Mrs. Yusko's Instagram Feed

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Trailer Tuesday: Enclave (Aguirre)

This was one of the books on my Summer Reading list. Have you read it? If not, here's a reminder of why you should read it:

Trailer Tuesday: The Book I Can't Believe I Haven't Read Yet...

I am such a fan of Ally Carter, and I truly LOVED "Heist Society." Could someone explain to me why the entire summer has gone by and I still haven't read "Uncommon Criminals"?

This must be because it is the one book published this summer that has not landed on my doorstep. My piles and piles and piles of books are so high, I guess I never made it the bookstore to get a copy. So, this is my reminder to run out and read this immediately!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Are You Going to Kiss Me Now? (Tanen)

Title: Are You Going To Kiss Me Now?
Author: Tanen
Genre: Fiction, Reality TV, Celebrities

Pages: 354
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Okay, this falls in the category of perfect "fluff" read for summer vacation. And since vacation is winding down, and there really wasn't much "summer" to it, I thought I would post some reviews of "fun and fluff" beach reads.

Francesca won an essay contest and it landed her in hell, assigned as a reporter to a celebrity charity mission. When their plane crashes, Fran is stranded on an island with the crazy celebrities, including a teen heartthrob, diva party-girl, and aging actor hoping for a comeback. The celebrities battle their demons while Fran narrates the disaster in her uniquely witty way.

Fran has her own demons to work through and repercussions to face at home if they are ever rescued. “Lost” references abound and may date the book, and text-savvy teens may be surprised at the length and correct spelling in Fran’s many texts to her BFF. Reality TV-obsessed teens (high school and up) will thoroughly enjoy this book. And when you are done with this light-reading title and looking for something else, you MUST read the humorous "Beauty Queens" by Libba Bray.

Review: Here Lies Linc (Ray)

Title: Here Lies Linc
Author: Ray

Genre: Fiction, Junior High, Friendship, Death, Family, Mystery
Pages: 320
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Lincoln Crenshaw is about to start junior high after being home-schooled. As if that wasn’t hard enough, his first field trip of 7th grade is led by his mother at a place she is an expert about—the local cemetery. Linc just wants to fit in and is sure that his unusual mother (who he calls Lottie) will cause him all kinds of embarrassment.

When the teacher assigns a project to adopt-a-grave and research the person buried there, Linc decides to prove himself to his fellow classmates and takes on the cursed “Black Angel” tombstone. Throughout the project, Linc is helped by old and new friends alike. He also discovers a mystery surrounding the grave chosen by a classmate that will change his life.

Grounded in a project readers will relate to, the mystery is realistic and moves the story forward. Though many of the pieces fall into place quite conveniently, the adventure is still enjoyable. Boys and girls alike will root for Linc in this lively tale, perfect for students in 4th-7th grades. I don't usually post reviews of books for this age group, but this was just such a fun read that I can't help but recommend it!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Trailer Tuesday: Beauty Queens (Bray)

The perfect summer reading book! Many of you will remember that this book was one of the top suggestions on my Summer Reading list. Here, the author talks about the book...hilarious!

Trailer Tuesday: Inheritance Teaser Trailer

I know that many of Evergreen's students are anxiously awaiting the release of Christopher Paolini's "Inheritance" (coming in November). For those of you that are, here is a short trailer to keep you excited about the book!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Review: The Yo-Yo Prophet (Krossing)

Title: The Yo-Yo Prophet
Author: Krossing
Genre: Fiction, Realistic, School, Illness, Family, Talent

Pages: 248
Rating: 3 out of 5

Calvin lives with his grandma above their dry cleaning shop. It has just been him and “Gran” since his mom died and his dad left town. Now Gran is sick and she must sell the business, which means that they have to find a new place to live. Calvin is sure he can help with the finances and decides to put his yo-yoing skills to good work by performing on the street for money.

Rozelle, a girl from school, forces her way into being his manager and sets up gigs for Calvin and his yo-yo act, keeping half his earnings. Calvin is a likeable character who is struggling to keep it together under the stress of all that is going on. The relationship between Calvin and his grandma is realistically portrayed and the ending, including the resolution with his dad, feels authentic. Readers will root for Calvin to stand up to Rozelle and triumph in the end.

The yo-yoing scenes are well-written and keep the action moving. I read this book while watching America's Got Talent with the teenage yo-yo act, so I really felt like I could imagine just how good Calvin was. I think this book will have readers looking up "how to" videos on YouTube. This is a fun book and a quick read and I think a perfect fit for middle school.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Review: As I Wake (Scott)

Title: As I Wake
Author: Scott
Genre: Fiction, Supernatural, Mother-Daughter, Identity, Memory, Dystopian
Pages: 224

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Seventeen year old Ava wakes up in a panic in a house she doesn’t recognize. When her hysteria lands her in the hospital diagnosed with amnesia, Ava senses that the doctors are wrong. This woman claiming to be her mother cannot really be her mother. Ava begins to have hazy flashbacks of living in a place much different, a place under total government control.

