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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Summer Blogger Award!



Summer Blogger Award!

I have been awarded a "Summer Blogger Award" by the wonderful blogger at
Buried in Books!  Thank you so much for the wonderful honor!!  And to my wonderful readers, if you get a chance, you should definitely check out her blog.

My job now?  To pass along the award to four other blogs.  With school starting, I have not had a chance to pass along the award.  I promise, I am getting to it!  Stay tuned...  

Monday, August 30, 2010

Not a fan of Vampires, Wizards, and Ghosts?

Except for the occasional Harry Potter or Charlie Bone, I am not a big fan of the fantasy genre.  Please don't get me started on Vampires!  I know that I am not alone, as I have students asking for "real" books all the time in the library.  Well, a group of 21 YA authors have come together and created a website to showcase their upcoming books, all contemporary realistic fiction--yeah!  Their aim is to promote the importance of realistic fiction for teens, as well as connect with their teen fans (and librarians!).  There are some big name authors in the group, as well as some debut authors. 


You can find the list of authors on the "YA Contemps" website, where you will find out about their books, websites, author events, as well as blog posts by different authors.  My favorite feature of this brand new website is the "Teen Thursday" post...each week a different author posts about something they remember from being a teen...great fun!


And they want you, their fans, to interact!  Check in with the website...comment often...read the books.  They have also issued a challenge.  Read 18 of the 21 books listed in the next year.  Think you can do it?  I'm sure going to try!


In honor of this new website, I thought that I would post my "Top 10 Favorite Realistic Fiction Books for Teens."  (Not my original idea, as I've seen a few other blogs with a version of this).  But then I realized that might be pretty hard for me to narrow down, and might only include books from Chris Crutcher and Sarah Dessen.  So I changed it to Books and/or Authors (who typically write realistic fiction) in order to give you a few more choices!  And please note, these are MY personal favorites, something I rarely make a list of.


"Top 10 Books and/or Authors: REALISTIC FICTION"


1. Chris Crutcher: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE his books.  If forced, I would choose "Whale Talk" as a favorite, but he has written so many wonderful books, a person should not be limited to reading just one.

2. Sarah Dessen: Would it sound funny or unoriginal if I used the LOVE, LOVE, LOVE phrase again so soon?  I can't even pick a favorite...hmmm, I'll keep thinking.  Just go ahead and read them all while I'm deciding.

3. Maureen Johnson: Again, so many books which are great fun. "13 Little Blue Envelopes" is my definite fav of her books though, no question.  I want someone to give me 13 little blue envelopes, and am currently contemplating do so for my kids when they get older.


4. Gordon Korman: Wow, I clearly need another statement other than LOVE.  But I do.  It's a toss up between "No More Dead Dogs" and "Son of the Mob" for my top choice.


5. "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" series by Ann Brashares. I think it should be mandatory for every girl to be issued a pair of these pants, a few of these friends...and maybe a boyfriend from Greece.


6. "Pay it Forward" by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Did this book spark the movement or did she simply make it popular?  I'm not sure, but I do know that this book is so powerful that it's impact has stayed with me all these years later. 


7. "Out of my Mind" by Sharon M. Draper.  It is the teacher in me that was so moved by this book.  I won't lie, it made me cry.  I think it should be required reading at all new teacher trainings in every school district in the country.


8. "Swim the Fly" by Don Calame.  This is likely the most hilarious book on the list, and one of the funniest books that you will ever read.  Do you have teenage boys?  Teach/work with teenage boys? Were a teenage boy or ever dated a teenage boy?  A MUST READ!


9. Laurie Halse Anderson: A master of many genres, she should probably be much higher on my list.  The problem is, I currently love "Chains" and "Forge" so much and I consider those historical fiction, so she didn't come to mind right away.  But "Wintergirls" and "Speak" are definitely on the top of any list.

10. Walter Dean Myers: Again, another author that should be much higher on the list, and my apologies for not considering this masterful writer sooner.  I love him simply for the fact that his goal is to write excellent, high interest books for boys.  There is no question that he has succeeded.  Could you possibly pick a favorite title?  I don't think so.  And if you ever get a chance to hear him speak in person, you MUST go.

Have I ever successfully created a true "Top 10" list?  No.  Ask my students and they will tell you that my "Top 10" lists typically include 12-14 items/books/authors.  I just hate to leave something out.  If I was allowed a few more slots, I would certainly include Joan Bauer, John Green, David Levithan...okay, okay, I'll stop.

So, let the debate begin.  Do you agree with me?  What are your favorites?  Are there any on the list that you love too?  I cannot wait to hear what you think!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

We Remember...Hurricane Katrina

It seems hard to believe that it has been five years since the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and it's aftermath.  There will no doubt be plenty of segments on CNN and other news stations about the events, and I'm sure that a casual blog post here would not do justice to the memory of what happened.  However, my words are not necessary.

