freedom," part of the National Geographic World History Biography series.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In Honor Of...Chris Crutcher's Birthday!

I have been busy reading, reading, READING for Best Fiction (BFYA).  Don't get me wrong, it is always exciting to read titles that are "hot off the presses" and I have found some true gems.  However, sometimes I just want to read something for pleasure, not because I have to read it critically (which can sometimes take the fun out of it and make it feel like homework--ick!). 

So, as I logged into my Facebook account this morning I discovered that today was Chris Crutcher's birthday.  A little background...most of you know that I never pick "favorite books," mainly because it constantly changes.  However, if forced to, I could pick "Whale Talk" by Crutcher as one of my all-time top 5!  And if I had to pick a list of favorite authors, who's books I read over and over, Crutcher would be at or near the top. 

I have heard Crutcher speak a number of times and what he has to say always resonates with me, which is probably why I am so drawn to his books.  Crutcher's background is in social work and I think that his characters grow out of the situations and problems that real teens find themselves in.  There are so many of Crutcher's characters that I feel like I have a connection to: Sarah Byrnes, TJ Jones, Angus Bethune, Ben Wolf, Bo Brewster... And of course, Crutcher is a local author (hey, anyone in Washington, we'll take credit for), usually basing his books in the Spokane, WA area. 

So, today I decided to re-read a favorite, just because!  And as much as I would normally choose "Whale Talk," it appears that someone has "borrowed" my autographed copy as it no longer lives on my bookshelves.  (If you are the person that did borrow it, I hope that you have enjoyed it)!  Instead, since I have been wrapped up in (read: addicted to) the Tour de France, and all the talk is about how Lance Armstrong will be competing in the Hawaiian Ironman next year, I decided to pick up "Ironman."

Bo Brewster is training for the Yukon Jack triathlon, not your typical Ironman.  But he also has some major anger management issues.  He quit the football team, and after calling his teacher a name you should never call a teacher, he is close to being expelled from school. Bo is sent to Mr. Nak's Anger Management Group, which he is pretty sure is a group of future serial killers and freeway snipers.  It is in anger management that Bo meets a hard-edged group of survivors with issues and defenses rivaling his own, and where he must come to terms with why he is so angry.

It is so nice to reconnect with a favorite character...and a favorite book.  Perfect for summer reading!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Ship Breaker (Bacigalupi)

Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Bacigalupi
Genre: Fiction, Dystopian, Survival, Adventure, Science Fiction
Pages: 323
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

In a not-so-distant future America, grounded oil tankers are broken down for parts in the Gulf Coast region.  Nailer, a teenage boy who works for a crew that scavenges for copper wiring, hopes to make his quota and live to see another day.  One day, he discovers a clipper ship that wrecked during a hurricane, and its lone survivor--a beautiful girl (Nita) from a powerful family.  Nailer must make an important decision: strip the ship and kill the girl for "parts" or rescue her and hope she can lead him to a better life. 

Most of you know that I am a fan of dystopian or alternate future books.  Honestly, though, this book originally got lost in my pile of Best Fiction (BFYA) nominees and I did not read it in time to put on my summer reading suggestions.  Let's just say, now I wish I had!  This is a book NOT to be missed.  The world building (setting) immediately pulls you in.  I can close my eyes and picture exactly what Nailer sees when he is climbing through grounded oil tankers looking for copper wire.  It is a bleak existance that he lives, trying to survive with a harsh boss and a drug-addicted, abusive father.

It is not hard to imagine this future America considering all that is going on right now in the Gulf with the BP oil spill.  Perhaps this believability is what draws you into this novel.  More likely, it is the AMAZING writing.  The characters are well-drawn, even the villains.  I feel like I know Nailer and Nita, that I have become part of their world and their lives.  There is so much to think about in this futuristic book, and much for discussion.  The fast-paced action and remarkable characters will keep you turning the pages of this darkly compelling book...that will stay with you long after you read it.

On a side note, this is one of the books that I loaned to the neighbor kids this week for their boating vacation.  I am eagerly awaiting their review...even their mom wanted to read it based on the book summary!  If you would like to be next in line to read it, comment here and I will send it to you when they return it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: Ostrich Boys

Title: Ostrich Boys
Author: Gray
Genre: Fiction, Friendship, Death, Adventure
Pages: 297
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Kenny, Sim, and Blake are a trio of friends that used to be a quartet.  Their best friend Ross was killed by a car while riding his bike, and his funeral was lame.  The boys, who live in England, decide a trip is necessary to honor their friend's memory.  Ross always wanted to visit Ross, Scotland, so the three friends know they must go there...and they decide to take Ross with them.  Or at least, take his ashes. 

After "kidnapping" Ross' ashes, the guys set out on the adventure of a lifetime.  Each hoping that their parents won't discover where they are going, and that Ross' parents won't call the luck on either account.  Along the way, the guys meet some interesting characters, travel by bus, train, and motorcycle, and find time to bungee jump and pick up chicks. 

But they also discover there was more to Ross than any of them took the time to learn, and there was more to his death than a simple accident.  What they learn about themselves, each other, and Ross has each questioning what it means to be a friend.  An excellent adventure story filled with humor, truth, and friendship.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Review: The Gardener (Bodeen)

Title: The Gardener
Author: Bodeen
Genre: Science Fiction, Experiments, Adventure
Pages: 240
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The only thing that Mason knows about his father is the DVD he has of a man reading a children's book, but the man's face is never shown.  One day Mason decides to play this DVD to a group of comatose teens at the nursing home where his mom works...miraculously, one of the teens responds.  A beautiful girl with a mysterious past.  Before he knows it, he has helped the girl escape the nursing home, and they are on the run.

