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Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June (Benway)

Title: The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June
Author: Benway
Genre: Fiction, High School, Sisters, Paranormal

Pages: 279
Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5

April, May, and June Stephenson's lives have been turned upside down.  Their parents recently got divorced and the girls are starting at a new school in a new city.  Oh, and they just discovered they have magic powers.

April, the oldest, is a studious, rule-following junior.  She is a bit of a worrier who can now see into the future.  May, the middle child, is a sharp-tongued, quick-witted sophomore who can disappear...literally.  June is a freshman, looking to be the most popular girl on campus and invited to all the right parties.  Now she can read everyone's mind.  These new-found powers help the girls navigate the high school social scene.  When April sees a disaster in their future, the girls come together to see if they can save the day.

This was a light-hearted, quick read.  Alternating between each girl's perspective to tell the story, readers get a true sense of all the sisters and their personalities.  May, with her sharp wit and sarcastic tone, was definitely my favorite character, though I am probably more like April.  Anyone that has sisters, or very good girlfriends, will definitely relate to the relationships in this story.  Throw in a hint of romance for at least one sister and there is something for everyone here!

And it leaves me wondering...if you could have a magical ability, what would it be? Hmmm...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Now What???

The question I currently get asked the most is, "What do I read now?"  Usually said by a student, often in a "woe-is-me" voice.  However, grown-up friends, neighbors, and teachers have also been known to ask this question, usually via Facebook, typically without the whine.

The reason for this desperation? "The Hunger Games" trilogy, concluding with the recently released "Mockingjay," has ended. After waiting so long for book three, for most people it has now come and gone...and left everyone wanting more books to read!  As a librarian, I am very excited when a series can spark interest in other books, not just the series itself.  "Yeah!" to Suzanne Collins for giving us such a story.

So, whether you LOVED "Mockingjay," are sad to see it end, or were greatly disappointed by it, never fear...there are more books for you,  I promise!  Dystopian fiction for teens is a HUGE genre (especially now), that will not let you down. 

Here are my suggestions (in no particular order) of "What to Read Next:"

(1) Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.
  Okay, though I promised no order to this list, there is a reason that I mentioned it first.  I LOVE IT!  And so do many others, based on all the starred reviews it has received.  Nailer is on a scavenger crew tearing up old hulks of ships, living day to day in a not-so-distant future U.S., until a rich girl and her gleaming ship run ashore in a storm on the beach and his life gets more dangerous.  See my review here.

(2) Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.  Another new book, first in a series, that you will definitely enjoy.  Trapped in the massive prison world of Incarceron, Finn searches for his true identity; outside, Claudia searches for the truth about Incarceron and its warden, her father.  My review is posted here.  Book 2, "Sapphique," releases in December 2010.

(3) Maze Runner by James Dashner.  Again, another first in a series.  (The second book, "Scorch Trials" will actually be released 10/12/10).  This is "The Hunger Games" meets "Lost."  Click here for my earlier review.

(4) Numbers by Rachel Ward.  What if you could look into people's eyes and see the date they were going to die?  Jem can, and now she is on the run because of it.  Here is my earlier post on this book.  An excellent cover, by the way!

(5) Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.  World War I as never seen before.  This is certainly not the history that you studied!   In an alternate 1914 Europe, fifteen-year-old Austrian Prince Alek, is on the run from the Clanker Powers who are attempting to take over the globe using mechanical machinery.  Alek forms an uneasy alliance with Deryn, who disguises herself as a boy to join the British Air Service, learning to fly genetically-engineered beasts. A sequel is on the way--"Behemoth," 10/5/10.

(6) Life as We Knew It by Susan Pfeffer.  What if it really is the end of life on Earth as we know it?  How will you survive?  This is one of the top choices each year for the 8th grade Survival Unit.  Two books follow in the series.

(7) Feed by M.T. Anderson. In a future where most people have computer implants in their heads to control their environment, a boy meets an unusual girl who is in serious trouble.

(8) Unwind by Neal Schusterman. Set in a future U.S. in which abortions are outlawed but parents have the option of signing over their 13- to 17-year-olds to be used as organ donors, three teens embark upon a cross-country journey in order to escape.

(9) The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson. In the not-too-distant future, when biotechnological advances have made synthetic bodies and brains possible but illegal, a seventeen-year-old girl, recovering from a serious accident and suffering from memory lapses, learns a startling secret about her existence.  Though this is a few years old, I just finished listening to the audio.  Definitely recommend this book.