Strangely, this reality is populated with people she sees in her current everyday life. When a mysterious boy named Morgan appears claiming to know who she really is, her memories start becoming clearer. Soon Ava must decide which life she truly belongs in, and where, and with whom, she wants to spend her future.

I received this book to review and was very excited because I am a big fan of the author's "Living Dead Girl." It also has such a striking cover that teens will be drawn to immediately. (I know this to be true because both of my neighbor girls grabbed this book immediately to add to their stack...good thing I had two copies!)

Scott, fascinated with the concept of the modal reality, uses this novel to explore what that might look like. Readers will appreciate the fast pace and surprises at every turn. Part thriller, part dystopian, part romance, this book offers something for everyone and a main character that teens will respond to.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: Flip (Bedford)

Title: Flip
Author: Bedford
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Identity

Pages: 272
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

One night, 14-year-old Alex goes to bed. He wakes up the next morning to find himself in the wrong bedroom, in an unfamiliar house, in a different part of the country, and six months have disappeared. The family at the breakfast table are total strangers. And when he looks in the mirror, another boy's face stares back at him.  A boy named Flip. Unless Alex finds out what's happened and how to get back to his own life,  he may be trapped forever inside a body that belongs to someone else.

I think that this book is a completely original concept that will appeal to teens of both genders. Who hasn't secretly wished that they belonged to another family? Alex suddenly ends up part of a new family and he must figure out what has happened and how to get back to his real family. It is so intriguing to follow Alex/Flip on this journey, and you will constantly be wondering how this book will end. (No, I'm not going to tell you!)

This is a perfect book for those looking for a page-turner this summer. It is a mix of drama, thriller, tension, and sci-fi that will leave you wanting to talk about it with someone as soon as you are finished. Have you read it yet? What did you think? I can't wait until I get the chance to find out what my students think about this one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: Anna and the French Kiss (Perkins)

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Perkins
Genre: Fiction, Travel, High School, Boarding Schools, Paris, Romance
Pages: 372

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When Anna's romance-novelist father sends her to an elite American boarding school in Paris for her senior year of high school, she very reluctantly goes. Anna is giving up her senior year "at home," with friends that she loves, and a crush who is just about to become more. But Anna manages to fall in with a new group of friends, including a boy (with a terrific accent) who becomes her best friend, in spite of the fact that they both want something more from the relationship. Will Anna ever get that perfect kiss she has been waiting for?

First, I must say that I absolutely refused to read this because I thought that it was going to be one of those sappy teen girl romance books. I mean really, look at that cover! But when it was nominated for BFYA and I was forced to read it, I must admit that I am so glad that I was able to get past my initial judgment. As one of my committee members so eloquently put it, this book is so much smarter than the cover.

I absolutely loved this book, and decided to finally post the review after mentioning "Lola and the Boy Next Door" in yesterday's post. (You will discover that Lola is one of the secondary characters in "Anna...").

The setting is one of the stars of this book. The vivid descriptions of Paris and Parisian culture will resonate with anyone that has been to Paris, or, like me, has always longed to visit the "City of Lights." It makes me wish for a do-over in life so that I could attend an international boarding school...or maybe just learn French. 

Anna is such a well-written character. Her voice is perfect, and her inner dialog is witty and humorous. I loved her quirky classic movie/movie theater fetish, and how she learns French initially so that she can navigate to her favorite movie theaters.

The secondary characters will resonate with readers and teens will identify with the diverse cast. In the end, this is so much more than your typical "loooove" story. It is really about finding yourself and a place to call home. Oh yeah, and there is a romance! Sarah Dessen fans will thoroughly enjoy this read.

Now that I have "Lola..." back, I am looking forward to reading it before school starts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Most Popular Books in My Neighborhood This Summer...

Several of the teens in my neighborhood have been taking advantage of the fact that BOXES of books are arriving on my doorstep almost daily. While they have been borrowing many (and are currently on vacation so I haven't had an update in several days), here are the books that they are recommending to each other (and their parents). Can I tell you how much I'm loving that they are recommending, trading, and holding favorite books hostage among themselves? So fun!

