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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BFYA Reading Challenge, Update #3

If you haven't been keeping up...on Monday, 5/16/11, I began a new reading challenge. At the time, there were 48 nominated books left to read in the 40 days before my committee meeting at ALA in June. Here is an update on my progress:

I swear I've been reading! But I feel like I just can't keep up. Probably doesn't help that this weekend I read 6 books NOT nominated because they were more interesting to me than the ones I should have been reading. Whoops! (A list of those titles will be coming soon...I might even nominate one or two of them).

So, here's where I stand today: 3 more books have been nominated, bringing the total to 80. STOP THIS MADNESS! Luckily the cutoff for nominations is this Sunday, so I'll have almost a month to catch up without more being added to the pile.

Since the last update, I have finished: "Angry Young Man" (Lynch), "The Piper's Son" (Marchetta), "Jasper Jones" (Silvey), and "Bitter Melon" (Chow). I am still listening to "Chime" (Billingsly) though I am counting it as "read" because I'm so close. I also finished "BADD" (Tharp), "The Absolute Value of Mike" (Erskine), "Ten Miles Past Normal" (Dowell), and "Sharks & Boys" (Tracy). WHEW!

I am currently about to start reading "Anna and the French Kiss" by Perkins.

Grand total: 42 books to read in 32 days.

This percentage doesn't seem to be getting any better. However, it is worth noting that I do not currently have a copy of 16 of the titles, and I might not before the meeting. When you subtract these out, it leaves 26 books to read in 32 days. Ooooh, I like that much better!

Thanks for checking in to my updates. I promise reviews of these books this week, hopefully by the weekend. Stay tuned to the BFYA list here. And I would love to know what books are keeping you busy right now!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

BFYA Reading Challenge, Update #2

On Monday, I began a new reading challenge. At the time, there were 48 nominated books left to read in the 40 days before my committee meeting at ALA in June. Here is an update on my progress:5/19/11:
Finished "The Queen of Water" (Resau), which was lovely, but not my favorite of her books.

Currently Reading: "Angry Young Man" (Lynch), "The Piper's Son" (Marchetta), "Jasper Jones" (Silvey), "Bitter Melon" (Chow), and "Chime" (Billingsly--on audio in the car), which are all nominated titles. The reason I've started and abandoned so many right now is that several of them just aren't "speaking" to me and I move on. Bad idea though since I will have to finish them at some point.

I am also reading "Sean Griswold's Head" by Leavitt which is not currently nominated (though I'm considering it).

The problem...more nominations keep coming in. Yesterday, there were three more added, bringing the total nominations to 77. Since I have now read 28 of the titles, that means I have 49 titles to read in 37 days. AAAH!

Must stop writing...back to reading...

Review: Numbers: The Chaos (Ward)

Title: Num8ers: The Chaos
Author: Ward
Genre: Fiction, Dystopian, Future, Psychic Ability
Pages: 339
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

This is a stand-alone sequel to "Num8ers" and honestly does not require that you read them in order. However, if you have not read "Num8ers," I would highly recommend that you do so!

On the last page of "Num8ers," we learn that Jem's baby has inherited her ability to see the dates that people are going to die. It was a truly chilling way to end a book, by the way, and felt like a punch in the stomach when I was reading it. In this sequel, that baby is teenager Adam, and he has noticed that many people are going to die in January 2027, just six months away. Can he figure out why in time to stop it?

Just like his mom, Adam sees the dates that people are going to die. When he notices that large numbers of people are going to die around New Years, he sets out to figure out what is going to happen and tries to warn people of the impending doom. Adam resolves to use his "gift" to change the future and strives to do the right thing.

Adam's story is interwoven with Sarah's, a damaged girl who also has visions of the future and wants to understand what they mean. Both share an emotional connection and are haunted by their respective visions. Alternating the narration between the two characters takes readers on an emotional roller coaster. Adam and Sarah are well-drawn, multidimensional characters with distinctive voices and are characters that you care about and root for.

The action and engaging premise will intrigue readers and keep them turning the pages. The pacing is perfect, the plot is strong, and the characters are genuine. Just like in "Num8ers," the worldbuilding is done with such detail that you feel an immediate connection to the story.

Another sequel that does not disappoint! A MUST read!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope (Johnson)

Title: The Last Little Blue Envelope

Author: Johnson
Genre: Fiction, Travel, Letters, Grief
Pages: 304
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

First of all, if you have not read "13 Little Blue Envelopes," I must ask you to stop reading this review, get to your nearest library/bookstore and get a copy (should be in paperback), and READ it! When I read it years ago, it completely moved me! I still want to be Ginny, or at least have someone in my life that will send me on such a journey. I continue to plot how I will do this for my kids some day. I cannot say enough about how much I LOVE this book and continue to recommend it to my students, and my grown-up friends as well. Any friend of mine that has read "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (Brashares), is required to read "13 Little Blue Envelopes" in order to continue being my friend (just kidding...or am I?).

And now Maureen Johnson has written the sequel and we finally get to find out what happened to the last blue envelope that Ginny received from her aunt. When envelope #13 was stolen at the end of the first book, Ginny was left wondering how the journey was supposed to end. Now, a mysterious stranger in the UK contacts Ginny claiming to have found the missing letter. What adventure will it lead her on this time?

This sequel did not disappoint. The writing was distinctive and on the mark. Whether we are hearing the story from Ginny, or reading her aunt's letter, we feel as if we are there and are immediately drawn into Ginny's quest. The setting is well drawn, and the imagery evoked is memorable (at one point Ginny and her friends are staying in a youth hostel/cat shelter. Completely crazy, but you can totally picture what it looks like).