(10) The Giver by Lois Lowry.  The standard by which all Dystopian novels should be judged, this classic won the Newbery Medal in 1994.   Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.  Two other books, "Messenger" and "Gathering Blue," follow.

Other books that should not be missed:
The Diary of Pelly D. by L.J. Adlington
Exodus by Julie Bertagna
The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen
The White Mountains by John Christopher
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner
The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman
Gone by Michael Grant
Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Enemy by Charlie Higson
Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden
Declaration by Gemma Malley
A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
Epitaph Road by David Patneaude
Fever Crumb by Philip Reeves
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Bar Code Rebellion by Suzanne Weyn

Suggestions?  Omissions? Other recommendatons?  What do you think?  This might become my own version of a "Tuesday Top 10," though clearly I couldn't stop at just 10!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Girl, Stolen (Henry)

Title: Girl, Stolen
Author: Henry
Genre: Fiction, Survival, Kidnapping, Blindness
Pages: 224
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne is sleeping in the back seat of her mom's car.  Cheyenne is sick, and her mom stopped at the pharmacy to pick up Cheyenne's prescription.  Wrapped up in a blanket, Cheyenne doesn't immediately realize that her mom's car is being carjacked right out of the parking lot...with her in it.

Griffin was looking for a nice ride to steal, and the Cadillac SUV seemed perfect; the keys were even in it.  What Griffin doesn't notice is that underneath the lump of blankets in the back seat is a very sick girl.  A girl who just wants to be let out of the car and promises not to tell anyone about him...she can't really see him anyway...because she is blind.

Cheyenne is at a disadvantage because she cannot see her kidnapper or her surroundings, and she is sick.  Griffin stole the SUV only to make his father happy.  But this grand theft auto turned kidnapping has gone all kinds of wrong.  Cheyenne turns out to be the daughter of a major corporate executive who has been all over the news demanding her safe return.  Fearing Cheyenne will be able to somehow identify them, Griffin's dad wants her dead.

Griffin and Cheyenne are two teens in desperate situations.  Cheyenne must decide whether to trust Griffen, her kidnapper, in hopes of finding a way to escape.  Griffin must decide who he can trust...Cheyenne or his father. The kidnapping at the heart of this story is told seemlessly through alternating chapters from each teen's perspective, victim and criminal.

Both Cheyenne and Griffin are complicated characters, put through extraordinary circumstances.  Their emotions, reactions, and interactions are believeable.  Readers will feel sympathy for Griffin, growing up without a mother, trapped with a villain for a father.  You will plead for him to do the right thing.  But can he?

In the end, it is Cheyenne who readers will identify with, who they will hold their breath for until she is safe.  She is the princess held captive in the tower, and the odds are stacked against her.  She has every reason to give up.  But she does not and it is her strength that sees her through.  But is it enough?

This is suspense/survival at it's best!  A fast-paced read that will leave you wanting to flip ahead to the end to find out what happens.  DON'T DO IT!  You must appreciate the drama as it unfolds.  In this month of MAJOR books being released, I hope that you don't let this one pass you buy.  A definite "must read."

P.S. An excellent example of a perfect cover!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Zombies vs. Unicorns!

The biggest question from my post yesterday?  What was in the other box? The answer..."Zombies vs. Unicorns." 

So, are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?  Team Gale or Team Peeta?  Now the question you must be prepared to answer: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

This book, edited by amazing YA authors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier, is a collection of short stories—half zombie, half unicorn—by some YA authors you have definitely heard of!

Team Zombie: Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Carrie Ryan, and Scott Westerfeld.

Team Unicorn: Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Kathleen Duey, Diana Peterfreund, Naomi Novik, and Margo Lanagan.

Want to know more?  Check out the book trailer on author Scott Westerfeld's blog.  I am looking forward to reading these stories as I've heard wonderful reviews already!  If you would like to be next, leave a comment and let me know...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Do not open until...

Many of you know, and have heard me mention on just a few occasions, that I receive BOXES of books from publishers.  And they arrive nearly every day.  Needless to say, I am good friends with the UPS and FedEx drivers assigned to my neighborhood.

On Friday (9/17), I returned home from school to discover two big boxes on my front porch.  This was quite exciting!  Typically I receive large envelopes containing one or two books every day.  But there are days when one box arrives, and this makes for a happy day.  Days when two boxes arrive???  PARTY!!!