Possession by Elana Johnson: I met this author at a Simon & Schuster event this summer and I loved talking with her (probably because we have so much in common). I was lucky enough to get and autographed copy of this debut title, as well as a second copy in the mail from the publisher (which is the one that is currently making the rounds). One girl borrowed it at the beginning of July and I haven't seen it since. She finished it quickly but "cannot return it because I have other people who want to read it." By the way, one of those people is her mother because the girl raved about it so much!

The Future of Us by Carolyn Mackler and Jay Asher: This is the book that is being "held hostage" and passed around the neighborhood quite a bit. There is always some sort of negotiation going on to be the next one to read my advance copy of this book. ("I'll give you such-and-such book, if you give me this one next). Luckily I did get a chance to read it before it was hijacked from my pile and I can attest to just how amazing it is!
(This image of the cover is the only one that I could find on Goodreads and it is either really bad or just poor quality. The copy I have is a galley and has no cover art, so I'm not sure what the final cover is supposed to look like).

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins: One of the girls in my neighborhood grabbed this book along with a GIANT stack of other titles. This is the book that she read first, which is interesting in it's own right because I would not have pegged her for picking a book with such a "girly" cover. But she LOVED it. In fact, she couldn't stop talking about it. Then I realized that she hadn't even read "Anna and the French Kiss." Of course, I remedied that immediately and broke into the school library to loan her the copy of Ms. Perkins' first book. And now that I have "Lola..." back, I can finally read it!

Not surprisingly, the boys in the neighborhood are not the best at reporting in on a regular basis. I promise more updates will follow! What books have you been enjoying this summer?

Trailer Tuesday: My Favorite Picture Book Has A Baby!

Digressing just a bit from YA books...

I am a HUGE fan of Lane Smith's picture book, "It's A Book!" And now there is a board book it!

Enjoy this cute book trailer:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Review: Sean Griswold's Head (Leavitt)

Title: Sean Griswold's Head
Author: Leavitt
Genre: Fiction, High School, Friendship, Humor, Illness, Family
Pages: 288

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

After discovering that her father has multiple sclerosis, and the entire family was keeping it a secret from her, Payton decides to stop speaking to all of them. This winds up leading to mandatory counseling sessions at school, where a well-meaning school counselor gives her a "focus journal" and wants her to write about a "focus object." Not taking the assignment seriously, Payton focuses on the closest thing she can think of, the back of Sean Griswold's head. But her new focus leads to real interest in Sean and soon Payton must really come to terms with everything that is going on in her life.

First of all, I must say that I initially picked this book up because I thought that it was going to be the perfect "boy" book for my summer reading list. The cover art led me astray! But once I got over my initial disappointment at not discovering the quintessential middle school boy read, I fell in love with this book.

Payton is a likeable narrator, a typical teen girl who is conflicted between her anger/grief and her usual common sense good nature. She alternates between sarcastic, witty comments, and reflective narration. There are parts where I can actually picture the huffy teen eyeroll that she must be giving the guidance counselor.

This book is a hidden gem, that might take word-of-mouth, or some good booktalking, to sell to the right audience. The writing is a smooth balance between comedy and serious dealings with family crisis. There are credible teen characters and an authentic teen voice. The romance between Payton and Sean works so well in this book.

This is the perfect book for middle or high school students looking for something refreshing and realistic without being "angsty." It is a fun read with humor and heart that is sure to be popular with many readers.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Review: Fall for Anything (Summers)

Title: Fall for Anything
Author: Summers
Genre: Fiction, Realistic, Grief, Family, Suicide
Pages: 230
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death.

Eddie is dealing with her father's suicide and is so desperate to find out "WHY?!" She is drawn to his photographs and the warehouse where he killed himself. Her anger and emotions are believable. When she finds Culler, she finds someone who understands her quest for answers and it makes sense that she would abandon her friends to spend time with the mysterious Culler.

Eddie is a flawed and not very likeable character sometimes. But she is also so consumed by an atmosphere of grief that you can forgive her. There is suspense and mystery as we as readers know something is not quite right with Culler, but we cannot pinpoint what that is any more than Eddie can. When you reach the part in the story where the mystery surrounding Culler is revealed, I promise you that it will be heart-wrenching.

Eddie's experience is a raw, emotional struggle to move on with her life. This is an honest and sometimes painful examination of grief, family dynamics, and Eddie's intense journey toward healing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Review: Hurricane Dancers (Engle)

Title: Hurricane Dancers
Author: Engle
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Pirates
Pages: 160

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Quebrado has been traded from pirate ship to ship in the Caribbean Sea for as long as he can remember. But when a hurricane sinks the ship and most of its crew, it is Quebrado who escapes to safety. He learns how to live on land again, among people who treat him well. And it is he who must decide the fate of his former captors.