"Hurricane Song" by Paul Volponi is THE book to read if you are interested in a very realistic, fictionalized portrayal of what happened in New Orleans during the storm.  Miles has been living with his father in New Orleans for only two months when Hurricane Katrina hits - and he isn't really happy about it.   Miles loves football while his dad lives for jazz.  But the two must come together in order to survive when the hurricane hits and they seek refuge in the crowded Superdome.  What begins as a safe haven from the storm soon turns into a nightmare.

This first-rate survival story is powerful and moving.  This is why I nominated it for the 2010 Popular Paperback list "Hard Knock Life" and why my fellow committee members voted it onto the
list.  Every year, our 8th graders do a "Survival" unit in Language Arts, and this is always one of the more popular books.  I think that I will have to get more copies this year!

Have you read the book?  What do you think?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Have you read Mockingjay?

So, I've been quite busy this week...teachers had to report back to work on Tuesday...and a little book called "Mockingjay" was released.  And for some reason the family expected dinner, laundry, and rides to soccer practice.  What could they possibly be thinking?  (Don't worry, I vetoed laundry.  That's what I'll be doing today though). 

To be honest, I spent a good part of August wondering how I was going to read the book while sitting in meetings.  Well, I decided to get clever.  If you bought Mockingjay for the Kindle, you could download it from Amazon at 12:00AM Tuesday.  My theory?  Download it for the Kindle app on my iPad at midnight, read until 6:30AM and then go to work having completed the book.  Brilliant! 

Alas, it did not quite work out according to plan, which will be the subject of another guest reviewer blog post next week (assuming said guest reviewer actually finishes the book by then).  But I did FINALLY finish the book on Thursday...whew!  And I have been dying to talk about it with someone.  Unfortunately, all the Evergreen teachers that are fans of the series have not read the book yet, so the mantra at school this week has been, "Don't say anything!"  I'm going just a little crazy.  I MUST TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK!

But, I won't post my review just yet, because I am incapable of reviewing it without spoilers.  Have you read the book?  What did you think?
 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

3rd Grader, Guest Reviewer!


Today's guest reviews will be brought to you by my soon-to-be 3rd Grade daughter.  And if you have been reading my blog, you will know that I am busy in staff meetings today as it is the first day back for teachers (students start the 1st).  Oh yeah, and a little book called "Mockingjay" was released today, so I am probably busy trying to find a way to sneak a peak at a chapter or two!  Shhhh....our little secret. 

My wonderful 8 year old has offered to provide her review of some books that she recently finished.  But first, a little background.  This is the child that has struggled with reading a lot in her early school years.  Luckily mom was never worried and knew all along that she would figure it out.  Thanks to AMAZING teachers, she is getting better every day.  This summer, both my kids were able to spend one morning with me walking the exhibit floor at the ALA library conference in Washington, DC.  While mom was busy scooping up books and more books, and big brother was falling in love with his new Diary of a Wimpy Kid water bottle, she kept hoping we would find "something good for her."

Enter some wonderful ladies at the Random House booth.  We simply asked, "What are you excited about for an 8 year old girl?" and were handed book after book that she might like.  She was in heaven!  Having just completed two of those books, she offers her reviews:

"Babymouse: Cupcake Tycoon" by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

I have not read a Babymouse book before.  I really liked her!  She was funny.  In this book she is trying to sell the most cupcakes to raise money for the school library.  She wants to win the prize, but things don't work very well.  I give this book TWO THUMBS UP!  Did you know that there are other Babymouse books?  There are 12 other books, and my mom said that we can check them all out from the library.  I think "Babymouse: Beach Babe" and "Babymouse: Puppy Love" sound really good. 

In the back of this book, you can read about two books coming out next summer.  I think they look good because I LOVE science.  One is a new Babymouse book--"Babymouse: Mad Scientist."  The other is "Squish: Super Amoeba" and it is going to be green.

"Hamster Magic" by Lynne Jonell Illustrated by Brandon Dorman
I liked this book because it is about a little sister, and hamsters.  (I really want a hamster, but my mom is mean and won't let me get one.  She says that our dog is enough).  Anyway, Celia finds a talking hamster who can grant wishes.  She wishes to be big.  Instead of growing big, she turns into a giant hamster.  Her brothers and sisters must help her find The Great Hamster to turn her back into a girl.

This was a fun book.  I liked it because it reminded me of stories about fairies and magic and wishes.  My mom said that the author wrote a book called "Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat" that I might like.  I will have to check that out too.

I got some other books, but I haven't read them yet.  I'll let you know when I do.  Until then I am busy writing my own books about fish...and insects...and dolphins.  I even draw my own pictures.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Favorite Summer Reading Book?