So, there were two funny things about these boxes: 

(1) Each LARGE box only contained one book!  (And obviously huge amounts of packing materials).  I am wondering if these publishers understand the concept of wasting resources?  Recycling?  Killing trees? Wasting money on postage?

(2) One of the boxes had a giant sticker extolling, "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 9/21/10!"  Yeah, right!  That's pretty funny.  I am sure that this directive was only meant for bookstores, and it was easier to label all the boxes rather than pick and choose, but it made me laugh.  And wonder if the book police were going to come arrest me for opening the box before 9/21.

And yes, I did open the box, almost immediately!  Inside was "The Search for WondLa," the latest book by "Spiderwick Chronicles" author Tony DiTerlizzi.  YEAH!  I am very excited to read this, as I am a huge fan of the Spiderwick Chronicles series.  And just in case the book explodes if I read it before 9/21, I will wait until after then to read it.

Want to read it next?  Leave a message in the "comments" section and let me know!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Darn that Genre Wheel...

Okay, I should have made Friday's post my "Favorite 15" and not blown my clever alliteration on a Wednesday.  I'll be keeping that in mind for future weeks.

Tonight was curriculum night at my daughter's school.  Ahhhh, third grade.  Such a big year of growth, and since she has a wonderful teacher, I am sure that she is going to have a great year!  Of course, while I should have been paying attention to all the good curriculum information, I was actually snooping through her desk to see what she was reading.  Hey, at least I wasn't sniffing around the classroom library to make sure it was up to par.

Looks like the book in my daughter's desk this week is "Judy Moody, M.D.: the Doctor is In," book #5 in the series by Megan McDonald. I am so glad that she is finally discovering the Judy Moody books.  She scored an advance copy of "Judy Moody, Girl Detective" (book #9) at the ALA Conference in June, but has not read it yet.  (It was officially published in August, but I might not tell her that until after she reads it...she thinks it's pretty cool to have books before other people do.  Heck, I still think it's pretty cool).

I was paying attention to the teacher's presentation though, I promise.  I discovered that the class will be reading books from different genres each month, and that they should be AR books.  Okay, I will not use this forum to comment about Accelerated Reader.  Not a fan, let's just leave it at that.

But oh, that genre wheel.  I have mixed feelings about it and it's use in the classroom.  I like the fact that kids are introduced to different books than they might normally read.  Those kids addicted to their one series are given the opportunity to read something new.  Often, that kid will find out that they like books they never imagined they would.  Yeah for that! 

However, I blame that darn genre wheel for killing my son's love of reading, and it happened in 3rd grade.  He was the kid, you know that boy, that wanted to read the Guinness Book of World Records, Calvin & Hobbes, the almanac, and his favorite, "The Book of Lists."  Sadly, those types of books usually aren't on the genre wheel, and he was discouraged from reading them.  He surely did not want to read a fantasy, and could not have cared less that all his friends were reading "Harry Potter."

In having to force him to read an historical fiction book because it was part of his homework, I had to be the bad cop when it came to reading.  And now, five years later, he would rather poke his eyes out with an ice pick than read (okay, those are my words, not his, and I am slightly overdramatizing for effect).  But my point is, the genre wheel made reading NOT fun for him, and he was forced to read books that he really didn't like all year long.  If only I could turn back that clock...

So my question is, genre wheel or no genre wheel?  What are your thoughts?  Do you use it?  Why or why not?  Can't wait to hear your thoughts, especially if you are a student!

Though I should sign off to finish reading a book, I am going to watch the finale of America's Got Talent.  I MUST know who wins!  Shhhhh, don't tell me.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Favorite 15...

Tomorrow I am booktalking non-fiction titles to the 9th Graders at school for what will be their first PROJECT (with a capital P) of the school year.  Of all the reading projects that the students do, this is by far my favorite!  (Second place going to the Biography project/speech for 8th Grade Honors).  Sensing a pattern?  Yes, I love books about real people/places/events, especially when they are well-written and teen friendly.

Preparing for this year's project, which typically involves spending the summer reading the latest non-fiction titles, was a little more challenging.  Being on the BFYA committee means that I am reading nothing but fiction, fiction, and more fiction.  And to be honest, I'm really going through withdrawals.  (Don't depair, I have been sneaking some non-fiction titles here and there...but it is not nearly enough...and don't tell my fellow committee members).