Five individuals tell the spare pieces of one overall story in this beautiful example of a free verse novel. It takes place during a time period not often written about and also helps readers understand the historical context. The language is figurative, captivating, and rhythmic and provides unforgettable imagery. Even the arrangement of the poems on each page adds to the rhythm.

The characters start with distinctive voices but each moves toward a feeling of uncertainty, showing the similarities in all of their situations: identity issues, dislocation, slavery.

I hope that teens will find this book. I know that it would work well in a classroom, but I would love for it to find readership on it's own. It is such a unique construct and a verse novel that really is poetic. One of my favorite poems is when the pirate ship itself talks about it's memories of being a tree on land. It "remembers

her true self,
her tree self,
and growing,
on shore."

I am looking forward to fall and getting teen feedback on this book. Have you read it? What did you think?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Review: Moonglass (Kirby)

Title: Moonglass
Author: Kirby
Genre: Fiction, Beach, Moving, Father/Daughter, Relationships, Love, Death
Pages: 232

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Anna's life is upended when her father accepts a job transfer the summer before her junior year. It's bad enough that she has to leave her friends and her life behind, but her dad is moving them to the beach where her parents first met and fell in love. But Anna's mother drowned when Anna was a young girl, and she wonders if this is really the best place for her and her dad to be.

I was lucky enough to meet this debut author at a Simon & Schuster event in June (I promise there will be a post on this event SOON. There were so many terrific debut authors in many good books coming). At the time, I had not read the book. However, it was a slim hardback that packed well, took place on the beach, and since I was heading to North Carolina to spend some time on the beach, it seemed like the perfect book to pack along.

I enjoyed this book and I definitely think that my junior high readers will also. The setting is well-written, giving a terrific sense of place to the novel. (I imagine that this is due to the fact that the author lives in the location that she wrote about...I envy her life by the way. More on that in a subsequent post). This is a novel begging to be read during the summer! I wish that I had read it in time to add to my summer reading list.

Anna is conflicted over wanting to know more about her mother but leary of the memories that are starting to return. She loves her dad, but doesn't appreciate his meddling in her love life (what teen girl does). Anna finds new friends in surprising places and a hunky lifeguard boyfriend (of's a book that takes place on the beach). I think that many teen girls will appreciate this story and the full-circle ending.

Trailer Tuesday: Relic Master (Fisher)

Don't forget about this new series from the author of "Incarceron." The publisher is releasing one book each month this summer (May, June, July, and August). By the time school starts, you should be caught up on the series! If you haven't had the opportunity to read them all, they will be available for check out on the first day of school.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hunger Games Movie Countdown

Are you a fan of The Hunger Games series? Are you excited for the upcoming movie? Make sure to get the Hunger Games Movie Countdown widget. You can find it by clicking on the movie's website.

Make sure to fan the movie's Facebook page for updates about the movie as well as pictures from filming.

And make sure to mark your 2013 calendars for the movie release of Catching Fire. Lionsgate announced today that it would arrive in theaters November, 22, 2013. Wonder when that countdown widget will arrive?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Review: Warp Speed (Yee)

Title: Warp Speed
Author: Yee
Genre: Fiction, Humor, Middle School, Friendship, Popularity, Bullying
Pages: 320
(it is the FASTEST 320 pages you will ever read--even reluctant readers will rejoice)
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Marley is completely prepared for the new school year: same old boring classes, same old boring life. The only thing he has to look forward to is the upcoming Star Trek convention. But when he inadvertently draws the attention of Digger Ronster, the biggest bully in school, his life has officially moved from boring to far too dramatic.

As you can tell by my rating, I obviously loved this book. I am always looking for that perfect middle school "boy" book, filled with humor and substance. This book made me laugh out loud...and at the time I was reading it, I was also proctoring our annual state assessments, so it led to interesting looks from students in the room.

There are so many things about this book that I enjoyed:
First and foremost, Marley is a humorous and likeable narrator. His funny narrative keeps the plot moving and will grab readers from the first page. His asides and Star Trek log at the chapter ends are a riot (thus leading to the awkward stares from students). There are so many students in my school that I see in Marley and his friends.

The supporting cast of characters add to the story, and I love all the kids in the AV Club. Additionally, Marley's father and mother are interesting characters and the family dynamic adds a fresh perspective.

This is an accurate portrayal of how many middle schoolers an outsider. And a realistic look at bullying from the victim's perspective. The story is fast-paced, and the humor will keep readers attention to the authentic resolution. A realistic story that will appeal to a variety of middle school readers, it is so much more than "just another book about bullying."