Okay, I hate to admit it, but the start of school is just around the corner.  In fact, teachers have to start on Tuesday which means I really only have one more day of summer vacation.  No more reading books on the beach.  So it is time to let out a collective "UGH!"  And maybe to start the typical discussions about how summer went too fast...and the weather was horrible (hey, for us here in Seattle, that is usually the case).

At the beginning of summer, I posted my annual Summer Reading Lists (which you can find
here if you are interested.  Lists for Kindergarten through 12th Grades, plus a "Top 10" for 7th, 8th, & 9th).  Did you check them out?  Did you read one of the books?  More?  Did you find a "gem" this summer? 

Which book(s) was your favorite(s) this summer?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Countdown to Mockingjay...And I have to Work?

Just like many of you, I am anxiously awaiting the release of "Mockingjay," Suzanne Collins' last book in The Hunger Games trilogy.  As if you couldn't tell by all the previous blog posts on the book/series/author, or the countdown clock not-so-subtly placed on the right-hand side of the blog.

Here's my problem--I have just realized that the book's release day is my FIRST DAY BACK TO WORK.  What?!  This must be some kind of joke, right?  How can a librarian be expected to work on what is likely to be the biggest "book party" of the year?  And I thought having curriculum night on the premier evening of "Survivor" every year was bad.  This is a whole new level of torture.

So, while I contemplate if this type of event is what sick days are for (joking Principal Olson..he, he, he), I am reminded of a perk of working at the public library through all the years of Harry Potter releases.  Since I worked many Saturdays (and Sundays, it was an awesome work schedule--not), and Scholastic finally got smart and released the books on Saturdays or in the summer (as kids were skipping school to get/read the books), I would have a copy of the book waiting for me when I arrived at work.  And since it was release day, all the library patrons were home reading their own copies.  The library was a quiet, peaceful place to sit with a good book...say, for example, one by J.K. Rowling.  I could make quite a dent on the book by Monday, when all the kids would finally start rolling in again and want to talk to me about what happened to Harry.

But my public library days are long behind me.  In fact, I did get to spend a few joyous days in July 2007 savoring the final Harry Potter book at home, trying not to ignore my own children, and not worrying about work.  "Mockingjay versus Work" though is a whole new dilemma, as I can't imagine anyone being too pleased about my sitting through all the staff meetings with a book in my hand.

So, the work day ends at 3:30pm (I am very grateful I live a mile from the school).  Do not call me, do not text me, do not expect me to cook you dinner.  I will be curled up with a good book, reacquainting myself with my friend Katniss, hoping life works out for her just as it did for my friend Harry. 

Where will you be on August 24th?  Will you be reading "Mockingjay"?  Did you buy a copy, or will you get it from the library?  By the way, there will be multiple copies at school on the first day...in case you haven't read it by then...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: Interrogation of Gabriel James (Price)

Title: The Interrogation of Gabriel James
Author: Price
Genre: Fiction, High School, Crime, Mystery
Page: 176
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Two teens are dead and Gabriel is in police custody.  He is not officially a suspect, but he is being interrogated about the deaths...and he seems to know quite a bit about what happened.  Through the course of the interrogation, Gabriel slowly reveals the history of what he knows.  And there is a lot to know.  A classmate is being abused but hasn't told anyone; local pets are disappearing; fires are being started around town; and a creepy ex-cult leader may be up to his old tricks.  It is possible that all of these crimes are connected, and Gabriel may just be the key.  He may also be the best suspect.

This is mystery/thriller at it's best.  Gabriel is reliving the story and it is his memories, dragged out slowly by the police, that inform readers what has happened.  We only have his version of events, and by his own account, he might just be responsible for what has happened.  He certainly isn't innocent.  

The story is fast-paced and should hook readers right from the opening line.  The mood is suspenseful, scary, and dark.   This quick thriller is best suited for slightly older readers.  Though I read an advance copy, it is now officially published so you should be able to find a copy at the library.  Or comment here if you are interested in reading my copy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: Radiance (Noel)

Title: Radiance
Author: Noel
Genre: Fiction, Death, Angels, Ghosts
Pages: 192
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When her family's car crashed, Riley crossed into the afterlife with her parents and her dog Buttercup.  The only one left behind in the land of the living was her sister Ever (who you can read more about in the Immortals series). 

Riley has crossed over into Here where it is always Now.  But the afterlife isn't as relaxing as she thought it would be.  Riley is assigned a teacher, Bodhi, and a job (as a Soul Catcher, guiding lost souls across the bridge).  Bodhi is a mysterious soul, and a boy with secrets, but as much as he hates to admit it, he needs Riley.  And Riley needs him in order to pass her first test.