The characters are unique, the dialog between them is perfect, and everyone feels just like friends you would want to meet on such a journey. Even though Aunt Peg exists only in letters, she is a fully developed character and her letter/asides add so much to the story. You will continue to root for Ginny to complete her mission and find love, happiness, and closure.

Without a doubt, this is a MUST read!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reading Challenge Update!

Just a quick update on my progress (because I'm actually making some)...

5/16/11 Total:

48 Books in 40 Days:

Yesterday, I finished 3 books..."The Running Dream" (Van Draanen), "The False Princess" (O'Neal), and "Exposed" (Marcus). I truly enjoyed all three, for vastly different reasons. But I have to admit that "The Running Dream" is my favorite of the three and likely rates a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. I'm completely in love with it!

5/17/11 New Total:

45 Books in 39 days!

Currently reading:
"The Queen of Water" (Resau), and praying that no new nominations come in!


Tuesday Top 10

This week's post pays tribute to YALSA's Teens’ Top Tena “teen choice” list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year. Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country. This year's nominations were recently posted (see the above link for titles/annotations) and teens have the opportunity to read any or all of these books over the summer before voting for their favorite at the end of August.

There are some great books nominated for this year's Teens' Top Ten...I'm not sure that I could narrow down my favorites, and there are still a few that I have not read. I decided to look at Evergreen Junior High's "Top 10" to see just how our students compared with teens across the country. (Our library catalog tracks the Top 10 books at any given time based on some strange formula I have never quite figured out, but appears to factor in number of copies and number of checkouts, but not number of holds/requests).

Three books from 2009's Teens' Top Ten list have spent much time in our own Top 10 recently, including our current #1 book "The Hunger Games." Not a surprise that students here or around the country would vote for this book. "The Hunger Games" was recently named Washington State's Evergreen Young Adult Book Award winner this year, and it dominated our school's voting as well, garnering over 62% of EJH's votes! It still resides in the number one place on our Top 10 likely due to the continued hype about the upcoming movie. (With all that being said, I still cannot convince my 8th grade son to read it...makes me crazy not having anyone in the family to talk about the series with! Who is going to see the movie with me???)

Two other books from the 2009 list have been in and out of our Top 10 during the past few months: "The Graveyard Book" (Gaiman) and "Graceling" (Cashore). Both of these are due to the fact that they were also nominated for this year's  Evergreen Young Adult Book Award. Though neither book garnered enough votes to beat out "The Hunger Games" (and really, what could?), both have seen an increase in readership since the voting took place. I attribute this to students encouraging friends, families, and teachers to read exciting when students promote the books they love!

Several books from the 2010 Top Ten list have also spent time on our Top 10 recently. "Catching Fire" (Collins), for obvious reasons. "Wintergirls" (Anderson) is always a popular choice with our 8th graders when they do the "Survival" unit (recently completed). And I'd like to attribute the popularity of "Heist Society" (Carter) to the fact that I love it so much and booktalk it often. Does this mean that the students actually listen to what I say? I will keep thinking that I do influence their reading habits, while also noting I'm sure it has a lot to do with the book itself and the amazing Ally Carter. We are looking forward to the sequel this summer!

On a side note, one of the authors from the 2010 list, Sarah Dessen (for "Along for the Ride"),  is wildly popular with my 8th grade girls (and since it's spring, my 7th graders are starting to discover her). Though her individual titles typically don't crack our Top 10, if the system could track Top 10 authors, she would be in the Top 5 without question. All of our copies of all of her books are ALWAYS checked out.

So what is popular right now with your teens?

Monday, May 16, 2011

So Many Books, So Little Time...A New Reading Challenge

Much to the surprise of many of you, I'm sure, I have NOT dropped off the face of the earth. Between state-mandated classroom-based assessments and testing, my days are a whirlwind of "excitement." Luckily, the last of our CBAs (as we lovingly call them in Washington) are completed, and testing should be done this week (fingers crossed).

Please don't think that I haven't been reading! I haven't let you down completely, I've just been too busy/exhausted/trying to be a mom to blog about all the great books that I've discovered recently. AAAH! I promise to remedy that starting now!

There are about 40 days until my Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA) committee meeting, at ALA's Annual Conference in June. So far, there are 74 books nominated for BFYA, which we will be discussing at this meeting...meaning I have to read these books before we discuss them. I have just tallied the "read" vs "not read" and it appears that I have...drumroll please...48 books to read in 40 days! Good Lord! And that's assuming that no more books get nominated before nominations close on May 29th. Hmmm...this does not bode well.

In my defense, about 10 of these books JUST arrived on my doorstep over the weekend, so there is no way I could have read them yet. And there are another 5-10 that I still do not have, so I'm not feeling completely lazy. However, you can clearly see what I'll be doing for the next month and a half. I will attempt to keep you updated on my reading each day. Can I make it? 

40 Days, 48 Books
Currently reading:Half-way through 2 of the 48 titles, and I expect to complete both today! "Running Dream" by Van Draanen (which I already LOVE), and "The False Princess" by O'Neal (also really like, and I did not expect to).

Do you want to participate? Follow the BFYA link above to the list of nominated titles (only updated through April 1 right now, but will include all of them soon). Have you read any? What did you think? Want to read some? Let me know which ones you choose and which ones you enjoyed most. I'd LOVE to have your feedback!

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