Luckily I have a great starting list that I simply add to and subtract from each year to reflect the popular titles/trends.  Right now, the list that I will be passing out to students tomorrow has 140 titles to choose from.  (Okay, I already warned you that I'm slightly obsessed with non-fiction.  What?  I never used the word obsessed?  Shhhh, our little secret!)  I've highlighted 47 titles that I want to booktalk.  Anyone ever worked in a school?  Then you are currently on the floor laughing because you know that class periods are only 50 minutes, minus the "settle down" time at the beginning and the "pack up" time at the end, so there is NO way that is a realistic number.  I have until 8:00am tomorrow to whittle that number down to about 30.  I feel like I'm feeding my children to the wolves each time I delete one from the PowerPoint.

To help ease the pain, I've decided to highlight "My Favorite 15...Non-Fiction Titles" for this project. (Note: this is for 9th grade, and because of the nature of the assignment some of my all-time favorite titles do not work).  In no particular order:

(1) Devoted by Dick Hoyt: The story of the father/son duo that compete in marathons and triathlons. You've seen them on ESPN, YouTube, etc. Powerful, moving, amazing...if you don't cry at the end, I'm worried about you.

(2) Iron Heart by Brian Boyle: A high school graduate and athlete nearly killed in a car accident who fought his way back to life and the Ironman.

(3) Diving into Darkness by Phillip Finch: I can't say anything better than the blurb on the book.  On January 8th, 2005 two men went diving into a hole with the goal of reaching 900 feet.  "Twenty five minutes later, one of the men was dead.  The other was in mortal peril."

(4) Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer: Always a fan of Krakauer, I have read all of his books.  This is the story of Pat Tillman, the NFL football star who left the game to serve his country.  Honor and love of country at it's most basic.

(5) Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado: Amazing story of the rugby team that crashed in the Andes in 1972, as told by one of the survivors.  Couldn't put it down!  In my "Top 5" favorite books of all-time!

(6) A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah: Another powerful survival story as told by the young man who lived it.  Also brings light to the tragedy of child soldiers all over the world.  Probably in my "Top 5" favorite books of all-time, too!

(7) Heart of the Game by S.L. Price: The tragic story about Mike Coolbaugh, minor league baseball player and coach, who was killed by a foul ball during a game. Not all sad though. A great story about life, heroes, and baseball.  But yes, you will cry.

(8) Spies of Mississippi by Rick Bowers: The first time I had ever heard of this organization of government spies trying to do harm to the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi.  Hmmm, things you don't learn in textbooks...

(9) Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein: Every time I think of this book I am SHOCKED that a high school kid created a WORKING nuclear reactor in his back yard, and no one knew what was going on!

(10) Confessions of an Alien Hunter by Seth Shostak: I am a scientist at heart, and let me just say upfront that I do not believe in aliens.  However, after reading this book, I could see the possibility and I was completely intrigued by the search for extra-terrestrials!

(11) The Wright Sister by Richard Maurer: Truly the Wright Brothers are to be commended for their brilliance, but it might have been the sacrifice of their sister that allowed them to change the world.

(12) Simeon's Story by Simeon Wright: A first-hand account of the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till as told by his cousin.  And the after-effects of this tragic case.

(13) Disguised by Rita la Fontaine de Clercq Zubli: A wartime survivor's memoir.

(14) Life is So Good by George Dawson: What makes a person decide he needs to learn to read at 98 years old?  A remarkable life story, written when George was a mere 101.

(15) King of the Mild Frontier by Chris Crutcher: Because no book list is complete without a title by my favorite author.  This is his autobiography, and it is HILARIOUS! 

So, that is my take on the best non-fiction for high schoolers...and adults, too!  That should keep you busy for quite some time.  Now to pick the next 15 so I can complete my presentation.  It is Survivor premiere night after all!

What do you think?  What are your favorites?  I am always looking for suggestions, so what did I miss?  By the way, if you want a link to the complete list, click here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Review: Not that Kind of Girl (Vivian)

Title: Not That Kind of Girl
Author: Vivian
Genre: Fiction, High School, Friendship, Dating
Pages: 336
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Natalie wants everything to go as planned because she is going places, and high school is just a pit stop. That includes winning the election for student council president, having loyal friends, and finding the right guy.
The story begins with Natalie recounting a story that’s become legend at Ross Academy, a story about a freshman girl who started dating a senior boy, and when she wasn’t ready for anything too physical, he ruined her reputation, and changed her life. Natalie uses this story (of what happened to her best friend Autumn) as one of the reasons why she has chosen to opt out of the dating circle completely.  She has no intention of having her life ruined by a bad reputation.