She has been assigned the job of convincing the Radiant Boy to cross into Here and stop terrorizing the occupants of the castle he has been haunting for centuries.  Many Soul Catchers have tried and all have failed.  Bodhi is sure Riley will fail, and he cannot believe she brought Buttercup along.  But for those that have read "Evermore" (book #1 of the Immortals), you will know that Riley has a mind of her own!

I was thrilled to grab an advance copy of this book by Alyson Noel.  Honestly, I would have been excited to read anything new from her (I am a big fan of the Immortals).  The fact that she has started a new series starring the spunky little sister from "Evermore" is most exciting.  Riley is a unique character.  She is sassy, feisty, and funny.  She also has quite an attitude for someone who is only 12.  But I suppose that she has earned the right to have an attitude.  However, she is also highly likable and there is a cute chemistry between her and Bodhi (he's only 14, don't freak out).  Their relationship is key to the story, as is Riley's determination to find her place in the Here.  Who better to help cranky ghosts cross over than someone who spent as much time avoiding the afterlife as Riley did?

If you are a fan of the Immortals, and always wanted to know what happened to Riley after she leaves Ever, you will want to read this book!  If you have not read the books, this is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to the wonderful writing of the author (read more about her in this previous post).  I have already loaned my copy to a student, but you only have to wait until August 31st for the book to be published.  I promise we will have a copy in the library on the first day of school!  Make sure to comment if you'd like to be on the list to check it out.  (If you just can't wait to read it, don't worry.  The book will be released in paperback, so it won't break the bank if you want your own copy).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Which book are you most looking forward to?


Penguin Publishers, sponsors of a wonderful BFYA Teen Pizza Party at the American Library Association conference in June (see a previous blog post), are currently promoting "Five Amazing Books" over the next 5 months.  They have set up a pretty cool website where you can find out more about each of the books.  Called "Breathless Reads" because "every page will leave you breathless," a different title is highlighted each month.  Check it out.  Which one you are most looking forward to reading?  Do you like this kind of marketing about new books?

And if you are interested, I have advance copies of all of the books except "The Replacement."  Comment if you would like to read one of the other four before they are published...

P.S. Though I am looking forward to reading all of them, I am most excited about "Sapphique," the sequel to "Incarceron" which I loved.  I have not read it yet, even though the book is sitting on my family room table.  It is a treat I am rewarding myself with when I finish the other books in my "must read" pile.  My 14-year-old neighbor highly recommends "Matched" by the way...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Teen Read Book Awards

I have kept myself entertained by looking at the Teen Read Awards website and all the categories of book awards that teens can vote on.  Best Read, Best All-Time Fave, Best Book to Movie, Best Hero, Best Villain, Best Liplock...just some of the great categories!

Though it is geared to teens living in Canada, take a look...check out the nominees...vote...let me know who you think should win!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guest Reviewers!

We all know that there is no way I am going to read all the books stacked up by my front door.  In an earlier blog post, I mentioned the safety hazard they have become, and just yesterday another HUGE box of books arrived to add to the pile.  I am so glad that I can take advantage of the teens and tweens in the neighborhood to help with the reading and reviewing.  And perhaps in another blog post, I will commiserate about why I cannot count on my own 13-year-old son to help.  Let's just say it has something to do with equating reading and being stabbed with an icepick... 

Just this week I have received the first batch of "reviews" back from my wonderful neighborhood readers (I need to come up with a better name for them).  And I do use the word "review" loosely...it is summer, and they are teenagers, so you should not expect a dissertation.  Here are the ones that they took the time to reflect on, and you should definitely take that as a recommendation because there are several they returned without bothering to comment:


"Matched" by Ally Condie
(9th grade girl, 5 stars, "LOVED IT"--published 11/30/10)

"Stork" by Wendy Delsol
(9th grade girl, 5 stars, another "LOVED IT"--published 10/12/10)

"Ship Breaker" by Paolo Bacigalupi
(9th grade girl and her family, all rated it 5 stars!!  All hoping for a sequel!)

"Living Hell" by Catherine Jinks

(8th grade boy, 4 1/2 stars, "...interesting...makes you think about life")


"The Web of Titan" by Dom Testa--this is a sequel to "The Comet's Curse" which you must read first.
(8th grade boy, 4 stars, "...good plot...very interesting...quick read")


"Marbury Lens" by Andrew Smith
(8th grade boy, 3 stars, "...interesting...a little confusing...")

"Morpheus Road" by D.J. MacHale
(8th grade boy, 4 stars, "...good book...kinda creepy, but very interesting," published in November)

Thank you guest reviewers! I appreciate your insight, and for those reading the blog, you should know that I would love to make this a regular segment. Let me know if anyone out there is interested in posting a review! My 3rd grade daughter has already volunteered for the next guest reviewer segment. She received numerous advance copies at the library conference in June and has been busy reading them.

Have you read these books? Do you agree with their reviews?