And if you are already a fan of Ms. Yee, you will discover many of the characters from her other novels make "guest appearances" in this book...a welcome treat if you have already read her other books!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: Stay (Caletti)

Title: Stay
Author: Caletti
Genre: Fiction, Relationships, Father/Daughter, Stalking
Pages: 313
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

In a remote corner of Washington State where she and her father have gone to escape her obsessive boyfriend, Clara meets two brothers who captain a sailboat, a lighthouse keeper with a secret, and an old friend of her father who knows his secrets.

This is the perfect summer read, especially if you live in Washington State, because you really get the feel of summer in the Northwest. The description of the locations and landmarks is accurate. It is also a terrific book if you are a fan of Sarah Dessen and looking for something new to read.

This book had good dimension, underlying suspense, and a strong father figure (what a refreshing character in YA fiction). Clara is terrific narrator, and her footnotes to the reader add an interesting element to the book. It is exactly like Clara is the author, not Ms. Caletti. Ultimately, this is a book about a young woman figuring out how to forgive, love, and live again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Review: Daughter of Xanadu (Yang)

Title: Daughter of Xanadu
Author: Yang
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Ancient China, Mongolia
Pages: 352
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Princess Emmajin, grandaughter of the Great Khubalai Khan, wants nothing more than to be a warrior in her grandfather's army. But the Khan wants her to act as a court liason to three travelers from the West...Marco Polo, his father, and his uncle.

Emmajin is a strong, female character, wanting to go against tradition. Her first-person narrative provides an excellent account of the action and adventure of the Mongol army, but also what is was like in China at the time Marco Polo arrived.

The setting and sense of time, place, and culture in the story are fully realized. There is action, drama, history, and a little romance. But at its core, it is a universal story about a teenager who must decide whether to follow her family's expectations, or go against tradition and dare to follow her dreams.

An excellent example of historical fiction, as well as a novel that appeals to girls and boys equally. Because we had the author visit in the spring (a visit I highly recommend by the way...see my earlier post about it), many of my students have read this book and it is popular with both genders.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Trailer Tuesday: Daughter of Xanadu (Yang)

I saw this trailer when the author visited our school this spring. I thought I would post it here to coincide with my review of the book:

Review: Miles From Ordinary (Williams)

Title: Miles From Ordinary
Author: Williams
Genre: Fiction, Realistic, Mental Illness, Family, Mother/Daughter
Pages: 197
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Just like every other 13-year-old, Lacey just wants to be a normal teenage girl, for one normal summer. But her mother's struggles with mental illness might just put this wish out of reach.

Lacey is the strength of this novel. Her desires for normalcy, her wish to protect her mother and stay under the social services radar, her drive to fix everything, are all such normal teenage reactions to her situation.

The story is at turns suspenseful, sad, and painful. But through it all, Lacey is also hopeful. She grows as a character, from thinking that she can do it all to realizing that she needs help. Her emotions are raw and real. She is desperate to have her aunt's help, but she is also angry at her aunt for leaving her alone.

The reality of living in a family affected by mental illness is authentically portrayed. This is an emotional journey which is strong on atmosphere and vivid imagery. Overall, a moving novel by a skilled author.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: What Happened to Goodbye (Dessen)

Title: What Happened to Goodbye
Author: Dessen
Genre: Fiction, Realistic Fiction, High School, Divorce, Relationships, Restaurants, Identity
Pages: 402
Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is.

As a caveat, I am a HUGE Sarah Dessen fan. In fact, the highlight of my summer so far has been actually getting to meet her. So it was pretty safe to assume that I was going to like this book. But I don't want the fact that it is possible that I gushed over Ms. Dessen like I was a teenage girl to take away from this remarkable book.

This is a highly readable novel with well-drawn and believable characters, both teen and adult. No character is black or white, but all have shades of gray. Like so many teens, McLean is struggling to figure out who she really is, and desperately want to rid herself of being the daughter of scandal. McLean has reinvented herself, and I think that many teens will relate to this desire to try on a new persona.

I liked that this is not an angst-driven novel, but one where small moments make the story. This book has a smooth storyline that quietly unfolds and, as always, Dessen has perfectly captured the teen girl voice. McLean is building a community, both literally and figuratively. The friendships she makes are terrific (and this is due to the strength of the secondary characters). The dialog between the characters is authentic and Dessen does an excellent job of showing, not telling, the story.

And in case you want to see what gushing over one of your favorite authors looks like:

By the way, I just want it on record that in addition to the photograph, I was able to get an autographed book...and I sacrificed mine to get one personalized for my 22-year-old niece instead. She is a fan of Ms. Dessen as well!

blogger templates | Make Money Online