Through the course of their escape/adventure, Mason learns that the girl is part of some crazy genetic science experiment to turn teenagers into autotrophs--organisms that do not need food or water to survive, but can make their own nutrients from the sun.  Will Mason be able to save the girl from "The Gardener"?

This is the newest book from the author of "The Compound," which is an Evergreen Award Nominee book for 2011.  Mason is not your typical teen; he is quiet and shy, but also wants to save people.  And "the girl," as we know her for most of the story, is so mysterious that you want to learn all about her. There is plenty of action and creepiness to keep you turning the page!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Free Audiobooks for Summer!!

Do you like listening to audiobooks?  Would you like to try an audiobook for free?  Each week, from July 1st until September 1st, you can download two totally FREE audiobooks through SYNC!

Anyone can participate, there's no required sign-up or personal info or credit card needed, the titles are in MP3 format compatible with ANY digital player or computer.  The choices each week are one top Teen book (like "Beastly," "Hunger Games," and "Bloody Jack"), and one top Classic ("Treasure Island," "The Power of One," and "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.")  All the directions on how to download the files are on the website, including a "how-to" video.

If you take advantage of this, let me know what you think!  

Friday, July 9, 2010

Review: Sorta Like a Rock Star (Quick)

Title: Sorta Like a Rock Star
Author: Quick
Genre: Fiction, High School, Death, Survival, Dogs
Pages: 362
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Amber Appleton is homeless.  She is living with her mom and her dog in the school bus that her mother drives (nicknamed the "Hello Yellow"), hoping that the school district doesn't find out and turn them in to social services.  Instead of focusing on the bad things in her life, (and believe me, there are many), she chooses to spread optimism and hope to those around her.

Amber comes in contact with a quirky cast of characters: a single mother raising a son diagnosed with autism; Father Chee and The Korean Divas for Christ (soul-singing ESL students); a grumpy old woman who wants nothing more than to make Amber cry; a video-game-playing gang of outcasts at school; and a haiku-writing war vet.

Then Amber is faced with an unspeakable tragedy and her world is shaken to the core.  Can the girl known for unceasing optimism move past all the bad things going on around her?  This is the author's first YA novel, and is also nominated for BFYA this year.  I wish it had a better cover, because it was not checked out very much at the end of the school year when it was added to the collection and I think it is because the cover gives you no idea about the treasure of a story you will find inside the cover.

This is such a wonderful book with so many zany characters.  Amber is almost annoyingly happy at the beginning, and it takes you a few pages to realize how wonderful she is.  Her enthusiasm for life is so contagious!  And then, tragedy strikes and it changes Amber completely.  But her friends do not give up on her and hope that Amber can come through the other side of the darkness.  A completely realistic character, Amber is "sorta like a rock star" to those around her, and you will fall in love with her and root for her.  There is so much to love about this book, not the least of which is how it will make you think about the way you look at life.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Review: Shutout (Halpin)

Title: Shutout
Author: Halpin
Genre: Fiction, High School, Friendship, Soccer
Pages: 192
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Amanda is looking forward to the start of high school.  Even though her and BFF Lena are only starting 9th grade, they are sure that they will both make the varsity soccer team and this means popularity is secured!  Unfortunately, only Lena makes the team and Amanda is relegated to the JV squad.  Can their friendship survive?

As many of you know, I am a huge soccer fan, and since it is still World Cup, I decided to read an advance copy of this book (which will be published on 8/17.  The cover didn't look anything like this, so I'm interested to see what the final cover will look like).  This is the same Brendan Halpin who co-authored "The Half-Life of Planets," which I LOVED (see an earlier blog post for review of that book).

Soccer is wildly popular with EJH students, and this book will be a perfect read to get you in the mood for the start of soccer season.  But don't think that this is just a book about soccer.  It is really a story about friendship and how things can change when new friends, new priorities, and a new school are added to the mix.  Amanda is a realistic 14-year-old: funny, witty, and insecure.  Is Lena the best friend for her, or is it time to move on?  A good book about what it means to be a friend.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol (Krieg)

Title: Griff Carver, Hallway Patrol
Author: Krieg
Genre: Fiction, Humor, Middle School, Mystery
Pages: 272
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Griff Carver is the new kid in school, and the newest recruit to the school's safety patrol.  He may be new to school, but he is a veteran at safety patrol and is determined to rid the "mean streets" (school hallways) of crime. 

Griff is a character straight out of a television crime drama.  With so many cop shows on TV, and with new ones scheduled to debut in the fall (think Hawaii 5-0), this book has a ready-made group of fans.  But the best part about this book is Griff.  He is such a typical 7th Grade boy, and fans of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" will enjoy this book.  This is a hilarious, smart-aleck mystery (Griff uncovers counterfeit hall passes for goodness sake).  Just plain funny!  Word of warning: I wouldn't recommend talking to Ms. Olsen (or any other principal) like Griff talks to his!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

I am attempting to connect with other people who blog about YA books and the question I am supposed to answer is why I started blogging.  There are several reasons! 

(1) To interact with my students online about books.  I love talking with teens about books.

(2) To keep track of all the books that I'm reading.  I am currently serving on YALSA's 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults Committee (BFYA, formerly BBYA for all you teen librarians out there) and this seemed like the best way to reflect on the books as I read them.

I am new to the world of blogging, but having a lot of fun with it.  Feel free to comment...I am looking forward to hearing from others who love YA books.

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