Natalie is appalled when she encounters new-girl Spencer, a freshman who is brazen, overtly flirtatious, and doesn't seem to have any limits to what she will do to get attention.  Natalie decides she must teach Spencer a lesson in what self-respect means.  But when Natalie starts to fall for a guy she never thought she would, in might just be Spencer that teaches her a thing or two...

This is a story that poses many questions that are good to think about.  Can you love someone and be true to yourself? Who is in charge of your reputation? Is it okay for girls to be powerful and aware of who they are? Do you have to be a winner or a loser, or can there be a wonderful place in-between?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Things a Brother Knows (Reinhardt)

Title: The Things a Brother Knows
Author: Reinhardt
Genre: Fiction, War, Brothers, Soldiers
Pages: 256
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Levi's brother Boaz has finally returned home from his tour of duty in Afghanistan.  Bo was a high school star, destined for greatness in college and beyond, and he gave it all up to join the Marines and serve his country.  Levi has spent the last several years trying to be the little brother to a hero, a distinction that he doesn't really want, because he doesn't really agree with his brother's decision.

Now that Bo has returned, Levi is hoping that his life and family will return to normal.  No such luck.  Bo is back and has been given a clean bill of health by the Marine Corp, but he is clearly suffering from post-tramatic stress disorder.  Levi just wants to help his brother be the person he used to be.  But how best to do that?  And what if Bo can never be the person that he was? 

Bo is planning a trip, a walk/march from their home in Pennsylvania to Washington, DC.  When Levi discovers what his brother is planning, he wants to go with him.  To make sure he is safe, to make sure that he is not really crazy, to make sure that he is planning to come back. 

It is this trip that is the heart of the story, and the relationship between the brothers.  This is the perfect story to talk about on the anniversary of 9/11...or any holiday where we remember those that serve our country.  I read an advance copy of this book over the 4th of July weekend, while contemplating my upcoming trip to Arlington National Cemetary.  So perhaps I was already in the mood for a book that attempts to talk about what many in this country don't want to talk about...what happens to soldiers after they come home...

Levi has two great friends that help him (and by default Bo) through this struggle.  This is a moving story about friendship, family, duty, and honor.  Although I have not had family in the military, I can imagine this is a very realistic portrayal of what homecoming is really like, after the welcome home fanfare we all see on television.  I have always been a fan of Dana Reinhardt's books, and I would recommend them all.  However, this has definitely moved to the top of the list!  An absolute MUST READ!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm a Library Lion!

Do you know author Janet Lee Carey? Have you read her AMAZING books? Probably her most popular is "Dragon's Keep." But to be honest, my all-time favorite book by her is "Wenny Has Wings." I just have a special place in my heart for Will, and how he must deal with what has happened to his sister Wenny. So moving...

In addition to writing books for kids and teens, Janet has taken on the cause to champion librarians who work with young people. Using her "Library Lions" blog, Janet interviews a different librarian every few weeks, and encourages her followers to "ROAR" for the efforts of librarians.

I feel so lucky to be the current feature on Library Lions, and to be interviewed by Janet. She asked some great questions, and I had a fun time thinking of the answers. Check out her blog to read the interview. Don't forget to leave comments and become a follower of the Library Lions blog.

And Janet...we give you a big "ROAR" for all that you do!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Do YOU judge a book by it's cover?

It's another Book Blogging Hop this weekend, thanks to Crazy-for-Books!  A chance to find great new blogs...and wonderful people talking about books!  This week's question:

Do you judge a book by it's cover?

My answer?  ABSOLUTELY!  I think that my students do, too.  There is a reason I put the books that I do on display.  Their covers grab your attention and make you want to read them.

There are times when I wonder (aloud, to anyone who happens to be standing next to me) what the heck the publisher was thinking when they designed a particular cover.  Especially if the book is geared to kids or teens. 

I won't lament about the multitude of books that I wish had a better cover, but I will mention that I am EXCITED that one of my favorite series, by author Megan Whalen Turner, have finally been reissued with better covers.  Honestly, when they first came out ("The Thief" in 1997 was the first), it was hard to sell them to kids because the covers were a little boring...yawn.  Now?  They are so much more intriguing...yeah!  Can you tell which is which?

So, what about you?  Do you judge a book by it's cover?  And if you are new here, welcome to the blog...feel free to comment/follow/say "hi."  I will return the favor.

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