Review: Shooting Kabul (Senzai)

Title: Shooting Kabul
Author: Senzai
Genre: Fiction, Immigrants, Photography, Middle School, Afghanistan
Pages: 262
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

In 2001, before 9/11, Fadi and his family are running through the night in order to flee Afghanistan.  If only they can make it across the border to Pakistan, they can escape to freedom in America.  Unfortunately, in the craziness of the escape, being chased by the Taliban, Fadi's little sister is lost.  And the family cannot stop to look for her or they will all be killed. 

When Fadi and his family arrive in America, they find a home with his uncle and try to get on with their lives.  But no one stops thinking about little Mariam.  Even though everything is being done by US authorities and private investigators to locate her, it has been months and there little information to be discovered. 

Fadi joins a photography club at school where he meets new friends, tries to fit in, and also decides to enter a National Geographic photo contest where he could win a trip somewhere in the world.  He is determined to take the perfect picture because he must win the contest in order to find his sister.

I really enjoyed this book and read it in one afternoon.  I was drawn to and became invested in Fadi's story.  I cannot even imagine the pain of losing a child, especially in this terrible way.  I had to know what happened to this family, the sister, and Fadi's photography goals.  This is a terrific story about a family in a very real situation.  In trying to make their life better by escaping an oppressive government, their life actually became worse.  A survival story at its most basic and a terrific read, especially for 5th-8th grades.
 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review: Livvie Owen Lived Here (Dooley)

Title: Livvie Owen Lived Here
Author: Dooley
Genre: Fiction, Realistic, High School, Autism
Pages: 240
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Livvie Owen feels things differently than other people do, and she doesn't like change.  Unfortunately, Livvie and her family are about to be evicted from their house...again...and it's Livvie's fault.  Livvie is autistic and when things go wrong, her angry outbursts can scare people (including landlords and neighbors).  But Livvie remembers a time when everything was good, when her parents were working, when the family lived in a wonderful house.  Livvie wants to move back to that house because she is sure that everyone will be happy again, so she devises a plan to find it.  Unfortunately, the house doesn't exist anymore...because of Livvie.

I truly loved this book, and the character of Livvie.  I think that she is authentic, both as an autistic girl, and as a teenager.  Her relationships with her family and her friends at school are well-developed and realistic.  Having Livvie as the narrator of the story really helped me connect with the emotions that Livvie was feeling (even if she doesn't know what they are called).

Because the book jacket tells you that Livvie has destroyed the one house where her family was happy, it is not a surprise when you learn what happened.  When Livvie finds out what happened to the house, I still felt crushed and sad for her.  But this is ultimately a hopeful book, with a spunky heroine determined to create a place where her family can be happy.  An honest look at what it is like to cope with the world, and be autistic. 

Numerous books have been written lately with characters on the autism spectrum, in fact, I'm going to be creating a booklist of titles soon since our 7th graders will be reading "Rules" by Cynthia Lord in the fall.  I will definitely be including this one!  The author is a teacher (yeah!) and this is her first book.  It will be published on 8/17, but I have an advance copy if you would like to read it.  Until then, check out the book trailer
here! 

Forget the Mariners, get excited about baseball again!

Yes, we all know that Mrs. Yusko is a sports junkie.  And just slightly crazy for books :)  So, of course I am going to be a fan of...books about sports!  Really, what could be better?!

Baseball's Negro Leagues have always interested me and I have read numerous books about the coaches, players, and others important to the league.  There are many fascinating life stories to be told, and amazing sports stars from this time in baseball's history. 









"We Are the Ship" by Kadir Nelson is THE book to read about the Negro Leagues
and has been on my recommended reading list since it's publication in 2008.  This is a MUST READ for baseball/sports fans of any age!  Since the Mariner's aren't doing so well (I mean really, are you even following their season any more?), check out this book to get excited about baseball again.

There are two reasons that I'm posting about this book right now.  First, the author/illustrator's drawings from "We Are the Ship" has been used to inspire a series of US Postage Stamps about the Negro Leagues.  What an honor!  Check out the stamps at a post office near you.

Secondly, I was able to meet (very briefly) Kadir Nelson in June at the library conference I attended.  I was able to get an autographed copy of the book...and it is one of the highlights of the conference for me.  Now the problem is, my dad's birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks.  He is the man who inspired my love of sports and has coached baseball at all levels for over 30 years.  My dilemma?  Keep the autographed book all for myself or give it my wonderful dad for his birthday?
 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The best thing I've seen in ages...

As I have reported several times over the course of the summer, I have BOXES of books stacked just inside my front door.  In fact, you cannot actually come to my house right now because the boxes are blocking the door.  (We normally go in and out of the house through the garage, so I don't really notice the precarious pile/safety hazard that these books have become).

Clearly, I cannot read all of these books before school starts when "I" (read: "my husband") must cart the boxes to my library office.  So, I've been putting books in bags for the neighbor kids to read this summer based on what they typically like to read.  This has been going well, and while I haven't been getting a lot of feedback (it is summer after all, and they are teenagers.  The feedback tends to be, "LOVED IT!" or "Not so much."  I am hoping for some more in-depth reviews from them at a later date, at least 3 sentences). 

I have also invited some of the kids over to browse through the boxes themselves.  Two kids have taken me up on that, and it is wonderful watching them look through the boxes.  Very much like watching kids at Christmastime.  The best thing that I've seen in ages happened last Friday.  My soon-to-be 9th grade neighbor returned the 2 bags of books that I had loaned her at the beginning of July.  She was pretty excited to browse the boxes for more titles...in fact, she spent about an hour looking at everything, trying to discern what would be the best choices.  I WISH I had pictures of her surrounded by the piles she was making (clearly "yes," "no," and "maybe").  I'm pretty sure that her parents thought I had kidnapped her.  I think she was in heaven...and it was such a beautiful thing for a reading fanatic like me.
  

And I'm suddenly wondering if I can pay her in books from now on when she watches my dog?  Hmmmm... 

Review: The Returners (Malley)

Title: The Returners
Author: Malley
Genre: Fiction, Memory, Good vs. Evil, History, Destiny
Pages: 252
Rating: Hmmm...undecided...somewhere between 3 and 4 stars

It is said that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.  But what if you can't remember the past?  Will Hodges has been followed by "freaks" ever since his mother drowned when he was young.  They stare at him with strange, dark eyes.  And now Will is having horrible nightmares about conentration camps and scary events from history.  Nightmares that seem so real.  There is no one he can talk to about this, especially his drunk, hateful father. 

When Will finally confronts one of the "freaks," he discovers that he is supposedly one of them.  Will is a "returner," someone who lives through the most horrible times in history, only to return again and again in order that people remember the past.  Will refuses to believe them, but how else can he explain his vivid nightmares that seem like memories.  Who really is Will?  What role has he played in the past?  What is his role in the future?

The reason that I cannot determine a rating for this book is it was unusual.  The concept is unique, interesting, and really has so much potential.  Will is a terrific character, full of anger and pain over the death of his mother.  Torn between doing what is right or flying below the radar.  I enjoyed the writing and the premise.  However, for someone that normally reads one, sometimes two books a day, this book took me over a week to finish.  In fact, I actually lost the book for awhile and I wasn't too concerned with looking for it.  But I kept with it because it was so different and I kept thinking about it.  The ending just hit me, and I'm still thinking about it.  Hmmm...what does all of this mean?

Have you read it?  I would love to know what you think!  Want to borrow my copy?  Let me know!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hunger Games Around the World...

Scholastic recently posted Hunger Games and Catching Fire book covers from countries around their world on the Hunger Games Official Page (on Facebook).  If you are on Facebook, become a fan of the page and you can see all the covers. 



I have posted a few of "The Hunger Games" covers here...which one is your favorite?  By the way, I have a clear winner, and a very close second choice!

From top to bottom:


On the left-hand side: Germany, Russia, UK
On the right-hand side: Sweden, Japan, Romania




Okay, okay, I'll tell you my fav...GERMANY!  I love it.  And a very close second to Sweden.

Review: Dark Song (Giles)

Title: Dark Song
Author: Giles
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Families, Crime
Pages: 304
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Ames' life has completely changed in the last few months.  Her father lost his job and started drinking.  Her mother, so afraid of being poor, has turned into a lunatic, screaming at everyone and selling valuables.  When Ames finds out that her dad stole from clients and was fired, and then gambled and lost what money they did have left, Ames is angry with her family for not being honest about the true extent of their problems.  Now she must leave her private school, her family must sell everything, including their house, and move to live with grandparents she never knew she had.
And don't think things won't get worse for Ames, because they do.  The house grandma and grandpa offer them is a small run-down rental house, in disgusting condition, that Ames and her family must clean and fix-up.
 
But there is a bright spot...she meets a boy...named Marc. Marc loves her, and will do anything to protect her.  He has a gun collection and he is willing to use it.  Ames feels her parents have betrayed her with their lies, but is she prepared to make the ultimate betrayal against them?

Giles is quite adept at psychological thrillers for the teen crowd, a master really, and this is no exception.  It is a well-paced page turner that you will not be able to put down.  The first chapter lets you know that something is coming, but then you get sucked into the story and forget that you've been warned about evil until it comes back to hit you in the face.  Marc is truly a creepy character and while he is supposed to be the villain (trust me), he sometimes feels like a hero.  I felt that the characters in this book were real, as were their problems.  There are many families in this situation and I think the timeliness of the financial crisis will lend realism to the story.  My favorite character was actually Ames' grandma (her mom's mom, that we meet in the beginning of the story).  She sure has some fire to her, and some great lines, and actually reminds me quite a bit of one of my grandmas.

So, if I'm saying all these good things, why did I only give it 3 1/2 stars?  I LOVE Gail Giles and all of her titles.  "Dead Girls Don't Write Letters" is probably my favorite, with "What Happened to Cass McBride?" a close second.  But I think, in the end, this book did not resonate with me as much as those titles did.  Perhaps you should not compare a book with the author's previous works, or the book you wish the author had written, but on it's own merits?  Unfortunately, I just can't seem to do that in this case. 

But I can see many teens I know giving this a hands-down 5 out of 5! 

What do you think?  Judge each book as a stand-alone or compare to the author's other titles?  

Friday, August 6, 2010

Like what you See? Follow the Blog!

I have finally turned on the "follow" feature for this blog.  Are you a blog reader?  Do you want to keep updated on book reviews?  I know that there are lots of you out there based on the feedback I get.  "Follow" the blog using the link on the left! 

I am hoping to get to 100 official "followers" by the time school starts!  If I do, there will be a terrific giveaway...more clues to come!

Thanks to all of you for reading!

Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday


I am attempting to do another Book Blogger Hop hosted by Crazy for Books.  I've been wanting to participate in these more, but I seem to get busy on the weekends.  


For those of you who are new to my blog, I’m Mrs. Yusko and in addition to my fun job as Teacher-Librarian at a junior high, I am currently serving on the 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults committee (YALSA).  This means that I do A LOT of reading, especially YA fiction.  I do try and review multiple genres, and kid lit also.  However, my passion is non-fiction.  I am desperately behind in my non-fiction reading.  If you have one non-fiction title (YA, adult, or kid) that I should definitely read, what would it be?)

My goal with this blog is to connect with my students, parents, school community about books and reading.  And sharing books with everyone who might find me!



This week’s blog hopper question: Do you listen to music when you read? If so, what are your favorite reading tunes?


Answer: I don't actually listen to music when I read, but I definitely "watch" television while reading, kind of as background noise.  Yes, this is my magic secret to how I get all my reading done and still stay current on my addiction to television shows.  But I do listen to music at other times, and would have to say that I have very eclectic taste in music.  Though my son would say that I "dis" his favorite music.


How about you? Your turn to answer the question.  Can  you listen to music while reading?  Studying? Or do you need absolute silence?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Keeping the secrets of Katniss Everdeen...

With less than 20 days to the release of "Mockingjay," Scholastic (the publisher) has been doing it's best to keep the story's secrets.  However, they are also promoting the heck out of the book (a Facebook page, a book trailer, activity kits sent to bookstores for release parties, a countdown clock, and more).

Although I was able to get advance copies of both "The Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire," I was not able to get an advance copy of "Mockingjay."  And neither was anyone else, so I don't feel too bad.  (Well, that's not true...I'm still bitter.  And so is Mr. Kaneko, and just about everyone else who knows I can score books before they are published). 

As with the last four "Harry Potter" titles, Scholastic skipped the process of printing advance reader copies for Mockingjay. “I’ve never worked on a project that was so top secret,” said David Levithan, v-p and editorial director at Scholastic. “I actually had to wipe the file from my laptop when I was done with it, for fear that I’d be the guy who leaves his laptop in a taxi and ends up ruining it for everyone.”  (From an interview printed in Publisher's Weekly). 

I actually sat next to David Levithan at a dinner in June (he is also an author, and an exceptional person to spend an evening talking to), and he was introduced as "the only person in the room to have read Mockingjay."

So...what do you think is going to happen in Mockingjay?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review: Cloaked in Red (Vande Velde)

Title: Cloaked in Red
Author: Vande Velde
Genre: Fiction, Fairy Tales, Fractured Fairy Tales
Pages: 128
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Do you know the story of Little Red Riding Hood?  Have you ever wondered why one of the most well-known fairy tale characters doesn't actually have a name?  And why can't this girl tell the difference between a wolf and her grandmother?  And while we're questioning the logic of this story, what kind of parent lets their little girl go off through the woods alone?  These are all questions that have concerned the author, and the more that I think about it, they are valid questions!  What kind of crazy fairy tale is this and why do we tell our children this story?

In this title, a collection of eight stories, Vande Velde re-imagines the story of Little Red Riding Hood in different settings, from different characters' points-of-view, and with remarkably different endings.  My favorite was the last one in the collection, "Little Red Riding Hood's Little Red Riding Hood," told from the perspective of the actual "Hood."  HILARIOUS!  By the way, the "author's note" that prefaced this book is quite possibly one of the funniest 8 pages of a book I have ever read.

I have always been a fan of Vande Velde, and make it a point to read her new books.  This book was not on my radar, so I was wonderfully surprised when it arrived on my doorstep.  (It was the first book that I read from the box)!  The author has many great books, of the horror/scary stories or fantasy genre.  "Heir Apparent" is her most popular title with EJH students, and spent quite some time on our "hold" list this school year.  My all-time favorite Vande Velde title is "Witch Dreams."

So, in the spirit of this book, what do you think is the strangest fairy tale?

Review: The Cruisers (Myers)

Title: The Cruisers
Author: Myers
Genre: Fiction, Middle School, Friendship, Race
Pages: 126
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars


Zander and his friends are at one of the best middle schools in Harlem.  Unfortunately, their group (nicknamed "The Cruisers" because they just want to cruise through school) are not living up to their "Gifted and Talented" label, and the Vice Principal wants to get rid of them. 
When the school starts a unit on the Civil War, and kids split up into Union and Confederate sympathizers, Zander and his crew are given a second chance to prove themselves:  they are charged with negotiating a peace between both sides before war breaks out.  Is it possible?  How will a group of slackers pull it off?


Walter Dean Myers is an award-winning author, and this is the first book in a proposed series about "The Cruisers."   The story was well-written (of course), and a quick read.  It is not hard to identify with Zander and his friends, and I look forward to more books in the series.  I read an advance copy of this book (though it is actually out now), and I only had one problem with the book.  I was shocked that editors left in references to the Seattle SuperSonics being a current team as they have not been the Sonics since 2008 (when they moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder). I am hoping that someone caught the error before printing!

Suzanne Collins coming to Seattle!!!!

Obviously gearing up for the excitement of "Mockingjay," I am attempting to keep you updated on things related to The Hunger Games. 

Scholastic has announced that author Suzanne Collins will tour in the fall...and she is coming to Seattle (three dates, three different places).

November 5, Barnes and Noble in Lynnwood

November 6, morning, Elliot Bay Books in Seattle

November 6, afternoon, Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park
(I love this bookstore!)

For times and details, click on the tour link

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: Heist Society (Carter)

Title: Heist Society
Author: Carter
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Adventure, Thieves
Pages: 287
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Okay, a small confession...when I booktalked this title for Summer Reading in June and made it a "Top 10" title for 7th grade, I had not actually finished it.  Shhhhh!  It will be our little secret.  Having finally hit a funk in my reading, I remembered that I needed to finish this title.  So this is how I spent my Saturday night.  Time well spent, I promise!

Katarina Bishop is the daughter of a thief, from a family of thieves.  She grew up helping her father pull off some notorious heists.  But what Kat really wants is to give up the family business and become a "normal" teen.  She enrolls herself in a boarding school, lies about her past, and tries to blend in.  It takes all of three months before she's expelled and back in the family fold.

When her father is accused of stealing 5 very rare, very valuable paintings from the wrong guy, Kat has 14 days to prove he is innocent.  And the only way to do that is to figure out who did steal the paintings, where he hid them, and "return" them to their rightful owner.  Of course, the only way to return the paintings is to steal them back.  Which Kat sets out to do, with a group of teenage thieves who are also part of the "family."

The entire time I was reading, I could picture the settings and the characters in my head.  It would not be a surprise to me to see this book come to life in theaters soon.  In fact, I was casting the roles while I was reading.  Think "Ocean's 11" in Europe, with teenagers.


Kat is a great character.  Strong, smart, and witty.  You root for her the entire time.  Hale, her co-conspirator/possible love interest, is the perfect match for her (if only she would realize it).  The rest of the characters are terrific...Marcus the butler is quite possibly my favorite. 

The writing immediately draws you into the story.  There is just the right mix of details, adventure, and intrigue to keep you reading.  In fact, you will want to finish quickly in order to find out just "whodunnit."  This is anything but a typical story of thieves and heists.  Carter has added twists and turns and originality to set this story above the rest in the genre.  A thoroughly enjoyable read with an intriguing cast of characters.  There must be a sequel...One can only hope.

New Beastly Movie Poster

Okay, many of you know that I was incredibly excited for the movie Beastly to arrive in theaters this past Friday, and not just because of Neil Patick Harris (honest).  Having booktalked "Beastly" by Alex Flinn to students for years, always commenting on how it would make an excellent movie, I was finally glad to know that Hollywood was listening to my suggestions.  (I also mentioned years ago that the story of the Bielski Brothers should be turned in to a major motion picture...see "Defiance").

Alas, my summer movie plans were derailed, when the studio announced that they were pushing the release of Beastly to March, 2011.  AAAAH, a lesson in patience I guess.  I will just have to make due with this new movie poster! 

While you are waiting for spring, don't forget to visit the movie's
website and see the trailer...over, and over, and over!
 

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